Up The Gut Week 15: Don't Bet Against Niners In Playoffs

In leading the 49ers to victory in New Orleans, Jimmy Garoppolo shredded his game-manager reputation, Shaun Morash says

The DA Show
December 12, 2019 - 1:18 pm

By Shaun Morash

Cold Open
Jimmy Garoppolo has arrived, silencing all "game manager" narratives and showing he can win in even the most hostile of environments as the 49ers put up 48 points against the Saints in New Orleans. That used to be a building where you were down 21-0 before you stepped off the plane; now San Francisco knows no matter what happens these last three weeks with the Seahawks that they can go into any stadium against any defense and play any style to win. 
Garoppolo was a forgotten man entering this season following his ACL tear that derailed a 49ers season in 2018 that began with so much hope and so many expectations. Their defense was built old-school, and their run game was deep, but the passing game led by Jimmy G was supposed to be suspect. The only thing suspect now is who the Niners will play and what teams will do to try and beat them. If you figure out one phase of what they do well, they find a way to beat you with another. They now come off back-to-back weeks on the road versus maybe the two other best teams in football – and if not for Justin Tucker's incredible leg in a monsoon, the Niners would be 2-0 in those games. If Sunday was Garoppolo's coming out party once and for all, it would be foolish to bet against the Niners in any playoff game this year.

Ten Yard Gain

1- Another week, another below average effort from Tom Brady and the Patriots. We have scars. Who didn't think at the two-minute warning that the Patriots would find a way to get in the end zone? They didn't, and once again fell to an AFC division leader. Their defense can still get the job done in January, but bad weather and a 42-year-old quarterback whose arm looks more like overcooked pasta than Hall of Fame at this stage in his career is a bad recipe for success. 

2-Pat Shurmur never ceases to amaze in his inability to be a head coach. With all three timeouts and the Eagles facing a 4th-and-1 in their own territory with 40 seconds left, Shurmur chose not to take a timeout right away and get the ball back with 38 seconds and two timeouts only needing a field goal. Instead the game went to overtime, they lost the coin toss and he never saw the ball. There is not being aggressive, and there is being downright unknowledgeable of game situations; Shurmur is both. 

3-The Bills do deserve credit, just as the 49ers did a week earlier, for the way they played even in a loss to the Ravens. I am curious how the playoffs will shake out if and when the Ravens face defenses for the second time this season. The Bills now have seen Lamar in cold temperatures and had the right plan. Much like a batter seeing a pitcher a second time in the lineup, Lamar could end up coming up short versus one of these stout defenses come January. 

4-The Ryan Tannehill resurgence continues to not be a joke. He is now one of two players in NFL history to have a rating over 130 and completion percentage over 75 in three straights games. The other was Aaron Rodgers in his 2011 MVP season. The Titans used to be an ugly offense that would hover around 8-8 as a team, now they are an exciting brand. What does that say about Joe Philbin and Adam Gase?

5-Is there a cooler way to honor the NFL's 100th season than getting a rematch of one of the greatest endings ever, the Music City Miracle, on the 20th anniversary? Yes, should the Titans take care of the Texans the final three weeks, they will likely get the 4-seed in the AFC playoffs. The 5th seed, at the moment, belongs to the Bills. How great a scene would it be seeing these two franchises on the 20th anniversary open up Wild Card Saturday?

6-Maybe John Elway finally lucked into getting a franchise quarterback in Drew Lock. Lock has looked every bit the part of a bonafide starter in this league the last two weeks. Forgotten about due to injury, and frankly not being ready to start right away, Lock was on the back-burner while Elway was deservedly crushed for his decision to sign Flacco. If Flacco were merely a place holder like Kurt Warner for the Giants in 2004 for Eli Manning, he could end up saving Elway's job. Still too early to tell on Lock, but you have to like what you see.

7-Kirk Cousins is running out of time to turn into his usual December pumpkin. Perhaps it is the schedule that has significantly lightened. Since the Vikings came back after being down 20 points to the Broncos, Cousins has very quietly kept the Vikings humming when anyone who has ever watched his career was expecting the swoon to kick in. Now they go on the road to face the Chargers where anything goes. There are three weeks left, and a one-game lead on the Rams is in place. Maybe we keep waiting for something that isn't going to happen – and what a welcomed sight that would be for Vikings fans. 

