Willo's 2020 stock report: Week six

By Thomas Willoughby

A word, before we start, on the New York Jets. You won’t find me criticising them in this weeks column. I said what I needed to say about Adam Gase in week one. Jets fans are going through a lot right now, and the last thing they need is some snarky twenty-something pouring salt into the open wound that is their season.

This Jets team is the worst NFL team I have ever seen. They will not only take the number 1 draft pick in 2021, but they’ll have it wrapped up before week 14. They’ve destroyed the career of Sam Darnold before it even began. Assuming they take Trevor Lawrence, he’ll be throwing to no one, be protected by no one, and have a below average defense trying to keep the score down. Awful team.

Anyway, here’s the stocks.

Invest Heavily

There is a popular narrative in sports, particularly American sports, of the “hangover”. The idea that a team can win a title, and suffer an element of complacency. That isn’t exclusive to the winners, either. Teams that have made the Super Bowl, or the Conference Championship, and lost, can suffer the dreaded “hangover”. Just look at how the Atlanta Falcons are discussed even n0w.

The Tennessee Titans were a side that looked prime for a hangover-type season. They’d beaten the odds to make the AFC Championship game, and even led 17-7 at one point. Over the offseason, it felt like teams would figure out how to stop their run-heavy offense. Even a COVID outbreak threatened to derail their season. Despite all that, they sit 5-0, and look excellent value in that spot.

The Texans didn’t half play them close, mind. Free from the Bill O’Brien shaped shackles that held them down, Houston battled back from 21-7 down to take the game to overtime at 36-36. Unfortunately for them, the Titans are really good. Ryan Tannehill looks every bit as good as his 2012 draft position promised. Derrick Henry put up 212(!) rushing yards on the day. Those two combined is enough to win any game. 

The Tennessee Titans went to bed having drunk a pint of water and takeng two paracetamols, and woke up with a fried breakfast. Hangover? Not likely.

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Photo Credit: Wade Payne - AP Photo

Trending Up

Following the NFL in the UK is as easy as it’s ever been. At any one point, you have access to every single game being played, just as long as you’ve the right subscriptions. And, depending on whether there’s an unprecedented global pandemic ongoing, you can even make the journey to England’s capital to watch a game with your very own eyes.

What isn’t so good, mind, is the “prime time” slots. Sunday night football, Monday night football, and Thursday night football are, in reality, Monday morning, Tuesday morning, and Friday morning football.

What a joy it was, then, to see a prime time game kick-off at a semi-reasonable hour over here. Two of the better sides in the league this season, the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs, had their game moved to Monday night as the league continues to adapt around COVID-19. In Buffalo, that meant a 5pm kick off. In the UK, that meant a 10pm kick off.

Oh, and what a treat it was. Half time at about quarter past 11, final whistle around half past midnight. The game itself was a bit of a mess, with neither offense seemingly able to put together anything, but that didn’t matter. We all got to enjoy prime time football at a reasonable hour.

In short, do that again, please.

Keep An Eye On

How strange it is that a side currently sat top of their division, unbeaten, and scoring points for fun while doing it, are seemingly being talked about only by their own fans. That’s the situation that the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in. At 5-0, the Steelers are kind of on one right now. Why aren’t more people talking about this? And why are they only to be kept an eye on?

Well, me, those are some very good questions. The biggest reason, I suspect, is the Steelers schedule thus far. Of their 5 victories, only one came against a side with a winning record. And that was against the Cleveland Browns who, as we know, aren’t a well run team. The combined records of their other 4 opponents, as of the time of writing, is 5-12-1. Hardly a murderers row of elite opposition.

The next two weeks are the test for Pittsburgh. Back to back trips to Tennesee and Baltimore s as difficult a fortnight as you can get in 2020. The loss of Devin Bush to an ACL injury is going to be a tough one to counter as well. If they come away from those games, say, 1-1, though? I think we can start to talk about them on more than just “wait and see” terms.

Trending Down

In week three, I talked about the downward swing Carson Wentz was on. Even after being picked up by myself in a 2019 report. This week, we’re having a crack at the other top name in the QB class of 2016. The “Jared Goff is over” party is in its planning phase. Invitations will be posted accordingly.

I’ve always been a little suspect of Goff. His rookie season can be forgiven because of the mess it lived in under Jeff Fisher. Once Sean McVay joined the fray, however, things looked up. While Goff certainly wasn’t a Quarterbacking cheat code, he did everything McVay told him to do. In 2018, he did everything McVay told him all the way to the Super Bowl. 

Since then, though? Not great, really. On Sunday night, Goff seemed to struggle to hit even wide open receivers. 50% pass completion from 38 passes, less than 200 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Against a 49ers side that are really struggling right now. Basically, what I’m saying is, Goff is a problem.

He’s capable of putting together some really nice passes. When he’s on, he can really be on. But consistently? Not for me. I think Sean McVay is capable of delivering a Super Bowl to the Rams. But I don’t think he can do that with Goff.

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Photo Credit: Tony Avelar - AP Photo

Sell Sell Sell!

How on Earth, in the year of our Lord 2020, do you allow this to happen? I don’t care what your record is. You’re playing at home to a side that has lost 5 straight games, fired their long time head coach and general manager duo, and are playing with a number of key pieces either out with injury, or carrying manageable injuries. How do you get blown out to that team? Minnesota, it’s time to demand more from your Vikings. This is a joke.

The Vikings have been awful all season. A couple of close results against good sides should not distract from the fact this outfit allowed a Dirk Koetter offense to dunk on them for a full 4 quarters. A team with a barely professional defense came away with 3 interceptions. You should be ashamed.

I like Mike Zimmer, and I like Gary Kubiak a lot. But this is beyond a joke. You cannot lose to the 2020 Atlanta Falcons at home and come away from it unscathed. There is far too much individual talent on this Vikings team to be where they are right now. With all 3 of their NFC North rivals to play in their next 3 games, however, I suspect it’ll get a lot worse before it gets better.

Thomas Willoughby