Up The Gut: Wild Card Weekend

From Antonio Brown's future in Pittsburgh to a scrumptious Wild Card slate, Shaun Morash shares his thoughts on the NFL's top storylines

The DA Show
January 04, 2019 - 11:36 am

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By: Shaun Morash

Cold Open

It is time to blow it up in Pittsburgh – not just Antonio Brown, but Mike Tomlin, too. While a "trade me or else" demand wasn't necessarily proclaimed by Antonio Brown, his desire not to be a Steeler anymore should be enough after countless problems between AB and the organization to cut ties. Sure, the cap ramifications are something to ponder, but will the dead money be worth it to cleanse this locker room? It should be.

As for Mike Tomlin, he should not get a pass here. He allowed Antonio Brown to run a muck for years now, with his talent always outweighing his selfishness. So much so that last week Tomlin tried telling the public Brown was injured, scared to say he suspended him publicly, until of course the real news leaked. Sometimes a voice change in a locker room is a good thing, even if it means getting rid of a great coach. However, let's pump the brakes on Tomlin being a great coach. Until this year, the Steelers struggled to beat the Patriots annually under Tomlin, and it was Tomlin's decision to leave Ben Roethlisberger on the sidelines too long in Oakland that likely cost the Steelers a playoff spot.

The Steelers franchise looks more like the clown show the Browns franchise used to be, while the Browns suddenly look like a stable franchise the way the Steelers had always been. The quickest way to nip this trend in the bud is for the Steelers to say goodbye to their malcontent wide receiver and head coach. 

Ten Yard Gain

1-Marvin Lewis out as Bengals coach, while expected, is still surprising to see. What is more surprising though is his lack of job requests to this point. Lewis became a deserving punch line for never having any playoff success in Cincinnati. However, he presented stability to what was and still is at times a joke of a franchise. With eight job openings, he should get a second look. 

2-Todd Gurley missing his second straight game on Sunday as the Rams attempted to secure a first-round bye should not be swept under the rug. Jared Goff's play declined after he lost his safety blanket in Cooper Kupp for the season. If Gurley is not at 100 percent next weekend, this Rams season could result in another one-and-done. 

3-If Patrick Mahomes doesn't win league MVP, I never want to hear about another snub, whether it be for an award or All-Star game in any sport ever again, because nothing would be as egregious as Mahomes not getting this. It shouldn't be a popularity or lifetime achievement award to Drew Brees, who wasn't the same player in December as he was the first half of the season. 

4-Mike Mayock's hiring in Oakland is drawing laughs from every corner, but honestly, why? Yes, picking on the Raiders is an easy layup, but in this case, they may have finally gotten something right. John Lynch went from broadcaster to GM in the Bay Area and looks the part. Steve Kerr went from broadcaster to head coach in the Bay Area in another sport and is a perennial champion. Mayock can follow suit and be the perfect compliment to a crazy John Gruden. 

5- Dave Gettleman's end-of-the-year addressing to the New York media certainly made it feel like Eli Manning returning as the starting quarterback for Big Blue was far from a certainty. General Managers make mistakes all the time; the ones who refuse to admit mistakes and pivot from original plans usually get fired quickly. Those who actually admit decisions they made just a year earlier were wrong can turn franchises around. Gettleman, at least with his words, appears to be trending the right way.

6-While the notion that there aren't eight great candidates with eight head-coaching openings has truth to it, I cannot fathom how Josh McDaniels is at the top of interview lists in Cleveland and Green Bay. After the stunt he pulled on the Colts, how could you ever trust his word?

7-Justin Herbert is gambling on himself, which is dangerous in such a dangerous sport. It is no secret that this year's quarterback draft class isn't as strong as last year's or potentially next year's. Herbert could have been – depending on Dwayne Haskins' decision – a top-five pick. Electing to honor your college commitment and play with your brother for one season in Eugene is a bold decision, one I hope doesn't cost Herbert millions. 

8-Adam Gase and Ryan Tannehill may have been the worst match in terms of on-field excitement and entertainment that we have seen between a supposed franchise quarterback and head coach. It may be a long 2019 in Miami as they still try and answer the quarterback question that has plagued them since Dan Marino retired, but a fresh face on the sideline and a fresh face under center will be a feel good cleanse for a fan base that has seen no worse than 6-10 and no better than 10-6 for a decade.

