Willo's 2020 stock report: Week Fifteen
By Thomas Willoughby
The season is drawing to a close. You can feel it. Those who are still in with a shot of January football are feverishly working out every possible permutation in their head as to how their side will make it. Similarly, teams with nothing left t hope for in 2020 are figuring out their team’s best route to a high draft pick. Scoreboard watching season is here.
And, coincidentally, so is the festive season. This will be the last set of stocks before Christmas day, so I wanted to wish everyone who has read this over the season a very merry…whatever winter festival you observe. I won’t be stopping, of course. You can expect another report in a week’s time. But I hope you enjoy the season, whatever you’re doing.
So here are this weeks stock(ings(ah ha ha ha)). Who is on the nice list? And who will be waking up to a lump of coal on the 25th? Let’s find out in a “not even festive” edition of the stock report!
How often can a team get beaten 40-14, and come away better off than they were prior to the start of the weekend? That is the fate that has fallen on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Save for a last-minute desire to torpedo their own future, the Jags currently hold the number one overall pick in the 2021 draft. You know what that means? Trevor time, baby.
As noted in the offseason edition of the stocks, the Jaguars went all-in on Lawrence before the season had even started. Their entire foundation was torn down, and looked set to be the worst side in the league by an absolute mile. A week one victory shouldn’t have been a cause for concern, and yet, for long swathes of the season, looked culpable for denying them their goal. Then the Jets traveled to Los Angeles. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
With 2 games to go, and owning the “strength of schedule” tiebreaker over the Jets, it would appear Jacksonville are going to add the most exciting Quarterback prospect to come into the NFL draft since Andrew Luck. With a litany of draft picks, a near bottomless pit of cap space, and the promise of a new Head Coach/General Manager duo, the future might actually be bright in Jacksonville.
If nothing else, we’ll get to see Lawrence come over to the UK every season. That’s worth going all in on.
They’re actually going to do it, aren’t they? The Miami Dolphins, a year removed from trading everything in the hope of losing enough games to snag Tagovailoa, are going to make the playoffs. I can’t quite believe what’s happening.
Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. There are two games to go, and the Ravens are breathing right down their necks. It’s going to be a close one, for sure. But right now, you wouldn’t bet against them. What a strange world.
I won’t pretend like they’ve been breathtaking the past few weeks. They did well to rally against a really good Chiefs side last week, but were really slow for long stretches of the day. But any time you can get a win over the Patriots (one to eliminated them from playoff contention, as well) is cause for celebration.
The Dolphins need to beat the Raiders and the Bills to secure playoff football again. The fact they’re in that conversation, AND hold a top 10 draft pick in 2021 (thank you Bill O‘Brien), should give Dolphins fans the world over confidence. What a job Brian Flores is doing over there.
Keep An Eye On
I don’t think you can understate just how bad of a hand Marcus Mariota was drawn in Tennessee. Over his first three seasons, he was coached by Ken Wisenhunt and Mike Mularkey, yet managed 2 winning seasons, and even a playoff win, in that stretch. He led the 2018 edition of the Titans to a third straight 9-7 season, albeit under some incredibly vanilla playcalling from one Matt LaFleur. Then, last season, it became clear that new offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, needed something different from the position, which led to the revival of Ryan Tannehill. That doesn’t make him a bad Quarterback, just a victim of circumstance.
He’s out in Las Vegas, now, holding Derek Carr’s clipboard, as the Raiders aim to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. They might do, it, they might not. Their chances took a blow on Thursday night, however, when Derek Carr suffered a groin injury. In stepped Marcus Mariota. He looked brilliant. 226 yards, a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown, and one (incredibly unfortunate) interception almost led the Raiders to a much-needed win over the Chargers. Make no mistake, Mariota put the Raiders in a position to win on Thursday. That Raiders defense, however, is NOT GOOD.
At the time of writing, we don’t know who will start under centre for Las Vegas in week 16. Derek Carr is, apparently, making a “big push” to start. In the event that he can’t, however, Mariota s more than capable of leading this side. He might well be a shrewd pick up for a side needing a long term answer at the position this off-season. *cough* Falcons *cough*.
I don’t care how many games you won in a row before now. You don’t lose three in a row and not get flagged. Pittsburgh: what are you doing? Wake up, for goodness sake.
Losing to Washington and Buffalo I can forgive, to an extent. Both sides have playoff aspirations, and are going to play anyone close (see Washington vs Seattle this weekend). The Cincinnati Bengals, however, have nothing to play for aside from draft positioning. Their season ended weeks ago, and they’re lining up Ryan Finley (remember him?) as their starting quarterback.
That Steelers offense looked super rough. Roethlisberger has been legitimately good this season, but putting up less than 200 passing yards against the Bengals is abhorrent. Less than 100 rushing yards across 3 running backs is even worse. What an abysmal display from a side that were serious contenders less than a month ago.
The Steelers, as I mentioned, have now lost 3 in a row, joining the Falcons, Panthers, Texans, and 49ers on that streak. Only the Jaguar have lost more games consecutively. When you’re being discussed among that circle of sides, you know you’re in trouble. If they lose to the Colts on Sunday, we have an AFC North championship bout against the Browns on the final day. What a fall from grace.
Sell Sell Sell!
Never has a win resulted in so much loss, and yet here we are. The New York Jets, skidding all the way to the number one pick, and a future led by Trevor Lawrence, finally won a game. Against the Los Angeles Rams, of all teams. McVay; hang your head. Jets fans; I’m so sorry.
What do you even say to that? The Jets are a side that almost require a complete rebuild, and securing a player like Trevor Lawrence would have gone a long way to setting up their future. They’d have been the premiere destinations for the top General Manager and Head Coach candidates, and could have dreamt of a better tomorrow. Instead, they’re looking at number two. Poor Jets.
Listen, Justin Fields isn’t a bad consolation prize. He has the tools to be a really, really good quarterback in the NFL. Especially as the position continues to evolve away from pure passers. But he’s raw, and will require a time to adapt as a professional. All that will provide scant solace for a fanbase that were so close to possible salvation.
So spare a thought for any Jet in your life, but don’t start to think that side is going to be worth anything next season. They won’t be. I’m so sorry.
Featured Image Credt: Chris O’Meara – AP Photo