Up The Gut: Week 8

By: Shaun Morash

Cold Open

After a Week 3 win in Detroit to get the Falcons to 3-0, I declared their Super Bowl hangover nonexistent. Somehow, three weeks later, it is not only existent, but also making us question everything we thought of Matt Ryan after his MVP season in 2016.

After Sunday Night’s loss to New England, Ryan has thrown just one more touchdown pass (7) than he has interceptions (6.) The offense, the best unit in football last year, has undoubtedly become the team’s weakness. After Kyle Shannahan’s botched play-calling in the Super Bowl, many fans seemed ready to move on. Instead, in came Steve Sarkisian, and out went an impossible-to-defend passing attack. Matt Ryan is at the point in his career where he should be able to check out of play calls, to understand the tape during the week, and on Sunday’s I am just not seeing that.

In an NFC that is as wide open as we have seen it through seven weeks possibly ever, this would be a prime season for Atlanta to get back to the big game and take back everything they blew in February. However, if this is what they are, this will go down as the most disappointing season in franchise history.

Ten Yard Gain

1- The Wentz Wagon kept rolling on Monday Night, as fans in Philadelphia shout from the top of the Rocky steps that they have the best team in football. That may be the case, but they now have a huge hurdle to jump. Jason Peters, a leader in that locker room – and a stable piece to an average offensive line – is done for the year. The Eagles’ record when Lane Johnson misses games was already terrible; with Johnson in and Peters out now they better hope it doesn’t have similar consequences.

2- Martavis Bryant is coming across as the worst teammate in NFL history. To demand a trade and complain you aren’t getting the ball enough on a winning team with a Hall of Fame quarterback is so childish it actually hurts to think of. We now know all we need to know about Bryant: He isn’t a winning player, and if I am a general manager, I do not want him in my locker room.

3- Joe Mixon had a point in his post-game Sunday when he had a problem with the Bengals going away from handing him the ball in the second half. The only problem is a rookie with Mixon’s back story should not be calling out coaches who took a chance on him when most teams didn’t. Mixon can be frustrated, but publicly should keep his mouth shut forever since he is already playing on a second chance.

4- Marshawn Lynch’s excuse for why he jumped off the sideline and ended up pushing an official is so lame it is laughable. It is fine that Marcus Peters may be family to him and somebody he wants to keep out of fights with Lynch’s teammates, but Peters is also a grown adult and a professional in the NFL. He doesn’t need Marshawn to run in from the sideline like a maniac. If this was a real life and death situation, Lynch would be the ultimate hero; now he looks like the ultimate zero. Fans who continue to laugh at Lynch and support him while he continues to be an idiot should be ashamed.

5- Almost halfway through the season and the NFC South leader is the New Orleans Saints. At 4-2, you must tip the cap to Drew Brees and Sean Payton after the team seemed to be ok waving the white flag making a couple of trades. Getting Brees in another playoff game would be something we should all cherish as fans, and in this wacky a conference, who knows, maybe the Saints become the third straight NFC South team to make a Super Bowl.

6- No team plays better with a backup quarterback quite like Mike Zimmer’s Vikings. Case Keenum keeps steadying the ship while the defense keeps making plays. The Vikings have to be favorites at the moment to win the NFC North with Aaron Rodgers down and out. What a comeback story for Teddy Bridgewater that this is setting up to be.

7- It has to be nearing Brock Osweiler time in Denver. If we didn’t already know Trevor Siemian was destined to be a backup quarterback in the NFL, struggling in back-to-back weeks versus the Giants and Chargers should sign, seal, and deliver that. As Osweiler warms in the chamber, it should be another reminder of just how busted a first-round pick Paxton Lynch appears to be.

8- While the Broncos appear to have whiffed with Lynch, the Browns continue to look worse for not even taking the bat of their shoulder for a first-round quarterback the last two years. It would appear Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Mitchell Trubisky, and Deshaun Watson are all the goods and all could have their teams in the playoffs as early as this season. Cleveland either passed, or failed to trade up for any of them. Instead they find themselves playing musical chairs with Deshone Kizer.

9- I don’t know where Carson Palmer’s heart is as far as the rest of his career goes. However, I can’t help but wonder if we have seen the last of him as an NFL quarterback. His broken arm suffered in London will likely keep him out for the season and now he deals with familiar history: another season, another championship hope crushed by injury. Palmer has had a good NFL career; it really could have been great if not for constant hard luck in the trainer’s room.

