Willo's 2020 stock report: Week Seventeen
By Thomas Willoughby
Happy New Year, all. Hope you all had an enjoyable and safe celebration into 2021. Whilst ridding ourselves from the cursed year that is 2020 is, of course, cause for celebration, we’ve still ways to go. I sincerely hope that you all do your bit in this latest round of lockdown.
Right, onto the serious business. We’ve just had the final week of the NFL’s regular season, and it didn’t disappoint. What a slate, eh?
Some house keeping before we dive in; this will be the last stock report of the season. I’ll have a couple of weeks break, and deliver the end of year report once the Championship games have played out. Something for you all to look forward to. Anyway! Here are the final 2020 stocks!
With home-field advantage, and a bye week, on the line, the Green Bay Packers knew a win would put them in a position they hadn’t been in since the 2011-2012 season. The Packers headed to their long time rivals, Chicago Bears, with quite a bit on the line. They put on an absolute clinic.
35-16, and it wasn’t even close. Aaron Rodgers, playing at a level higher than he’s played for a good few years. 4 touchdowns to 4 different receivers, including one to someone called “Dominique Dafney”, who I’m reliably informed is a real human. Even Aaron Jones got in on the act, adding a touchdown to his own tally. Realistically, though, the Bears never stood a chance.
The Packers end the season 13-3, and with the NFC’s number one seed. They get a bit of a break, but, more importantly, they get at least one game at Lambeau Field. I recall, after being beaten by San Francisco in last season’s NFC Championship game, Aaron Rodgers exasperatedly bemoaning the lack of championship games at home. You wouldn’t bet against him getting his wish this year.
You may recall, a couple of months ago, I highlighted the opportunities being given to former XFL and AAF players. We have another name to add to that list. John Wolford, formerly of the Arizona Hotshots, started for the Los Angeles Rams in a must-win game, and gave the best argument for a development league yet.
Jared Goff (who is bad, by the way) underwent thumb surgery last week. The hope, you understand, was that he would have recovered in time for the playoffs. The issue with that is the Rams weren’t necessarily guaranteed to make the playoffs. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a guy with an active LinkedIn profile.
He handled that pressure, though. 231 yards and an interception is hardly electric, but he kept the chains moving. Sure, they were largely bailed out by their own defense. But Wolford put them in a position to score a fair bit, and even made plays with his legs. And he took them back into the playoffs. Where he might even get a chance to start.
Keep An Eye On
Regardless of the quality of opposition, and regardless of the road travelled to get to this point, they made it. The Baltimore Ravens hauled themselves out of a genuine hole to make the playoffs. Congratulations to all involved. Now the real work begins.
Getting a win in the NFL is difficult enough. But the Ravens got 5 in a row. Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars, Giants, Bengals. You can argue that you’d expect them to win those games, but that’s easier said than done. They end the season 11-5, and secure a wildcard spot in the “hard as nails” AFC. What I liked most about Sunday was just how easy they made it look. The Bengals were lost all afternoon.
The Ravens have themselves a redemption opportunity. Last season, having excited the league over, they were punched in the mouth by a scrappy Titans side. In 2020/21, the tables have turned. The Titans are the team to beat, and the Ravens have everything to prove. That game will be fireworks. Believe me.
In week 13, I told you that Kliff Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals were gonna blow it. I told him to prove me wrong. He didn’t. Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals finished the season 8-8, which is better than last season, but not by a great deal. The Cardinals will be without playoff football for the 5th straight year.
It was a win-and-in scenario, made even more tantalising by the Rams starting an AAF quarterback. You’d back the Cardinals to get the job done, definitely. They did not. Granted, Kyler Murray exited the game early, and came back late, but still. The way they allowed Wolford the ability to actually work is concerning. Regardless, it shouldn’t have been this way.
The Cardinals simply lost too many games this season. They played out the final two games, against divisional rivals, 0-2. Both sides played with back up quarterbacks, among other injuries. They should be deeply disappointed in how this season has ended. And, if I were them, I’d seriously consider a change at the Head Coaching position. It’s time to get serious.
Sell Sell Sell!
We’ve blasted several worthy targets this season. Adam Gase, the Jaguars, the Falcons repeatedly. All deserving of heavy scrutiny. Believe me when I say, however, that I never expected to be writing the following: fans of this sport need to seriously readjust their sense of morality.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. While the NFC East has been a disaster all season, it’d all lined up for a thrilling finish. Any one of the Cowboys, Giants, or Washington Football Team could win the division. The Giants won their match up with Dallas, meaning a Washington loss would see them through to the post-season. Washington ended up beating the Eagles, meaning Washington won the division. That wasn’t the story, however. The Eagles came under fire for loudly tanking in-game, and not giving the Giants a fair shot at the title. The horror.
Oh, and social media lost its collective mind. “It’s a disgrace!” “They should lose their draft pick!” “The Giants have every right to be upset!” Let me make this absolutely clear: if the Giants didn’t want to rely on a team with nothing to play for beating a team with everything to play for in order to make the playoffs, they should have won more than 6 games. It’s that simple. If Doug Pederson wants to use a meaningless game, for him at least, to give minutes to Nate Sudfeld, that’s his prerogative. And if that wraps up a top 10 draft pick, for a side verging on seriously talent starved? Good for him.
Don’t complain about the Eagles resting starters when the Steelers did the same thing 6 hours earlier. Pittsburgh losing stopped Miami from making the playoffs. Should Miami have won their game? Doesn’t matter. It’s all someone else’s fault, apparently. Joe Judge came from a side that is built on the mantra “do your job”. He would be wise to remember that.
The NFL can be a force for good, but is also ran by some of the most morally corrupt people on the planet. More than a handful of players have had serious charges leveled against them. Radio silence from the punters. The moment a coach removes a quarterback completing 35% of his passes, you’re up in arms. Forgive me if I don’t buy your outrage.
Featured Image Credit: Harry How-Getty Images