The Top Week 13 NFL Storylines: Brock Purdy, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson
With the 13th installment of Monday Night Football in the books, the NFL’s regular season has just five weeks to go before the postseason begins. While we can’t get to everything — like Kyler Murray’s war of words with his former teammate — here are four of the top Week 13 NFL storylines and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em. (ICYMI, here’s what went down last week along with a clip of Washington rookie Jahan Dotson busting out a sweet spin move for the Commanders.)
Buy: Brock Purdy may be good enough for the 49ers
Forced into action in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins after starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was carted off the field with a left foot injury, Brock Purdy played fairly well and was able to guide San Franciso to a 33-17 win.
Purdy, who threw for 210 yards on 25-of-37 passing with two touchdowns and an interception for the 49ers, will potentially remain as the starting QB as Garoppolo’s foot is broken and he will miss the rest of the season. Third on the depth chart to start the season, behind Garoppolo and Week 1 starter Trey Lance (who is now injured), Purdy is the last man standing for San Fran and he should be able to keep the team’s Super Bowl hopes alive as they have a talented enough roster to get by with mediocre quarterback play. After all, they’ve been doing it for years with Garoppolo.
Selected out of Iowa State in April with the last pick in the seventh and last round of the draft to claim the title of “Mr. Irrelevant,” the 2022 pick became the first final pick in NFL history to throw a pass in the regular season. Fortunately for the 49ers, throwing passes is not something Purdy is going to need to do a lot of for the team to win as he can simply hand the ball to Christian McCaffrey and let the former Panther go to work. Purdy also has the luxury of being able to rely on a San Francisco defense that has only given up 190 points this season, the fewest in the NFL.
For the 49ers to win, Purdy just has to be competent and make the plays he can make. Let 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was able to get a great season out of Jimmy G despite not working with him at all during the offseason due to a contract dispute, worry about getting the ball into the hands of McCaffrey and other playmakers like George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. He was able to do it with Garoppolo and he’ll be able to do it with Purdy, too. It may not be enough to help the 49ers make it back to the Super Bowl, but it should be enough for them to win the NFC West.
“Brock has a chance to be successful in this league,” Shanahan said last week before Garoppolo’s injury. “He’s been getting a lot of reps on the scout team. He does a hell of a job. We won’t hesitate if he goes in, and our team would feel very confident with him.”
Sell: Baker Mayfield may be good enough for the 49ers
Waived by the Carolina Panthers on Monday, quarterback Baker Mayfield will find out if a team has claimed him by 4 p.m. on Tuesday and will become an unrestricted free agent if he goes unclaimed. Thanks to his pedigree and status as a former No. 1 overall pick, the odds that a team will claim Mayfield seem pretty good. Hopefully it just isn’t a good team like the 49ers.
Mayfield, who was treated poorly by the Browns on his way out of the door in Cleveland and deserves credit for playing through a shoulder injury last season, was given the opportunity to start fresh when he arrived in Carolina with the Panthers. Granted, the situation wasn’t the greatest as Carolina’s offense lacks talent and the Panthers traded away two of their better playmakers in Robbie Anderson and aforementioned McCaffrey, but Mayfield had a shot to change the trajectory of his career. He didn’t do it.
In six starts with the Panthers, one of which came after he suffered an ankle sprain that sidelined him for one game, Mayfield compiled a 1-5 record and had a career-low 57.8 completion percentage. Ranked last in the NFL in Total QBR with a rating of 18.2, Mayfield threw six touchdown passes and six interceptions and just simply was not good for the Panthers. He was actually so bad that Sam Darnold, the player he was brought in to replace and who he beat out to start the season, is now back atop the depth chart in Carolina with journeyman PJ Walker as the No. 2.
With San Francisco losing Garoppolo on Sunday, some are calling for the 49ers to bring in Mayfield bring to compete with Purdy for the starting job down the stretch. While Mayfield may have more talent and a higher ceiling long-term than Purdy, bringing him in on short notice would be a mistake as he played poorly this season in a Carolina offense he had all of training camp to get acquainted with. Add in that McCaffrey, a legit star, couldn’t have been happier to get out of Carolina (where he mostly lost) and wouldn’t necessarily be thrilled to be reunited with his former teammate in San Fran (where he’s mostly won) and this just seems like a situation where Mayfield could be subtraction by addition.
