By: Shaun Morash

Cold Open

Antonio Brown once again showed signs of inexplicable immaturity for a player of his caliber and a veteran at that on Sunday. Last year, his live videoing of the Steelers post-game locker room caught him minor heat and was quickly forgotten about; now this week’s sideline tantrum over him being open has Ben Roethlisberger openly admitting it isn’t good for the team.

The real issue here is: Why does Antonio Brown seemingly get a national pass the likes of which Odell Beckham Jr., Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and other don’t or didn’t get? Brown is a baby, period. Hearing Ben Roethlisberger compare his actions and how Heath Miller would never do the same thing is another sign Roethlisberger is nearing the end of this circus and retirement is in his sights.

Ten Yard Gain

1-DeShaun Watson is electrifying and is everything the doctor ordered in Houston. The Texans have more or less been a “waste” of a postseason spot in the AFC with guys named Matt Schaub, TJ Yates, and Brian Hoyer under center. Now they look to not only be a legitimate threat to make deep January runs for the next decade, but perhaps this season.

2-Alex Smith is earning a contract somewhere next year. This is quickly becoming one of the oddest single seasons a player has had in NFL history. Alex Smith, I can’t believe I am even typing this, could be an MVP candidate and there is almost no chance he is Kansas City’s quarterback next season.

3-Odell Beckham Jr. this week proclaimed that Tampa Back defensive backs told him they knew what routes were coming. Now every team studies tape, but nobody should be able to study to the point they blatantly know every single route that is coming. These comments, if true, are perhaps the most damning indictment in this awful season Ben McAdoo has put together as coach of the Giants.

4-Hugh Jackson seems like he is the right man for the Browns job, yet Cleveland has the worst 31-game stretch in NFL history record-wise right now. Jimmy Haslam has had so many quick hooks on coaches and that plan obviously never works. I will be anxious to see how Haslam responds to what could be a 2-14 season in Jackson’s second season. One thing is for sure: Hugh has time, but time can get cut short in a hurry.

5-After five weeks of the NFL season, we COULD be looking at a scenario where the Jets are tied for 1st place and, heck, could be ahead of the Patriots. In the long run, this won’t matter, and the Jets certainly won’t be a playoff team. However, winning games they don’t need to win has already cost them Marcus Mariota and now it may be costing them Sam Darnold as well.

6-Adam Gase was hired going into last year because he was thought to be an offensive mastermind. In back-to-back weeks, his team has been lifeless on that side of the ball vs. the Jets and Saints, ironically two lifeless defenses. If Adam Gase was coaching in a bigger market, he would surely be feeling heat right now. Not all of this can be blamed on Jay Cutler.

7-The Cowboys very quietly could be en route to having the down-swing season some predicted after their monster 2016. Dak Prescott was thoroughly outplayed by fellow 2016 draft pick Jared Goff and is starting to look like a quarterback who is there to manage a game and let a defense win it. That is not the way Dallas is built.

8-The Rams are really good. Keep an eye on this team if you aren’t already. I will keep telling you and reminding you. Their own city of Los Angeles may not care, but the football world may care. Between the pieces they have on defense and the quarterback/running back combination on offense, they may actually be the most balanced team in the NFL.

9-Danny Trevathan’s hit was as dirty a hit as I have seen in the NFL in a few years. I understand those saying the hitting has to stay in football, but there is also no reason to launch yourself like a torpedo head-first at a player who is already being wrapped up before you begin launching. The only thing worse than this hit was former defensive stud himself Derrick Brooks reducing Trevathan’s suspension to just one game. One game for a hit that could have altered a player’s life is not sending the right message going forward.

10-Raymond James Stadium is an awesome experience. The rain storms stink and my favorite team, the Giants, stunk there Sunday. However, everything from the old-school grass parking lots, to the bands playing on the concourse upon entry, and the in-game use of red zone on the big screens has Raymon James at the top of my list of not just football stadiums, but stadiums in general in the United States. Well done, Tampa Bay. You can host a great Sunday party with the best of them.

