Willo's 2021 stock report: Week Three
By Thomas Willoughby
Another week consigned to the annals of history, and we’re in a really intriguing spot heading into week four. There are more than a few good teams on less than stellar records, who’ll need to make every game count moving forward. And there are some bad ones on good records, hoping to stay ahead of the pack.
Most importantly, the Atlanta Falcons are BACK, BABY! WHO’S STOPPING US?!? NO ONE! 15-2 IS ON LET’S GOOOO!
Ahem. Onto the stocks.
Well, look who showed up to the party! And not a moment too soon. The Buffalo Bills may have been handed (in retrospect, shocking) defeat in week one to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they’ve dusted themselves off nicely. Defeated in last season’s AFC Championship Game, the Bills went into 2021 with title aspirations. They’re starting to look like they’re capable of achieving them.
On Sunday, they hosted Washington, who are in a bit of a weird situation. Their defense is loaded, but their offense still needs some work, namely at the quarterback position. But their defense hasn’t done much of anything through 3 weeks, and their offense has been tasked with keeping them afloat. And Buffalo saw that, and pounced. Four passing touchdowns by Josh Allen, and another by him on the ground, helped the Bills to a 43-21 win. They now have sole ownership of the top spot in the AFC East.
The Bills have outscored their opposition 78-21 over the past two weeks. That is obscene when you think about it. Josh Allen finally looks to have settled into the season, and the defense appears to be here to play, now. Buckle up, because the Bills are about to go on a tear.
After an offseason of controversy regarding his particular stance on the COVID vaccine (it’s good, by the way. You should get one if you haven’t already.), one may have forgotten that Kirk Cousins is actually a professional NFL quarterback. The lengths he’s going to in order to keep himself isolated from his teammates is more the story than his actual play. And that’s a shame. Because Cousins is balling right now.
The Minnesota Vikings aren’t a good team. They’ve issues along the offensive line, and their defense flat-out sucks. But they’re playing teams close, and that’s largely due to their offensive output. They hosted the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, a side capable of going toe to toe with just about anyone in the league. It was close, for a lot of the game, and then the Vikings pulled away. Cousins got into a groove. 30/38, 328 passing yards, and 3 touchdowns. That’s a good day’s work by anyone’s estimation.
That’s not even a one-off. Cousins has been like this all season. Throw 3 games, he has 918 yards, 8 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The Vikings might not be winning a lot, but you can’t put the blame on their quarterback. It’s worth buying into Cousins now; if these Vikings turn it around, he’s going to be a large part of the reason why.
Keep An Eye On
The AFC West is a weird division, isn’t it? You take one look at it, and you automatically think the Kansas City Chiefs are the toast of the group. And they are…except they’re currently bottom of the pack. Two of the four sides are 3-0, and another was mighty close to that same record in week two. With that said, are the Chiefs set to be the 4th best side in that division? It’s…possible?
The Broncos are the least likely to keep this up, I think. Even if it is nice to see Teddy Bridgewater doing well, they’ve played 3 teams with a combined 0 wins, and not looked exceptional doing so. Baltimore come to town on Sunday, and you’d expect their winning run to snap to an end. Las Vegas, we’ve covered. An overtime win over Jacoby Brissett’s Dolphins does not change where I sit on them. But the Chargers? Now, they’re interesting.
The Chargers traveled to the Chiefs on Sunday, and came away with a win. It wasn’t pretty, and it really felt like they might throw it away at the end, but they won. Justin Herbert, who’s settled in really nicely this season, managed 4 touchdowns, outduelling the mercurial Patrick Mahomes. Their air attack is really excellent, by the way. The Chargers should be really excited by what they have in that team.
So, will the Chiefs finish bottom of the division? Probably not, but there’s plenty of intrigue in the AFC West. Certainly enough to keep one eye on for the next few weeks.
The 17 game season is throwing me a bit, I won’t lie to you. The rule was that if you started the season 0-2, you had about a 12% chance of making the playoffs. But that’s out the window, now, given there’s an extra game to help those teams balance out. So is the rule now 0-2 is fine, but 0-3 is dangerous? Or is 0-3 is death sentence either way? Regardless, the Indianapolis Colts need something to go their way, and soon.
The thing is, they’ve not even been awful. Week one was a bit of a write-off, but they came so close against the all-conquering Los Angeles Rams in week two. It’s not unreasonable to think that a fit Carson Wentz wins them that game. But they traveled to their in-division rivals, the Titans, hoping to get that first win. It, of course, didn’t go to plan, and they sunk to 0-3, alongside the Giants, Jets, Jaguars, and Lions. One of those is not like the other.
Thing is, I’m reluctant to sell them, because I do get the impression they’re capable of turning things around. They play Miami in week four, which is arguably their softest fixture yet, and then travel to Baltimore. They’re still above water, I think, but they desperately need to start kicking if they’re to remain that way.
Sell Sell Sell!
Less than a year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the toast of the league. 11-0, at one stage, and there was a belief that Ben Roethlisberger had tapped into the fountain of youth, somewhat. Then, in what felt like a matter of days, it all fell apart. They were dumped out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Browns, and an offseason of soul searching was required. How would they navigate their litany of issues, with little money to spare? By simply ignoring them, apparently.
The writing should have been on the wall with their first-round selection in the 2021 draft. Najee Harris is a fine running back, but the Steelers have so many holes, basically everywhere, and it felt like the pick you make when you’re a piece away. He was their most involved player on Sunday, as the BENGALS slapped them 24-10. 14 carries, and 14 receptions. For a rookie running back. It was horrible.
But we’re well and truly past the point of no return for Roethlisberger. Every decision is wrong, every throw is lame, and his ability to navigate pressure is all but gone. His goose is cooked, and he’s causing the Steelers more harm than good right now.
Mike Tomlin has said that the Steelers aren’t planning on pushing the panic button after their 1-2 start. Frankly, the button should have been pushed long ago. Their trip to Lambeau might force his hand somewhat this coming weekend. The long rebuild is just over the horizon; plan accordingly.
Featured Image Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn – AP Photo