“It’s shocking to us,” Carolina offensive guard Austin Corbett, who spent his first two NFL seasons with Mayfield in Cleveland, said Monday. “He’s the ultimate teammate. Everybody loved him. He loves everybody in here. It hurts. I just hope somebody claims him off waivers and he gets into another room.”
Buy: Lamar Jackson is costing himself a lot of money
Facing a dreadful Denver Broncos team in Baltimore, Lamar Jackson left Sunday’s game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return as the Ravens were able to squeak out a win when backup quarterback Tyler Huntley ran for the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the matchup.
Although the extent of Jackson’s injury is unclear, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said after the game that the injury would not end Jackson’s season and the team is now calling him week-to-week. It’s good news for the team and their playoff chances that Jackson will be back this season, but it’s bad news for him that he’ll be missing substantial time in a pivotal contract year as he attempts to work out a long-term pact instead of being hit with the dreaded franchise tag.
Jackson, who reportedly turned down about $250 million from the Ravens before the season, bet on himself this season and was hoping to turn in a performance that would tack some major money onto what was already going to be a substantial contract. It looked like a solid wager to start the season as Jackson had 10 passing touchdowns and was running the ball as efficiently as ever through three games. However, Jackson’s wager started to look worse over the next eight games as he had just seven touchdowns and five interceptions in his next eight games.
A dynamic dual-threat when healthy who had been extremely durable in his first 3½ seasons, Jackson was sidelined for four games last season with an ankle injury and now will likely miss at least one game and possibly more during the current campaign. For a quarterback who relies on his legs just as much as his arm, durability is incredibly important and Jackson has had a tough time staying healthy over the past two seasons. It cost the Ravens a spot in the playoffs last season as Baltimore lost all four games Jackson sat out, and it almost cost them on Sunday.
Now Jackson’s durability, or perceived lack thereof, is potentially going to cost him at the negotiating table.
Sell: Bill Belichick is still the NFL’s best coach
Though it was almost a week ago now, the horror that was New England’s passing offense on Thursday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills in a 24-10 loss that dropped the Patriots to 6-6 can’t soon be forgotten.
Playing from behind for much of the night against a team they had been unable to force to punt in their previous two meetings, the Patriots refused to open up the playbook and let Mac Jones — who finished 22-of-36 for 195 yards with one touchdown pass and no interceptions — throw the ball down the field despite an obvious need to do so. Relying on a steady diet of runs, short passes and screens, the Patriots limped their way up and down the field, and New England’s porous offensive line allowed a skittish Jones to take a beating.
And Bill Belichick, who many regard as the greatest coach in NFL history, allowed it all to happen on his watch.
A defensive specialist, Belichick was not calling the plays or in charge of the offense on Thursday night, but he was directly responsible for installing the people who were: Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. Former Patriots coordinators who both left to become head coaches and returned to work under Belichick after being fired, Patricia and Judge were tasked with getting Jones up to speed and installing a new offense in New England despite their primary backgrounds in the NFL coming on defense and special teams, respectively. It was an experiment by Belichick, and it has failed so badly that it is now fair to question if the man who insisted it be carried out still knows what he is doing.
Belichick, who famously benched Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl and refused to put the star cornerback in the game as the Patriots’ defense was being picked apart by Nick Foles and the Eagles, is once again refusing to admit he made a mistake with entrusting New England’s offense and the development of Jones, a second-year player, to Patricia and Judge.
With Patricia and Judge in charge, the Patriots are tied for last in the NFL in red zone efficiency (12 TDs in 32 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line) and are also near the bottom of the league in several offensive categories including first downs (28th), third-down efficiency (25th), sacks per pass play (25th) and interception percentage (25th). Ranked 20th in points per game (20.75 average), the Patriots are clearly playing worse than last season and Patricia and Judge are the main reasons why. If Belichick can’t realize that and do something to correct it, perhaps the game really has passed him by.
“I think we’d all certainly like to be doing better than what we’ve been doing from a record standpoint and from an individual execution [standpoint],” Belichick said on Monday. “But we’re going to look ahead and not backward.”
If that means moving forward with Judge and Patricia, Belichick really isn’t the same level of coach that he used to be.