By: Shaun Morash
Ding-dong the witch is dead? Not quite yet, not after one week, but the New England Patriots finally looked human last Thursday night. Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach of all time in professional sports, forget the NFL. He has gotten more out of his talent, or lack of talent, on a roster than anyone I have seen in the last 20 years. Yes he has had Hall of Famers, particularly at quarterback, but he has won while making pedestrian players into house hold names.
We just assumed he would do the same with the 2017 Patriots, mainly on a defense that has let go of several key pieces in the last 18 months. That defense turned Alex Smith into a machine. Alex Smith could not throw a dodge ball at the skills competition in January more than 2 yards, and he lit up the Pats secondary.
Now the division is soft as pudding in the AFC East, so by no means do I think the Patriots will fall back enough to not be playing at least one home game in January, but Belichick’s roster creativity may have finally caught up with him. The moment every NFL fan has been seeking could finally be here. These are now the mortal Patriots, where nobody should fear heading into Gillette for a big moment. Thank you, Kansas City, from the bottom of our hearts. We appreciate it.
Ten Yard Gain
1- Last week, I stated that I had no idea what to expect from the Cardinals this season. I think we should all know now. No playoffs, no interesting December, just a team in the mix for one of the premier quarterbacks entering the 2018 draft. David Johnson is the heartbeat on offense. With him sidelined 2-3 months it is impossible to hope Carson Palmer is an MVP candidate this season.
2- Calvin Johnson retired after believing the Lions were a hopeless franchise, filled with no promise, no future. Well, Matt Stafford looks ready to back up his huge 2016 after an opening day fireworks display and comeback vs the Cardinals. Kenny Golladay had fantasy owners searching waiver wires midafternoon. The Lions were not a fluke playoff team in 2016 and Matt Stafford has become, dare I say it, elite.
3- On a Week 1 filled with disappointing losses, none was worse than the Bengals who got embarrassed at home. This was supposed to be an important bounce-back season for this offense, and after 8 months to prepare they get shutout? I was the last one standing on the Andy Dalton bandwagon, and if things don’t turn around fast, he should be benched for AJ McCarron.
4-Bill O’Brien is not some kind of quarterback whisperer; in fact, he isn’t even a decent head coach. The Texans leader has hid behind the fact he has had a great defense in the worst division in football for quite some time. Deshaun Watson deserves to start and will start now, but why even give Tom Savage the 1st half of the 1st game if his leash was that short? It isn’t like he is a well-traveled veteran there to groom the young Watson. O’Brien looks clueless and his only prayer now is for Watson to bail him out and go win offensive rookie of the year.
5- The Giants offensive line problems again reigned supreme on Sunday Night. The game is likely different with Odell Beckham Jr in uniform, but with or without Odell this season could spiral out of control early if this line doesn’t allow Eli to make plays. With games with the Lions, Eagles, and Bucs coming up, this NFC Super Bowl contender could go the other way in a hurry.
6- The Redskins may have unintentionally either sabotaged Kirk Cousins next contract and/or run him out of town with their offensive line. This was a problem throughout the preseason and became a reality vs Philadelphia’s ferocious front 7. This team’s defense is a weak unit. If the offensive line doesn’t allow Kirk to put up 28 a game, I don’t see how Washington wins more than 5 games.
7- The Colts season is over, and frankly, I am not convinced Andrew Luck will ever be the quarterback he should have been. The offensive line is a disaster – this led to Luck’s slew of injuries – and now their head coach doesn’t even know what team he just lost to in post-game press conferences. A shoulder injury ruined Chad Pennington’s career, and I cannot help but think the way the Colts have handled Luck that he is headed down the same path.
8-Football in LA doesn’t work. I was too young when the Rams and Raiders left to grasp this. However, the attendance now, in year 2 of the return of the Rams, on opening day was eye opening. In other markets, I do buy that attendance is hampered by how good the home-viewing experience is; in LA, not so much. With perfect summer temperatures in California, why would any casual fan give up the beach for mediocre NFL football? Now you have two teams in the same mediocre market. This will be the most regrettable NFL decision in Roger Goodell’s tenure when all is said and done.
9-Mike Glennon, dare I say it, looked like a real NFL quarterback and not a Nickelodeon 90’s cartoon character Sunday. Just because the final score says the Bears lost, we should not overlook the fact that Glennon flat out won this game and outplayed Matt Ryan. He took the Bears, without either of their top 2 receivers late, (Cameron Meredith and Kevin White,) down the field and was out done in by 2 dropped passes that would have been game-winning scores, none worse than Jordan Howard’s. This is best case scenario for the Bears, as they are in no rush to go to Trubisky this year and can possibly trade Glennon for a high pick in the off season.
