Up The Gut: Wild Card Weekend

By Shaun Morash

The Watercooler

                  The 2015 New York Jets proved on Sunday that they were in fact frauds. While the team was undoubtedly improved, their record and our belief in them was skewed when we look back. They played the two worst divisions in football in the AFC South and NFC East. They also had two games with the hapless Dolphins and another vs the Browns. That is 11 of their 16 games vs absolute bottom of the barrel NFL teams this season.

The problem now with the Jets going forward is Revis and Cromartie aged in a hurry at corner and the offensive line is starting to show its old age. Throw that in with the fact they still don’t have a franchise QB and you have to wonder if this team missed a one year window to do something. However, they weren’t as good as we thought all along anyway. Same. Old. Jets.

Ten Yard Gain

1- Sean Payton staying in New Orleans is the right thing for that city and franchise. Payton made the Saints relevant. He is not an old man. Constant turnover is all too common and not smart in today’s NFL. If you have a well-established head coach, in good health, stick with him and good things will come. That is a smart job by the Saints not throwing all of that away.

2-In sticking with that line of thinking, the Colts somehow finding a way to repair the relationship with Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson is a big win for Andrew Luck and that organization. They were snake bit by going all in on free agency with older veterans and not repairing the offensive line. The foundation is in place with Andrew Luck if they now look to fix that offensive line to be good for a long time. Keeping Luck with the head coach he entered the league with is a big win.

3-Tom Coughlin gave the best farewell speech I have ever heard in my life on Tuesday. The man still has the fire and passion. It is a shame John Mara kept general manager Jerry Reese who was as much at fault, if not worse, than Coughlin. The Giants lack talent in so many areas, without that talent it wouldn’t have mattered who was the head coach.

4- Jerry Jones is certainly not hiding the fact that Johnny Manziel may be worth the risk for the Dallas Cowboys. The QB position and the Cowboys may turn out to be one of the most fascinating storylines of this offseason in the NFL. Will brining Manziel closer to home be a smart thing? Maybe not, but you can’t do worse than the turnstile of garbage that backed up Tony Romo this year.

5- If Johnny Manziel does not land in Dallas, one man to keep an eye on is RG3. He reportedly is very interested in joining the Cowboys and in his defense; we never heard anything negative about his attitude this year as Kirk Cousins was leading the Redskins to the playoffs. Maybe RG3 is now healthy and humbled; career revitalization in Dallas may be just what the doctor ordered.

6- 6 weeks ago we laughed that the winner in the NFC East not only didn’t deserve to host a playoff game, but didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs period. Suddenly the Redskins find themselves as the ONLY home favorite on Wild Card weekend. The moral of the story is never overreact mid season to what we are witnessing. The Redskins are as deserving a playoff candidate as the 2011 9-7 Super Bowl Champion Giants were.

7-The consensus this week is that the Bengals will not be able to beat Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers without Andy Dalton Saturday night. This is the NFL where assumptions are just stupid. What if AJ McCarron actually plays well, like he has been, and wins this game? For years the knock on Andy Dalton has been he not being able to win a playoff game. If McCarron exercises those demons in his 1st ever playoff start, isn’t it conceivable the fans would want McCarron to continue to be their guy even if the Red Rifle is healthy?

8- With their 10th straight win Sunday the Chiefs kept an incredible wave of momentum building. In a wide open AFC, this could be a year Alex Smith finds a way to get to a Super Bowl. We talk about the hottest teams in the league making runs at this time of year every season, so why aren’t the Chiefs getting the love the Seahawks are getting?

9-As we closed the door on the 2015 regular season it is never too early to look ahead to next season. When considering new playoff teams that didn’t get in this year, how do we already not think of the Jaguars and Raiders as that? With two young and tremendous quarterbacks this postseason may be the last without the Jaguars and/or Raiders for a very long time.

10- Terry Pegula has put Rex Ryan on notice. If the Bills don’t make the playoffs next year, he will be out. Normally I think it is asinine for ownership to dump a head coach after just two seasons. However, Rex Ryan may be the one exception. The man talks a good game, but can’t coach one.

My Picks

I was 1-1-1 last week to bring my up and down regular season total to 29-24-2. Five games over is fine, but far from great. I will pick every post season game from here on out. 11 picks to go, here are 1st four:

Texans +3.5 vs Chiefs: Usually the least sexy matchup of Wild Card weekend is the 1st to play on Saturday. For me, this game brings plenty of intrigue. Two pass rush heavy defenses, facing two quarterbacks with pop gun arms. While the Chiefs have been red hot, their 1st win of the year actually came in Week 1 as Travis Kelce tore up Houston. The Texans are a different team now. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans I think their playoff win draught continues. I expect a big effort from JJ Watt and DeAndre Hopkins to have all world games. The team I like to win is getting more than a field goal, I am taking that and running.

Steelers -3 at Bengals: While part of me is hoping AJ McCarron becomes a feel good story leading the Bengals to a long awaited playoff victory, I just have a hard time seeing that happen. The Bengals have repeatedly folded up shop after great regular seasons in these games under Marvin Lewis, so how could I possibly justify that now, without Andy Dalton, they won’t continue to do that? Ben Roethlisberger wants this game bad, and has called out Martavus Bryant for having to be tough in this game. I think this game will be close in the 4th quarter, but ultimately the Steelers win and cover.

Vikings +5 vs Seahawks: The Seahawks are everyone’s darling heading into the playoffs as their light switch has once again been turned on. They have the experience that these Vikings don’t. However, this game will be one of the coldest post season games on record, and for that reason I think five points is way too much to lay on the road. Both teams have star running backs and big time defenses. This game could be a cold war classic where three points either way decides it. Give me the home team getting five points.

Redskins +1 vs Packers: I must be delirious, because I never respected the Redskins all year. I still truly don’t, but this is an anti-Packers pick. Take Aaron Rodgers off this Packers team, and they are lacking talent in significant spots. I believe we are on the verge of a tumultuous offseason in green bay where Mike McCarthy will enter 2016 on the hot seat. Jordan Reed will become a house hold name as he goes off and takes over this game at home for Washington.

Football Food of The Week

Slow Cooker Chili. The theme for this Wild Card pick is the cold weather in Minnesota and throughout the north. Get some ground beef, chopped peppers, onions, and various other spices that I will link a recipe too. Let all of the greatness slow cook together for 4-6 hours and serve. I highly recommend tortilla chips and taco cheese and turn this into the ultimate warm dip, but forking this will do you well too. Enjoy! http://www.foodrepublic.com/recipes/slow-cooker-chili-recipe/

Thanks as always for reading. Enjoy and cherish Wild Card Weekend. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.

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