Up The Gut: Divisional Round

Road teams went 3-1 during Wild Card weekend. Will that success continue in the Divisional Round?

The DA Show
January 11, 2019 - 10:04 am

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By Shaun Morash

Cold Open

It is impossible to fault John Harbaugh for not turning to Joe Flacco on Sunday when Lamar Jackson was struggling to move the offense in Baltimore. The Chargers deployed a rare seven defensive back defense to contain Lamar Jackson's speed while smothering up any chance at a deep throw. The book was out on Lamar Jackson, and it was on him to adjust. If the Ravens had turned to Joe Flacco there, what would it have accomplished?

The Ravens have spent seven to eight weeks implementing an entirely different style of offense than anything Joe Flacco has run. With Flacco entering the game, they would have essentially been playing street football, with no audibles fresh in any receivers' head from the offense in September and October. Not to mention Flacco's immobility would have been on full display versus a Chargers pass rush that was cooking with gas.

Lost in all of this is why the Ravens spent a first-round pick on a quarterback in Lamar Jackson in the first place. Joe Flacco isn't a good football player anymore. Sure, there will be a sucker that signs him this offseason, maybe even the Jaguars, expecting to compete for a playoff spot, but they will be just that, a sucker. The Ravens' best chance to win that game and to win going forward was to have Lamar Jackson not get bailed out and find a way to adjust himself. He did, but it was too little too late. Still, the Ravens, long-term, will be better off for not turning to Flacco in that time of crisis.

Ten Yard Gain

1-Why the hate for Kliff Kingsbury? His win-loss record in Texas Tech was abysmal, sure, but that had more to do with pure talent on the field than it did X's and O's. This team had a stale presence with Steve Wilks, and, for better or worse, at least will have a refreshing offensive approach to try and make Josh Rosen an NFL star. 

2-Color me skeptical that Bruce Arians is going to be fully invested in resurrecting the career of Jameis Winston. Just a month ago, he proclaimed on CBS Sports Radio with Zach Gelb that he would be only interested in returning to coaching if it were with the Browns. Now the Bucs – with sunny, warm, retirement weather – call Arians, and I am supposed to buy he is giving it his all to make the Bucs a champion? This feels like retirement with a twist for Arians.

3-The Packers hiring Matt LaFleur is a smart hire for one reason: it wasn't Josh McDaniels. McDaniels could not be trusted after bolting the Colts last season, and the Packers could not wait for the Patriots to be eliminated to even chance it. This may be one hire where a young head coach can actually learn from his quarterback on the do's and dont's of running a team. How many times does a coach get that unique opportunity?

4-Dak Prescott is putting egg on many Cowboys fans faces. His downfield throwing and accuracy will be a question from now until proven otherwise, but he has "it" qualities in a tight games and big moments. His 3rd-and-14 run for a first down followed his 4th-and-15 TD pass to Cole Beasley in Week 17. Dak rises in these moments, where Tony Romo came up short far too much. (Despite fourth-quarter comeback numbers Romo-truthers like to point to.)

5-Deshaun Watson should be embarrassed at how he looks publicly this week. He is a young star on the rise, but pointing for first downs while your team is getting suffocated is for fourth-string, selfish wide receivers – not team leaders. This has to be a learning moment for Watson. He isn't in college anymore. Be a team leader, not a me-first showboat. 

6-Don't tell me icing the kicker doesn't or won't work after Sunday. Cody Parkey's initial game-winning kick attempt was good on Sunday, but did not count thanks to a smart time out called by Doug Pederson. Too many viewers roll their eyes at a moment like that, but it worked on the re try as Parkey's kick was tipped. If you have a time out, icing the kicker should always be worth it to try. 

7-A good draft can change a season, as is evident in Indianapolis. Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard are all-world players on both sides of the ball. Neither were the "sexy" pick, but both are as big a reason the Colts are one of the last eight teams standing. The NFL Draft is what makes NFL parity possible. A bad season can become a surprising run if you pick the magic names in April; last year's Saints and this year's Colts are proof of that. 

8-The Jets surprised everyone by making Adam Gase their head coach over Super Bowl-winning coach Mike McCarthy, who openly campaigned to be the Jets coach. The biggest stat working against Gase? Only three coaches who have been under .500 as a head coach elsewhere went on to win Super Bowls in their second stop. 

