Willo's 2020 stock report: Week Five
By Thomas Willoughby
They did it. Those crazy sons of guns finally did it. After a 23-16 loss to the Panthers, and an 0-5 start, the Atlanta Falcons have fired Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff.
If we’re being honest, a move like this has been coming for a while. Not the Super Bowl, like a lot will suggest, but the days after. When they rushed the hiring of Steve Sarkisian. Decision making from that point forward has been abhorrent.
Am I pleased? No, not really. I always liked Dan Quinn for his optimism, and Dimtroff is the only General Manager I’ve known with the Falcons. It sucks, but it’s for the best, I think.
Anyway, plenty to dive in to, so let’s do it. Here’s your week 5 stock report.
I don’t want to go too overboard with this, because I’m starting to think the “Invest Heavily” tag might actually be a curse. Kyler Murray is evaporated since I raved about him in week two. Patrick Mahomes was directly at fault for their loss to the Las Vegas Raiders this weekend after featuring in week three. We’re a full-on Josh Allen implosion away from this column being the new Madden Curse. In that scenario, expect the Saints to hold permanent residence at this spot for the rest of time.
For now, I will tentatively suggest going big on Russell Wilson. You’re going to hear, or have already heard, how much of an injustice it is that he’s never won league MVP. We’ll forget the fact that he’s never been the best player in the NFL at any point since he was drafted. But, over that time, Wilson has been something better. He’s been dangerously consistent.
Russell Wilson is an elite Quarterback, playing at an elite level, and has been playing at that level for a long, long time. His peaks have never been as high as Rodgers, or Mahomes, or even Ryan, but his troughs, sans Mahomes, have never been as low. He is overseeing a 5-0 Seattle Seahawks team with an absolute nothing defense, and is just dialled in. When you watch him play, you genuinely believe that nothing is going to stop him from winning games.
If Russ “keeps cookin’”, the 2020 NFL MVP won’t just be a glorified lifetime achievement award, but one deserved for this season’s efforts.
The NFL has a habit of deifying fine-to-good players, without any real reason. Maybe it’s the nickname culture that is prevalent in American sports. I can’t help but feel like “The Red Rifle” moniker has done more for Andy Dalton’s career than his play ever did. I like Gardner Minshew a lot, but would I as much if “Minshew Mania” wasn’t a thing? These are, again, fine-to-good players. But they’re held up, for the most part, because they’ve basically become a punchline. Walking memes. The most used meme of them all, though? “Fitzmagic”.
Except, unlike most memes, Fitzmagic has legs. Fitzmagic has been a thing for as long as I’ve been following the sport, and will probably linger long after Ryan Fitzpatrick has retired. Fitzmagic is a phenomenon.
The 2020 Miami Dolphins aren’t a good side. They have the makings of a good side, don’t get me wrong. But, in their current form, they’re little more than a trap team for those who underestimate them. The San Francisco 49ers are one such team. Brian Flores and company sprinkled a little Fitzmagic on them and racked up 40 points.
Fitzmagic burns bright for a few weeks and fizzles out. Such is the cycle. With very winnable games over the next two weeks, however, expect it to cause wonder for a little while longer.
Keep An Eye On
Last season I, clearly wrongly, went all-in on the Oakland Raiders. They subsequently fizzled out and their season ended sooner than I felt it should have. If anything, that has added further evidence to the case of the stock report curse. In 2021, the Las Vegas Raiders sit 3-2, and I find myself struggling to not dive headfirst into that pool again.
Is it the clean black and silver jerseys? Is it the fancy new digs they’re making home in? Is it the genuinely likable Quarterback playing to an actually good level? Who’s to say. But the Raiders went to Missouri on Sunday afternoon, and handed the Chiefs their first loss since November 2019.
They played really well, as well. You don’t score 40 points against the Chiefs by playing badly. 347 yards and 3 touchdowns from Derek Carr, 77 yards and 2 touchdowns from Josh Jacobs, A crucial interception from Jeff Heath late in the fourth quarter. It was a very very good all-round performance from the Raiders.
They’ve got a tough schedule on the horizon, with the Buccaneers, Browns, and Chargers their next 3 games. With that, I’ll learn from 2019. I’m not all-in on the Raiders. Ask me again in 3 weeks.
Before I unload here, I have to caveat this heavily. I appreciate that he’s not only coming back from an injury, but likely still injured. That’s probably what contributed to his performance the most on Sunday. This take isn’t isolated from that one performance, though. This stretches back a while. It pains me to say it, as well, because one of my best friends is a 49ers fan, and I want the best for them. But Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t it.
Again, there are a series of factors behind why Garoppolo exited their Sunday evening tie at half time. The numbers are just horrible, regardless. 7 completed passes from 17, 77 yards total, and 2 interceptions. He ended the day with a passer rating of 15.1. That isn’t good.
Like, I said, though this isn’t Sunday afternoon in a vacuum. Across Garoppolo’s career I’ve been wary of him. He’s competent, don’t get me wrong. When he’s good, he’s pretty damn good. But he’s not the guy who will win you games. Take a look at how he was used in the playoff run last season. Look at how he handled the final 10 minutes of the Super Bowl, when tasked with hitting open receivers.
I think Jimmy Garoppolo, when fully healthy, will guide this battered and bruised 49ers back into the playoff hunt. But I don’t think it’ll be because of him. It’ll be because he’s a better player than Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard, and Kyle Shanahan is a wizard. Long term? If the niners can find a way to move on from him, they should. He’s not your answer.
Sell Sell Sell!
We’re 5 weeks in, and I’ve seen enough. I can’t fathom how one division can be this inept. How, across four teams, you can’t find one team even close to competent. It’s time to wipe the NFC East out of the NFL. Replace them with the Clemson Tigers, or Alabama Crimson Tide, or anyone. This joke has gone on long enough.
Where do you even start? Bottom of the pile, you’ve the 0-5 New York Giants. Daniel Jones took a pasting from me last week, but he’s on a hiding to nothing. His only target is Darius Slayton who, while actually pretty good, can’t do it all. Behind him is Devonta Freeman who I adore, but it’s clear that he isn’t close to the player that lit up fantasy teams even 3 years ago. The defense is good. The offense doesn’t exist. The XFL’s New York Guardians have won more games at Metlife than the Giants this year. Get them gone.
The Washington Football Team are in the business of trying to win goodwill. I fully endorse the name change, and the Alex Smith story is a decade from being turned into a motion picture. But this team is not good, man. There’s so little to get excited about there, outside of Chase Young. Blow it up.
The winner of this cursed division will be either the Cowboys or the Eagles. The Eagles, with the Dak Prescott injury, should have the upper hand. But they are fielding a defense without a secondary, and an offense without a wide receiver. The Cowboys offense should click just fine with the Red Rifle under centre, but that defense is bordering on historically bad.
Only one team in NFL history has made the playoffs with a losing record. The 2011 Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, and even won a playoff game. The 2020 NFC East champs will do so with less wins than that. Blow the whole division up. This is a disgrace.