Willo's 2020 stock report: Week Fourteen
By Thomas Willoughby
It was a pretty good week for football, all things considered. No games were delayed as a result of the NFL’s supremely weak handling of COVID, we had a few shock results, AND the best game of the season so far. Great to see.
No messing around, let me get into this straight away: we’ve got a great week for stocks, here, folks. No less than three spots taken up by quarterbacks, a position that long-time readers will know I’m extremely excited for. Here are your stocks!
While I’ve been very positive about the NFC West this season, I appear to have vastly underestimated the Los Angeles Rams. This is a side that isn’t just playing exceptionally, but well-beating sides who should give them a serious game. The Rams are unbeaten in 5 games, and it’s difficult to see where this run ends.
Thursday saw them face the Patriots for the first time since their Super Bowl LIII defeat. While the Patriots aren’t anywhere close to the level that team was at, they’re still the Patriots. And the Patriots were on a bit of a roll, as well. The Rams took them down, and then some. Limiting them to a solitary field goal, mirroring their own output from that fateful night, would have slapped a collective smile across their faces. But to be so efficient offensively? Icing on the cake.
At 9-4, the Rams are surely heading to the playoffs at this stage. They face the Jets, Seahawks, and Cardinals in their final 3 games, and you wouldn’t bet against them winning all three. No head coach/quarterback pairing has ever won their first Super Bowl after 5 years of being together. In year four, there’s a feeling that it’s now or never for McVay and Goff. I’m certainly on the wagon.
Can I shock you? I like Baker Mayfield. The former Sooner has been dealt the roughest possible hand in the NFL. Being drafted by a side that won exactly zero games the season previous, who didn’t overhaul their coaching staff after that debacle, was a pretty bad start. Leading that team to 7 win season should have been met with a parade. Not content with ruining that man’s life, the Browns opted to hire Freddie Kitchens as the new Head Coach. Regardless of the team’s talent, that is quite the hurdle to overcome. Year three, and another coaching change. This one seems to be working, and Baker is flourishing.
Browns vs Ravens has just a smidge of history, which my good friend Joshua Edwards documented last season. Just know that this game means a LOT to Browns fans. And Baker played like he was playing for the city. 343 yards and two touchdowns through the air, as well as a rushing touchdown of his own is a very good return. Just a dodgy pick, which seemed more an exceptional defensive play than anything, marred his day. And the result, obviously.
Over the last 4 weeks, Baker Mayfield has played comfortable football. He seems to have found himself in this offense, and is making good on all the promise coming out of college. The Browns are 9-4, having earned their first winning season in forever. You can safely expect they make the playoffs, too, based on their final 3 games (Giants, Jets, Steelers). While I’m not exactly high on the Browns as a whole, any success they do find will be as a result of number 6.
Keep An Eye On
Now this is a nice surprise. I’ve spoken at length about how in love I am with this seasons group of rookie quarterbacks, and we have another potentially good name to discuss. In the midst of a truly tragic season from Carson Wentz, and with their hopes of retaining the NFC East slipping away, Doug Pederson and company decided to bench their longtime starter. Wentz is out. Jalen Hurts is in. Against the New Orleans Saints, who have a really good defense. Oh no they’re gonna kill that poor boy.
This wasn’t the first we saw of Hurts, of course. He stepped in against the Green Bay Packers last week when the Eagles were WAY down. He played well, though. Or, well enough to make to a game. He was named as the starter this week, and did a great job, I thought. The Eagles were even 17-0 up at half time. Against the Saints. Yes, they threatened to blow it, but Hurts remained composed, as did his run game. The Eagles didn’t falter. 24-21. Unbelievable.
He has again been named the starting quarterback ahead of their trip to Arizona. They find themselves two wins behind Washington. With Dallas and Washington to round out the season, however, they have a chance. If they pull this off, add Hurts to that exceptional group of quarterbacks I’m enamored with.
This is a stinger. As you well know, I’ve been following the Atlanta Falcons for 11 years. In that time, I’ve become incredibly attached to, and protective of, Matt Ryan. Hell, as recently as 5 weeks ago I was singing his praises. It’s sobering, then, for me to say this: now might be the time to start thinking of what comes next.
The Falcons trip to the Chargers was the subject of memes across the internet. Two sides so incapable of winning games that SoFi Stadium might implode due to the sheer ineptness of both sides. And, yes, it was very funny when the two teams threw 3 interceptions between them in the space of about 2 minutes. It wasn’t very funny that the two thrown by Atlanta in that sequence were directly the fault of Matt Ryan. With the game on the line, the formerly super clutch “Matty Ice” melted.
This season has been bad for the Falcons as a team. You can look at maybe three players that come away from this with their reputations enhanced. For Ryan, all that’s happened is that the sands of time have smacked him square in the face. Atlanta head into 2021 with a new General Manager and Head Coach. Those names will have no ties to Ryan whatsoever. While it’s near impossible for him to be moved on until the 2022 offseason, the plan to move on from the Falcons greatest ever Quarterback will likely begin sooner than then. And it really, really sucks.
Sell Sell Sell!
We all agree that Adam Gase is the worst Head Coach in the game right now. That’s undeniable. For all his faults, however, at least he can point to a playoff game with the Dolphins from 4 seasons ago as something of an achievement. Zac Taylor, though? That guy is flat out bad. Not “2020 Gase” bad, but close. The Bengals should seriously consider moving on.
To an extent, I’m sympathetic. He inherited a pretty awful Bengals side in 2019, and had them playing some pretty ok football, despite the results. Those results landed him Joe Burrow who, injury aside, played to a very promising level. Obviously, he can’t be held responsible for that injury. No one can. Of course, it has severely impacted the Bengals ability to win games. But they weren’t winning games anyway. And, this Sunday, they got slapped about by their former starter, Andy Dalton. There isn’t an end in sight.
Nothing will summerise my point more than this: since the start of the 2019 season, Adam Gase’s New York Jets are 7-22. Zac Taylor’s Cincinnati Bengals are 4-24-1. Unless the plan is to be purposely awful for a few years, this isn’t going to work. For the good of Burrow, cut loose at the end of the season. I beg of you.
Feature Image Credit: Scott Taetsch (Getty Images)