Up The Gut: Week 4

By: Shaun Morash

Cold Open

A great weekend of NFL football came and gone and was clouded by the unfortunate comments by our President regarding player’s National Anthem protests. I have never been a fan of protests during the National Anthem for a variety of reasons and was happy to see them beginning to fade away. However, that all changed with Donald Trump’s unnecessary comments that only poured gasoline on a fading fire.

The real tragedy of this now has happened in Pittsburgh, where Alejandro Villenueva, an Army ranger who has served in Afghanistan, felt obligated on Monday to apologize to the public and his teammates for standing out for the National Anthem on his own in what became a botched Steelers team plan. Protests that create positive discussion are good; it is the fabric on everything this country has stood for. But, are protests that are dividing locker rooms, melting pots of culture, beneficial to anyone?

At some point, the goal of these protests has either changed or become convoluted and it appears like no true good is coming of it anymore. It is now up to the television networks to stop showing these anthems for the sake of all of us, good people of the United States. We don’t need division. We need unity. The protests aren’t accomplishing the ladder.

Ten Yard Gain

1- Rookie kicker Jake Elliot booting a 61-yarder as time expired Sunday will have his name in Philadelphia sports lore for eternity. The Eagles beating the Giants in heart-wrenching fashion is a story as old as time. Elliot can live off of that moment, in that city, forever. It is time to open up a Cheesesteak restaurant and write a book Jake, I’m not kidding.

2-John Mara finally acknowledged one of many glaring problems with the New York Giants. Their diva wide receiver, as talented as he is, continues to shoot the team in the foot with selfishness. For a team that had scored just 13 points through 10 quarters, he has to know better than to mock pee like a dog when the team was losing in the 3rd quarter Sunday. At some point, when do the excuses end?

3-For two straight years, the Chiefs have now found the steal of the draft. Tyreek Hill in 2016 and now Kareem Hunt in 2017 have changed the Kansas City franchise from constant playoff contender to legitimate Super Bowl threat. Kareem Hunt looks like Terrell Davis in his prime, and a surprise Chiefs run led by his legs could forever change the perception of Alex Smith.

4-The Patriots won in thrilling fashion Sunday and Tom Brady was rightfully lauded for his 4th quarter comeback and surge. However, the Patriots defense is officially an awful unit. That is the kind of defense that makes it awfully tough to win a Super Bowl. If that unit can let a rookie quarterback come into their building and light them up, why shouldn’t we expect a full blown playoff power like the Steelers, Chiefs, or Raiders to do the same in January?

5-Are the Jaguars for real? I couldn’t tell you since the game was broadcast on Yahoo! I totally get the wave of cord cutters and the NFL trying to be ahead of the curve when it comes to streaming rights. However, not having access to simply hitting a power button on a remote control and sitting on my couch sways me away on a Sunday. Call me old-fashioned, but I hate if football on TV is trending this way.

6-Cam Newton looks like Matt Harvey. He was a generational talent that is not only ordinary, but below average. Just 24 months ago, Cam Newton was on the cusp of supplanting Peyton Manning as the face of the league. With more games like last week I have to wonder if in 3 years he is even in the league. Being a pocket passer is what he needed to do to keep himself healthy, but how is it going to work when he seems to suddenly lack basic pocket-passer fundamentals?

7-Browns as favorites in a game was a trap. I cannot believe I was stupid enough to think Las Vegas was begging me to take the Colts. As it turns out, they were handing any smart bettor a gift. In other news, I am not a smart bettor. But hey, check out my picks below.

8-The worst Sunday Night game imaginable is on tap this week. Colts are in Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Not only do the Seahawks seemingly play very uninspiring and average football, they host a team that is even less uninspiring then them with zero star power. Last week NFL ratings saw a surge, possibly due to interests in protests, but don’t be surprised if this Sunday Night is NBC’s lowest-rated primetime game ever.

9-The Rams as division champs is a movement I am starting to get behind. Sean McVay was a questioned hire because of his age, but he may be the best coaching hire in the last 3 years. He is innovative and has every leadership quality you want in a coach. Best of all, he has energized – and possibly saved – Jared Goff’s career from mediocrity. This coach and quarterback combo seems to be timing up perfect with the downfall of the Seahawks and Cardinals in the NFC West.

10-The Redskins finally came up big vs a playoff team on Sunday Night. One major knock on Kirk Cousins was that he could win a division with 9 wins if it was a down year for the teams around him, but ultimately he and the team were not good enough to beat real legitimate, non NFC East playoff teams. They silenced all of those notions with a resounding effort on national television when dismantling the Oakland Raiders.

