By: Shaun Morash
The “Madden Curse” has nothing on my curses. Just days after I waxed Aaron Rodgers for playing quarterback better than anyone I have ever seen play, he goes down with a broken collarbone. With that injury, an already peculiar season blew even more wide open in the NFC.
As it stands right now, it is impossible to see Green Bay as a playoff seem without my “buddy,” the Falcons are starting to show they can’t close games again, the Seahawks offense hasn’t been right all season, and the Cowboys and Giants are no longer beasts in the NFC East. Who does that really leave us with? I suppose the answer after Thursday night is the Philadelphia Eagles. Many will say it is too soon for the Eagles and second-year quarterback Carson Wentz to make a run, but in the NFL, the league changes so quickly. When you have an opportunity to seize a moment or season, you better do it. All aboard the Wentz Wagon. If this continues to shake out, it may not stop until Minneapolis in February.
Ten Yard Gain
1- Adrian Peterson turned back the clock in what can only be described as the most surprising single-game performance by an NFL player in at least five years. Considering he had all of five days to look at the Cardinals’ playbook, and his age, Peterson defied odds and ran Arizona back into playoff contention. I tend to believe that was a one-time deal and not a revolutionary season starter, but as you can tell by my weekly picks record, I am wrong way too often.
2- Ben Roethlisberger responded the way a quality veteran responds in the face of adversity. After an ugly five-interception performance and more retirement talk, Big Ben played smart against a defense that turns over quarterbacks better than anyone. The real key to this game, though, came on the ground. For Pittsburgh to make a magical January run, it has to be on the legs of Le’Veon Bell while supplementing the arm and mind of Big Ben. That was the formula Sunday in Kansas City – and should continue to be.
3- Andy Reid did himself no favors versus Pittsburgh in convincing anyone that he is finally ready to win a Super Bowl. Andy has constantly been the bridesmaid in his career and never the bride, albeit a heavy bridesmaid resembling a walrus. His decision early in the fourth quarter to go for it on 4th down rather than kick a field goal and make the game a one-possession game was idiotic and not something we should soon forget. Whether it is clock management – or, in this case, point management – everything Andy Reid does well as a coach blows up in his face with these costly decisions.
4- Odell Beckham Jr.’s contract situation is only going to get uglier if the Giants win games like they did Sunday Night. The Giants look ready to play hard and not throw in the towel as some expected. With that could come a Giant revolution that they can win without Odell Beckham Jr. That will give them a leg to stand on this summer when Beckham tries to rake the organization for all it has in its pockets. Even while he is out for the rest of this season, he will continue to be a story because of this upcoming summer.
5- I don’t care what the rule regarding fumbling balls into the end zone is; the Jets flat out got screwed Sunday, and once again the Patriots were given a gift from the Football Gods. At no point did Austin Seferian-Jenkins let the ball he was carrying hit the ground. Therefore, to call it a fumble and allow the Patriots to get the ball is ludicrous. If that play happened at the 5-yard line, the Jets would still have the ball at the 5. The rule should not change at the goal line. If you cannot advance a fumble into the end zone, then simply give the Jets the ball at the 1-yard line.
6- This week’s primetime games are awesome. In fact, we may not see a three-game slate as good as we have Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights. However, the NFL needs to stop giving us AFC South versus AFC South teams in primetime until that division proves it has quality teams. Colts versus Titans was disgusting to watch, just like it was on Thursday Night color rush, or with the Jaguars involved as well. Stop punishing us with that division in stand-alone games please.
7- The lowly Saints are on the verge of being 4-2 after six games. Just a week ago, the team seemed to be in sell mode as Adrian Peterson became the latest piece to be dealt away. They surprisingly beat the Lions Sunday and now get the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers Sunday. The NFC is wide open, as mentioned in the cold open, and the Saints could sneak in at 9-7 or 10-6 giving us another taste of Drew Brees in playoff football.
8- Joe Flacco as Elite Island is officially vacant. Washed away, not fit for life to live on. What has happened to the Ravens? The defense still makes plays, but the offense continues a startling regression when it would appear on paper that they are set at the most important position: quarterback. It appears like any wide receiver brought in via the draft or free agency has been a whiff. Ozzie Newsome has won two Super Bowls but should be out of free passes.
9- Hue Jackson has become a lost cause as a head coach. The Browns should be credited and pushed to stick with continuity rather than a revolving door at head coach like it has been seemingly since the organization was reborn. However, Hue Jackson going back to DeShone Kizer after just a one-week benching makes me feel sick for Kizer. The Browns’ cast around Kizer will not have changed, and if he continues to struggle now, his confidence and career may be lost forever. Jackson should have made the move to Hogan knowing he could not go back to Kizer until after the BYE week.
