Up The Gut: Conference Championships

Shaun Morash gives his pick for both games – and shares his candid thoughts on Philip Rivers and Jerry Jones, among other topics

The DA Show
January 17, 2019 - 1:22 pm

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By Shaun Morash

Cold Open

American sports reporters and football fans alike have had a strange love for Philip Rivers for a long time. Rivers has been a respectable quarterback in terms of stats for the entirety of his career, yet lacks the big game success that has changed the lives and historical importance of draft mates Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. While Eli has finally hit a true wall at the end of his career, and Ben Roethlisberger deals with chaos on Pittsburgh, the trendy "hot take" this season as the Chargers kept winning this season was that Rivers was better all-time than his draft counterparts.

That take was foolish in season and even more laughable today. Philip Rivers’ performance on Sunday was embarrassing. Sure, the offensive line takes blame in this, but Rivers has lacked killer instinct when he gets behind too much in a big game. Save me the expense of telling me where Rivers ranks all time in fourth-quarter comebacks; those stats versus the Bengals count just the same as they do versus the Patriots. If he gets behind by two touchdowns in a big game versus a big team, he folds. The proof is in the pudding. He would rather cry to officials throughout a game than rally his offense to save a season. He is the anti-Eli and Big Ben. 

Next year, when August hits and Super Bowl picks are thrown against the wall hoping to stick, remember this is who Philip Rivers is and it isn't going to change. Don't ever foolishly challenge the Hall of Fame credentials of an Eli Manning or even a Ben Roethlisberger while trying to raise Philip Rivers’ stock. Rivers is a distant third, despite what Pro Football Focus may tell you.

Five-Yard Gain

1-The Eagles are in about as fascinating a franchise crossroads as I can remember at the quarterback position in this league. They have made it clear Carson Wentz is their guy, and it is easy to imagine why. However, back issues following an ACL tear have to make you wonder if his whole career will be plagued by injuries. Nick Foles could have five pretty good years left at quarterback and is the goods in big games and rallying this Eagles team. This locker room could look significantly different in a bad way without Foles in 2019, and there is now more pressure than ever on Carson Wentz.

2-Sean Payton is the ultimate risk-taker, but if the Saints finish this season hoisting a Lombardi, they will owe their two Super Bowls to Payton's ability to have guts. The onsides kick to start the second half of their first Super Bowl will live on forever, but his fake punt down 14-0 versus the Eagles on Sunday should not be forgotten. Had they failed, that game could have been 21-0 and season over for the Saints. However, they converted and changed the momentum Sunday, earning New Orleans another week – and another chance to get Brees to a second Super Bowl. We often remember the big plays that win the game in the Super Bowl and forget the ones that got the team there to begin with; that fake punt was one of those moments.

3-In the end, Jerry Jones was wrong about the Cowboys being as good as the Rams in 2019, and those who think Jerry has let the foot of the gas of control were also wrong the moment Jason Garrett had to tell everyone Scott Linehan would be back calling the offense in 2019. His play-calling was atrocious, the game-plan just as bad. No getting Zeke involved in the passing game? No running with Dak? Abandoning your strengths while being predictable versus an innovative team like the Rams? Saturday night reminded us why the Jason Garrett Cowboys are the ultimate tease, and it isn't because of Garrett; it is because of his puppeteer, Jerry Jones.

4-Andy Reid deserves a ton of credit, as seems to be the case with all four head coaches that won this past weekend. The Chiefs defense was much maligned all season and was again without Eric Berry versus Indianapolis. In cold weather, battling an offensive line the Colts had leaned on all season long, the Chiefs defense feasted, never allowing Andrew Luck to find his rhythm. No team was more prepared for their opponent Sunday than the Chiefs were. Yes, that includes New England, which is still waiting for the Chargers to get off the bus. Reid has caught a lot of flack for playoff failures, and perhaps another is staring at him Sunday. But to end 25 years of home misery at Arrowhead for that fan base with that game-plan is something he deserves credit for.

5-Eight straight AFC Championship games for the New England Patriots in a salary-cap era is jaw-dropping. Unless you live in the New England area, you are tired of this. Who wouldn't be? The Patriots are hate-able, no doubt about it. But, eight straight versions of the NFL's Final Four is something we may never – and hopefully will never – see again (for the sake of parity) in our lives. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the greatest to ever do it at their positions. Don’t even debate it anymore.

My Picks

A sad 1-2 week last week dropped my record to 31-24-2 on the season. For this week:

Rams +3.5 @ Saints: The Eagles proved the demons and fear of playing in the Superdome should not be there. New Orleans escaped due to a rare drop by Alshon Jefferey. If not for that, we would be asking what happened to the Saints offense since Thanksgiving night? In comes a Rams team that suddenly has a two-headed monster at running back, and running the ball effectively will be the best way to keep that crowd at bay. The Rams go up early as the Eagles did, only they have enough weapons to keep scoring. I love the Rams to win outright, but 3.5 is a nice hook if you get burned by a Saints walk-off field goal. 

Chiefs -3 vs Patriots:  The last time we saw a quarterback 38 years or older in sub-zero temperatures with the wind chill in a championship game was Brett Favre's last game as a Packer versus the New York Giants. In that game Favre's old bones were clearly bothered by the cold, going 19-of-35 for 236 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ninety of those yards came on a catch-and-run by Donald Driver. Tom Brady's training methods can keep him healthy, but let me see an older body not be affected by true cold the way it will be in Kansas City on Sunday. If he gets hit – and hit early – by the Chiefs’ pass rush, he will be rattled. The Pats are 0-2 in the playoffs away from home since 2006; that trend continues here and we end up with a Super Bowl featuring the two teams that played in the game of the year earlier this season. 

Football Food of The Week

Sausage, Pepper, Potato Hero on Garlic Bread. Look, you have all of February to lose weight, go to the mall, do family things on a Sunday. You have just two NFL Sundays left to get fat, so let's get fat. 

Dice potatoes and roast them in the oven for an hour with a seasoning of your choice. Cut peppers, an onion, and a cook on medium over a coating of olive oil in a pan on your stove. Throw the potatoes out of the oven and into that mix. Cook sausage links on a grill or in the oven until done. Cut them into pieces and add to the peppers, potatoes, and onion mix on the pan. Then, and probably most importantly, take a loaf of Italian bread and butter it up while putting either fresh garlic or garlic powder on it. Toast in the oven for 3-5 minutes.

Load that garlic bread after it comes out of the oven with your mixture on the stove top, cut up into finger-sized sandwiches, and serve. 

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