Five Games to Chew On

5- Lions @ Vikings: The Lions and heartbreak are a marriage made for each other. The difference between these Lions led by Matt Stafford, and past Lions is that I believe they have the fortitude to bounce back off of heart break. On the road, in Minnesota, versus a team rolling the dice with Case Keenum until Sam Bradford is ready is the perfect spot to continue to prove their worthiness. A loss however, will quickly have everyone turning the page and forgetting about the Lions fast 2-0 start and be looking at them as an average 3rd place team in an average division.

4-Panthers @ Patriots: The Patriots are on pace to break the 2012 Saints record for yardage allowed. It is hard to win games consistently with defensive efforts like that. For this week a turning point for them, or a turning point for Cam Newton. If the Patriots can patch it together and continue the trend of defenses playing well vs Carolina we all may back the dogs off. If Cam Newton does to New England what Deshaun Watson will then the dogs can get called off of saying he may be finished. This is the most curious quarterback vs defense matchup we have had this season thus far.

3-Steelers @ Ravens: Steelers and Ravens still feels like real football. This rivalry may have cooled a bit as the defensive names that made it so much fun have left and been replaced. However, on Christmas last year these two played for essentially the AFC North title in a thriller won on a prayer answered by Antonio Brown. The Ravens will come into this game with no bye week following a long trip and brutal loss in London. The Steelers come off an embarrassing loss to the Bears. Somebody will be on a near unacceptable two-game losing streak following this game.

2-Redskins @ Chiefs: An interesting Monday Night Football game is here as for the 2nd consecutive week the Redskins will look to come up big vs a potential playoff team and Super Bowl contender. The Washington run defense will have to shine as Kareem Hunt continues to run like Rudolph in Christmas Eve. As an aside, Washington coaches and scouts will have an eye on Alex Smith in this game. If Kirk Cousins leaves and the Chiefs turn to Mahomes this off season, Alex Smith in Washington could make some sense.

1-Raiders @ Broncos: A huge spot and a huge game awaits the Raiders following that loss Sunday Night. The loser of this game will have a two-game losing streak playing in arguably the most difficult division in football. Plays will be there for Trevor Siemian and the Broncos offense. This could be, matchup wise, the week Demaryius Thomas reminds us how good he is. For the Raiders, slowing down the Broncos pass rush, and more importantly Amari Cooper holding onto the football will be critical as they need to capitalize on touchdown drives and not settle for field goals in a tough road environment.

My Picks

Another lackluster week as I went 1-2 in Week 3 to drop my record to 4-5 on the season. For this week:

Rams +7.5 @ Cowboys: The key to scoring on the Cowboys will be slowing down NFC Defensive player of the week Demarcus Lawrence. The Rams rebuilt offensive line should be able to do that, and Jared Goff and this quick strike offense on 10 days rest should be able to make enough plays on that Cowboys secondary. Ultimately Dallas is the better team, playing at home, and should win the game. However, covering more than a touchdown is where I say no way. Short week for Dallas, long rest for the Rams, that levels the playing field for the Rams to cover.

Falcons -8 vs Bills: Atlanta continues to scoff at the idea there would be some sort of Super Bowl hangover this season. The Bills came up big in a surprise home win over the Broncos. Asking the Bills to muster up that kind of effort two weeks in a row vs a premier team is too much for me to buy into. This feels like a blow out with Matt Ryan having his feet up in the 4th quarter. A score around 34-17 Falcons sounds about right.

Giants + 3 @ Bucs: The Giants season is probably over, barring a miracle, and even that miracle would have to be something greater than even Santa Claus himself could grant. That being said the offense finally clicked in the 4th quarter in Philadelphia and they have way too much talent to be 0-4. The Bucs defense is banged up and Doug Martin is still suspended. The Giants win a wild one on the road, and obviously cover the spread in doing so.

Football Food of the Week

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos. Inspired by Mark Schlereth’s appearance on the show this week, I felt inclined to throw a Crock-Pot recipe into the action this week. Purchase a pork tenderloin (or pork shoulder) put it in a Crock-Pot with a bottle of whatever BBQ sauce you love the most. Let the pork cook on low in the pot for 12 hours. (You can do this overnight Saturday into Sunday.)

You need to purchase taco shells or tortillas, slaw (either cabbage or cole), as well as some lime and/or cilantro. Chop up the pork which should be soft and tender into little pieces enough to stuff tacos with. Top the meet with the slaw and cilantro and serve.

The pork will be juicy, flavorful, and tender. The slaw will bring the crunch and mixture of flavors your heart desires. If your team is playing like my favorite team the Giants have been, these will be perfect to stress eat. I promise these will be a hit at any football party and could not be easier to make as the Crock Pot does most of the work for you.

Thank you for reading as always. Have a great football weekend everyone. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS

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