Willo's 2020 stock report: Week Nine
By Thomas Willoughby
If week eight was the buzz of “Norgaard” by The Vaccines being played at 1am during the rock and indie night at the Purple Turtle, week nine was the DJ playing “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley 2 hours later to clear the place out. Yeah, it’s pretty good, considering the night before he was playing something that was almost 100% bass, but you’re not bounding around like you were earlier. The sugar-rush that the alcopops brought has subsided, and all that’s left now is a trip to the Kebab King and an overpriced cab back home.
Consider this week’s stock report the taxi home. We won’t charge you twenty quid for the lift back, but you do have to put up with some pretty atrocious patter.
Back in the week six stock report, I advised keeping an eye on the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were unbeaten and loving life, without having played anyone of note. Since then, they’ve handed losses to the actually good Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens, as well as overcoming a trickier-then-expected trip to Dallas. They’re 8-0, and have a very comfy run to the end of the year. They might be the real deal.
This team is genuinely very good. Ben Roethlisberger, despite the hands of time against him, is playing at a very high level. The wide receiver duo of Juju Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool are legitimately up there as one of the deadliest in the league. And that defense is, even without Devin Bush, genuinely quite scary.
Like I said, their run to the end of the season is pretty comfy. Only the Ravens, Bills, and Colts pose a serious threat to their quest to remain unbeaten. Will they do it? Probably not. But they’ll make the playoffs, for sure. They might even go all the way.
I’ve made no secret of my affiliation with the Atlanta Falcons. I’ve been a fan for over a decade, and experienced the highs and lows that come with the territory. The only real constant over that time has been one Matthew Thomas Ryan. I am an unabashed Ryan fan, having bought 4 separate Falcons jerseys with his name on. But there have been times this season I’ve started to doubt just how much longer he can carry on doing it. Recently, though, those doubts have subsided. Matt Ryan is straight balling right now, and no one is paying attention.
Since the firing of Dan Quinn, Ryan has completed an average of 72.5% of his passes, 319 yards per game, and has a TD:INT ratio of 8:2. On Sunday, against a pretty good Broncos defense, and without the excellent Calvin Ridley, Ryan absolutely dealt. The highlight play will be a 51 yard touchdown bomb to Olamide Zaccheus, but that’s overlooking the way that he went to work. The guy looked zoned in. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t “randomly” tested afterwards.
Matt Ryan is an excellent quarterback, totally underappreciated by his own fans, and fans of the sport in general. I have no doubt he will carry on performing at a supremely high level for another 2 or 3 years, and I urge you to enjoy it while you can. He’s really good, basically.
Keep An Eye On
Speaking of quarterbacks, are we in a golden age for the position? I’ve spoken, at length, about just how good these rookie quarterbacks are, but, on the whole, I’m not sure the position has been this consistently excellent as it is right now. What a time to be alive.
Let’s start with the basics. The top 5 quarterbacks for passing yards, right now, are Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, and Teddy Bridgewater. For touchdowns, you have Wilson, Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Ryan Tannehill. There is some overlap at the top, but not a total overlap. It’s a credit to the league itself that players like Derek Carr, Kyler Murray, and DeShaun Watson, all of whom are having very good individual seasons, aren’t even mentioned here.
A lot of it can be put down to the increased level of coaching brilliance. The fact that Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo, players I’ve been critical of previously, can be considered viable, is a testament to the minds of Sean McVay and Kyle Shannahan. With Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance entering the league next season, and Sam Darnold finally finding a competent coach, that level of excellence will only increase. What a time to be alive, indeed.
One team absolutely not able to boast one of those excellent quarterbacks, however, is the Chicago Bears. That team sucks, and they have no right to even be in the playoff picture right now. They’re 5-3, and on a 3 game losing streak. Turf them out. I’ve had enough.
They hung close with the Saints in that 2nd loss, to their credit. But scoring a combined 27 points vs the Rams and the Titans, two sides they should consider equals, just isn’t good enough. While you can trace a lot of their offensive problems back to them having no true WR1 (Allen Robinson is a good player. He’s nowhere near the top level), the root can be found in their quarterback room. Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles are the same player, separated only by time and the dollars in their bank account. Replacing one with the other isn’t a solution to any problem.
The Bears have all three of their divisional rivals in a row over their next 3 games. I don’t expect them to win more than one. While I think Matt Nagy can be a successful coach in the NFL, I don’t think he can be with either Trubisky or Foles. Move on from both, and try again next season.
Sell Sell Sell!
Bottom of the pile this week is Matt Patricia, who is staring unemployment right in the face. The Lions fans I know despise him, and I’m pretty certain the Lions players themselves do too. That guy has had more than enough chances to get the Detroit Lions on the right road, and he keeps demanding they perform a U-turn on the M6. The guy is a faulty satnav. Get him gone.
I’ve held this opinion for a while. For whatever reason, coaches from the Bill Belichick tree tend to struggle away from him. Just look at Josh McDaniels’ ill-fated stint in Denver. But Patricia always felt more like fools gold than any of the others. A defensive coordinator who is working under one of the game’s greatest defensive minds? Feels a little suspect. Yet Detroit moved ahead with him anyway, and are paying the price. More than twice as many losses than wins over a 3 year stretch, and playing some awful ball. Sunday saw them ship 34 points to the Vikings. That’s atrocious for an alleged defensive mastermind.
Maybe he’ll find success down the line, but I get the feeling he needs to prove himself capable away from Belichick in order to secure a second head coaching role. Detroit should cut loose, regardless. It’s just not gonna happen.