By Shaun Morash
With the election in the rear view mirror the NFL picked one heck of a time to deliver on what was the most entertaining weekend of action this season. The NFL naysayers have been harping on the dip in ratings all season long and trying to proclaim a league like the NBA will overtake it in popularity in the near future, this weekend proved that is far off from ever happening.
We witnessed two iconic franchises play as exciting a regular season game as you will see in Pittsburgh, and followed that in primetime with a Super Bowl 49 rematch that had football fans buzzing until midnight on the east coast.
There was still a dud in the Rams-Jets game, but Sunday declared the NFL is here to stay, and what better time to get hot and get attention back on it than heading into Thanksgiving with playoff races in both conferences as hot as ever. The point of this rambling is simple: burying the NFL in the 1st two months because ratings were dipping was stupid; this is still the most entertaining professional sports league to watch in America, so enjoy it, don’t kill it.
Ten Yard Gain
1- I said on the show preseason that the NFC East would get two teams into the post season this year. I was laughed at, mocked, and told 9-7 will win the division once again. Well as it turns out I will probably be wrong, because the NFC East is on pace to have 3 teams in the playoffs this year. Here we are at Week 11 with every single team above .500, each with Super Bowl aspirations, simply amazing.
2- The AFC North went from possibly the best division in football to perhaps last year’s NFC East. Does any team want to win this thing? I believe Monday Night’s loss buried the Bengals from their hopes, making this a two team race between the Ravens and Steelers. Circle Christmas Day on the calendar as these two teams will play at 4pm Eastern as the NFL’s greediness snuck two games onto Christmas Day. The NBA is currently weeping as that game looks like it will have significant eye balls on televisions everywhere.
3- Rob Gronkowski, for all his frat boy-ness, if that is a word, did something really awesome on Twitter this week. After reports of a punctured lung that Gronk suffered after a hit from earl Thomas this week surfaced, Gronk made sure to Tweet at Earl Thomas saying he loved his good football hit. In a league that many believe has gone “soft,” it was refreshing to hear an injured star player credit the player who injured him for an awesome hit.
4- The ’85 Bears watch continues for the once 5-0 Vikings. Their losing streak has now hit 4. For those scoring at home the ’85 Bears never lost 4 games in a row. Those “Purple Reign,” shirts become toilet paper yet?
5- The Bengals and Packers season are continuing to spiral out of control and the realistic and I’ll admit likely scenario is that both of these perennial playoff teams will be watching playoff football from home this year. If and when that does happen I personally would not be surprised if both Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy are looking for new jobs. Both would be hired instantly, and that may be the gift a team like the Jaguars is hoping for.
6- Of all of the crushing losses that team’s suffered this past weekend, none was more heart breaking than the Saints. Not only did they lose on a blocked extra point returned for two pints, (a rule that is stupid by the way,) but their loss came on a weekend the Falcons lost and would have given the Saints realistic division title hopes. When something as rare as that blocked extra point happens, you just know it isn’t your year.
7- I was one of the many suckers that loved the Cardinals off of the bye week laying two touchdowns at home vs the hapless 49ers. A win is always just a win in the NFL, you take it any way you can get it. However, that doesn’t change the fact alarms should be going off in the Arizona Cardinals facility that they may have missed their Super Bowl window. Carson Palmer is not the same Palmer we saw last year or even in 2014, the team just doesn’t have the “it” factor we had become so used to.
8- The Rams have played some of the most boring NFL games in recent history, including their slop fest vs the Jets Sunday. To capture the attention in LA you need excitement, something ownership is well aware of. That is why the move to finally go to Jared Goff this week, despite Jeff Fisher seemingly being reluctant to do so, makes sense. Rams fans in LA will have something to watch for in the final weeks of the season, even if it is against Jeff Fisher’s better judgement.
9-A head coach that really deserves a lot of credit for his team’s recent turnaround is Adam Gase. After the team’s terrible start Gase cut several starters sending a message that garbage effort will not be tolerated. That message appears to have been received and now Miami finds itself as one of the hottest teams in football, with perhaps the best chance of a team outside of the AFC West at getting the final wild card spot in the conference.
10- The Browns are going 0-16. I am declaring it, after thinking it was impossible from most of the year. That is a team that has quit, and even worse they just have no talent anywhere. I understand bleeding a team out to rebuild it, but did they really need to turn their roster into a team that should probably be playing College Football to do so?
Five Games to Chew On
5 Frozen Margaritas Game of the Week: Ravens @ Cowboys: This matchup features two division leaders, and for Dallas this is an opportunity to complete an AFC North sweep on the season. The Ravens battered offensive line should get a relief this week as the Cowboys defensive line scares nobody. The real key here though will be can Terrance West do enough on the ground to maintain the clock and beat Dallas at their own game. If they cannot the Ravens may lose an opportunity to stay ahead of the Steelers in the driver’s seat of this division.
