Up The Gut: Week 5

Earl Thomas is a cautionary tale, Shaun Morash says, and players who can afford to sit out should do so

The DA Show
October 03, 2018 - 10:18 am

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By: Shaun Morash

Cold Open

Long Live the Patriots. A Dolphins win over New England, in New England, would have set fire to the NFL and potentially signaled a changing of the guard in the AFC East, if not the AFC. However, just like a turkey on Thanksgiving, Santa on Christmas, and my shirt off at a block party, the Patriots silenced the doubters with a resounding blowout win over Miami.

Suddenly at 2-2, with Julian Edelman returning and Josh Gordon getting rave reviews inside the Patriots locker room, the death of this team in 2018 was premature – and though they still trail Miami in the standings, another division title seems inevitable. Maybe it is Patrick Mahomes, maybe it is the Steelers by surprise on fresh legs of Le'Veon Bell, or maybe it is the Jaguars who already beat the Pats this season, but somebody will need to slay goliath in January in this conference to make the whispers of contention between Brady and Belichick become louder until the wicked witch is officially dead and parity can once again live in this great league. 

Ten Yard Gain

1- Earl Thomas is a cautionary tale in more ways than one following his fractured leg Sunday, First and foremost, if you are heading into a contract year, and you can financially afford to hold out, do so. Pull a Le'Veon Bell and don't think twice. Thomas played nice guy, and after that injury, it will likely cost him money. Secondly, no matter how fractured a relationship may be between a player and team, giving a middle finger to your sidelines – at guys who have nothing to do with your contract status – is a regrettable moment. Earl Thomas is 0-for-2 when it comes to mistakes. Both should be lessons to young players in this league.

2- Bravo to Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel for living by the Herm Edwards mantra, "You play to win the game." In what ended up being an overtime loss thanks to a decision to go for it on fourth down rather than ensure a tie, Reich, as a young head coach, won over his players. That goes a lot further than a tie versus the Texans would have. As far as Vrabel goes, going for it on 4th-and-4 when already in field goal range for a tie paid dividends, and the Titans knocked off the Super Bowl champs because of it. The league needs more decisions like Reich and Vrabel's and less satisfaction with a tie. 

3- Thirty-seven straight games without scoring 30 points for the New York Football Giants. With the Browns' offensive outburst in Oakland, that now stands as the longest such streak of dismal offense in football. The latest – an 18-point game versus a Saints team that can't stop a nose bleed – may be the most troubling of all 37. Pat Shurmur made Case Keenum a stud in this same offense a year ago, yet here is Eli Manning still playing like an old 38-year-old. The decision to "win now" with Eli looks more and more like a mistake with each passing week.

4- Can we move the Chargers back to San Diego already? Playing "home" games in Los Angeles in an MLS stadium where now what appears to be 90% of the fans rooting for the opposition isn't fair to any player on that team and will surely drive away free agents more than attract them. One team is more than enough in LA, and when the time comes for Philip Rivers to hang them up, the Chargers with this lack of a fan base will become a bigger laughing stock than the Cleveland Browns.

5- Rookie quarterbacks were 0-4 on Sunday. Many fans will laugh at the Jets, Browns, Cardinals, and Bills, but rest assured at least two, if not three, of these teams will be better off for the better part of 10 years after making the wise choice in selecting a quarterback from this group. Wins immediately were never what was assumed with these guys. Look at the Bears and Chiefs as to what can happen in Year 2 when investing in the league's most important position in round one of the draft. Laugh now at them if you will, but laugh at yourself real soon when egg is on your face. 

6- I hate to say I told you so to Tampa Bay Buc fans, but I told you so. Starting Ryan Fitzpatrick after FitzMagic was exposed versus Pittsburgh was a mistake in Week 4. Now the Bucs turn to Jameis Winston and have just 12 weeks to figure out if he will, in fact, be their long-term answer. So much for the Conor McGregor look-alike press conferences; the joke's on the Buccaneer fans who bought those cheap beards off of two lucky weeks of football.

7- Back-to-back weeks for the Steelers failing to score a point in the second half, and two games this year where the Steelers are outscored a combined 35-0 in the first quarter at home. Le'Veon Bell will reportedly return in Week 8 after the bye, and by then it may be too late for Pittsburgh. The Ravens and Bengals look like twice the team Pittsburgh does. For all the flak Eli Manning gets for understandably being on the downside of his career, it is time Ben Roethlisberger takes the same. This 2004 draft class is ready to be taken out to pasture, and in not too long the Steelers season may be ready to do the same.

8- The Vikings defense is not dominant; heck, it isn't even good. Thirty-eight, 27, and 29 points surrendered to opponents the last three weeks, and this after a defensive-heavy team seemingly collapsed on that side of the ball in back-to-back playoff games versus the Saints and Eagles in January. If this team is counting on Kirk Cousins carrying them into the playoffs and not playing dominant defense, they better think again.

9- The Falcons' season may be over before Halloween. Their defensive injuries have been well-documented, and they cannot stop a nose bleed right now. The loss to the Bengals has them at 1-3 and in last place in the dangerous NFC South. There is always a good team that gets ravaged by injuries that sink a season. Thus far, barring a big run in October, that team appears to reside in Atlanta. 

