Willo's 2021 stock report: Week Eleven

By Thomas Willoughby

We’ve made it to the second best (divisional round of the playoffs is top) weekend in the NFL calendar, folks! Thanksgiving weekend is here! Three games, mid-week, between six teams. Granted, maybe two of those six teams are actually good, but it’s just nine to have something to enjoy on a Thursday, isn’t it!

Going very team orientated this week. Which team is looking like the prize turkey? Who will be eating one of those “dinners in a can”? Anyone for a side of *checks notes* mac and cheese? I really thought I could make this analogy work. OH WELL! Here’s the stocks.

Invest Heavily

I think this is possibly the most impressive performance of the weekend. No quarterback, no WR1, facing one of the leagues finest over the past decade, and away from home? All while coming off the back of a back-breaking showing the week previous? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Yet, here comes Colt McCoy’s Arizona Cardinals, to reiterate their post-season credentials. This team is legit.

The Seahawks, for what it’s worth, look absolutely listless. Even with Wilson back in the fold. But we covered this last week. Let’s focus on Phoenix’s premiere retirement home. I didn’t anticipate A.J. Green going off as he did on Sunday at any point. He felt physically done, attaching himself to a side with ambition as one last shot at a run. Zach Ertz rolled us back to 2017, and became a target sponge for his quarterback in reserve.

No, they weren’t dominant. But we learned more about Arizona on Sunday than, I think, at any point this season. I was concerned they were primed for a meltdown heading into the home stretch. They certainly don’t look like they’re likely to fall apart. With a well-earned bye on the immediate horizon, expect them to power into the post-season sooner rather than later.

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Trending Up

I’ve managed to avoid talking about these all season. The 2021 Philadelphia Eagles are a strange team. They blew the brakes off Atlanta in week one, then suffered a bit of a slump, but hung in with teams they didn’t really have any right to hang in against. They’re 5-6, and that should be enough to keep most teams from developing playoff dreams. 2021 is a strange beast of a year, however

Do not get mistaken; this is not a vintage Philly outfit. While I praise DeVonta Smith last week, their offense goes through him and Dallas Goedert. They have nice pieces in just about every position, though I do have concerns over Jalen Hurts long term. But it’s all a bit middling. They certainly don’t scream “contender”, do they? Three wins from their last four games, however, has them in the mix. And that loss was a close one against the Chargers.

They demolished New Orleans on Sunday, just as they took the Broncos apart the week before. Their final six games are against Giants, Jets, Washington, Giants, Washington, and Dallas. With the NFC in the mess that it’s in, and with all of those games pretty winnable, now’s the time to get in on the Eagles. I think they’re going places.

Keep An Eye On

Speaking of the NFC, can we talk about how ridiculous this playoff race is? Seven weeks until the end of the season, and exactly 1 game separates the 6th seed from 12th spot in the rankings. Minnesota and New Orleans are currently in with 5-5 records, but 5 teams are only a game back in the race. The heat is on, and it’s only going to get hotter.

Every team in that picture has something to offer, too. Minnesota made a statement on Sunday, with their win over Green Bay. 34-31, with a last minute winner, puts them well and truly in the frame. Philadelphia, as we’ve discussed, dealt a blow to New Orleans to see them drop to the 7th seed. The 49ers have won a couple, and look competitive. Carolina, as we’ve discussed could be interesting. Washington have had a huge couple of weeks to enter the conversation. The Falcons.

The state of the middle in the NFC even opens the door for a 3 win team to make a surge. Seattle seems the most likely based on talent, but do they have it in them? Who are the Bears, and can they string together a moment or two of competency? The door is certainly open for them if they can. It’s a weird and wonderful time for the NFL, and it’s genuinely really fun that so many games are meaningful at this stage of the season. Enjoy it now, before we start to rue it in mid-January, as we watch a side with an 8-9 record in the playoffs.

Trending Down

Way back in week eight, I had the Patriots trending up. After a rocky start to the season, they’d seemed to have fallen into a bit of a groove. The problem, for Buffalo, is that their fast start had started to slow. So, here we are, three weeks later. In that time, Buffalo have let their lead slip. In the space of a weekend, they’ve seen their playoff position slip from 2nd to 6th. And they were thoroughly humiliated by a strange Colts outfit in the process.

You never want to lose at home, especially when you’re in the thick of it like Buffalo are. But it happens, of course. To concede 41 points, however, is absurd. The Buffalo defense has been largely excellent this season, too, which makes their defeat all the more confusing. There are cracks forming on the BUffalo offense, however, that needs to be addressed pronto. Josh Allen, who’d rounded into one of the better quarterbacks in the league, looked every bit the liability he was projected to be in 2018. Their run game didn’t show, and their wide receivers group didn’t have a single player log more than 30 yards receiving. And they scored exactly 15 points. Awful.

Since their statement win over Kansas City, Buffalo have lost 3 from 5, and are staring a wild card berth in the face. Their next 5 are New Orleans, New England, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and New England again. There are no guarantees here. This team needs to shape up, and quickly, if they’re to achieve what they’re so desperate to.

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Sell Sell Sell!

It’s amazing, to me, that I’ve managed to get to week eleven without talking about the Jacksonville Jaguars. Oh, there have been points where I could have spoken about them at length. The Urban Meyer debacle, for example. But I’ve kept them stashed away for a week where I had very few negative things to say about anyone. So today’s the day. Jacksonville Jaguars: you honestly suck so much.

The 2017 season really did break them, didn’t it? That “Sacksonville” outfit was one play away from a trip to Super Bowl LII, and a date with the Eagles in Minnesota. They even started 2018 pretty well, getting revenge over the Patriots, and looking like the next great thing in the AFC. Boy did the wheels come off quickly. Four seasons later, they’re onto the next franchise quarterback, and the next coaching genius to take them out of the pits and into the promised land. And it’s just not working.

San Francisco are pretty good, but they’re not “30-10” good. You just need to go through their season to see it littered with abhorrent defeat after abhorrent defeat. Houston, Denver, 31-7 vs the Geno Seahawks, it’s just not very good. Lawrence is going to be a great quarterback, but he needs help right now, which he isn’t getting. 

As things stand, Jacksonville are heading for another top 5 pick, and another wasted season. With the unstoppable Atlanta Falcons coming to town this weekend, more pain and misery awaits the pride of London Jacksonville. Take my advice; move on from Urban Meyer, and get a serious set up in place so that you don’t waste the talents of Trevor Lawrence. Or, just move to England. Those are your two options.

Featured image credit:Tim Nwachukwu-Getty Images

Thomas Willoughby