By: Shaun Morash
The Bills are in the playoffs. Say it again. The Bills are in the playoffs. To the fans in Buffalo, I salute you. The years since the Music City Miracle have been a disaster. Bad quarterback play, bad coaches, Rex Ryan pickup trucks, Trent Edwards snaps, you have seen it all in Orchard Park. In the end, though, the Bills making the playoffs in 2017 is bad for this weekend.
The lead-up to the game in Jacksonville was and has been fun, but the truth is beyond the good story, the Bills team stinks and benefited simply from the fact the AFC was mediocre. Had the Chargers not started 0-4, they were the more deserving team. Had DeShaun Watson not gotten hurt, the Texans would have been a more deserving team. The Bills deserved this spot by default, and as a result, football fans will get an ugly performance in Jacksonville and an essential BYE week for the Jaguars.
Ten Yard Gain
1- The Jaguars hurt us all by showing up like dogs on Sunday. Much like I just discussed with the Bills, the Titans are an ugly-looking playoff team. Think about this for a moment: On Wild Card weekend, genuinely the worst, most unappealing matchup goes first on Saturday. The NFL thought a game involving the Titans was worse than a game involving the Bills and Jaguars. Had the Jags played like it mattered, the Chargers could have gotten to the postseason as well.
2- This is a huge offseason in Dallas, but don’t expect Jerry Jones to do the smart thing. Dez Bryant is no longer worthy of his pay check, Jason Garrett has become Jeff Fisher, and the Cowboys defense has been wildly overrated. Dallas is in a position with a young quarterback on a rookie deal to make the most of their cap space and build a true championship roster with a better coach. With Jerry Jones being way too loyal to his past-the-prime players and a coach who is a puppet expect more of the same average football in Dallas next season.
3- Bruce Arians getting a head-coaching job for the first time at the age of 60 is such a shame. Arians was awesome as the Cardinals head coach. Had he been blessed with a younger age, better health and thus an opportunity to draft Carson Palmer’s successor, he just may have won a Super Bowl in the dessert. Which makes you think back and ask, what the heck took so long for front offices to realize he was a damn good coach?
4- The Seahawks’ window is closed, at least for the core of that defense. Pete Carroll has acknowledged that Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor may never play again. Richard Sherman is getting offseason surgery, while Michael Bennett has publicly said he doesn’t expect to be back. In the end, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson’s legacy may be remembered more for losing that Super Bowl to New England than thumping Denver in the time they actually won it all.
5- Jimmy Garoppolo’s turnaround of the 49ers should send a message to teams in the NFL draft. A quarterback changes everything. There will be a lot of smoke about Saquon Barkley, who may turn out to be a Hall of Famer, but a quarterback makes you a Super Bowl contender very quickly. The 49ers will be a sexy pick by many to make the playoffs in 2018 thanks to just adding a good young quarterback to a mediocre roster. The Browns and Giants should take note.
6- The Saints’ play down the stretch of the season doesn’t give me confidence with them as we approach the playoffs. Their midseason hot streak is why they are in the playoffs; their average December is why we shouldn’t trust them to make the Super Bowl. The Panthers know the Saints well and have a defense built to slow that run game.
7- Sean McVay tried to do the right thing in the matchup game for the playoffs, and it backfired for the Rams. By resting all of his starters, the subliminal goal for LA was to lose, have the Saints win and then allow the Rams to get the 4 seed and hopefully see the Eagles in the second round, not the Vikings. A prayer by Jameis Winston foiled those plans and not only will the Rams not get the Eagles in Round 2, but they also lost a chance at building momentum with a big win in Round 1.
8- David Gettleman is already making this possibly the most fascinating New York Giants off season ever. By releasing a starting offensive lineman and benching another, Gettleman sent a message that times have changed in the Giants locker room. Not one man on the roster is safe, not even Eli Manning, who went on WFAN in NY and didn’t exactly confirm he would be willing to stay and groom a new quarterback. Amazing to think a team that was preparing for the playoffs just 12 months ago will likely not resemble that team at all come this April.
9- Mark Davis wants splash, but is Jon Gruden really a smart “football” move? Gruden has not coached in the NFL in 10 years. A lot had changed, including the mentality of players in the locker room. “Millennials” and the way they need to be pampered is nothing to scoff at. While Gruden may sell tickets, his ability to connect with today’s NFL player is a major question mark.
10- 1-31 for Hue Jackson in 2 years as Browns Head Coach. For once Cleveland isn’t going with the constant turnover at coach technique, but how can they sell this to their fans? Even the worst of rosters accidentally can win three or maybe four games in a year. But one game over two years? If I am a potential first overall pick in the NFL draft, the idea of playing for Hue Jackson petrifies me.
A 4-2 week in Week 16 gets me to 24-26-2 on the regular season. For the playoffs, I will be picking every single game.
Titans +8.5 at Chiefs: The Titans entered the season with high expectations yet ended the season feeling like a major disappointment, somehow still finding their way into the playoffs. The Chiefs had a typical Chief season, teasing their fans before ultimately another playoff loss waits. That loss likely comes next week in New England. Pound-for-pound, they are better than these Titans and are at home. Cold temperatures are expected, meaning Derrick Henry and Kareem Hunt will run all day long keeping the game low-scoring yet close. Kansas City does enough to win, but Alex Smith covering a spread of two scores? Heck no.
Rams -6.5 vs Falcons: Playoff football is back in Los Angeles, but who knows if anybody in LA is actually aware of this? The Falcons won when it mattered most last week, but offensively their consistency remains off. I expect them to strike early on Saturday night, showing signs of redemption after the Super Bowl choke job. However, the Rams run game led by Todd Gurley was nearly unstoppable in back-to-back weeks in Weeks 15 and 16 before resting TGIII in Week 17. That kind of running closes playoff games late and controls the clock in close-out situations. A fun game in the first half becomes a comfortable Rams win at home late.
Jaguars -8.5 vs Bills: As noted on The DA Show this week, this is the hottest ticket of Wild Card Weekend, thanks to Bills fans flooding the market. Unfortunately, at about 4 p.m. Eastern, Bills Mafia will be begging for the Music City Miracle. Tyrod Taylor doesn’t turn the ball over, but expect him to be sacked a ton by the Jaguars pass rush, especially with a hampered Lesean McCoy. Blake Bortles will have a head-scratching moment or two, but this game won’t be close. Jaguars 23-Bills 10.
Panthers +6.5 at Saints: Finally, the game of the weekend will close out this 4-pack. The NFC South was so damn entertaining all season. The Saints two-headed monster at running back led by rookie Alvin Kamara surged New Orleans back into contention and an eight-game win streak. Yet in December, the Saints floundered around, including losing a game with the division on the line to the Bucs last week. Ultimately, it did not cost them as the Panthers fell to the Falcons. Cam Newton has been hot and cold all year, but I think we get the hot version here in this spot. Six-and-a-half points is also way too many for a game I feel could be destined for overtime. Carolina is the biggest sleeper of this entire postseason; they could fall here, but also could hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Everyone seems to love the Saints here and then over the Eagles next week. Not so fast. Carolina wins outright led by a big Christian McCaffrey play.
Football Food of The Week
Chicken Cutlet, Bacon, Mozzarella, and Ranch on Garlic Bread Hero: Depending on where you are, this also could be referred to as a grinder of sub. It’s playoff time, which means it is time to go big or go home. The beauty of this over-stuffed slovenly treat is whether you are watching football by yourself or with your buddies, it can be made for the perfect amount of people. Fry up chicken cutlets and crisp bacon, buy slices of mozzarella, and spread butter and garlic powder on Italian bread. Roast the bread in the oven for five minutes or until golden brown. The more the people, the bigger the bread and the more ingredients you will need. The taste of the crispy cutlets, perfect bacon, gooey mozzarella, and powerfully packed garlicy buttery bread will dance your taste buds into Monday before you know it. For an extra blast of flavor, I recommend drizzling ranch on top of this masterpiece.
Thanks so much for reading, enjoy one of the great football weekends of the year. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.