8-The Packers still seem "off" as we head into Week 15 despite their record. They were in a 17-13 fight with the Giants two weeks ago before the Giants do what they do, then they came home and while beating the Redskins they never seemed to look in sync. Those performances won't be easy to overcome when they play the gauntlet of NFC Playoff opponents next month. 

9-Why would Lincoln Riley and Urban Meyer, two men used to total control in college, want to come work for Jerry Jones? Those two names have been floated out there as potential Jason Garrett replacements. Both of those men are used to total control on their campuses with being the main man everyone kisses up to. As long as Jerry Jones is calling the shots and meddling in everyday football operations, that will never be the case in Dallas. So I ask again, why would either want to do that? 

10-The Jets carried their kicker, Sam Ficken, off the field on Sunday following his game-winning kick against the Dolphins. Yes, the Jets earning their fifth win to keep the dream of finishing a perfectly average 8-8 alive carried their kicker off the field for making a kick to beat the lousy Dolphins. Is this the low bar Adam Gase sets for a franchise?

Five Games to Chew On

5 Vikings @ Chargers: The artists formally known as the San Diego Chargers season is over, but they have a major spoiler opportunity to play as the Vikings come out west sitting just a game up on the Rams for the final Wild Card spot. We are all waiting for a Kirk Cousins collapse, but what if it doesn't happen?

4 Bears @ Packers: A rematch of the game that started it all on this 2019 NFL journey. The Bears have won a couple of games to stay alive and will need to win out to find a way to sneak in. For the Packers, they continue to not pull away in games they should. Will Aaron Rodgers be able to make more plays than he did in Week 1? 

3 Bills @ Steelers: The Buffalo Bills have been flexed to a Sunday Night game in December. The only shame here is that this game is not in Buffalo. For the Bills, the playoffs are a virtual lock with a win in this game. The Steelers still hanging in as the 6th seed with Duck Hodges can't afford a loss with the Titans versus Texans loser right in their face. 

2 Rams @ Cowboys:  The Cowboys’ collapse has been fun, but the NFC East is still right there for them as the Eagles look like pig slop. The red-hot Rams look like they have found their way, but it may be too little too late should the Vikings not falter. Can Jerry Jones allow Jason Garrett to survive another embarrassing home loss? 

1 Texans @ Titans:  This game has colossal implications as they will play twice in the final three weeks. The Texans have been terribly inconsistent, yet have risen to the occasion versus good teams. The Titans now classify as a good team. Can Ryan Tannehill expose a defense that has been in flux without JJ Watt? This could be an all time choke job of a division lead by Bill O'Brien should Houston fall here. 

My Picks

I had a terrible 0-2-1 week that drops me to 22-19-1 on the season. For this week:

Raiders -6.5 vs Jaguars: The sad end for the Raiders in Oakland is here this weekend. Their struggles over the past three weeks killed momentum to what had been looking like an unlikely playoff appearance. In limp the Jaguars who look as if they have given up on caring about playing hard football. The Raiders know what this game means to the fans and have the perfect opponent to go out of the Bay Area with a bang. I gladly lay the points here. 

Bills +2 @ Steelers: Duck, Duck, Goose egg. That what can happen when this Bills defense face Devlin Hodges on Sunday Night. The Steelers are at home, but as the Bills proved on Thanksgiving they can come up on national TV on the road in a big way. I expect Devlin Hodges to once again look like a third-string quarterback. Josh Allen does enough against a good defense and the Bills win an ugly, close game.

Dolphins +3.5 @ Giants: The Giants are losers of nine straight games and they are favored? This defines the phrase "Get Serious!" Will Eli start? Maybe. Will Jones start? Maybe. Are the Giants, in theory, more talented than the Dolphins? Probably. One problem: the Dolphins are better coached and playing cleaner football. They play in the same stadium in back-to-back weeks, which is odd on the road, but they find a way to continue to crush the Giants soul. 

Football Food of the Week

Chicken Bacon Ranch Empanadas:  Much like we have done with various Wonton recipes, you will first need to pick up Empanada Shells and let them thaw for two hours. Take thin chicken breast and cook it in your favorite fashion, also take bacon and cook it to your texture. Chop the chicken and bacon finely and then mix in a bowl with a cup of ranch and one cup of shredded cheese. Take that mixture and evenly distribute it on each empanada shell, folding the shell over and pressing the edges down with a kitchen fork. Fry in oil on a pan each side for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. You get a perfect pocket of chicken, bacon, creamy ranch, gooey cheese, with a crispy shell. Oh mama, what a Sunday you will have. 

Thanks for reading as always. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.