10- Aaron Rodgers is on a mission, but there may not be enough horses in the stable for him to accomplish it. Rodgers was unhappy vocally with the Packers offense, despite a shutout win over the Bills. Mike McCarthy is now refuting that there is friction between he and the star quarterback. Hot take alert: Anything short of a trip to the NFC Championship Game probably ends in Mike McCarthy being out as Packers head coach, with Rodgers being the one truly making that call to the organization.

Five Games to Chew On

5) Redskins @ Saints: Fresh off of a bye week, the surprising 2-1 Redskins go to a house of horrors for many opponents, particularly in primetime, in New Orleans. The Saints offense struggled to convert drives into touchdowns early versus the Giants a week ago and still don't quite feel like themselves. Remember the 2011 NFL season's divisional playoffs? Perhaps the most fun game was Alex Smith with the 49ers going back and forth before ultimately out-dueling Drew Brees for a win. It would not surprise me if we saw the same sort of game on Monday Night.

4) Dolphins @ Bengals: Two 3-1 teams with big-time playoff dreams meet in Cincinnati. The Dolphins are starting to get real banged up, especially on the defensive front, and that could hurt them exploiting the Bengals' weakness, which is their offensive line. While both teams remain dreaming of division titles, and rightfully so, the winner of this game may need this to break a tie in the Wild Card hunt should it come to it for these hopefuls at season's end. 

3) Falcons @ Steelers: I hate to call this a playoff game in the first weekend of October, between two teams in opposing conferences, but it certainly feels like it. For Atlanta, a loss drops them to 1-4, and belief may exit that locker room quicker than the Thrashers left Atlanta. For the Steelers, falling to 1-3-1 seems unheard of for a Mike Tomlin team, but it could essentially end their division title hopes as well. This game still features two explosive offenses with a March Madness-like win-or-go-home feel. 

2) Jaguars @ Chiefs: Dare I say AFC Championship Game preview? Hard to picture the Patriots not being there, so I will pump the breaks, but the league's best offense meets the league's best defense in a battle of two of the three best teams the AFC has to offer. Defense travels, and the Jaguars pose the biggest threat to derailing Patrick Mahomes into reality. However, the real key to this game may be the not talked about enough: very suspect Chiefs defense. Blake Bortles will have opportunities to make plays in this game, and we could witness a sneaky good quarterback duel in this one. 

1) Vikings @ Eagles: An NFC Championship Game rematch highlights the late window of games on Sunday Afternoon. The Eagles seem to be in a slight Super Bowl hangover, and are fortunate to be at 2-2. The Vikings look more and more like the team that laid an egg in Philadelphia in January and less like the team that got them there. This is a huge opportunity to "get right" for both of these preseason Super Bowl hopefuls. 

My Picks

A 3-0 week has us rolling to 7-5 on the season. For this week:

Giants + 7 @ Panthers: Pat Shurmur has said all week the team needs to get the run game with stud Saquon Barkley going more, so by that metric alone, I expect the Giants to control the clock enough to keep this game close. The Giants have done well in stopping the run on the other side, and that should play into their hands versus Christian McCaffrey. Giants General Manager David Gettleman essentially built this Panthers team and know their weaknesses. The Panthers are the better team but could be rusty off of a way-too-early-season bye. A touchdown is way too much to lay in this spot. Expect this game to quietly end up being one of the closest of the weekend. 

Titans -3.5 @ Bills: The 3-1 Titans have no problem winning ugly – and because of that, nobody takes them seriously. However, the 3-1 Titans seem poised to show last year's playoff season was no fluke. What was a fluke though was the Bills enormous upset in Minnesota two weeks ago. The Bills can't hang with really good teams, even if they are playing ugly, as was evident last week vs Green Bay. Even if the Titans win this game 16-10, they still cover. Give me Tennessee on the road. 

Ravens -3 @ Browns: ​The Browns' feel-good story this year may lead some in sports books everywhere to flood money on them back home for the first time since Baker ended the drought versus the Jets two weeks ago. The Ravens, however, are rolling, in particular on defense where they continue to force turnovers and Joe Flacco continues to make enough plays to silence those longing for Lamar Jackson. The Ravens flex their muscle and pull away from Cleveland in the fourth quarter, making Baker Mayfield look like a rookie in the process. 

Football Food of the Week

Loaded Mashed Potato Empanadas. We bring the show to the land of potatoes this week: Boise, Idaho. Starch is everywhere, including on my mind. There is no greater starch than mashed potatoes in the world. So why not flare them up a bit? For this delicious recipe make your favorite mashed potatoes – anyway you normally would – but also buy bacon and or bacon buts, shredded cheese, and empanada shells. 

After cooking the mashed potatoes, let them cool. After cooling to room temperature, take an ice cream scoop and place on an empanada shell and slightly spread to take up half a shell. Sprinkle chopped bacon, and then cheese, on top of the potatoes before folding the shell over and enclosing it by forking the edges. (If that is confusing, simply Google "making any empanada," but replace the inside-stuffed ingredients with mashed potatoes, cheese, and bacon for a visual.) Fry each side of the empanada for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown in a frying pan These will come out crispy, with that delicious mashed potato texture with bacon and gooey cheese oozing with every bite. Perfect for a good old fashioned couch potato Sunday, pun intended, with friends and family. 

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