By: Shaun Morash
Protests, concussion worries, star players injured – the 2017 season had it all for the wrong reasons. Every week it felt like stories and topics discussed on CBS Sports Radio had everything to do with the NFL off of the field. The idea of recapping a classic game was a rarity. Fans were beginning to be annoyed with the league and possibly tuning out. Well, to those fans, welcome back, the NFL has had one heck of a postseason thus far.
On Divisional Round weekend, to have three out of the four showdowns be borderline classic – or in the Vikings’ thrilling finish, instant classic – games was an NFL dream. All week the talk again has been about the product on the field and the matchups that are ahead of us. It is refreshing and a reminder that it will take so much more to slay the goliath that is the NFL. Thank you, Case Keenum. Thank you, Stefon Diggs. You may have saved football for many ready to turn it off.
Ten Yard Gain
1-The Patriots would have beaten the Titans if Tom Brady’s throwing arm was tied around his back, but nonetheless the blatant one-sided officiating that was on display Saturday Night in New England was atrocious. What was that offensive pass interference call on Eric Decker? The league was scared of a Titans-Jaguars AFC Championship game, the proof was in the pudding.
2-Dan Quinn has to have the hottest of hot seats for a coach coming off back-to-back seasons featuring playoff wins. To get your team in position to win on Saturday only to have Steve Sarkisian call a shovel pass to a third-string running back and two plays later with the season on the line a play that cuts off half of the field inside the red zone is a fireable offense. It is only a matter of time before Falcons players stop believing in their coaching staff.
3-Maybe it is being a lifelong New York Giants fan, but is there a more unlikeable underdog story than the Philadelphia Eagles since Carson Wentz went down? Wentz is an easy guy to root for, coming out of North Dakota and playing hard earning everything that comes his way. However, the rest of the group with their unfunny touchdown group celebrations and now dog masks representing being underdogs? Hard pass.
4-Stefon Diggs’ touchdown catch and run is the best non-Super Bowl play since the Music City Miracle. The debates that have raged this week are unfair ones. Big Super Bowl plays like Santonio Holmes toe drag and David Tyree’s helmet catch stand in a different stratosphere form where the Minnesota Miracle stands because of the stage. It’s okay to love a play, have it be memorable forever, and not rush to call it the best play you have ever seen. Time will be kind to Keenum and Diggs’ connection on Sunday, but let’s separate it from Super Bowl classic moments.
5-Sean Payton mocking the “Skol” chant to Vikings fans before the miracle was a goodhearted funny moment. Payton giving the choke sign earlier this season to Falcons players was also a good-hearted moment. As with anything in America in 2018, we are rushing to be offended by things. Payton got a ribbing from Vikings fans back after the Diggs’ touchdown and Payton owned what he did. We need more of Sean Payton-fan interaction in sports and less of coaches and players being offended by things that don’t intend to be offensive.
6-Mike Tomlin should thank Dan Quinn for being horrendous in his decisions Saturday because it helped take all the heat off Tomlin for botching the end of his team’s season. How do you not override Todd Haley’s 4th-and-1 calls? How do you onside kick with three clock stoppages and over two minutes left? And how down two scores do you not kick a field goal with 41 seconds left and then re-try an onside kick?
7-Jalen Ramsey has now become the next Richard Sherman and the league needs it. With the Legion of Boom getting older and more injured with each passing year, the league needed the next marketable trash talker, and in comes Jalen Ramsey. He is – and will – easily be the Jaguars’ most marketable player going forward, and shhh, don’t tell Roger Goodell, but Ramsey may become so popular in Florida that it makes it impossible for the Jaguars to move to London full-time.
8-The Giants look to be ready to hire Pat Shurmur as their new head coach. Maybe it will be awesome, maybe it won’t. But one narrative that needs to end is that the Giants were a less desirable job to both Patriots coordinators than the Colts or Lions were. Giants reporters were guessing during the interview process on which way Big Blue would go and they guessed wrong. Nobody knows if Patricia or McDaniels were even offered jobs by the Giants as they were in Detroit and Indianapolis.
9-Josh McDaniels is ready to join the Colts, and my assumption would be Andrew Luck is officially returning to quarterback the Colts. The team could have tried to shop their now oft-injured quarterback and taken a Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield third overall after Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen potentially go to the Browns or Giants. After failing in Denver with Tim Tebow, McDaniels likely will want to stay with Luck. Both McDaniels and Luck had once-promising careers as head coach and a quarterback; both may need each other to fulfill and revitalize those dreams.
10-Matt Patricia had a picture that surfaced this week of what he looked like without a beard when he was first hired by the Patriots. In that picture, which you can search on Twitter, he looked like a man I want leading my team as a head coach. It is amazing how a beard that wild changes perception, but it does. His wife and kids apparently are obsessed with the facial hair, which is why he keeps it. Family should always come first, but maybe his new Lions players would look at him more seriously with a clean face. Dumb take? Possibly. However, I believe there is truth to this.
I was again 2-2 last week bringing this Jeff Fisher kind of season to 28-30-2. For this week:
Jaguars +9 @ Patriots: Laying nine points to this Jaguars team fresh off of a win in Pittsburgh is a sign of disrespect. Tom Brady’s playoff kryptonite has been relentless pass rush, and boy do the Jaguars bring the heat. I don’t expect a shootout in this game. In fact, I expect a game played in the low 20s. The frustrations reported on internally for the Patriots will rear their ugly head late in this game. Blake Bortles plays mistake free football, and forget the points, give me the Jaguars to win and advance to the Super Bowl.
Vikings -3 @ Eagles: In the week leading up to Championship Sunday, it has almost felt like nationally the Eagles aren’t even playing, let along hosting this NFC Championship. I can understand the idea that the Vikings may still be celebrating Stefon Diggs’ game-winning touchdown, but this is Mike Zimmer: a disciplined coach leading the way. Cold weather and hard-hitting defense will keep this game low scoring as well, but the Vikings pound-for-pound are more talented than the Eagles at almost every position. Case Keenum, Mike Zimmer, and the Vikings win and cover to advance to play a Super Bowl in their home building.
Football Food of the Week
Pulled Pork Quesadillas. You will need some time for this one, at least 12 hours. Take thin pork chops, a pork roast, or a pork shoulder – really any little piggy will do – and put in the crock pot with a bottle of bbq sauce, some salt and pepper, and let it cook on low for 10-12 hours.
When pulling the pork out of the pot, gently place it on a carving board and chop the pork into small fine pieces. The chopping should come easy as the tender, delicious pork should be able to be sliced through like butter.
Take burrito sized tortilla wraps and distribute the chopped pork onto half of it evenly, then top with shredded taco cheese and over the naked half of the tortilla creating the famous quesadilla enclosure we know and love.
You can grill, hot press, or simply bake these in the oven until they are a light golden brown on the outside. You will have the tortilla crunch, gushing cheese, and tender, tangy pork taste with every bite. Now that sounds like a Championship Sunday.
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