9-Ben Roethlisberger's restructure of his deal is a real middle finger to Antonio Brown. Just a year ago, Roethlisberger discussed retiring; now, not only won't he retire, he will commit to playing even longer if it helps Antonio Brown not be a member of the Steelers. Those two must have truly hated each other for it to get to this point. 

10-After years of coaching turnover and quarterback disasters, the Browns finally became a desirable job this off season. Josh McDaniels, Bruce Arians, Mike McCarthy all wanted to coach there, yet the Browns end up promoting from within with Freddie Kitchens. The thought of Kitchens being the one to hoist a Lombardi in Cleveland is so unthinkable, but it is what Cleveland envisions and should be fun to watch.

Four Games to Chew On

4-Colts @ Chiefs: A year ago, the Chiefs lost at home to the Titans, continuing the trend of Kansas City heartbreak. This has been the year of Patrick Mahomes, and it cannot end in theory with a first-round exit. However, the Colts seem to be the team peaking at the right time and possess the power in the trenches to control the clock and control this game. Can the Chiefs defense do enough to make sure the ball stays in Patrick Mahomes' hands?

3-Cowboys @ Rams: It wasn't that long ago that Jerry Jones said these Cowboys could be "special" and compared them to the Rams. Well, here we go on Saturday Night to prove that. Coaching trends seem to follow teams wanting to hire the next Sean McVay. McVay though, has yet to win a playoff game. If you love running backs, Zeke versus Gurley presents the best running back match up we have seen in a playoff game in a long time. 

2-Chargers @ Patriots: The most amazing stat heading into this weekend is that the Chargers have not lost a game this season in which they have to take a plane to the game (losing to the Rams in L.A. on the road being that twist). However, Philip Rivers is 1-3 all time in games below 32 degrees which is exactly what the weather calls for Sunday. Will this be vintage home New England playoff football for Tom Brady?

1-Eagles @ Saints: Nick Foles magic is a thing, there is no denying it. The magic may run out this week, but let's not forget offensively the Saints were not the same over the final month of the season. A year ago this weekend was the Minneapolis Miracle. Will the Saints face more heartbreak at the hands of the champs?

My Picks

A 2-1 week ATS has me at 30-22-2 on the season. For this week:

Colts +5 @ Chiefs: Andy Reid, big spot, let down, poor clock management, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. The Chiefs have some demons to defeat, and it won't be easy with their suspect defense's only strength being getting after opposing quarterbacks. The Colts offensive line may be as good as any in the NFL, and Andrew Luck will have time to make plays. The Colts are that "get hot at the right time" team this season and won't be blown out in Arrowhead. This is too big a number to lay with Kansas City. 

Rams -7 vs Cowboys: Full disclosure, this is the game I have gone back and forth on a bunch. Vegas is begging you to take the Cowboys with this big number. Jared Goff struggled at times since losing Cooper Kupp for the season, and Todd Gurley hasn't been healthy in weeks. Gurley now is saying all systems are a go, and Sean McVay will know this playoff pressure better than he did in his first try a year ago. The magic of Dallas runs out as L.A. flexes its offensive muscle late and run away.

Chargers +4 @ Patriots: Alright I am doing it, I am picking against the Patriots at home in a playoff game. While everyone focuses on Philip Rivers and his lack of success in freezing weather in his career, I can't help but keep coming back on what has beaten the Patriots in the playoffs before: Relentless pass rush. The Chargers were built for this game, built for this moment. It is why you take a Joey Bosa that high in the draft. Gus Bradley will dial up the right calls, and Tom Brady will look every bit his age. Could the Patriots escape with a late field goal win? Maybe, so it is worth it to grab the points and not money line. But the Patriots' time of death should be somewhere around 4:15pm ET on Sunday.

Football Food of the Week

Goulash Poppers. Wait what? Yeah, that's right. Get yourself a London Broil, get yourself steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, black pepper, and crescent roll dough. Pre-cut your London broil into small cubes and throw in a Crock Pot with a bottle of steak sauce, a quarter cup of the Worcestershire sauce and sprinkle in the paprika and black pepper. Let that cook and marinade on low for eight hours. This will make the steak bites juicy and easy to eat. 

Let them cool for approximately one hour. When cooled, wrap each cube in crescent roll dough as if the London broil cubes are jelly in a Jelly Munchkin. Bake those on a pan at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Serve with toothpicks and a dipping sauce of your choice (I recommend a ranch.)

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