Up The Gut: Divisional Round

By Shaun Morash

Cold Open

The pitchforks were out for Odell Beckham Jr following his case of the “dropsies,” in the Giants loss to the Packers Sunday. His flaunting on a trip to Miami was something he brought on himself, but punching a hole in the wall in Lambeau doesn’t quite fit the script the haters of Beckham put out there.

If Odell Beckham Jr. was “Selfish,” and only about “his brand,” why would he have been punching a wall in frustration following a loss? I have personally watched every snap of Odell Beckham Jr’s professional career; in fact I have watched every snap multiple times. While there is no denying Beckham does need to mature, I have no doubt that he will.

Beckham, from the get got, and until now has always been about one thing: winning.” It aggravates him to lose, losing fuels him to be greater than that. The national sports media or fans of other teams who parachute in and pin point moments like punching a hole in the wall while criticizing Beckham for being about himself quite frankly have no idea what they are talking about.

The New York Giants arrow is sky rocketing forward, Beckham is a prime reason why. If and when the Giants once again hoist the Lombardi Trophy, Beckham will be at the podium laughing at you all for your misguided criticism of him.

Ten Yard Gain

1- The Packers have now won 7 straight and are clearly the “hot team,” that we discuss every year around this time. Much like the 2007 Giants who got their revenge on two teams they lost to earlier in the season (Cowboys and Packers,) these Packers could have similar revenge games on tap vs the Cowboys and Falcons. Aaron Rodgers greatness is taking away from just how magical a carpet ride the 2016 Packers are on.

2- Many reports out of Dallas this week suggest that Jason Garrett has to know when he should pull Dak Prescott “when he sees it.” I cannot believe after a 13-3 season that we still have to give Dak Prescott a “short leash” so to speak in his 1st playoff game. While I agree with the premise that you never know when you will have this good an opportunity to get to a Super Bowl, the idea Dak Prescott hasn’t earned the right to play himself out of a rough start is a total joke. If the Cowboys decide to go to Romo Sunday and come back and win, they only further stunt the growth of their franchise quarterback.

3-Matt Moore proved why he is forever a backup quarterback with two inexcusable fumbles on Sunday. Even after the inauspicious start from Miami’s defense, the Dolphins had chances at the end of the 1st half and at the start of the 2rd quarter to score touchdowns inside the red zone, instead Matt Moore fumbled in both instances. If he holds on both times that game is totally different and frankly matt Moore is remembered very differently than he will be now in NFL history.

4-The quarterback story that was talked about following Dolphins-Steelers was Mike Tomlin leaving Ben Roethlisberger in a blowout late in the 4th quarter. The end result was Roethlisberger leaving the stadium in a walking boot. Now with freezing rain and ice in the forecast in Kansas City, Roethlisberger’s leg injury likely will come into play, even if minimally, this weekend. Why do coaches insist on overthinking these situations?

5- Broncos and Bills fans are left wondering if Vance Joseph and Sean McDermott are the answers. While those answers may not seem “sexy” in terms of coaching hires, remember, a year ago Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo were both viewed as similar hires to these. Both o those 1st year head coaches turned teams who won 6 games or less into playoff teams.

6- The Seahawks were undoubtedly the better team than the Lions on Saturday night. However, the amount of “home cooking” the received from officials would have driven me crazy if I were a Lions fan. The hits to the head, pass interference’s, etc. that go Seattle’s way at home are unlike any other team gets in recent history.

7- While Connor Cook didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his 1st career start Saturday, the Raiders receiving corps totally let him, and more importantly the team down. Oakland led the league in drops, but they had some very inexplicable ones in Houston. Had all of those balls been caught by Cooper, Crabtree, and others we may be singing a much different tune about Cook today.

8- Tom Coughlin’s relationship with new Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone already screams the Jaguars are dysfunctional. With Coughlin having full control over this organization he has already reportedly prevented Marrone from hiring coaches he is comfortable working with, including Donnie Henderson whom Coughlin has a personal vendetta against. The poor fans of Jacksonville and London are going to have to wait another cycle of a regime before they can dream about being good again.

9- While the weather report may not be good in Kansas City on Sunday all eyes will actually be on Andy Reid and in particular how he manages the clock in crucial situations. Last season the Chiefs down two scores treated the clock in New England like they were down in New England. Reports surfaced after the game that that was on Offensive Coordinator Doug Pederson. With Pederson out of the mix this year there will be no excuse for Andy Reid to once again fumble this situation.