Five Games To Chew On

5-Chargers @ Giants: Two of the last winless teams square off Sunday. So what makes this interesting? Each team has an aging, yet still effective quarterback from the Class of 2004. The loser of this game will ultimately only have their season further spiral, while the other could end up in a 6-7 win range. Essentially meaning the loser likely ends up with a jump start on grabbing their successor to the franchise QB they each ended up with when trading with each other 13 years ago. This is the Sam Darnold game on CBS.

4-Panthers @ Lions: A pair of somewhat surprising 3-1 NFC powers face off in a possible playoff preview. Carolina finally saw the Cam Newton they have missed when he thoroughly destroyed the Patriots in New England. Meanwhile, the Lions did just enough vs. the Vikings defense to keep their positive energy going. This has the potential to be a fun game played in the high 20s with the winner keeping pace with either the Packers or Falcons in their difficult division races.

3- Seahawks @ Rams: The Seahawks need a win to tie the Rams for the division lead, but the Rams look at this as an opportunity to build a two-game lead in the NFC West. The Rams have managed to become one of the most well-balanced teams in football. They have arguably the best running back to go along with a dynamic passing game and sound defense. The Seahawks have struggled to put up points on the Rams the last three seasons and will need to put at least 17 on the board to find a way to win this suddenly tough road game.

2- Packers @ Cowboys: A rematch of the best playoff game from last season highlights the late-afternoon window on Sunday. Green Bay comes into this game on extended rest after their annihilation of the Bears on Thursday Night. The Cowboys are looking to regroup and stop themselves from falling below .500 with back-to-back losses at home. If the Cowboys struggle to score points Sunday, look for the questions surrounding Dak Prescott’s status as a true franchise quarterback to get louder.

1- Chiefs @ Texans: Two weeks ago, this looked like a very uninteresting Sunday Night Football game; now we could be looking at the first AFC Championship Game without the Patriots in quite some time. DeShaun Watson has officially taken the NFL by storm as a front runner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year. This will be his toughest task to date vs the last unbeaten left and a defense that gets after it, led by Justin Houston. The key for Houston will be slowing down the other big offensive rookie of the year candidate in Kareem Hunt on the ground.

My Picks

I went 2-1 last week to improve to 6-6 on the season. For this week:

Rams -1.5 vs Seahawks: I built the Sean McVay and Jared Goff bandwagon; now I will need to expand it. Nobody believed in the Rams following wins vs the Colts and 49ers; now they have to believe after a resounding win in Dallas. The Seahawks have been frauds all season and have notoriously struggled with the Rams, even in bad Rams seasons. Cliff Avril out will be a huge blow to Seattle’s defense. We find out Sunday what I already know; the Rams are the best team in the NFC West.

Ravens +2.5 @ Raiders: The Raiders’ problems throughout their defense, special teams, and heck even their offense have set off alarms in Oakland. Now for the second consecutive year, the Raiders will have to try and win games without their best player and quarterback Derek Carr. They are favorites in this game because they are home and because the Ravens have gone from good to bad to ugly in just three weeks. I saw a bad Texans team expose the Raiders in the playoffs last season without Carr. I expect the Ravens to do so here as well.

Bills +3 @ Bengals: Now suddenly we are supposed to buy on the Bengals after a valiant effort in Green Bay and a drubbing over the NFL’s worst team. Not so fast. Sean McDermott has the Bills playing fast and aggressive on both sides of the ball. The better quarterback and coach in this game reside on Buffalo’s sidelines. I expect them to get after Andy Dalton and remind everyone of the Cincinnati offensive-line problems we saw in the season’s first two weeks.

Football Food of the Week

Buffalo Chicken Empanadas: Do you like crispy, flaky shells stuffed with spicy tender chicken? Of course you do. You are a living creature.

Get to your local grocer and buy frozen empanada shells, ground chicken, franks red hot buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing and taco cheese.

Brown the chicken in a frying pan adding a mixture of 2 parts Frank’s, 1 part blue cheese when cooking is near finished. Take two spoon fills of the chicken and spread evenly onto half of each now thawed empanada shell. Sprinkle as much taco cheese on top of the chicken and then fold the shell over in half, sealing it with a fork.

Fry each side of the empanada evenly for approximately two minutes in a pan of hot oil, let sit for 5 minutes then serve.

There are crunchy, spicy, and tantalizingly delicious and sure to be a hit at your football viewing party.

Thanks for reading, as always. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS


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