By: Shaun Morash

Cold Open

Aaron Rodgers and I have history. Well, sort of. We had a conversation at 2 a.m. in a dive bar in Scottsdale that lasted all of 90 seconds and ended with him saying “Get away from me, buddy.” I will forever laugh at that moment and think of him personally as a jerk, to put it politely. That being said, he is the greatest quarterback I have ever seen.

The debate that we all have had for the last decade plus was whether Peyton Manning or Tom Brady were the best we had ever seen, surpassing names like Montana, Favre, Marino, and Unitis. The truth is, Aaron Rodgers is playing better than they had at any point in their careers, and I don’t need stat nerds bringing numbers to the table to show me I am wrong.

Numbers can be used to both support and hurt cases for NFL players, and ultimately enough numbers will get you in the Hall of Fame. However, to be the greatest at something I only need my eyes to tell me the story. Rodgers’ combination of making plays on the run and in the pocket are unlike anything Brady or Manning could ever do. No game is ever over, no lead is ever safe. The only problem is Rodgers will still only finish with one Super Bowl ring, because I refuse to back off of the “Get Away from me Buddy” curse I put on him until he apologies. (Yes, I am laughing as I type this, but hey, my word is my word.)

Ten Yard Gain

1- Adrian Peterson has been traded to the Cardinals. His career is finished, and we should have all known that when it took him forever to find a home in New Orleans this off season. The ironic part is how much the Cardinals love trying to squeeze every last ounce out of running backs to end their careers. Emmitt Smith, Edgerrin James, Chris Johnson, and now AP have faded there.

2- Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t want to play football anymore. This is a clear case of where there is smoke, there is fire. Following a game where you throw five interceptions, if your response is “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” it is telling. It is even more telling when this follows an interview during the week in which you say you star receiver’s act is hurting the team. All of that follows an offseason where he already mentioned the word retirement. If you are a Big Ben fan, soak in the next couple of months because this is the end of the road.

3- Another end of the road for the career of a once-great player is likely here with the news Brandon Marshall has been lost for the season. In what will go down as perhaps the biggest nightmare of a season in New York Giants history, Brandon Marshall will be a footnote in it. During his five games this season, it was clear he had lost a step, his hands had gotten worse, and he simply he wasn’t good enough to help the team win close games when the offense was sputtering. Add all of that up with a lower-leg injury requiring surgery, and I think it would be foolish of both the Giants and Marshall to try and give this another go next season.

4- As if the Giants don’t have enough problems, the potential standoff with Odell Beckham Jr. regarding a new contract could become uglier thanks to his season-ending injury. Beckham can use this injury as an example of why he should refuse to play another game without that guaranteed money coming in. On the flip side, the Giants could say they need to see Beckham respond and play following this serious surgery before they pay him. This could make for a unique summer of 2018 in New York.

5- Cam Newton responded after a controversial week with perhaps the most stunning performance of his career. In the wake of having to answer questions and issue apologies, it would have been very easy for him, on the road versus a very good NFC foe, to have a mediocre game. Instead, he thrusted himself into the MVP campaign and his team into a potential 1-seed in the NFC.

6- Carson Wentz threw a career-high four touchdown passes in a win over Arizona and in doing so set Twitter ablaze. My former colleague and known Eagles fan Kenny Brock called Philadelphia “the best team in the NFC.” I cannot go there yet, especially with that secondary still suspect and Fletcher Cox still ailing. However, they are pulling ahead of Dallas and begging Washington and the Giants to figure out a way to chase them down in the next decade of Carson Wentz is the next premier star in this league.

7- Mitchell Trubisky looked every bit the part of a rookie top quarterback in his debut. He committed costly turnovers but flashed brilliance at the same time. In the lead-up to the draft, Trubisky was knocked, Watson was knocked, and Pat Mahomes was knocked all for various reasons. Though we haven’t seen Mahomes in a regular season game yet, the early, albeit overreaction, signs are there that this could be the best quarterback draft class since Eli, Rivers, and Roethlisberger in 2004.

8- JJ Watt hinted at retirement this offseason, or at the very least said he must prepare for it. His serious knee injury suffered Sunday night may accelerate that process. JJ is a hard worker, a freak in the gym, and I anticipate he does return to play again in the NFL. This kind of injury is a tricky one and I don’t think it a stretch to say he will never again be as good as he once was. My prediction is JJ Watt will be retired within the next 36 months.

9- The Rams broke my heart after I was all-in on them building a two-game lead over the Seahawks in the NFC West. Inevitably, though, Jared Goff did all he could, throwing a pass that should have been caught by Cooper Kupp to likely win the game. The Rams as a team will learn from that loss and build off of it. In the end, though, they probably just aren’t ready to win that kind of game – but when they are, they are going to be as tough an opponent to beat as any in the NFC.