4 Pieces of Turtle Cake Game of the Week: Cardinals @ Vikings: Preseason this looked like a game that could help determine home field advantage in the NFC, now it looks like a survival match where the loser may be dead from a playoff chance, though the Vikings division keeps them alive technically. If the Cardinals can’t take advantage of the Vikings offensive line the way the past 4 Vikings opponents have then this Cardinals team may not only be out this year, but may be heading toward a rebuild.
3 Beef Tacos Game of the Week: Texans @ Raiders: As if NFL Game’s in London weren’t enough, we will play this game, featuring two AFC Playoff teams, in Mexico City on Monday Night. Now the travel isn’t anywhere near what travel to London is so I don’t expect this game to be sloppy. However, if the Texans want anyone to take them seriously they need to avoid laying yet another primetime egg this week. The Raiders though are suddenly in the mix for the top seed in the AFC and are hungry to keep showing everyone just how for real they are.
2 Bowls of Senate Bean Soup Game of the Week: Packers @ Redskins: The Packers are in a similar position the Cardinals and Vikings are in that this is very much a show me spot. The Packers problems have been widely discussed, but they are about to be extremely dissected if they show up that way in a stand-alone big time prime time game vs the Redskins. Washington needs to win this one to set up an epic Thanksgiving showdown and perhaps their last chance at winning the NFC East vs the Cowboys. The Packers picked apart Washington in the playoffs in January; if they can’t do the same here we will know just how far the once mighty have fallen.
1 Grande Latte Game of the Week: Eagles @ Seahawks: The Eagles are a different team away from the “Linc,” which gives me pause in declaring this the game of the week. However, the Seahawks are coming off back to back primetime wins and could be due to hit a little bit of a bump on Sunday. Seattle’s offensive line is still the team’s biggest issue, and the Eagles defensive line could pose fits. However, the Eagles lack of big time play making ability out of their receivers vs a physical Seahawks secondary just may make this a longer day for Carson Wentz than it will Russell Wilson.
I was 0-3 last week, now 05-1 in the last 2 weeks, sinking my record on the season to 11-17-2.
Steelers -8 @ Browns: This is a “take out the frustrations” kind of moment for the Steelers. They gave the Cowboys all they had and it wasn’t enough. If not for playing in what has become a very mediocre division, they may have already been buried. They aren’t though, and the perfect medicine to get right is playing the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland will have no answer for Antonio Brown, and this is a gut check moment for Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers defense will miss Cam Heyward, but not this week. I expect a 14 point win at worst for the Steelers, and a chance to right the ship.
Dolphins -1.5 @ Rams: Jeff Fisher was reluctant to turn to Jared Goff until the bitter end. He may not be a good coach, but he knows something that we probably don’t about Jared, and that makes me jump on the Dolphins in what is essentially a pick’em. That Dolphins defensive line is feeling itself right now, and a rookie quarterback vs a guy like Suh is a nightmare in the making. The Rams defense has played well, but in all honesty is a tad bit overrated. This game will look like a typical sloppy, low scoring Rams game, one where the Dolphins do enough to win by at least a field goal.
Patriots -13 @ 49ers: Much like the Steelers I am also labeling this is as a “take out the frustrations” kind of moment for New England. They don’t lose two games in a row with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, it just doesn’t happen. The 49ers are coming off an emotional divisional game where they gave it every ounce they had and still had their hearts broken. This is a buzz saw coming at them. The Gronk injury should not give anyone pause as to how much the Pats could run up the score here. Expect a 38-9 kind of game out by the bay Sunday.
Football Food of the Week
Buffalo Chicken Sliders. I am back on the buffalo chicken bandwagon for this week with a treat that is sure to spice up your watch party. Purchase ground chicken, eggs, bread crumb, franks red hot buffalo sauce, Swiss cheese, blue cheese dressing, and slider or Hawaiian rolls.
In a bowl mix the pound of ground chicken, 1 egg, a cup of bread crumb and a cup of franks red hot ( you can add more if you want them even spicier.) Roll the mixture into tiny meatball shaped balls, then flatten them into slider patties. Cook on a grill, frying pan, or heck even in an oven. Melt a slice of Swiss cheese (cut to slider shape) when the sliders are near finished. Serve on the rolls you choose and put out the blue cheese sauce to dip or spread over these.
These are easy to make, you can control the spiciness, and also filling, the PERFECT snack for Sunday afternoon.
Thanks for reading as always. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS. Have a great weekend everybody!