9-Derrick Henry was named AFC Offensive Player of the month, and deservedly so. However, the Titans refusal to use Henry the way he was used down the stretch all season long may be ultimately what did them in. Henry is a horse of a back and should be used the way the Rams use Gurley, or the Cowboys use Zeke, albeit with less throws out of the backfield. He is more than a two-back-system power back; the faster the Titans understand that heading into 2019, the better they will be. 

10-The early favorite for the oddest decision of 2019 goes to the Tampa Bay Bucs, who seem poised to stick with Jameis Winston as their starting quarterback. Admitting you swung and missed on a first-round quarterback is a tough pill to swallow, but what has he shown for the last three years that tells us the light will finally come on? Look for more dark days ahead for the next coaching staff on the Gulf Coast.

Four Games to Chew On

4-Colts @ Texans: The Texans in the early Saturday slot on Wild Card Weekend has become as traditional as the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. However, unlike the ghosts of T.J. Yates, Matt Schaub, and Brian Hoyer, the Texans enter this game with a prominent quarterback in Deshaun Watson. In college, he was built for this moment, but a division rival and arguably the hottest quarterback in football in Andrew Luck await. This won't be a typical Texans snore fest of a playoff game. 

3-Seahawks @ Cowboys: The last time these two teams met on a Saturday Night on Wild Card weekend, Tony Romo fumbled the now-infamous snap on a field goal try that would advance the Seahawks. These are two teams that externally did not have high expectations preseason, yet both are live to make a run and challenge the Rams and Saints going forward. A fun quarterback duel between Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott may make us drool, after both have taken maybe too much flak throughout their still young careers. 

2-Chargers @ Ravens: Just two weeks ago, this was a fun prime-time game, only know it will be played on the East Coast in an early time slot for the Chargers traveling from west to east. The one thing missing from Philip Rivers resume is a Super Bowl run. His draft counterparts in Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have won road games to get to the big dance, can Rivers finally begin to do the same?

1-Eagles @ Bears: The Super Bowl champs' road won't be easy, having to win three road games to get a chance at a repeat. This game will feature the previous two Chiefs offensive coordinators as head coaches. Can the Eagles offensive line hold up versus this Bears pass rush on a January, Chicago day? Another Nick Foles playoff win may begin to cloud the future of Carson Wentz in Philadelphia.

My Picks

A strong 5-0-1 finish over my last two weeks brought my regular season record to 28-21-1 on the season. For this week:

Seahawks +1.5 @ Cowboys: This from Sportsline, Dallas is 5-12 against the spread as a home favorite of a field go or less under Jason Garrett. Translation? Garrett chokes in close games at home under pressure. Dallas isn't good enough versus this Seahawks team to wax them, so give me the better coach and the better quarterback, getting points in this one.

Chargers +3 @ Ravens:  The Ravens have become the trendy get-hot-at-the-right-time-of-the-year pick for some to make a run. Only this game presents an interesting situation: the first time Lamar Jackson and this run-first, run-last offense will play the same defense a second time. Beating a good team twice in one year is difficult, and rookie quarterbacks are 0-for-their-last-7 in the playoffs. Give me the Chargers. 

Bears -7 vs Eagles: Credit to Angelo Cataldi for the "Tony Corrente as a ref and the struggles of the Eagles on the road when he is their ref" stats. The Eagles are 2-8 in their last 10 road games that Corrente does indeed referee. This big line is begging everyone to jump on Philly. While everyone zigs, I zag. The Bears defense was built for this moment, you only hope Matt Nagy didn't go to the School of Andy Reid Clock Management. 

Football Food of the Week

Fat Freaking Hero/Hoagie/Grinder. That's right, forget the actual cooking for Wild Card Weekend. For a two-day eating bender, you want lots of meat and bread that will hold well in a fridge from Saturday to Sunday. What is better than a long part sandwich. Eat piece after piece until the final snap of Eagles and Bears. Whether you like an American style with roast beef, turkey, and ham or an Italian style with all of the salted meats that make this country great, both styles work on this kind of weekend. Slap some mayo on that bread and enjoy. 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy one of the last great weekends of football. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.