10-The NFL denying the Dolphins request to move their London game back to Miami following the postponement of Week 1 due to Hurricane Irma is a joke. So we as fans cannot see several teams wear awesome throwback uniforms because players are only allowed to wear the same helmet for “safety.” Yet we deny a franchise a chance to play all 16 straight games back on US soil because of the league revenue they would lose for a joke across the pond? Shame on you NFL.
Five Games to Chew On
5 Vikings @ Steelers: While the Steelers defense looks like the real deal, they still pale in comparison to what the Vikings look like on that side of the ball. This will be a tough game for both Le’Veon Bell and Dalvin Cook to break a game open on the ground. However, the questioned Pittsburgh secondary now has plenty of tape to see Sam Bradford is not afraid to attack. Ben Roethlisberger can’t force throws to Antonio Brown early or they can translate into 6 points. A Minnesota win will have everyone believing in them as a real NFC threat.
4 Eagles @ Chiefs: The Andy Reid bowl is back, and this time it features two potential playoff teams. Doug Pederson will have the 1st time to coach against his mentor. Kansas City lost Eric Berry for the season on opening night, and that could be just enough to open up things for Carson Wentz and the deep ball. However, if Philadelphia cannot contain Kareem Hunt, the time of possession pendulum will swing in Kansas City’s favor, keeping Justin Houston and that pass rush fresh for a late surge on Wentz.
3 Lions @ Giants: In an attempt for the NFL to give ESPN their request for better games, Week 2 features two playoff teams from a season ago. All eyes will be on the Giants offense which has now gone 7 straight games scoring 20 or fewer points. If The Lions defensive line feasts on the Giants offensive line and Matt Stafford makes plays vs a talented secondary, New York’s season can begin to collapse quickly.
2 Cowboys @ Broncos: Cowboys fans are riding high after Sunday Night, but questions remain as Dak Prescott and the Boys only scored one touchdown vs a good defense, and that was helped by a bogus pass interference call. This week they go on the road with that offense vs arguably as good a defense as the Giants possess. If Ezekiel Elliot doesn’t control the clock, the Cowboys could be on upset alert.
1 Packers @ Falcons: A rematch of a rather disappointing NFC Championship game takes place Sunday Night. Both the Packers and Falcons offenses were rather disappointing and sloppy in Week 1. It will be interesting to see if Matt Ryan and company can get back to being a machine and not simply relying on broken plays in the secondary. Aaron Rodgers has had this game circled since January and will be ready for revenge in primetime.
A disappointing 1-2 to start the season leads us into Week 2.
Patriots -6.5 at Saints: I am concerned about the Patriots defense, and anyone should facing Drew Brees in the Saints house. However, the Saints defense made Sam Bradford look like Peyton Manning on Monday Night. New Orleans comes into this game off of a short week, while the Patriots and Bill Belichick come off an extended break following playing on Thursday night. I expect a shootout and a fun game, but I cannot see the Patriots winning this game by less than a touchdown come the 4th quarter, so laying 6 and a half is right where I want it.
Broncos +2 vs Cowboys: The Cowboys defense may be for real, or they have simply caught a team with a bad offensive line and missing their best weapon at the right time. Regardless, the Broncos getting points at home with that defense is too much for me to pass up. This line smells like Vegas has Cowboy Nation laying the points and saying “only 2, really?” The Cowboys offensive line was good but not dominant vs the Giants front and now they must deal with Von Miller. This feels like a letdown game for Dallas on the road.
Rams +3 vs Redskins: I loved what I saw from Sean McVay’s offense on Sunday versus the putrid Colts. The Redskins defense isn’t good, and Jared Goff can make all of the plays Carson Wentz did a week ago. The Rams defensive line will get Aaron Donald back and that is a tasty matchup vs a suddenly weak Washington offensive line. The Rams are a year away, but I believe they get off to a 2-0 start here vs Washington and Kirk Cousins.
Football Food of the Week
Mac and Cheetos. Inspired by Anne Burrell and the Pop Up Cheeto store that took Manhattan by storm last month that myself and DA visited. Check out DA’s latest episode of NOMAD here to see the deliciousness of this dish.
This dish is relatively easy, and perfect to put out in a tray for your football party. You don’t want to get macaroni as the noodle, if you have watched NOMAD you understand why, you want a plump, fat noodle. Let’s say mezzi rigatoni. Also, go with the Fiery Cheetos for both a crunch and a spice. The cheese sauce is what was in question for this dish; it was so creamy, and just thick enough not to give your throat a problem. In doing research I have found an Anne Burrell Macaroni and cheese recipe and the picture seems to match with what went down my fat face that I enjoyed so much. Check out that recipe here, and remember to go with the fat noodle, and simply sprinkle the Cheetos on top of the dish after it is baked, and then mix them around. This dish will be creamy, gooey, crunchy, spicy, essential the Mount Rushmore of flavor.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy another glorious football weekend. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS