Willo's 2021 stock report: Week Seven

By Thomas Willoughby

Folks, I am delighted, DELIGHTED, to announce that, for the first time since September 15th, 2019, the Atlanta Falcons DO NOT have a losing record. Drink it in. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Are the Falcons good? Probably not. But it’s ridiculous how happy this dumb, awful team winning makes me feel. I’ve been floating since London, and I’m never coming down. Who’s going to stop us?!? No one!

Week seven was a pretty good one, I thought. Some blowouts, yes, but some shocks. Some real eyebrow raisers. An enjoyable weekend for everyone outside of my fantasy teams. Lets dissect things!

Invest Heavily

Ok Green Bay, you made your point. Let’s just calm down a bit, now, yeah? After their week one embarrassment at the hand of Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have decided that they are, in fact, good at football. Since I took them to task, the Packers are 6-0, walking their division, and clearly heading to the playoffs again. I guess that’s just how it goes.

From the “I own you” euphoria of smashing the Bears in their own pit, to Making Washington look less than ordinary this past weekend, the Packers have barely felt any resistance since that opening day defeat. The Bengals are the exception to that rule, but Green Bay threw as many chances to wrap that up as Cincinnati did. But the Packers are just rolling right now.

Here’s my prediction: the Packers will be responsible for the Cardinals’ first defeat this Thursday. Yes, even with Davante Adams condemned to COVID IR. These Packers are clicking, and they’ll stay clicking all the way to the post-season.

Stacy Revere-Getty Images

Trending Up

I spent a large portion of last season’s stocks lavishing praise on the young signal-callers of that draft class. Burrow and Herbert were excellent, and Tagovailoa and Hurts showed enough promise for me to get excited about their potential at the NFL level. And I’m still largely high on all those guys, by the way. I say largely, because Hurts feels like a fantasy-merchant more than anything right now. We’ve not had the same fortunate with this year’s class just. The big guys at the top of the class have been dealt some pretty awful hands, so we might have to wait a while before they show up. With that in mind, let’s talk about these pass catchers.

Top of the bill is a guy who once claimed he couldn’t see a ball properly. Ja’Marr Chase is utterly ridiculous. 754 yards from 35 catches, and 6 touchdowns. He’s averaging over 20 yards a catch, and making veteran defenses look like children. No one’s stopping him, and no one can stop him. What a season so far, and it would take something special from someone to challenge him for offensive rookie of the year. If that challenge is coming from anywhere, though, it’s Atlanta.

Many, myself included, felt the Falcons should take a quarterback with their 4th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Instead, they took Kyle Pitts, and tight end often described as a “unicorn”. “Generational”, even. He arrived in London, and looks here to stay. 282 yards and a touchdown across the past two games, and looks set to be Matt Ryan’s favourite target for the rest of the season. Lovely stuff.

If those two aren’t tickling your fancy, how about the ‘bama boys? Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith might not be setting the league alight, but they are already huge parts of their respective offenses, and will be for years to come. And I know he missed this week, but the New York Giants handed Kenny Golladay a pretty large cheque, and are getting more out of their 1st round rookie, Kadarius Toney.

I know I’ve missed a bunch, too. But if last year was the year of the young gunslinger, this year is the year of the young pass catcher. What a time to be alive.

Keep An Eye On

I guess we’re far enough into the season to have a true lay of the land. Week seven, the picture is a little clearer now than it ever really has been. So I guess now’s a good opportunity to start picking out the contenders for the MVP award. Something for us to watch through the year. Keep an eye on, if you will.

Top of any odds list you’ll find is Kyler Murray, and for good reason. We’ve already pointed this out, but the kid’s balling right now. He’s picking up yards, and scoring touchdowns, at an alarming rate, and it’d take a pretty catastrophic collapse for him to not be in the hunt at the end of the season. He’s out in front, but he’s plenty of challengers chasing him.

Tom Brady will be in the MVP hunt for the rest of time. Assuming the Buccaneers stay the course, and Arizona drop off, expect him to surge to #1 come the end of the year. Similarly, if Baltimore win their division, Lamar Jackson is in with a shout. Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford – we know the MVP is a referendum on the quarterback, and these guys will all get votes unless someone takes over. 

Derrick Henry is the most likely non-quarterback to win the award, as we discussed last week. The anti-modern NFL running back was limited to only 86 yards this weekend, but threw more touchdowns than Patrick Mahomes, which cannot be overlooked. Expect him to get a surge of support as the season progresses, and keep an eye on this race all season. It’s more open than it feels.

Ross D. Franklin-AP Photo

Trending Down

We’re (almost) halfway through the season, and by now you should have a clear picture of who will be involved in the playoff hunt and who won’t be. In week one, I boldly proclaimed that the Kansas City Chiefs, riding the arm of Patrick Mahomes, would be “there or thereabouts” come the post-season. Seven weeks in, the waters are murkier than any connected to a sewage pipe in the UK. The Chiefs, dare I say, are in trouble.

Let me be absolutely clear: I do not think Patrick Mahomes is the issue in Kansas City. Not by a long chalk. Sunday wasn’t great for him, of course, but, across the season, he’s been performing as well as you might expect from Patrick Mahomes. But that defense sucks. Out loud. They had no answer for Tannehill, Henry, or any of those Titans receivers. This was the sort of showing that should bring sweeping changes, both on and off the field, for that group.

You know what feeling I’m getting from the Chiefs right now? And I can say this because I’ve lived through it. These Chiefs are Mississippi’s answer to the Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons. If the offense isn’t perfect, or close to perfect, they will struggle. Because they have nothing defensively at the moment. Take it from someone who knows; you do not want your franchise quarterback to be in that position. If the Chiefs fail to beat the Giants on Monday night, we might have to start preparing for an early 2022 devoid of Mahomes and company. It’s time to step up.

Sell Sell Sell!

I put off writing about these for as long as I could. Call it stubborn pride or something. But now’s the time to commit this to writing, despite all the goodwill accrued over the past two seasons, and despite all the positive steps they’ve made as a franchise since 2018. The Miami Dolphins: they are not very good at all.

I will preface that statement by saying that I do think they have good pieces. Mike Gesicki and Jaylen Waddle are excellent, and should be excellent for years to come. And, I’ll say it, Tua Tagovailoa is good, and will be a really good quarterback in the NFL. But that defense has taken noticeable steps back, to the point where they cannot be trusted to win the Dolphins games. Which is a problem, by the way, because that’s what they’ve built themselves on since Brian Flores came in back in 2019.

You don’t get to lose to the Jaguars and the Falcons back to back, and consider yourselves viable for the rest of the season. You just don’t. There’s a reality where Tua doesn’t get hurt in week 2, and they piece together enough wins to keep them relevant throughout the year. But this is not that reality. They travel to Buffalo on Sunday, and it’s difficult to imagine anything other than another drubbing. 2021 will go down as a lost season in Miami, and sweeping changes will likely come as a result. Move on from them before the next big rebuild begins.

Featured Image Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Willoughby