By: Shaun Morash
The Saints demolishing of the Bills in Buffalo was the most unentertaining game of the NFL weekend, but it also told us the most. It seems hypocritical to praise a winning team by so much while calling the losing team frauds who were never as good as their record indicates, but that’s exactly how these teams look.
The Saints have long been a team built to play indoors like a pin ball match, while struggling to win cold, outdoor games. Just a couple years back, they went into Philadelphia on a Saturday night on Wild Card weekend and defied those odds a bit. Sunday, with this Saints team having won six in a row, they went outdoors and didn’t just throw with Brees, but ran the ball hard with Ingram and played smart, physical defense. A vicious run attack and physical defense? These are two components needed to win big-time games in January. Throw in a Hall of Fame quarterback and a Super Bowl-winning head coach and it is official: the Saints should be the favorites to reach the big game in the NFC.
On the flip side, the Bills came into this game unbeaten at home, on extra rest following a loss to the Jets that Richie Incognito appeared to blame on playing on Thursday Night. The one-time feel good story of the Bills are melting, a two-game losing streak in two match-ups that seemed to favor them. Buffalo was a tank job that suddenly went all in on trading for Kelvin Benjamin. Tyrod Taylor is who we thought we was, a mediocre quarterback. The Bills need more to be a legitimate AFC team looking to open eyes in the post season.
Ten Yard Gain
1- Keenum has made a Case to remain the starting quarterback in Minnesota. The WatchDA.com segment slugs have me with some really terrible puns lately, but I cannot help it. I am serious, though. I refuse to be a Case Keenum is a franchise quarterback believer, but in this case, the Vikings need to stick with the hot hand. Teddy Bridgewater is as good a story waiting to happen as we have seen in the NFL in a long time, but assuming he will be a very good player again is a giant leap of faith, especially for a team that is hitting its groove and potentially cruising to a division title with Keenum lighting up defenses as he did in Washington.
2- Much like the adversity the Seahawks faced without Earl Thomas down the stretch last year, they will have to do the same without Richard Sherman this year. The Seahawks came up short and their defense was exposed without Thomas’ in Atlanta in the playoffs last year. Now winning the division and getting home playoff games becomes even more important for this franchise. Without Sherman, I don’t see how this team wins critical road playoff games locking down elite receivers.
3- The Cowboys’ MVP became clear on Sunday. It is Tyron Smith and it isn’t close. Ezekiel Elliot would not be the same MVP in many people’s eyes had he played his rookie year behind one of many terrible NFL offensive lines. He was fortunate to play behind the Cowboys’ line – led by Tyron Smith, who is a lock Hall of Famer at left tackle. In his absence, Dak didn’t even have a chance to run for his life. Sometimes an NFL season and success is all about surviving a war of attrition. Dallas is failing to survive that.
4- Blake Bortles has a completion percentage of just 43.3 when the Jaguars lead or trail by seven points or less in the fourth quarter this year. That is not a recipe for winning games when the going gets tough, yet Jacksonville found a way to outlast the Chargers and win in overtime. I’m sorry, Jacksonville: as elite as that defense has become, this team is one-and-done if you even get to the playoffs if Blake Bortles is this team’s quarterback.
5- The 49ers had not won a game on a Sunday since 2015. They beat the Giants – the Giants who went 11-5 last year, and the Giants whose season has crumbled in 2017. The 49ers had not won a freaking game on a Sunday in two calendar years. Shame on you Big Blue, shame on you.
6- The least surprising situation on Sunday was the Steelers once again playing down to an inferior opponent in Indianapolis. Nothing is ever easy with Pittsburgh, despite having a classic recipe of an elite running back, game-breaking wide receiver, and elite quarterback. No team turns believers into non-believers and back again more than the Steelers and it is starting to get frustrating.
7- Vontaze is far from Burfict. There I go again with another WatchDA.com pun. The irony of Burfict being a defensive teammate of Adam “Pac Man” Jones is not lost on me. Nothing is worse than someone with a bad reputation who refuses to learn their lesson. His bump of an official one play after a personal foul penalty, knowing his own reputation and history, is about as dumb a moment a player can have. If the league really wants to make an example, they should start suspending this guy for the season instead of worrying about who is smoking weed in the offseason.
8- No franchise should be more disappointed with their effort and outcome than the New York Jets. Yes, they play in the same town as the New York Giants, and I am still saying this. By winning those four games early, they essentially played themselves out of Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold and played themselves into a battle for the final Wild Card spot in a wide-open and mediocre AFC. Suddenly a playoff game, heck maybe two playoff games, would have meant the world to the development of these players and the continuity of this coaching staff. Instead, they became the Jets we foresaw them being preseason, but waited until Week 10 to do so. They were just ugly on offense and too soft on defense. Without a doubt the most disappointing game and result by a team playing in Week 10.
