Up The Gut: Conference Championships

By Shaun Morash

The Watercooler

The annual “Let’s complain about Overtime Rules,” festival has begun. On Saturday night the league’s overtime rules allowed for Aaron Rodgers last pass of the season to be a Hail Mary touchdown pass. That is pretty hard to do. However, that should not make the league alter what is already a perfect overtime rule in my opinion.

College Football’s overtime rules work because of a lack of talent on defense in the sport. With well over 100 Division-I programs the talent pool is diluted and makes it easier for teams to score. In the NFL there is a premium placed on defense, even with the new offensive friendly rules. Defense wins championships, and each of the final four teams left standing have reputable units on that side of the ball. The Packers frankly do not.

If you can hold a team to a field goal at worst on the opening drives of overtime you deserve a chance to match or win. If you are going to let a team come the length of the field and stick it in the end zone you don’t deserve to win. The NFL is the ultimate team league and changing the overtime rules would only ruin that. Stop complaining and start making stops in critical moments.

Ten Yard Gain

1- Throughout the season, as Cam Newton and Tom Brady went back and forth in the MVP race, a third candidate was rumbled by some, kind of like a third party Presidential candidate. That candidate was Carson Palmer. Heck, even the word “elite,” was tossed at him by fans and experts. I always raised an eye brow to that. Saturday night it was confirmed, Carson Palmer is nowhere near elite, in fact if the Cardinals don’t beat the Panthers it will likely be because of him and a bad turnover.

2- Cam Newton is not classless, but what he did was classless. Does that make sense? Newton has become the ultimate charitable and likeable player. His tradition of giving a football to a child in the 1st row is something even the game of baseball has lost over the years with new premium close seating. He does this and a Panthers fan is born for life. However, whether in fun or not, taking a Seahawk fans personal flag and throwing it on the ground, while not giving it back to them to complete the joke was classless. Somebody bought that, somebody traveled with that, and you as a multi-millionaire took that away from them. It’s silly yes, but not right.

3- Russell Wilson played extremely well down the stretch, but his pick six and frost 1st half makes me truly question just how great he is. Well the Seahawks are on the verge of being all in on Wilson for the long haul. While a core of Wilson, Sherman, Thomas, and Wagner will stay put, many familiar Seahawks faces like Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irvin are likely gone as the nature of the salary cap takes its toll in the Pacific Northwest. If Wilson doesn’t become closer to Aaron Rodgers and instead becomes closer to Matt Ryan, it could be the beginning of a few poor years for the Hawks.

4- Peyton Manning stinks. It is painful to watch him play football right now, and yet the Broncos find themselves a win from the Super Bowl. I hope for Peyton whether this ends in glory or not that he really knows it is time to walk away, because another year of this isn’t doing him or the fans that love him any good.

5-Doug Pederson’s excuse for why the Chiefs took so much time down 2 scores late Saturday is mind boggling and if true is quite frankly scary. He said they did not want to give Tom Brady the ball back. Fine, even if that is the case wouldn’t you want to leave yourself enough time even after a potential miracle of recovering an onside kick? Good luck Eagles.

6- Odell Beckham was suspended one game, Vontaze Burfict was suspended two games, each for similar and arguably not as bad a helmet leading hit than the one Danny Amendola delivered on Saturday. Yet somehow there hasn’t even been a mention of a suspension for Amendola. Is Goodell that scared to go back at his buddy Robert Kraft with a player of his being suspension? That is just terrible.

7- Mike McCarthy called out Eddie Lacy for his weight issues and deservedly so. The man I feel bad for is now former Packers running backs coach Sam Gash. Gash was fired this week and one could only assume if Eddie Lacy had a few less Twix bars that Gash would still be employed. Come on Eddie, thin yourself up, it is now costing people jobs, and sooner rather than later will cost you a job.

8- The idea Ben Roethlisberger somehow faked or over exaggerated his shoulder injuries last week is just nonsense. He was hurt, what we as fans turn a blind eye to though is the injection Roethlisberger admitted to getting. You can play though almost anything nowadays if you really want to put yourself at risk. All it takes is a needle, and Roethlisberger went that route. Don’t call him a faker, call him tough.

9- After back to back playoff years, the Steelers rebuild for one last run with Roethlisberger is essentially complete. The injuries they had this year allowed for some younger players to develop. They are back to having a classic Steelers linebacker corps, and their young receivers even without Antonio Brown are studs. Next year the Steelers should jump right to the top of the Super Bowl favorites list.

10- Reports surfaced this week that the Titans are willing to trade the 1st overall pick for the right price. They should be willing to deal it considering they already drafted their franchise quarterback last year. If a team really wants Jared Goff they will give the Titans enough. The problem is that team may end up being the Browns who thought they may be able to sit and wait for Goff to fall to them at 2. Knowing that nothing goes the Browns way, expect them to make this trade.

My Picks

Much like Wild Card weekend, my divisional weekend picking games was atrocious. I was 1-3 last week, with the lone win being a backdoor cover by the Steelers. I am now just 31-30-2.

Patriots -3 at Broncos: I went against the Patriots last week and got burned. It won’t happen again for me. Tom Brady is 2-6 all time in Denver, one of those wins coming with Danny Kannell under center for the Broncos. That would scare me, except the Broncos offense simply cannot keep up with the Patriots on this stage. Peyton Manning has a pop gun at best for an arm, and the Demariyus Thomas drops are beyond concerning. While I expect the Denver pass rush to be in Brady’s face all day long, he will still be able to dump it off quickly to Julian Edelman. Peyton Manning’s career comes to an end Sunday, ironically at the hands of Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Panthers -3 vs Cardinals: Much like my thoughts on the Patriots last week, I was burned by picking against the Panthers. Carolina was 15-1 in the regular season and with all due respect to the fake come back by the Seahawks, Carolina curb stomped the reigning NFC Champions. Carson Palmer is lucky Sam Shields did not catch an easy interception or they would not even be in this position. Bottom line is this; we as fans and media have disrespected and not trusted the Panthers all season long, now would be a good time to do so. They have the better quarterback and the better defense while playing at home as well. Three isn’t that big a spread to lay and I will do so. Panthers, Patriots, Super Bowl 50, get ready.

Football Food of The Week

Lemon Pepper Wings, a Mraz favorite. This is good for tailgating, as well as cooking at home.

Get some uncooked or frozen wings thaw them out and then boil them in a pot of water. Once they are cooked let them cool in a foil tray. Marinate them in a lemon pepper dressing that you can find in any salad dressing isle at the market. Also use McCormick Lemon pepper rub. Let that sit for just a couple hours, let the flavor build. Throw those winds on a grill, or in the oven constantly rotating them to ensure they do not burn and you have yourself a tremendous flavored chicken wing, without it being fried and more healthy than an ordinary wing. If you have someone at your party who hate shot wings they will be sure to love the taste of this without worrying about burning their tongue off.

Thanks as always for reading. Enjoy the weekend and stay warm. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.

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