Five Wide: 2023 Week Fourteen

By Thomas Willoughby

Cards on the table, this NFL Sunday was not one I enjoyed particularly. The Falcons/Buccaneers game sapped me of just about everything I had, and left me so deflated that I simply could not find it in me to give Scott Hanson my time afterwards.

A shout-out, then to NFL Game Pass. Often derided since its move to DAZN, it’s certainly improved as a product. And it’s “Sunday in 60” offerings helped me figure out what actually happened this week. Not an ad, just a general shout of thanks. Onto the good stuff!

The Flacconnaissance

I’ve never been Joe Flacco’s biggest fan. The comparisons to Matt Ryan I’ve always understood on the basis that they were drafted at the same time, but they’ve always irked me somewhat. Like Joe Flacco winning the Super Bowl meant that he was a better quarterback than Ryan, and I think anyone with an understanding of football knows that just isn’t how it works. Regardless, something about his re-emergence over the past couple of weeks has warmed the deepest reaches of my soul. I’ve become soft. I like Joe Flacco now, I think.

Not because he’s particularly good (the old Joe is still in there somewhere), but because he’s stepped into an offense that is pretty stacked, and hasn’t missed a beat. He’s slinging it, that’s what he always did, but slinging it with experience. And the Browns offense is looking pretty good, man. That was an excellent win on Sunday, against a good Jaguars team. 

I think most of all, I like seeing Joe Flacco in the headlines. I started watching the league when Ryan, Flacco, and Stafford were the 2nd and 1st year players everyone was excited for. Ryan’s time has obviously gone, but Stafford is still looking good. Flacco is making headlines. It feels good, man. It feels like the year 2013 again. And that’s nice, for me. Green Day are back, Twin Atlantic are back, The Killers are touring again. If I squint hard enough, and grow my hair out a bit, 2013 might well make a comeback. Thanks to Joe Flacco, the good times are here to stay.

Joshua Bessex-Getty Images

Wilson Watch, Episode 5

I really didn’t expect to have to do this, but I’m committed to the bit enough to stick with it. ZACH WILSON. Last week it was reported that the Jets wanted him to come back and start for them again after throwing the Tim Boyle experiment directly into the bin. He was allegedly reluctant to do so, and I encouraged him to stick to his guns. Well, he did not do that. He did in fact start for the Jets, and put together probably his best performance as an NFL professional in the process.

27-36, 301 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 30-6 win over the exuberant Houston Texans was, for my money, as impressive a statement as you’re likely to get from a single player. Under his watch the Jets snapped their 5-game losing streak, and, amazingly, still have a change (slime, albeit) of post-season football.

So can it last? Next Sunday they travel to Miami which, is going to be tough. I don’t expect them to repeat what they did this weekend at any point over the next 4 games. But it was one of those performances that make you think about what could have been. Or what could yet be. I hope this can become a new normal for Zach Wilson. And I look forward to writing about his meltdown again next week.

Winning, but at what cost?

Las Vegas 0 – 3 Minnesota. What a result. Two field goal attempts, total, both from the Vikings. Neither side really did anything of note offensively, and I’m loathe to even point to the benching of Joshua Dobbs as the turning point for this game. Both offenses were just awful. Shameful, even.

The worst thing is that, with that win, the Vikings sit in the playoff spots quite comfortably. 7-6, with no real offense to speak of thanks to the re-injury to Justin Jefferson, but with one of the league’s more frightening defenses. Can Dobbs find some of that stardust in the soles of his boots for the final run in? Or is Nick Mullens now getting the nod at QB? Either way, it’s super impressive that they’re even in this situation to begin with. If you’re going to the playoffs, though, please score some more points, Minnesota. None of us want to see a repeat of this in the post-season.

Wade Vandervort-Las Vegas Sun

How 'bout dem...

The Cowboys’ reputation in recent NFL history is the flat track bully. They can destroy teams that are tiers below them, but put them up against someone one note and they fold. Doesn’t matter how much of a lead they have, either. Just as San Francisco in the playoffs the other year. If they’re going to be who they want us to believe they are, they need to start beating the teams around them. They came close in Philadelphia a few weeks back, and clearly had this fixture circled from that point forward. The Eagles were blown away.

I’m not getting into the MVP conversation just yet (it’s Lamar, though.), but Prescott has to be in that conversation. He’s elevated his play this season to a level we’ve not seen from him in quite some time. He’s balling out. He went up against one of the league’s (perceived) better defenses and didn’t flinch. The Cowboys stomped the Eagles, and, with it, leapfrogged them in the division

The next two weeks will define the Cowboys season. Trips to Buffalo and Miami will be tough. Given they’ve built their good form this season on perfect home form, they need to find a way to win on the road. If they can, though, they take the NFC East, and likely win the opportunity to host at least two playoff fixtures. It’s there for them to make a run. Carpe Diem, Dak.

Patrick, Moan Home (awful, that)

You’ve all seen the silliness that ended the Bills/Chiefs game on Sunday. A ridiculous go-ahead TD was called back because Kadarius Toney wasn’t lined up properly (what a stinker of a season that man’s having, by the way). Obviously, the Chiefs did not manage to score again, and all hell broke loose. I don’t really have an issue with players getting heated and emotional (though probably not to that extent), but I did take umbrage with how Mahomes chose to meet Josh Allen at the end of the game.

Just feels a bit cheap, y’know? Like Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL, but there’s no need to go up to the opposition QB, who’s had a really good game himself, and unload on him about the refs, right? To Mahomes’ credit, he’s since shown some remorse regarding that specific moment, and I fully expect him to make up for it this weekend by being normal to Baile Zappe. But I hope these guys get to meet again in the playoffs, and that Mahomes gets the opportunity to properly make up for it.

Features Image Credit: John Munson-Associated Press

Thomas Willoughby