Five Wide: 2023 Week Eleven

By Thomas Willoughby

We’re at that point of the season where you can see the players breath in the cold in glorious 4k. The holiday season, like it or not, has snuck up. And we’re here, at Thanksgiving week. Three games on Thursday, and another on Friday evening as well. Call it the NFL’s way of reminding you just how close Christmas is. Get that shopping in now, before you live to regret it.

Before we pretend like the Thanksgiving stuff matters over here, however, here’s a look back at what happened this past weekend. Through the eyes of one silly boy.

Our survey says...

The Athletic has put out an “anonymous players survey” this week, allowing players the opportunity to discuss what they like and dislike the most without fear of being reprimanded. Topics of discussion included: which team has the most annoying fanbase (Eagles), best stadium to play in (Arrowhead), and which coach (your own aside) would you most want to play for (Mike Tomlin). It’s a pretty interesting read, especially with some of the quotes sprinkled in from the players themselves painting the picture quite nicely. The bit I found most interesting was at the end, where the question “Would you want to play for an overseas team?” was posed.

55.4% of players asked said they would not. Now, it bears mentioning that the sample size is pretty small. When you have 85 players providing the views of over 1500, they’re not going to be entirely representative. But it certainly puts more of a spotlight on one of lesser considered aspects of the hypothetical international expansion. 

Listen, if it’s something the league wants, it’s something the league will get. If they think they can make money, they’ll make that money. But the league doesn’t exist without the players. So, if they’re going to grow outside of the US, it’s time to address how it’s most vital commodity buys into the change.

Dave Shopland-NFL

Wilson Watch, Episode 3

I’ve spoken about Zach Wilson a few times this season, and I want to make it clear that I’m not really a fan of his. I like redemption arcs, and was pulling for him in that sense. But that was the extent of my interest. The Jets have called time on that interest. Following a 32-6 defeat on Sunday, the Jets have all but ended the Zach Wilson era, demoting him to 3rd choice QB behind Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian. 

There is no reality where Zach Wilson’s Jets career will recover from this. By all accounts, Aaron Rodgers’ recovery from his Achilles tear is nearly complete. And, while I see no reason for him to play again this season (outside of sheer ego), there’s every chance he could be taking snaps before the year’s end. So he’s starting for the Jets next season. Wilson’s rookie contract ends at the end of next season, and there’s no reason why his stay would extend beyond that. He’s had two shots at the starting gig and failed to capitalise on either.

Regardless, I feel a great deal of sympathy for him. He was completely the wrong choice for the Jets in 2021, themselves looking for a new face of their beleaguered franchise to usher in a new era with Rookie head coach, Robert Saleh. He was always a project, a man whose physical tools made up for his decision-making deficiencies. What he needed was a steady franchise, the time to develop, and a pressure-free environment to take the heat off. Instead, he got New York and the Jets. 

So he’s the latest name added to the pile of failed Jets QBs, which is sad, really. What comes next for him? A stint as a backup somewhere (hopefully somewhere good), and a shot at a starting role in 2026 or so. Basically, the Marcus Mariota path beckons him.

Back Up Bengals

From one QB to another; Joe Burrow’s 2023 has ended following a ligament tear in his wrist. The Bengals season, you’d expect, is up in smoke. Which, to me, highlights the benefits of the backup. Or, more pertinently, the pitfalls of the franchise guy.

Listen, you need a Quarterback to be successful in the NFL. No question. The league has moved beyond “defense wins championships”; if you don’t have a reliable signal caller, it’s not happening. So, when you get that guy, you’re doing everything you can to keep them. Especially when you’re a team like the Bengals, who’ve bounced around QB purgatory themselves for much of their history. Joe Burrow makes the Bengals better, simple as that. 

Injuries happen, and having insurance is important. The problem in this instance is that the NFL’s salary cap doesn’t really allow for paying good money to multiple players in the same position. And the list housing the “good” QBs in the NFL can probably fit on a post-it note with space to spare. That is how you get a clearly very hurt Joe Burrow hobbling around with a gammy leg for the first month of the season. And an offense as well constructed as the Bengals’ being helmed by Jake Browning for the rest of the season. 

I could just go around in circles with this thing, but the point is the Bengals’ season, barring a miracle run from a guy I’ve never heard of (if you’re reading this, Mr Browning, I’m sorry), is done. Given they were billed as one of the big three in the AFC this season, that’s a sorry way to go into Thanksgiving weekend.

Rob Carr-Getty Images


Big game on Monday night. The Super Bowl rematch we’ve all been waiting for. The Eagles traveled to Kansas City and shot the Chiefs down in an act of revenge that’ll bring small comfort to those of a Philly persuasion still upset 10 months on. A good win for the Eagles, but a bad loss for the Chiefs, who have now gone 3 games in a row where they’ve not scored a single point in the second half. The Matt Nagy effect is difficult to overcome.

What’s caught the imagination of the league-watching planet, however, is a play that didn’t even come off. Patrick Mahomes, on the drive, spiking the ball to stop the clock. Pretty straightforward stuff. Not according to Jalen Carter, who’s decided to try and make a play. He’s diving in, and trying to intercept a spike. And by George he nearly did it.

Now, not to bring up everyone’s favourite broken bird franchise, but I recall a Falcons defensive tackle pulling this off only 6 (God I’m old) years ago. Grady Jarrett, the most underappreciated defensive player of the past forever, actually did it.

Nothing more to add. Just saying.

Give my man some help

I’m gonna end this week by jumping in front of a bullet heading straight towards Patrick Mahomes. That man is balling right now. He is absolutely incredible, at everything he does. He’s the best player in the league and it’s not even much of a conversation. But like I said; the Chiefs offense seems to be spluttering. Through no fault of number 15, it must be said.

It’s largely the fault of his receivers. Outside of Taylor Swift’s boyfriend, it appears the Chiefs have constructed an offense of guys who don’t seem to have full control over what their hands do. And that’s bad, in my humble opinion, given how vital the passing game is. 

What I don’t want to see is the Chiefs take the same route as the Packers took with Rodgers, and just throwing half-competent receivers at the problem. Early draft takes time: take a receiver in the first round, guys. I don’t know who’s good and who’s not but just do it. For the sake of the guy, you’re giving half a billion dollars to.

Features Image Credit: Charles Wenzelberg-New York Post

Thomas Willoughby