Willo's 2021 stock report: Week Ten

By Thomas Willoughby

Horrible week, if we’re being honest. Just the very last thing any of us needed. One of the funniest things about the Falcons losing 43-3 to the Cowboys is that it doesn’t even rank as one of their top 5 biggest losses. Imagine losing by 40 points, and there being 7 losses in your history by more points? Disgusting.

Anyway, enough of that awfulness. We had a pretty healthy slate of games this weekend, and plenty of additional length to the threads we’ve established over the past few weeks. So let’s pick some of them up! Here are the stocks!

Invest Heavily

A few weeks back, I decided to put the league’s young receivers on a pedestal. “Trending up” that week was the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts, and the other first-round receivers from the 2021 draft. I briefly touched on the “‘bama boys”, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, mainly to save space. Today I’m elevating DeVonta Smith. That kid is excellent.

Forget the stat-line for a second (though, two touchdowns and 66 yards against the Broncos is pretty decent). The first touchdown was obscene. I cannot think of a single thing Patrick Surtain could have done better when covering that particular play. Smith just made the play. A 60/40 ball in the corners favour, and Smith came down with the score. Incredible.

Smith has quietly broken out over the past 3 weeks. While Chase and Pitts garner the headlines, Smith has logged a total of 304 yards from 16 receptions. He’s become the undeniable WR1 in Philadelphia, and looks more than capable of living up to that tag. It’s lovely to see.

Justin Edmonds-Getty Images

Trending Up

The same week as the receivers’ lovefest, I went all-in on the Green Bay Packers. I, correctly, predicted they would end the Cardinals unbeaten run, and, lo, I was proven correct. So why am I putting them back on here, so soon after their last visit? I kind of focused on the offense. Let’s give that defense some kudos.

The game on Sunday was billed as a potential playoff matchup. Two teams with an excellent (recent) history, duking it out. AND we were seeing the return of Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. In hindsight, I think I’d have preferred Jordan Love vs Geno Smith. Awful game, but you cannot help but appreciate the level of defense on show, especially from Green Bay. It takes something special to shut out Russell and company. And they did that with aplomb.

The Packers have played Seattle, Kansas City, and Arizona in three straight weeks. The Packers’ defense has held those 3 sides to a total of 34 points. Given how talented all three of those sides are, that takes some doing. This defense is legitimate, and might give Green Bay the edge they desperately need if they’re to make a serious run in late-January, and into February.

Keep An Eye On

Just last week I called time on the Sam Darnold experience in Carolina. He’d suffered humiliation at the hands of the all-conquering New England Patriots, and the Panthers looked to be spiraling out of contention in a weak NFC. Then, it transpired, he would be heading to IR, and the team were operating as if he were out for the season. So where do they go next? To the man that helped them become relevant. Cam Newton is back, or so he wants us all to know, and the Panthers might be something.

The Cardinals (which, good reader, you may recall I’m VERY doubtful over) were obliterated by an excellent defense. Colt McCoy was unable to come close to repeating the heroics of last week. The Panthers didn’t even look that great offensively. It’s clear why they’d be reluctant to give PJ Walker a run as QB1. But on their first two drives, at the goal line, #1 was brought in and scored. Twice. With his first two touches. 

The NFC is weak enough that, if the Panthers can get “hot” and win 4 of their last 7, that would probably be enough to make the cut. I don’t know how much juice Newton has left in the tank, nor do I know if the Panthers’ offense as a whole has enough outside of McCaffrey to make it happen. But I know this: the Panthers are in a better spot to make that run now than they were a week ago. Something to keep tabs on.

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Trending Down

The signs have been there for longer than I think anyone would care to admit. They may have made the playoffs every season since 2017 (and only missed out that year by a single game), but you do start to get the feeling the end is nigh for the Pete Carroll-era in Seattle. This year might just be the year it comes apart.

It’s a shame, too. Carroll’s tenure with the Seahawks has been undeniably fruitful. A Super Bowl ring, and a trip to another, on the back of a defense so good it got its own nickname. Carroll came into Seattle, a team with very little history, and very little positivity, and turned them into a juggernaut. The Seahawks, it’s fair to suggest, are relevant thanks to the work of Pete Carroll. But something’s been off, for a while. The “Legion of Boom” has come and gone. The players standing in the shoes of those giants aren’t near the level that crew was at. They’ve flipped things, and are relying more on their offense. But Russell Wilson seemingly wants to leave at every available opportunity. The wheels haven’t yet come off in Seattle, but they’re not far from it.

Seattle’s 17-0 defeat in Green Bay was as bad a defeat as you’re likely to get from a Seahawks side. They’re 3-6, bottom of the NFC West, and are staring a lost season in the face. Things have to improve quickly in order for them to be considered legitimate this season. If they don’t, it might well be lights out for Carroll.

Sell Sell Sell!

Back in week two, I expressed cautious optimism surrounding the Las Vegas Raiders. They were 2-0, having beaten the Ravens and Steelers back to back, and were playing at a really good level. The snag? I’d been bitten by them twice in the past two seasons. I wasn’t ready to buy in for fear of being fooled once more. We’re 8 weeks on from that report, and I’m ready to commit: the Raiders aren’t going anywhere in 2021. And I feel so bad for everyone involved.

Look, this team is good. It has the potential to be really good. I think Carr has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years, and their defense has some pretty nice pieces. There is something here, to be sure. But, just over halfway into the season, they’ve been asked to jump more hurdles than any team in recent memory in order to stay alive out there. From Jon Gruden’s resignation, to Henry Ruggs’ manslaughter case, to Damon Arnette making death threats on TikTok, the Raiders have faced 3 franchise-shaking events in half a season. 

On Sunday night, they did their best to hang in with the Chiefs. A DeSean Jackson fumble saw them collapse. That, to me, is the biggest indication as to what you can expect from Las Vegas moving forward. Carr will do what he can, Crosby will do what he can. But, given what the organization has had to deal with, it’s unreasonable to expect them to be able to emotionally handle that, alongside a playoff push. I’m out on Las Vegas, but I don’t think they’re bad. It’s just an extremely unfortunate point in time we’re at. Better luck next year, boys.

Feature Image Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Willoughby