10- Donald Penn of the Raiders got into a post-game confrontation with fans in the parking lot following yet another Oakland loss. This is the kind of story that happens when locker rooms begin to crumble under losing scenarios. Amazingly, this is beginning to feel like a lost season for the Raiders. Also, does Amari Cooper play anymore?

Five Games To Chew On

5 Dolphins @ Falcons: The Falcons come home after an early bye week at 3-1, one win shy – and possibly by game time – two wins shy of the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South. They will need to put on their 2016 offensive fireworks to make sure Miami is never in this game. The Dolphins’ season continues to be a strange one, but they are far from buried in their own division and in the AFC Wild Card. If Jay Cutler were ever going to shut up haters, it would be this week if he can make enough plays to upset the defending NFC Champs in their building.

4 Packers @ Vikings: The Vikings are at the point where it appears they are just trying to stash wins in their back pocket with Case Keenum until Teddy Bridgewater is potentially ready in the second half of the season. A win here won’t be easy, even at home, as it appears Aaron Rodgers is somehow taking his game into a whole new level. Minnesota will rely on big plays on the ground as they did Monday night to keep Rodgers off the field and the Purple People Eaters in the NFC North hunt.

3 Patriots @ Jets: The Jets have gone on a three-game win streak in part to their easy schedule, but it has people believing. If they are going to be a Cinderella than, they must beat a beat-up Patriots team at home. If that occurs, or if this game is a struggle, New England is officially just another ordinary team.

2 Eagles @ Panthers: One of these two teams could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this season. Cam Newton and Carson Wentz will face off in primetime with a national audience dying for hot takes on both of these guys. Cam Newton has started to look like 2015 MVP Cam the last two weeks, but the pass rush by Philadelphia can make him uncomfortable in a hurry. The Panthers secondary was their Achilles heel a year ago and Carson Wentz will try and expose them early and often in their own house with the deep ball.

1 Steelers @ Chiefs: A rematch from last year’s playoffs highlights the Sunday slate. The Chiefs aren’t 16-0 good, but this may not be where they hit their first bump. The Steelers haven’t looked right all season. Ben Roethlisberger is either not happy or frankly not elite anymore. That KC pass rush can rattle him and throw off the timing of Big Ben forcing his interception cascade to continue. Winning cures all though, so an upset on the road may have the mindset changing in Pittsburgh.

My Picks

A 1-2 week this week dropped me back to 7-8, My picks are as mediocre as my diet plans. For Week 6:

Patriots -9.5 at Jets: I suspect many will load up on the Jets here and I can understand why. Josh McCown is playing solid at quarterback, while the Patriots defense is a disaster. Heck, Tom Brady enters this game with a sprained AC Joint. However, the Pats are on extra rest having played last Thursday Night and the Jets may be a little too big for their britches right now. Gut feeling is this is a get-right game for New England – and a 17-point blowout and easy cover.

Packers -3 at Vikings: I have to question Mike Zimmer’s thought process in starting Sam Bradford on Monday night with his knee in shambles. To bounce back six days later at home versus a quarterback who could be playing better than any quarterback we have ever seen before is too much. The Vikings defense will have its moments, but ultimately case Keenum cannot match Aaron Rodgers score for score. Even a 24-20 win gets the cover here.

Bucs -2 @ Cardinals: This is a tricky line Sunday that will have many dummies do what I am doing: jump all over the Bucs. Maybe this spread is too good to be true, or maybe Vegas and experts still think these are the 2015 Cardinals. Arizona should have a better effort than they did in Philadelphia and may feel rejuvenated after trading for Adrian Peterson. However, the Bucs come into this game off extra rest and extra time to get Doug Martin re-acclimated. Gone is Nick Folk, so the Bucs offense may feel less pressure to score a touchdown with every red zone opportunity. I expect a Bucs win by at least a field goal and give Arizona a minimal chance of even winning this game.

Football Food of the Week

Chicken Parmesan Stromboli. For you Italian-food junkies, tell grandma to put on her pot of sauce. The time has come. You will need pizza dough, chicken breast, bread crumbs, oil, shredded mozzarella cheese, and a tomato sauce of your choosing.

– Fry up chicken cutlets and cut them into strips.

– Kneed the pizza dough on flour on your counter to a long, flat, rectangle-like shape.

– Put sauce on the dough. Then top the sauce with the sliced chicken cutlets

– Top those chicken-cutlet pieces with more sauce and then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese ont op of that.

– Then either fold over the pizza dough or put another long piece of stretched pizza dough on top of this masterpiece and pinch the sides of the dough to ensure the chicken, sauce, and cheese is stuffed inside the dough.

-Bake on 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.

– You will get a huge chicken-parm roll that you can slice into finger-food-sized pieces, enough for your whole party to enjoy.

– You get the juicy, crispy chicken in every bite to go with the gooey melted cheese and of course that Sunday taste of Italian sauce that makes everyone turn into a Sopranos cast member in their own mind.

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


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