I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend and got to watch as much football as I did. College football and the NFL provided us with an endless stream of good games from Thursday-Monday and I was sure to take full advantage. Here is what crossed my mind after watching Week 12 in the NFL.
1. The Chosen ones went for two and got it done
Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert. These two young men were blessed with long flowing hair, cannons for right arms, and a high football IQ. But for the two youthful golden gods of the NFL, the similarities don’t stop there.
Each was looked at as The Chosen One that would save a franchise famous for not winning football games. They both stepped into the league with two of the worst head coaches of the past decade. Their rookie years may have looked a lot different had Urban Meyer not been the man in Jacksonville and if Anthony Lynn had been given the boot a year earlier in LA. Herbert battled through the ineptitude of his coach and had one of the greatest rookie seasons the league has ever seen — while his defense soiled away wins, of course. Lawrence didn’t have the same fortune in his rookie campaign, and looking back on that situation, I’m not sure how anyone could blame him.
While the play of the Jaguars and Chargers has been inconsistent and frustrating this year, Lawrence and Herbert have shown the talent and poise expected of highly-touted first-round picks. And on Sunday, Herbert and Lawrence found themselves with the football down seven and only a few minutes left on the clock.
Lawrence started his drive against the Ravens with an incomplete pass and a sack, a difficult situation now seemed impossible with the Jags facing a 3rd and 21, under the 2 minute warning. What happened next was the defining moment of Lawrence’s career thus far. The prodigy from Clemson hung tough in the pocket and delivered strike after strike all the way down the field. This drive for the ages culminated with a beautiful jump ball to Marvin Jones in the end zone and a BULLET to Zay Jones on an out route for the game-winning two point conversion. This drive was Lawrence doing everything that the scouts and the tape said he could do. He moved around in the pocket, made different types of throws, and maintained poise and accuracy in the biggest spots. This was a huge moment for the kid from Clemson.
While the situation on paper looked the same, the pressure that Justin Herbert faced as he got the ball back in Arizona down seven with 1:48 on the clock was entirely different. Unlike the Jags, the Chargers entered the year with Super Bowl aspirations. Things have gone poorly in LA for a bevy of reasons, and as a result, the season was on the line for Herbert and his team. The Chargers were down both starting tackles and their all-pro center, Corey Linsley, for this final drive. Cardinals defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, — who is known for blitzing at a high rate — smelled blood in the water and was sending the house at Herbert on nearly every play. Herbert knew the circumstances and maneuvered his team to the goal line with some quick decisions and important audibles. After a TD late on a rollout to Austin Ekeler, Brandon Staley did just as Doug Pederson did hours before, deciding to go for two and the win rather than take a chance in OT.
The two point try was money, couldn’t have looked easier. The Chargers had the perfect play ready and executed it without breaking a sweat. Game over, season temporarily saved.
Trevor Lawrence is not yet on the level of Justin Herbert. At a minimum, Herbert is a top-four QB in the league and is much further along than Lawrence. But it’s hard not to see the similarities between the two on a day like Sunday. They got the ball late, marched down the field, got the two point conversion, and got the win. This won’t be the last time we see this from either of these eye-popping young quarterbacks that look to turn around these muddling franchises.
2. About those first round picks…
What do the Rams, Broncos, and Saints all have in common this year? Riddled with injuries? Yep. Currently bad at football? Without a doubt. But perhaps the most notable similarity at this point in the year, they all traded away their 2023 first-round pick. Let’s go case by case.
The Rams situation in the easiest to analyze and excuse. LA traded its pick in the deal with the Lions that got the Rams Matthew Stafford and ultimately a Super Bowl. The Rams’ front office and fanbase would make the trade 100 time out of 100 knowing the result in 2021. There is nothing to criticize the Rams for, even as this season spirals out of control and the Lions look to have possession of what will be a top-five pick from LA.
The Saints, well, this one is a tad more puzzling and MUCH less straightforward than what the Rams did. New Orleans has been pushing back on an obvious rebuilding situation and instead have opted to split sixes against a 20 for whatever reason. I will not go through every single move the Saints made to leave them without a 2023 first, but let’s just say the Saints better hope Chris Olave and Trevor Penning are the next Calvin Johnson and Trent Williams. Andy Dalton — for some reason — is still playing ahead of Jameis Winston as the Saints sit at 4-8, lined up to hand the 10-1 Eagles the sixth pick in the draft as things stand today. Yikes.
Remember in September when everyone thought things couldn’t get worse in Denver? Well this Broncos season is a great reminder that things can always get worse. The Broncos gave away their first-round pick to Seattle (4th pick right now), and much more to bring Russell Wilson to town and compete for a Super Bowl. On Sunday the Broncos were embarrassed by, wait for it, Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers. Denver sits at 3-8 and the vibes in the mile high city are… well take a look.
This is supposed to be the honeymoon phase for Russ and the Broncos. They should be cruising through the caribbean and sipping margs by the beach. In reality, the Broncos’ defense is ready to just throw Russ overboard and leave him for the sharks. Oh and Denver doesn’t exactly have a favorable prenup, here are Wilson’s dead cap hits per year, per Spotrac.
2023 – $107,000,000
2024 – $85,000,000
2025 – $49,600,000
2026 – $31,200,000
3. The White Lotus
If you are not familiar with the HBO series directed by Mike White, check it out, it’s great TV. Each of the first two seasons has started with a tease of a dead body without revealing the identity of the deceased. In this New York Jets version of the hit series, that dead body floating in the Hudson River is most certainly Zach Wilson.
After Wilson was benched this week, the man that shares the name with the famous showrunner, the White Lotus himself, Mike White, was given the starting QB job. Mike White was given the keys to the Vespa ahead of a matchup with the Bears on Sunday and man did he take off at full speed. 315 yards and 3 touchdowns later, Jets fans are feeling much better about their short-term solution at QB and the team’s playoff odds after a stomping of Chicago. White was in control of the offense, making good decisions, and spreading the ball to different receivers. Most importantly, Mike White was not Zach Wilson, and with the way this Jets defense is cooking right now, that very well could be enough to get the Jets into the tournament in January.
There are only two episodes left in this season of the White Lotus on HBO, but it’s quite possible that we will be getting to see a different Mike White in action on Sundays for a lot longer than two weeks in the Meadowlands.
4. The magic is starting to run out for the Giants and Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants were two of the best stories in the league for the first two months. Both teams were overperforming, pulling out wins in the clutch, and consistently out-coaching the opponent. The season has gone on and regression has started to take place in New York and Seattle. This Giants continue to be decimated by injuries and lost 28-20 on Thanksgiving to the Dallas Cowboys. Seattle lost at home in OT to the Raiders and gave up over 300 total yards to Josh Jacobs in the process.
The Giants are so limited in what they can do on offense with Daniel Jones at QB and a startling lack of play-making weapons in the passing game. Other teams have simply seen too much on film and have started to slow down the run-heavy New York offense. This is no knock on Brian Daboll, he’s been incredible this season as head coach, but the magic might be gone and the Giants could be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
Seattle’s defense appears to be running out of juice. That unit was performing so far above expectation and was relying so heavily on inexperienced players, that it should be no surprise that the tide is starting to turn for that group. Derek Carr had all day to throw and picked Seattle apart with short throws to the flat. Geno Smith and the offense still look strong, and I give the 6-4 Seahawks a solid chance to snag a wild card spot, but the cinderella vibes in Seattle are wearing off.
5. Rapid Fire Fantasy Football Takes
This is the best time of the year for those with contending teams. Remember that fantasy football is more than just a game and it’s absolutely acceptable to let your mood over the next month be dictated by an imaginary team on a website.
The status of Leonard Fournette is the biggest news in fantasy right now. If he continues to miss time, Rachaad White managers are at a massive advantage.
Times are tough in Baltimore. If you have Lamar or Mark Andrews you likely have to start them, but I don’t recommend watching what is an agonizing Ravens offense right now.
The CMC experience in SF has been underwhelming, but Elijah Mitchell is out and the schedule looks favorable, hold faith.
George Pickens is about to win some people titles.
Let us never forget the Josh Jacobs contract year.
The White Lotus is going to gave Garrett Wilson clicking, I almost feel like he can started with confidence.
If you have a decision to make regarding a Chargers player, make sure to monitor the status of center Corey Linsley and RT Trey Pipkins. If they are without those guys, I’d lower expectations and perhaps look elsewhere.
Don’t really know what to think about Deshaun Watson coming back in fantasy football terms, we should know a lot more after a game against Houston this week.
6. Updated Week 10 SB Pick and MVP Ladder
SUPER BOWL PICK
Preseason – Bills over GB
Week 1 – Bills over GB
Week 2 – Bills over GB
Week 3 – Bills over GB
Week 4 – Bills over Tampa
Week 5 – Bills over Tampa
Week 6–11 — Bills over Philly
Week 12 – Chiefs over Philly
It took me 12 weeks, but I’m switching my pick from the Bills to the Chiefs. I certainly may switch it back, but as of this moment I am too concerned about Josh Allen’s elbow, Von Miller’s knee, and the rest of the Bills’ defense. KC is in control to grab the one seed and is the pick as of right now.
Preseason Pick – Justin Herbert
Week 1 Ladder – Allen, Mahomes, Herbert
Week 2 Ladder – Allen, Mahomes, Hurts
Week 3 Ladder – Allen, Hurts, Lamar
Week 4-9 Ladder – Allen, Mahomes, Hurts
Week 10-11 Ladder – Mahomes, Allen, Tyreek Hill
Week 12 Ladder – Mahomes, Hurts, Allen
Jalen Hurts is so fun to watch. Everyone knows he’s going to run and they can’t do anything to stop it. It’ll be nearly impossible to pass Mahomes at this point, but I’d love to see it happen because that means Hurts would be doing some truly crazy stuff.
7. We’re on to Week 13
Week 13 is the slate of the year. Just so many great, important football games will be played.
TNF — Bills at Pats.
Sunday — Jaguars at Lions, Jets at Vikings, Commanders at Giants, Titans at Eagles, Chargers at Raiders, Dolphins at 49ers, Chiefs at Bengals.
Put your head down and make it to Sunday, because what a glorious day that will be.
Be sure to check out all the great NFL content at Apollo, including the YouTube channel. Follow @ApolloTexans and @AaronLittleOB on Twitter for more and enjoy the week.