Jared Goff is many things. “Injury prone” is not one of them. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft has never missed a start. Some may joke that’s a bad thing. It definitely won’t be a good thing if Goff’s dislocated/broken thumb holds him out for Week 17, where the Rams must beat the Cardinals to clinch a playoff spot that appeared all-but-assured two weeks ago. What's followed a Week 14 rout of the Patriots has been a shocking loss to the 0-13 Jets and dismal performance against division nemesis Seattle.
Goff has been a big part of the tank. He has more interceptions (five) than passing touchdowns (four) over his past five starts, averaging 5.47 yards per attempt as he’s put up a 78.7 QB rating. That is Jeff Fisher-level bad. Goff has been a big problem. The bigger problem is what’s behind him: Nothing. The Rams have as little invested in their No. 2 quarterback spot as any team in the league. If Goff can’t go against the Cardinals, it will be ex-AAF/Wake Forest great John Wolford, a third-year UDFA with zero career regular season attempts.
The last time Wolford saw live action was the 2019 preseason. He completed 25-of-44 passes (56.8 percent) for 249 yards (5.65 YPA) and three scores. He converted more than 60 percent of his throws in just 1-of-4 starts, inefficiency in line with his college production, where he posted a 59.7 completion percentage and 6.9 YPA to go along with a 59:41 TD:INT ratio.
Even if Goff sits and Wolford bombs, the Rams will still make the playoffs if the Bears lose to the Packers. That’s probable. But then Goff might not be available for the Wild Card Round, and the big questions will begin in earnest: How much farther can coach Sean McVay take his manipulations of the most ordinary of quarterbacks? With Goff’s contract not cuttable for 2021, we will be finding out.
Five Week 16 Storylines
AJ Dillon breaks out against Titans on Sunday Night Football. Dillon barely played in Weeks 1-8. Then the coronavirus hit, and Dillon was unavailable for over a month. "We're just thankful first of all that he's healthy and able to fight through it,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “I know there were some scary moments definitely for him battling through that.” Scary stuff. Sunday night, Dillon finally got to scare the defense, looking every bit his Derrick Henry-ian 6-foot-0, 247-pound frame as he rolled up 21/124/2 in the snow. The cameo wouldn’t have been possible without Jamaal Williams sitting with a quad issue, but it hinted at an offseason possibility: The Packers declining to re-sign Aaron Jones. That would be a mistake, but it is within the range of outcomes after the Pack invested a second-round pick in bowling ball Dillon. On the off chance you were wavering, you now know Dillon is a firm Dynasty league hold.
Darrel Williams out-touches Le’Veon Bell vs. Falcons. Yesterday was not a dress rehearsal for the Chiefs. They needed to win to assure their playoff seeding. With a bye on the line, they featured Williams over ballyhooed mid-season addition Bell. Williams won the touch war 14-8, snap battle 47-20 and production test 74-39. He was the better, more versatile player, one who will probably be put on ice for this week’s meaningless finale against the Chargers. That begs the question: Will Bell get work as the rest of the starters sit? It’s possible, though Darwin Thompson figures to be the Week 17 mail carrier. Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s (ankle, hip) health is uncertain. The Chiefs’ Divisional Round backup plan is not: Williams is the No. 2, Bell the LeSean McCoy.
Deshaun Watson shakes off injury scare as shadow MVP campaign rolls on. What looked like a potential offseason-killing injury was instead a false alarm. Watson returned to the game, and says he will start Week 17 against the Titans. Watson’s 2020 has been a remarkable achievement. Surrounded by little talent and stripped of not one, but two No. 1 receivers, Watson enters the finale completing 70.1 percent of his passes and averaging 8.8 yards per attempt. He has only nine turnovers in 15 starts. That combination of efficiency, big-play ability and lack of giveaways only comes around about once every Aaron Rodgers. Add in Watson’s 87/432/3, and the 25-year-old has erased any doubt that he is one of the best players in football. Hopefully his preacher GM can find a football man or two to surround Watson with another good player or two.
Questionable Ezekiel Elliott has best game of the season. When a pre-game report came out that calf-hobbled Elliott would handle the “bulk” of the Cowboys’ backfield work, I was dubious. 19 carries later, Elliott’s 105 yards rushing were a new 2020 best. That, of course, is more an indictment than triumph. The Cowboys are paying Elliott for 100 yards to be his baseline. But it is possible it will end up better late than never. If Elliott can help lead the Cowboys to Week 17 victory, they will become the improbable winners of the NFC East if the Football Team can’t handle Jalen Hurts’ Eagles. Elliott went 19/91/2 against the G-Men in Week 5. We will fight over Elliott all offseason. This could be his final chance to influence the narrative.
Dwayne Haskins bottoms all the way out vs. Panthers. Just how far has Haskins fallen? He’s been waived since I wrote this. Josh Rosen never got benched for Taylor Heinicke. Haskins has received more regular season opportunities than his draft bust brother in arms, but they have gone just as poorly. Haskins committed three turnovers on 28 attempts before the desperate Football Team sent Haskins to the bench against a decidedly non-elite defense on Sunday. Heinicke showed more, and will get the call for Sunday night’s must-win game against the Eagles if Alex Smith (calf) still isn’t healthy. Smith should be ready to go. As for Haskins, having left less to the imagination than Rosen, he will struggle even for backup work in 2021.
1. So why exactly did the NFL call not-a-Jalen Hurts-fumble a fumble?
3. The Falcons … leads … again … why?
Stats of the Week
1,416. Travis Kelce’s new single-season yardage record for tight ends. With the 14-1 Chiefs having assured home-field advantage, Kelce is unlikely to get the Week 17 opportunity to pad that number against the Chargers.
Football Perspective with some perspective on Deshaun Watson’s greatness: Sunday was the fifth time this season the Texans lost with Watson throwing for 300-plus yards while posting a 100-plus passer rating. That’s a new NFL record.
The Falcons are 4-11 with a -1 point differential. Chargers Philip Rivers just shed a tear.
Tweet of the Week, from Peter Overzet: Can someone who was alive back in the 1800s let me know what it was like when Russ used to cook.
The Well Surely The Browns Won’t Randomly Have No Receivers For Week 16 And Fritter Away A Certain Playoff Spot, Not Even The Browns Could Do That Award: The Browns.