10- Jadeveon Clowney was bordering on “bust” territory entering this season. The former 1st overall pick had been battling injuries including the dreaded “micro fracture surgery” in his first couple of seasons. The lightbulb has gone on however, and the Texans defense improved, rather than declined after the team lost JJ Watt. The key reason for that is the super star level of play Clowney has brought off the edge. If the Texans want to do the impossible in New England Saturday it will take Clowney rattling Tom Brady’s cage all night long.

My Picks

I went 0-4 last week, the worst week of the season for me and at the wrong time. This plummets my record to 23-25-5. For this week:

Seattle +5 at Falcons: The Seahawks are a different team on the road than they are at home, thank you captain obvious. In fact they have struggled at NFC South Opponents this season, losing to both the Saints and the Bucs on the road. They beat the Falcons earlier this season on a controversial non pass interference call in the Pacific Northwest.

The playoffs though are a different animal, and I do not expect the Seahawks elimination to come in the form of a touchdown or more, in fact I find the 5 point spread here to be a bit disrespectful. The Falcons are the wild card of this entire post season. They can run away with the Super Bowl, or flop here in game 1. Dan Quinn is about to coach in his 1st post season game and he was the 4th most aggressive head coach in the entire league this season. Every “coin flip” decision he makes will be under the microscope Saturday.

These two teams are way too evenly matched for me to lay the points here. In fact I believe this will end up being the game of the weekend and perhaps the best game of the entire post season. I believe this is a field goal win for Seattle in overtime, but I will still take the points over choosing the money line in this spot.

Patriots -16 vs Texans: This is the game everyone is making plans for instead of watching. This is understandable considering the 16 points the Patriots are laying make this the 4th largest spread in NFL playoff history. I wanted barely here to take the points and be “the one,” that believes in the Texans, but “mama didn’t raise no fool.” The Texans defense can do enough to make this game interesting for a half. Especially is LeGarrette Blount is not 100%. However, the real Brock Osweiler will show up Saturday night. There is no plausible way that Bill Belichick doesn’t have every trick up his book to fluster Osweiler into multiple turnovers. I expect the Patriots to score in the high 30’s and just can’t see the Texans cracking more than 17 by the time your head hits the pillow Saturday Night.

Steelers +1.5 at Chiefs: Kansas City is going to be pounded by an ice storm all weekend long that is supposed to carry over into this game. The game forecast is calling for freezing weather from kickoff through the 4th quarter. This could slow down the Steelers passing attack, but this also could cause many defensive backs to slip trying to cover Antonio Brown.

Le’Veon Bell proved earlier this season that he is not afraid to run wild in inclement weather, after his huge performance in snowy Buffalo. I expect him to pound it early and often which will end up keeping the Chiefs pass rush back on their heels. Alex Smith is going to need 2 big plays at minimum from Tyreek Hill to keep the Chiefs in it. Ultimately the Steelers Big 3 will be too much to handle and they will win this game out right.

Packers +4.5 at Cowboys: The Cowboys had to have had slight relief that their daddy, the New York Giants, were eliminated last week at the hands of the Packers. However, be careful what you wish for, you just may get it. The Cowboys defense is underrated but nowhere near the level the Giants defense is at. Aaron Rodgers is as hot as I have seen any quarterback in recent NFL history right now. In the playoffs there is something to be said for a hot quarterback and a hot team.

The Cowboys will have Dak Prescott at the helm who is no stranger to big games having played in the SEC. However, rookie quarterbacks are 0-4 when facing a veteran quarterback in playoff games dating back to 2010. The Cowboys “loose” locker room full of young guys this week is reminiscent of the Giants locker room at this point last week. The Packers feel like a team of destiny and the Cowboys feel like a team that is a year away. The Cowboys can win this game though, as long as they control the time of possession by more than 8-10 minutes. Dallas will not run away if they do win at all, leaving me no choice but to take the 4 and a half with the Packers.

Football Food of the Week

Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Bombs. If you have been following my “Up the Gut” Column throughout the year’s you know I am all in when it comes to anything bacon wrapped. This recipe is no different and super easy. You will need a bag of frozen tater tots, uncooked bacon, cheese of your choosing, and brown sugar.

Wrap each frozen tater tot with a thin slice of cheese, or sprinkles cheese. Wrap the cheese and tots in a sliced piece of bacon, and then sprinkle brown sugar on top of the whole batch. Bake these bad boys at 400 degrees for 25-20 minutes.

When these are done you will have the sensational crunch of a tator tot, the gorgeous tingling of bacon grease and crisp, the gooeyness of cheese, and the sweet tender taste of brown sugar in each “bomb” of a bite.

I found the recipe online here: http://damndelicious.net/2014/07/26/bacon-wrapped-tater-tot-bombs/

Thanks for reading, and enjoy a great weekend of Football! You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS

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