9- I truly feel bad for Hue Jackson as the Browns head coach. There is so much disconnect between he and that front office that I don’t believe he survives as head coach, when he should have finally been the coach to make it past two years in Cleveland. That end of the first half in Detroit sealed it for me with Hue; it’s over in the Dawg Pound.
10- There is no football family in NFL history harder to root for than the Bennett’s. As if Michael Bennett over-exaggerating what happened to him at the hands of the Las Vegas police department wasn’t bad enough, Martellus Bennett throwing Packers doctors under the table and playing for the Patriots after claiming he had a shoulder injury is just the bottom of the barrel as far as clown age goes. What is with those two players?
Five Games To Chew On
5- Patriots @ Raiders: In Mexico City, the high altitude should play a role in conditioning for each of these teams. Ironically, the scheduling gods may have helped the Patriots, who just were used to this by playing in Denver on Sunday Night. Oakland is in the middle of a muddled and mediocre AFC Wild Card race. A win here may make some believers again.
4- Rams @ Vikings: The Greg Olsen controversy over him being part of this broadcasting team is fascinating, and for the record I am with the Vikings on that he should not be allowed to call this game. As far as what happens on the field, Case Keenum needs to match Jared Goff and the high-flying Rams offense. Minnesota’s defense is one of the toughest to score against, especially at home, but the balance of Gurley on the ground and Goff through the air will be unlike any they have seen yet this season.
3- Redskins @ Saints: The hottest team in football comes back home to play a Kirk Cousins led Redskins team that is nearing must-win mode to keep themselves afloat in the NFC Wild Card hunt. The biggest surprise to this Saints turnaround has been their defense, but the Redskins can score with the best of them. Rookie Samaje Perine in for the injured Rob Kelly could be the X-factor in a Washington win.
2- Eagles @ Cowboys: Finally a Sunday Night football game with some juice again. Carson Wentz and the Eagles can all but put the NFC East title on ice before Thanksgiving with a win in Jerry’s World. The banged-up and battered Cowboys need to find a way to run the ball and keep the Eagles’ lethal pass rush at bay. The Cowboys’ season can totally begin to buckle if Philly slugs them in the mouth early and this game is never in doubt.
1- Falcons @ Seahawks: The Atlanta Falcons may be back from the ashes and primed for a run into the playoffs, or they may have run into a Cowboys team worse than them. As it stands right now both of these teams could be battling for just one final NFC Wild Card Spot, presuming Carolina hangs on for the other. We are set up for a Monday Night game with a playoff feel, and a rematch of arguably the best regular-season game from 2016. Seattle is looking for revenge after seeing their season end in Atlanta in the playoffs, but the Legion Of Boom will be without Richard Sherman. Matt Ryan has to be licking his chops to go after Jeremy Lane.
Uh-Oh, Happy learned how to put. A 2-1 week last week lifted me to 12-17-1 on the season. For this week:
Chiefs -13.5 @ Giants: The Giants have quit. The coach, the beacon of light, can dress it up and sell it any way he would like, but the team has quit. This Giants defense has allowed a touchdown to a tight end in every game this season. Imagine what Travis Kelce will do to them? Andy Reid is 16-2 in his career coming off of a bye week. Make it 17-2 in a romp at MetLife Stadium.
Rams +2.5 @ Vikings: Two teams nobody thought would be at 7-2 are sitting pretty. I buy the Vikings far less than I buy the Rams, who at the moment are my Super Bowl pick for the NFC. The Rams already proven they can beat good teams on the road when they went into Dallas and shocked the Cowboys. The Vikings defense is dominant at home, but a balanced attack on the ground and through the air like the Vikings offer will do enough, and I don’t buy that Case Keenum can put on an aerial assault like he did last week in this spot.
Falcons +3 @ Seahawks: The Falcons should have beaten the Seahawks in Seattle last year if not for a bad drop by Julio Jones; they then thumped the Seahawks in their house in the playoffs. After beating the Cowboys, Atlanta has to be at their most confident point of this season. The Seahawks have been vulnerable at home this season and ripe for the picking. The Richard Sherman injury will have an effect here; I like the Falcons outright.
Football Food of the Week
Broccoli and Cheddar Roll Ups: This is not a misprint. I repeat, this is not a misprint. For the first time ever, a football food of the week is vegetable-based. We all remember my pizza roll-ups and mini chicken rolls. Well, these are the same concept but with the classic taste of cheddar and broccoli.
Using pizza dough that warms to a buttery crispness, cheddar that melts to the perfect amount of gooeyness, and nice hot and seasoned broccoli, you can plow through these on a Sunday feeling less guilty than you normally would, while still being a satisfied fat couch potato like we should aspire to be on a Sunday.
I have attached the recipe I found online here.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS