By Shaun Morash
Andy Dalton hurt more than his thumb on Sunday. He hurt a chance to prove the entire football watching nation wrong about him. With Dalton done for the rest of the regular season, asking the Bengals no manage to win out and get a bye week seems too tall a task.
If Dalton cannot play in the Bengals Wild Card round game one of two things will happen. Either the Bengals will actually win a playoff game, hurting the fans confidence that Andy Dalton is the right man for the job in Cincinnati. Or the Bengals lose like they do every year and Dalton has to wait an entire year to potentially prove he can in fact win a playoff game.
As good as Dalton’s year has been, breaking his thumb Sunday was a worst case scenario for the “Red-Rifle,” that nobody saw coming.
Ten Yard Gain
1- Bold coaching decisions can make or break teams in December. Mike McCarthy may have “made,” the Packers by deciding to take back the play calling duties ahead of the Cheese heads romp win over the Cowboys. Green Bay got back to a foundation of a solid running game, more of that should alleviate pressure from Aaron Rodgers into the post season.
2- What Shady McCoy did wearing a Buffalo Bills uniform Sunday was a disgrace to Western New York. It’s great to wave to your former fans and tip your helmet. Hwoever, to get on the field and kneel down and kiss the opposing team’s logo before a monster game with playoff implications was selfish and ridiculous.
3-When looking at the Redskins schedule for the final 4 games, it seemed like the Bears may actually have been their toughest task. Going into Chicago the Redskins had not won a road game all year. Captain Kirk and the boys prevailed now and the NFC East driver’s seat is theirs to crash.
4-Johnny Football looked like the Johnny Football Cleveland has wanted to see for 2 years on Sunday. It happened against the lowly 49’ers, but this may be the 1st true building block Manziel has had in his career to date.
5- When watching the games Sunday, the Jaguars Colts 6-3 battle looked as disgusting as it sounded late in the 2nd quarter. I flicked away from that game and could not believe the score when I saw it in the 4th quarter. Kudos to Blake Bortles, kudos to the Jaguars, they will be a sleeper playoff pick by many next August.
6-One of the knocks on Eli Manning throughout his career is that despite his big numbers and wins he was not the vocal leader the Giants needed out of the QB position. That changed last week when Eli manning spoke up and addressed the team midweek and again pre game Monday night, rallying the team that every game is a playoff game from here on out. A late career mentality change from Eli Manning in this way is very surprising, yet needed.
7- He was flagged for excessive celebration Sunday but William Gay’s dance and crawl following his pick 6 Sunday is my winner for best touchdown celebration of the year. If you could not laugh and be entertained by that you may be the grumpiest old man in America.
8-Two months ago we wondered if the Falcons would have a bye into the 2nd round of the post season. Now I am really wondering whether Matt Ryan can be a legitimate franchise quarterback. Very quietly and without as much fanfare, Ryan has trended in the direction of Colin Kaepernick in recent weeks. That is a very scary sign for the Falcons franchise.
9- Thomas Rawles has been lost for the season for the Seahawks. While Seattle has certainly found their long term replacement for Marshawn Lynch, their short term depth will become the ultimate test in the final three weeks. Who knows when Marshawn will play again, but signing Christine Michael and Bryce Brown back are desperate moves. The Patriots have been able to withstand these moments. It is Seattle’s chance to prove they can as well.
10-The Vikings added to their resume this season that they just aren’t ready for the big time, at least this year. Their Thursday night choke to end the game in Arizona joined the losses they have had to Green Bay and Denver to name a few as games they just simply cannot play big in. I expect Minnesota to be a one and done in the playoffs, even if they play the NFC East winner.
Five Games to Chew On
5 Ben’s Chili Bowls Game of the Week- Bills @ Redskins: The Bills last week put forth another undisciplined effort with penalties in crucial spots. They are playing an elimination game; it will be interesting to see if they can clean up their act, at least for one game. The Redskins have yet to win back to back games all year. If they lose they may hand away control of their own destiny in the NFC East.
4 Sugar Cream Pies Game of the Week- Texans @ Colts: TJ Yates vs Matt Hasselbeck for control of the AFC South. It’s just like we dreamed of. Not. Say what you want but this is as close to a playoff game as it gets, especially for the Houston Texans who are trying to pry away the strangle hold the Colts have had on this division in recent years.
3 Geno’s Cheesesteaks Game of the Week- Cardinals @ Eagles: The Eagles have awoken from the dead with back to back wins and need a big performance at home in primetime vs the Cardinals who are coming off extra rest from their Thursday night win. The Eagles psyche is fragile, if the Bird Gang swings at them hard, the Eagles may not win another game all year. However, an Eagles win will have us truly believing they are back and for real.
2 Slices of Joe’s Pizza Game of the Week- Panthers @ Giants: We have heard all week about the 13-0 Broncos heading into the Meadowlands in 1998, and the then 5-8 NY Giants knocking them from being unbeaten. Tom Coughlin’s Giants, for all their problems, seem to rise to the occasion in these spots. Just like they did in November vs the Patriots, a game in which they lost a heart breaker. If Carolina were to lose any of their final three games, this one seems like the most likely candidate.
1 Iron City Beer Game of the week- Broncos @ Steelers: The Broncos defense has been speaking out against the dominance of the Steelers offense. Big Ben and the Steelers control their own destiny if they win out, this would be a huge one at home to get. Peyton Manning may be a week away, so this also a big spot for Brock Osweiler. By far this is the most intriguing game of the weekend.
I treaded water for a 2-2 week in Week 14. My season total is now at 25-19. The theme this week is the big spreads.
Patriots -14 vs Titans: The last time the Patriots played at home they embarrassingly lost to the Eagles. They will not play soft in two straight home games. They are playing for the 1 seed vs a Titans team that was mauled vs the Jets last week. This smells like 41-3. Lay the points in a big way with New England.
Seahawks -14.5 vs Browns: The Seahawks run game should suffer, but they are getting red hot as a team and that defense will smell blood in the water vs Johnny Manziel and the Browns in Seattle Sunday. This could be a very long, multiple turnover day, for the Browns offense. The Seahawks will cover here winning by 17 points minimum.
Chiefs -7.5 at Ravens: The Chiefs won, but were slowed in covering the spread Sunday due to monsoon like conditions. I suspect the Ravens offense to struggle without anything capable at the quarterback position. Kansas City is playing for the post season, expect them to lay the wood on the road with a commanding victory.
Football Food of the Week
Tomato and Mozzarella Garlic Bread. The Italian in me kicks in around the holidays, which leads me to this tasty yet easy gem. Buy yourself some fresh Italian bread on Sunday morning. Get fresh garlic cloves, garlic powder, mozzarella, and tomato. Slice the bread open and butter both sides of the entire loaf. Then take chopped garlic and sprinkle evenly throughout the loaf. Follow that up with sprinkling the garlic powder throughout the load. Top that with slices of tomato evenly placed with every bite. Top it off with mozzarella covering every inch of bread.
Bake that masterpiece in the oven for 7 minutes or until perfectly crisp on the edges. Slice up, serve, and enjoy.
Thanks for reading everyone, Happy Holidays! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS