Willo's 2020 stock report: Week Eleven

By Thomas Willoughby

Before we get into the stocks, I want to take a moment. This week saw the first team eliminated from playoff contention. I know it’s been a rough year for them, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that I really thought the New York Jets would finish the season strong.

With that elimination, they must turn to the rest of their schedule, and try to build some momentum going into 202-hahahahaha who am I kidding, they’re going 0-16 and firing everyone.

Here’s the stocks!

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“Catch of the year” seemed nailed on only a week ago. When DeAndre Hopkins outjumped 3 Buffalo Bills to secure a last gasp victory for the Cardinals, that should have been it. That catch seemed to transcend the sport, in a way I’ve not seen since Odell Beckham’s one-handed grab in 2014. Week eleven decided that they’d throw not one, but two challengers into the ring. From the same game, no less. Let’s break them down.

Deep into the second quarter, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves down 7-6 in Minnesota, but 4 yards from the endzone. Andy Dalton drops back, and spots CeeDee Lamb in the slot, one on one with Jeff Gladney. The pass itself is nothing special, but certainly good enough to give Lamb a shot at catching it. The way that Lamb contorts his body to make the catch, though? Superhuman. In real-time, it’s impossible to see the point he twists back so he’s facing the ball. You can lose minutes of your life trying to figure it out. A special catch by a special receiver.

Not to be outdone, up stepped Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. 16-7 down, halfway through the third quarter. The Vikings have done well to get themselves to 3rd and goal at the Cowboys 2. Cousins drops back three steps, Minnesota send 4 receivers towards the endzone, and Dallas drop 6 men into coverage. All of which refuse to defend the back of the endzone. Cousins drops the ball over the top of Anthony Brown, who is covering Adam Theilen. Theilen, of course, brings the ball in with one hand, and taps his toes in-bounds to secure the catch. Incredible stuff.

The NFL, in 2020, is a passing league. These sorts of catches, while incredibly special, are becoming somewhat common-place. That doesn’t detract from the sense of awe they carry, though. Long live the circus catch. May they continue for years to come.

Stock Report Week 11
Photo Credit: Adam Bettcher-Getty Images

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I want you to cast your mind back to February of this year. The week after Super Bowl LIV, a new football league began; the XFL. The XFL was comprised of 8 teams, and effectively served as something of a development league. The teams had several ex-NFL players desperate for a second chance, and several more hopeful this would lead to bigger things. The league last 5 weeks, was canceled thanks to the pandemic, and was subsequently bought by Dwayne Johnson. Not exactly fairytale stuff.

A lot of the players that made the XFL genuinely decent, however, were handed the opportunity they craved. Over the last few weeks, they even got a shot at playing. This past weekend, with Teddy Bridgewater battling injury, one of the XFL’s shining lights was handed the role of Carolina’s starting Quarterback. P.J. Walker looked pretty good as well. 258 passing yards, and a touchdown is a great stat line, slightly marred by two picks. But that’s a very solid start for a guy who wasn’t given a chance before his XFL heroics.

Hell, even a couple of weeks ago Garrett Gilbert, who spent time in the equally defunct AAF, started for the Dallas Cowboys. They nearly knocked off the still unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers, too. While I don’t have a full list of players currently on NFL teams that previously played in the XFL or AAF, I can tell you Edmond Robinson was recently elevated to the Atlanta Falcons 53 man roster. These sorts of performances and stories underline the need for some sort of development league. How much talent has fallen through the cracks over the years thanks to the lack of room to develop? How much more will moving forward.

The XFL will return in 2022, and, hopefully, will carry stronger ties with the NFL. The league would benefit from a partnership of that kind.

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I tell you what, the lack of hype around these Indianapolis Colts is somewhat concerning. They’re 7-3, top of a division that also has the Tennessee Titans, and have a top 5 defense in points allowed. This is a team that are going places. So where’s the buzz? What do you guys know that I don’t?

The Colts were 28-14 down at half time on Sunday. The Green Bay Packers put up 21 points in the 2nd quarter alone, and were looking dominant. I guess they forgot that Philip Rivers is a pretty Quarterback, because they let him lead the Colts to 17 unanswered points. Only the sheer will of Aaron Rodgers sent the game to overtime. One forced fumble later, however, and the Rodrigo “respect the specs” Blankenship knocked through the game-winning field goal.

This weekend, the Colts face the Titans in Tennessee. That game as the potential to be pure box office. Keep an eye on these Colts, because they’re looking like a genuine force in the AFC.

Stock Report Week 11
Photo Credit: AJ Mast-AP Photo

Trending Down

One team I’m considering calling time on is their recent opposition. The Green Bay Packers are 7-3, are top of their own division, and have a top 5 offense in points scored. Despite that, they’ve lost 3 of their last 6 games, and their own defense has given up an average of 26 points a game over that stretch. I’ve already dunked on Mike Pettine this season, so I won’t go back in on him. But it’s clear that he’s still the issue, right? Well…

The Packers scored 3 points in the entire second half of Sunday’s clash with Indianapolis. Considering the “offensive genius” tag bestowed on Matt LaFleur over the past couple of seasons, that simply isn’t good enough. It’s not even the first time this season that offense has collapsed. Against the Buccaneers back in week 6, they just stopped playing after a quarter. The moment this team is faced with an ounce of push-back, they fold like a deckchair. Something isn’t right in Green Bay, and it comes from the coaching staff first and foremost.

They have the Bears this Sunday. The Bears are bad, but they’ve a top tier defense. That challenge, and everything that surrounds the rivalry, should prove to be the perfect platform to redefine themselves. If the Packers don’t win that one, they’re over. 

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Well well well, here we go again. I said I would avoid being negative about the Atlanta Falcons when it became obvious 2020 was another write-off, but some things need to be said. Dirk Koetter; you are the biggest clown in Georgia. You have lost what few defenders you had. You don’t deserve the fans. You are nothing, you are a fool, and you are a waste of time. Good night.

Last season Dirk Koetter was handed the keys to a formula one car, and told to drive it as fast as he possibly could. Since then, he’s essentially been using it on the school run. An offense that soared to historic highs only a few seasons ago, and threatened to recreate those highs a couple of seasons later, has been hamstrung by the most pathetic excuse for a play-caller in the National Football League. Dirk Koetter’s offense traveled to New Orleans, for the biggest game of our season so far, with TWO WEEKS of preparation, and put up a total of 9 points. Pathetic.

The hiring of Dirk Koetter was the beginning of the end of the Dan Quinn-era, and so it has proven to pass. This Falcons offense is utterly devoid of any creativity or intelligence. Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian were able to scheme players into space. Dirk Koetter regularly schemes them into triple coverage. 

I’m getting angry just writing this. The man has no nuance to his plays, and asks some of the best receivers in the league to run flavourless routes. The last time he had a running back rush for over 1000 yards was in 2011, when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is a scourge on the Falcons team that deserves so much better. Get him out of my sight. I’m sick of the sight of him.

Thomas Willoughby