Willo's 2020 stock report: Week ten

By Thomas Willoughby

The dust has had chance to settle, and I feel comfortable proclaiming that week 10 was the best week the 2020 NFL season has put up yet. Seriously.

We had more highlights than the rest of the season combined. We had one catch that has transcended the sport into the wider public. We had more than a few shocks. We even had a competent showing from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The best bit? The Falcons didn’t lose! Sure, they didn’t play, but that’s a win in my book. Here’s your weekly look back at some of the stuff that happened!

Invest Heavily

When the book of the 2020 season is written and published, chapter 10 will be titled “The art of The Upset”. Both in the form of an underdog victory, and the last second, come-from-behind win, week 10 was littered with logic being defied.

The first such example could be found in Detroit, where, up 24-3 mid-way through the 3rd quarter, the Washington Football Team began to mount an unlikely comeback. With only 16 seconds on the clock, Dustin Hopkins knocked a field goal through the goalposts, putting the game at 27-27, and sending the game to overtime. Except, clearly forgetting the events of the Lions/Falcons game only 3 weeks previous, they’d given Matt Stafford and company time. Time they took. 3 plays later, and Matt Prater had the game won with a 59 yard field goal. Madness.

A couple of hours later, and the Buffalo Bills had taken a 30-26 lead in Arizona, with 32 seconds left. Kyler Murray got to work, managing to gain 32 yards before using their final time out. Needing to move the ball a further 43 yards to score the game-winning touchdown, it was time for an almighty heave from #1. You already know what happens next. Murray escapes pressure. Surrounded by 3 players, DeAndre Hopkins comes down with the game-winning score. Madness.

The New England Patriots have seldom been “underdogs” during the Bill Belichick-era. But recent form, as well as playing host to the Baltimore Ravens, put them in that unusual position. Nevertheless, they prevailed. Cam Newton was safe, Damien Harris churned all the yards his legs could muster, and Jakobi Meyers looked like a legitimate player. That deeply lacking Patriot’s defense even kept the reigning MVP in check. It wasn’t exciting. Hell, it wasn’t even boring. But it was effective. It was a win the Patriots desperately needed. One they earned despite the odds being stacked against them. Madness.

Photo Credt: Christian Petersen-Getty Images

Trending Up

While the Washington Football Team may have lost another game, the man under centre seems to have won the hearts and minds of the universe. Let me sing you a song that I like to call “The Ballad of Alex Smith”.

On November 18th 2018, Alex Smith suffered multiple breaks to his right leg, ending his season and, to the best of our knowledge, effectively ending his career. 728 days, and 17 surgeries, later, Alex Smith started for the Washington Football Team. 

He looked good doing it, as well. 38 completions from 55 attempts, for 390 yards is a really good day. In fact, all of those numbers are career highs for Smith. Driving Washington to an extremely unlikely comeback from 24-3 down, potentially forcing overtime, is impressive for anyone. For someone who hadn’t started a game for nearly 2 years, though? Obscene.

The numbers don’t matter, really. Nor does the result. The fact that Alex Smith is even in this situation to begin with is incredible. He’s got comeback player of the year wrapped up, no question. With Cincinnati and Dallas on the immediate horizon, he might even pick up a win or two. What a story.

Keep An Eye On

Back in week 6, I (RIGHTLY) called out the Minnesota Vikings. That team was significantly underperforming, and had been handed a home defeat by the hand of my beloved and woeful Atlanta Falcons. I guess Mike Zimmer is an avid reader, because they’ve been a completely different proposition since then.

3 wins on the bounce, all to their NFC North rivals. These weren’t even fluke wins, either. They looked truly convincing doing so. Green Bay were blitzed in the 3rd quarter. The Lions were beaten by half time. The Bears this past Monday put up more of a fight, but only thanks to their defense. The Vikings own defense utterly terrorised Nick Foles and his understudy Tyler Bray. Things are looking now

The Vikings are now 4-5. Their next 3 games are home games, to the Cowboys, Panthers, and Jaguars. As far as I’m concerned, all 3 of those games are extremely winnable. Heading into the final quarter of the season, there’s no reason the Vikings could be 7-5. Just keep these Vikings under your cap. Don’t look now, but they might be about to break out.

Trending Down

I’ve spoken in extremely positive terms about Russell Wilson in the past. I stand by that, by the way. I think Wilson is brilliant. The rest of the Seahawks, however? They need some serious work. 

Over the last 4 weeks, Seattle are 1-3. Granted, they’ve played 4 legitimately good sides. There’s no shame in losing to Arizona, Buffalo, or the Rams. They’re good teams, there’s not question about it. Seattle are supposed to be a good team, though. These are the sorts of teams they’re going to play if they’re going to achieve their Super Bowl aspirations. Right now, there should be serious doubts over whether they’re capable of winning those games.

This shouldn’t affect their hopes of qualifying for the playoffs, mind. After Thursday night against Arizona, Seattle have a cupcake schedule. I’d be shocked if they finish with a record worse than 11-5. Right now, though, they’re in a funk. They can’t let this run of form continue.

Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici-Getty Images

Sell Sell Sell!

The “sell sell sell” section of this column is usually the funny one. The place where I get to cut loose from any semblance of professionalism and unleash on one poor sap (or saps) for a couple of paragraphs. This week is different. You should sell everything you have on the San Francisco 49ers, but it’s not their fault.

At the time of writing, the following 49ers players are either physically unable to perform, or on IR: Kiko Alonso, Ezukiel Ansah, Ronald Blair, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Ben Garland, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jalen Hurd, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Mark Nzeocha, Weston Richburg, Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, and Jeff Wilson. That list does not include the players considered day to day. The 49ers have been hit by the injury bug like no one’s business. 

The San Francisco 49ers play some of the most intelligent, interesting, and exciting football, on both offense and defense. Last season was a victory for scheming and coaching. That can only take you so far, however. When a huge portion of your starters are injured, you’re going to struggle to really go anywhere. 

At 4-6, their hopes of making the playoffs are all but done. When you look at their remaining schedule, there could be more hard times on the horizon. Make no mistake, though; they’re not here because of a lack of talent. No team could survive this amount of injury. So cut your losses, and sell the 2020 49ers. But pick up a 2021 49ers pre-order, if you can.

Thomas Willoughby