10- Is it too early to call the Tampa Bay Buccaneers frauds? Trendy and sexy were words used to describe this team coming into this season. 2017 was finally their time to win the NFC South. They have been beyond mediocre, and while Jameis Winston was injured Sunday, we should not overlook that he is not nearly the quarterback he was drafted to be or thought he would be. He is average at best and should have sky rocketed in year 3 to elite status.
Five Games To Chew On
5 Bengals @ Steelers: The Bengals have calmed their season after the 0-3 start, rattling off two straight wins before their BYE week. Now at 2-3, they take on the 4-2 Steelers in a game that feels close to a must-win if Cincinnati has their sights set on a division title. Eyes will be on Vontaze Burfict, as his past incidents with the Steelers will not be forgotten. This game was flexed into the late-afternoon window for a reason; expect an entertaining blood-bath.
4 Cardinals @ Rams in London: I have to give the Cardinals credit. I never saw them at 3-3 through six weeks after the start to the season, and here they are, though, playing a pretty damn good Rams team who just two weeks ago fell to the Seahawks in an enormous NFC West game. It is evident this division will be a tight one, and even a three-dog race. Big moment for Sean McVay and Jared Goff to prove they can beat one of the top dogs within their division, after failing to do so vs Seattle.
3 Chiefs @ Raiders: Don’t look now but this season’s Thursday Night games have not been as terrible as past years. That should continue with this game. The Raiders are reeling, and playing on a short week vs a damn good division rival coming off its 1st loss could be a recipe for disaster. How about this to tell us how much danger this Raiders team is in? A loss Thursday and a Seahawks loss Sunday and the Raiders would have the same record as the New York Giants, a team many thought’s Head Coach would be fired just a week ago.
2 Redskins @ Eagles: The Wentz Wagon rolls on with yet another primetime fight, this one on Monday Night versus their division rival. Washington has flown under the radar as a playoff contender through six weeks, but its offensive line could be exposed in a big way vs this Eagles front. The Redskins failed to hold up well versus a bad 49ers defense. If things don’t shore up, it could get ugly. Kirk Cousins in primetime has already beaten the Raiders to begin Oakland’s tailspin. If he beats Carson Wentz, he will continue to fill his pockets heading into the offseason.
1 Falcons @ Patriots: 28-3, how many times will that score be mentioned Sunday Night? The Falcons collapse versus Miami is not what the doctor ordered as far as mental games go ahead of a rematch of the Super Bowl. You almost have to wonder if the Falcons are better off having to come from behind in this game – because any lead they have Sunday Night won’t be enough for them to not think about choking and what happened on the 1st Sunday in February.
As James Ward gladly pointed out on Twitter, I was 0-3 last week, dropping my record to a Slurpee-like 7-11. For this week:
Falcons +3.5 at Patriots: The Falcons choked last week, look fragile mentally and now play the Patriots, who are looking to finally have a big home effort this season. All signs point to a Patriots blowout. I am 7-11 on the season, so rather than go with conventional wisdom and jump on the Pats here, I will play the opposite game. The Falcons get over the mental hurdle and expose this Patriots defense for what it is: a bunch of frauds.
Bengals +5.5 at Steelers: The Steelers knocked off the best team in football last week, and the Bengals offensive line has been a disgrace, so Pittsburgh won’t let this punk division rival come into their house and keep it close. Hey, I am 7-11 on the season; let’s play the opposite game again. Cincinnati has had a week off to reset everything, the offense is back to making plays, and no team is less consistent in putting forth big efforts in back-to-back weeks than the Steelers. Give me the Bengals.
Miami –3 vs Jets: The Jets have already beaten Miami. The Jets just went toe-to-toe with the Patriots and frankly could have – and should have – beaten them if not for a very dumb fumble rule. The Dolphins offense is playing worse than the 49ers and Browns offenses. Well, once again I am 7-11 picking games this year, so I won’t follow what my brain tells me. The Jets’ magic carpet ride is over. They go back to being the doormats we expected them to be, while Miami becomes a full-fledged playoff contender with a convincing win this week.
Football Food of the Week
Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls. I know what you are thinking: You had me at fried. Right? The beauty of this wonderful treat is you can make your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe from scratch (or for the quick fix, use instant mac and cheese).
Cook the Macaroni and Cheese as you would with any recipe or box you choose. Let it cool. Proceed to scoop the Macaroni and cheese into ice cream like scoop and place on a tray, eventually putting the tray into the freeze for 15-30 minutes. Take the balls out of the freezer, glaze them in egg wash and roll in Italian bread crumbs. You can then either fry these in a frying pan or bake them in an oven like you would chicken cutlets.
When they come out, they will be oozing with cheese, bursting with macaroni, and perfectly crispy around the edge in every bite. They are the perfect hand held snack to be a smash hit at your game-day party.
Thanks for reading and be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @MrazCBS