Willo's 2020 stock report: Week Four

By Thomas Willoughby

So that’s the end of the first quarter of the 2020 NFL season. We come away from the first 4 weeks with 6 unbeaten teams, a Quarterback on pace for over 6,700 passing yards, and a level of incompetence not seen from the bottom of the bin for quite some time.

I’m going to make a prediction here and now: these New York Giants will score fewer points than the winless Cleveland Browns of 2017. Their target is 234. They need 185 over the next 12 games to surpass them.  

We’ve another hectic week to get into, so here’s your stock report.

Invest Heavily

Honesty time: I was never too high on Josh Allen. Going into the 2018 NFL Draft, I had him down as the 5th best Quarterback in the class. Jackson, Rosen, Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, If you’re wondering. Clearly, I wasn’t (completely) right. Josh Allen might well be something, you know. Hands up, my sincerest apologies.

The Bills were expected to be good in 2020, but I’m not sure anyone expected them to be this good. And everything they’re doing is through Josh Allen. His biggest weakness, his accuracy, has seemingly be fixed, with him completing over 70% of his passes to this point. Against the Raiders, he made it look easy. What a turn around, man. 

Credit to the coaching staff around him, as well. Brian Daboll has the Bills working as one of the league’s most dynamic offenses right now. It’s a joy to behold. With a rough 4 weeks on the horizon (Titans, Chiefs, and Patriots in 3 of those 4 games), we’ll see how Allen holds up against serious competition. For now, though, he’s riding high. Carry on, sir.

Stock Report
Photo Credit: Isaac Brekken - AP Photo

Trending Up

I’m reluctant to get too carried away with these. We’ve been optimistic about their outlook before, and had our fingers thoroughly burned. Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Browns are in danger of being good. Crazy, right?

Week one vs the Ravens was a shocker by every metric. But since then, they seem to have found themselves. Over the past 3 weeks, they’ve scored 118 points. That’s more than the Jets and Giants combined. As bad as New York, in general, is right now, that’s pretty good. On Sunday, in Dallas, the Browns hung up 49 points. It wasn’t even that flashy. The Browns leaned heavily on their bevy of running options to lead the charge, rather than rely on the arm of Mayfield. We saw the glorious resurgence of Odell Beckham Jr, who looked utterly vintage.

Again, the Browns have burned us before. It does feel, however, like this is different. We’ll see how they get on in the coming month. But they’ve got my attention.

Keep An Eye On

From March onwards, it’s felt like, as a collective, we’ve bumbled around with a blindfold on, hoping not to walk into a wall, or fall into a pond. As the year has gone on, some of us have cut eyeholes into our blindfolds so we can at least see while wearing them. We’ve had the blindfolds on for 7 months, for goodness sake. At the very least, we should be able to adapt while the worlds top scientists figure out how to take the blindfolds off.

Heading into week four, the NFL experienced its first COVID-19 outbreak. The Tennessee Titans have suffered, at the time of writing, around 20 cases. The response from the NFL was to cancel their game with Pittsburgh and move it to later in the season. A fair and swift response, made easier by the team’s respective bye weeks. When the Patriots put Cam Newton on COVID IR, however? Make everyone take a test, and fly across the country on the day of your reschedule game with the Chiefs. 

I’m unsure why the NFL didn’t opt to put 2 bye weeks into the schedule this season, to help with reschedulings. I also appreciate that Newton was an isolated case, rather than a widespread outbreak. But I can’t help but feel like the NFL are sort of making it up as they go along. Further outbreaks are a very real possibility, and the NFL has to do better than this. As of right now, rather than using the information gathered over the past 7 months, the blindfolds remain unaltered. 

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I’m going to be as diplomatic as I possibly can, because I appreciate the hand he’s been dealt is absolutely abhorrent. He has a very weak receiving group, a running back group without their lead back, and is protected by an offensive line of paper mache and blu tack. With all that in mind: Daniel Jones isn’t it.

I mean he seems to be moving the ball as well as he can. Between the 20s, he’s pretty alright. Every now and then he does something that you can’t help but applaud. Get him in the red zone, however, and he falls apart. On Sunday, the Giants, somehow, hung in against a good Los Angeles Rams side. Despite everything, they were in a position to tie the game late in the 4th quarter. He threw an interception at the LA 5 with less than a minute left. 

He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in 3 weeks. His offense hasn’t scored a single touchdown in 2. He’s started 16 NFL games, and has committed 21 fumbles in that time. It’s just not good enough for a player taken in the top 10. If the Giants win the losers stakes and end up with the 1st overall pick in 2021, Lawrence should be under serious consideration.

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Photo Credit: Ashley Landis - AP Photo

Sell Sell Sell!

Well, they did it. Those crazy sons of guns finally did it. The Houston Texans finally got sick of Bill O’Brien, only 2 years after making him the defacto general manager, and after 6 years of relative underachievement.

O’Brien took over the Houston Texans at a time they were the best side in the AFC South almost by default. The Colts were their only real challenger, over his duration, and O’Brien’s side won the division 4 times out of 6. Despite that, he never managed to coach them further than the divisional round. Over the last two seasons, he’s put every one of the franchises chips on winning now. They are 0-4.

While the team’s record was the reason behind the firing, he basically set himself up to fail with the DeAndre Hopkins trade. The Texans will float through 2020 trying to salvage something, but they don’t even have the cushion of an early 1st round pick to fall on in 2021. They might end up being the worst team in the league, and the Dolphins would own that pick.

As for O’Brien, the way he’s hamstrung the Texans won’t have gone unnoticed. Don’t anticipate an Adam Gase/Chp Kelly style rebound hiring any time soon. He’ll get a job as someones offensive coordinator. And he will coordinate an offensive style of football elsewhere. My money’s on New England when the Falcons inevitably hire Josh McDaniels.

Thomas Willoughby