Willo's 2021 stock report: Week Five

By Thomas Willoughby

Corr blimey what a week we’ve had. Thrills, spills, and missed field goals as far as the eye can see. Week five of the 2021 NFL season saw leads blown, and teams blown out. A real “something for everyone” effort from the football gods.

Oh, and can I just say, what a pleasure it was to see the Atlanta Falcons not become one of the sides referenced as one that saw a lead blown? I’ve seen the Falcons in person three times in my life, and we’re now at 2-1 historically. The winds of change are blowing people. Let’s get into the stocks!

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We spoke a bit about Lamar Jackson earlier in the season, but the Ravens were only 1-1, and it seemed like they might have a bit of a slow start to their season. And, can I just say, the Ravens are in a weird position right now. 4-1, but only 1 game decided by more than a touchdown? Struggling to buy them. But of Lamar Jackson, it’s time to go all in.

442 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 62 rushing yards. Lamar Jackson attempted 43 passes on Monday night, and missed only 6 of them. It was the sort of performance that, had it come from Mahomes, or Allen, or even Dak or someone, it would be heralded as one of the all-time great showings. And this is what that was, by the way. A clinic. A Lamarsterclass, if you will. Jackson effectively dragged the Ravens, and one of my fantasy teams, to 4-1.

I don’t know how sustainable the Ravens are in 2021. They seem to have a number of issues that they need to rectify if we’re going to take them seriously. But, I promise you this; they’re going to be there or thereabouts come January. And when they are, you better believe Jackson will be in the frame for league MVP again.

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Something you’ve likely heard MULTIPLE times over the past week or so; in the 30 games to have been played/scheduled to play in London, exactly 0 of those games were between two sides with a winning record. Something that gets lost among that is, by and large, we don’t care. With the world still dealing with the effects of COVID-19, sometimes it’s nice to just have a bit of the old life. This past Sunday, we got a slice of that.

Am I putting the most recent London game in this so I can talk about the Falcons? Yeah, probably. But the London games are, and I truly believe this, an integral thread in the fabric of the UK fandom. As over 65000 people descended onto London for the first of a doubleheader, we got the news that, from next season, London will be hosting “at least” three games from next season. That’s excellent news.

While the game itself was a little muted compared to the occasion, not even the threat of peak-Falconing could damped the overall mood. And it was one of celebration. As friends reunited with friends, and fans of all tribe soaked in the splendor of the UKs very own purpose-built NFL stadium, there was a palpable feeling of joy. We’re back, everyone. Enjoy next week, and let’s hope things don’t ever get so bad that we have to miss them again.

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On the topic of the international game, something to keep tabs on for the rest of the season is the next location in the shields sights. The NFL confirmed that Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and Munich were the locations being considered to host an NFL game in Germany from 2022. While I’m sure Dusseldorf and Frankfurt are wonderful cities and would love to benefit from the influx of tourists the league would bring, it’s obviously going to go to Munich, right?

The idea of Oktoberfest coinciding with the NFL is going to be far too good for the league to not take up. And I feel like that’ll ultimately be the deciding factor. For Europe, this is nothing but good news. We know first hand just how popular the sport is across the continent, given how many travels to London each year. Giving those guys something a little closer to home, and us the opportunity the experience a new setting for our football, can only be a good thing.

Expect the German game to be finalised and ready to go by the end of the season. And don’t be at all shocked if Mexico had their game reinstated in 2022, either. The game is truly going global, and it’s exciting to see where it takes us next.

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I’ve made it perfectly clear, over the past couple of years, how high in regard I hold the job that Brian Flores has done in Miami. The way he navigated his first season, turning them into a legitimate franchise despite them selling off the family china was very exciting. They took a collective step forward in year two, installing Tua Tagovailoa as starter, and ending with a winning record, despite missing out on the playoffs. But year three hasn’t been good. It hasn’t been good at all.

Obviously, things are stacked a little against them. I think Jacoby Brissett is a fine quarterback, but it’s clear that he’s a step below Tagovailoa in terms of pure ability. The fixture list hasn’t been kind, either. After beating the Patriots in week one, they faced the Bills, Raiders, Colts, and Buccaneers. That isn’t easy of course. But they look just awful. Brissett is essentially throwing to Mike Gesicki exclusively. On defense, every single step forward they made over the past two years appears to have been eradicated. 35, 31, 27, 45. Those aren’t lottery predictions, those are the points they’ve given up since week one. It’s just not good enough.

They sit at 1-4, and it’s difficult to see how they fight back to a position of contention. Traveling to the UK, to face the Jaguars, might be the change of environment they need to find themselves again. Tua shouldn’t be too far from returning, either, which will be a boost. But, with no post-London bye, and no real defense to speak of, it’s looking like a tough season in prospect for the Dolphins. Adjust accordingly.

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Not often you see a side with a winning record occupying this slot, but I’m willing to take the plunge if you are. The Denver Broncos: they are done. They’re no coser now than they were at any point last season or the season before. They’ve nothing offensively, and they’re undermanned defensively. They are done. Let’s all move on.

Literally two weeks ago they were 3-0, and looking to play their part in a stacked AFC West. That record did not reflect reality by anyone’s metric. Wins over the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets, are ten a penny. Those three sides, at that stage, had a combined record of 0-9. Since then they’ve played the Ravens and the Steelers. They got slapped both times. In week three, you’ll recall, we wrote off the Steelers completely. And they comfortably handled the Broncos.

I look at Denver, and I see a side in dire need of refreshment, incapable of making the necessary changes. The days of the “No-Fly Zone” have long ended, and they’re a side you can beat up on if you offer any degree of push. Offensively, they’re just anemic. I like Teddy Bridgewater, but, clearly, he’s not going to take games over. They have a good receiving corps, but their talents aren’t being used. They’re just kind of there, in the mid-zone, going nowhere, and slowly. 

I look over their remaining fixtures and see them winning 3 or 4 more wins. That’s clearly not going to give them a playoff berth, and it’s also too much to give them one of the lucrative draft slots. Unless something changes quickly, 2021, and 2022, are at risk of being written off. And I have no reason to believe that change will come.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

Thomas Willoughby