10- The New York Giants’ season was over anyway, but the fact they got robbed by NFL officiating even after a review of Paul Richardson’s phantom touchdown Sunday was a joke. Richardson never came down with the ball, having possibly simultaneous possession with Landon Collins, Richardson steps out of bounds while reaching back in for the ball, and the refs call that a touchdown? Review is a wonderful thing, so why are we weekly getting major plays called wrong even after looking at them?

Five Games to Chew On

5- Raiders @ Bills: If the season ended today, one of these teams would be in the playoffs. It would be the Bills, unthinkably, who enter this monster home game 3-0 in Western New York. The Raiders revived their season with an enormous offensive performance against the Chiefs on Thursday Night. Oakland comes into this game with extra rest, which will be important, and another win will have them back in contender mode. The question this week really is about the Bills. Are they for real or just another tease?

4- Broncos @ Chiefs: Trevor Siemian’s career as a starter is on life support, and the Chiefs defense is looking for a major rebound on National TV on Monday Night. The AFC West has tightened for a moment and a Chiefs win would declare that they are still the team to beat. A Broncos win Monday and we can no longer think we understand who the best team in this division is.

3- Steelers @ Lions: The Lions hosting a game on Sunday Night football doesn’t happen too often, but here is a pretty interesting game for the NBC crew. The Lions looked poised to take a major leap forward after two weeks but now seem average at best. The Steelers have rattled off two huge wins despite locker-room distractions. Pittsburgh is due for another clunker and the Lions are due for a big win, but those two don’t always add up. Matthew Stafford versus Ben Roethlisberger indoors could end up being one of the best quarterback matchups we see all year by the time we shut our eyes Sunday night.

2- Texans @ Seahawks: The Texans enter this week reenergized after the bye week, something that could not have come at a better time for Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars and Titans won, making the AFC South an interesting race as the second half of the season nears. The Seahawks defense is a challenge for any quarterback, especially a rookie. If Watson can go into that building and beat that defense, he would plant his flag as a top-tier AFC quarterback.

1- Cowboys @ Redskins: The Redskins need a win in the NFC East after allowing the Eagles to complete the season sweep on them on Monday Night. Ezekiel Elliot once again looked like his 2016 self with a historic game vs the 49ers. Washington’s offensive line is beat up, making DeMarcus Lawrence lick his chops. Both teams need a win in the mediocre NFC to keep pace for a Wild Card, as it appears the Eagles are flying away with the division title.

My Picks

I was 0-2-1 last week picking the opposite of what I wanted to pick. Life works in mysterious ways, I suppose. That brings my record to 7-13-1 on the season. For this week:

Eagles -13 vs 49ers: I am done pretending the Eagles aren’t awesome, they are. The injuries though to Jason Peters and, to a lesser extent, Jordan Hicks will undoubtedly hurt this team, but it won’t this week. The 49ers are awful, and after last week versus Dallas, I am no longer convinced they are trying. Carson Wentz will dazzle and put another win in the Eagles pocket comfortable. This Game has 31-10 written all over it.

Cowboys -2.5 @ Washington: The Redskins offensive line is hurting, and they come back home in the midst of a daunting back-to-back on short rest in the division. The Cowboys will never be more confident at any point this season than they are this week. I expect a thrilling NFC East game, tight into the fourth quarter, but ultimately Zeke wears down the defense in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys win and cover.

Lions +3 vs Steelers: This Sunday Night Football game probably interests me more than the average fan, but I don’t think we have heard the last of the Lions as a contender in this wacky NFC in 2017. They are coming off of a bye week and facing a Steelers team winning despite locker-room turmoil. I can see the Lions defense hitting Big Ben early and often in this game and Matthew Stafford leading another Lions late drive to win a game at home. The buzz Monday morning will be whether or not the Lions are actually the best team in the NFC.

Football Food of the Week

General Tso’s Chicken Quesadillas. At first glance of this food choice, you have to be saying “WTF Mraz!” right? Hold your horses, I am on to something here.

Very simply, buy chicken breast, cut them into small chunks, toss them in flour, and brown in oil on a frying pan. As the chicken nears completion, mix in General Tso’s sauce of any brand. (You can find this at your local grocer.)

You will also need a couple burrito-sized tortillas. Slightly butter each tortilla and sprinkle a taco cheese on that butter. When the chicken in sauce is done, spread the pieces evenly on the cheese. Fold the tortilla shells over so that the chicken and cheese is enclosed. You can then either bake these, grill them, or hot press them until the tortilla is lightly brown and crispy.

You can cut the tortillas into whatever sized pieces you like depending on how many people you serve. Easy bite will have fantastic Chinese food flair with a taste of Mexican rolled into one. You want Multi-Cultural? Well, show me a more Multi-Cultural and delicious treat than this one.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your football weekend. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS

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