Up The Gut: Divisional Round

Shaun Morash apologizes to Lamar Jackson and tells you all you need to know heading into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs

The DA Show
January 14, 2021 - 8:52 am
Lamar Jackson Ravens

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By Shaun Morash

Cold Open
    
Lamar Jackson, I am sorry. I, like many other over-reactionary idiots at times in the media, bought into the hysteria that Lamar Jackson had not won a playoff game. The fact he had gotten to the playoffs in each of his first three years should have been celebrated, not questioned, heading into Wild Card Weekend. Last year against the Titans was disappointing, coming off an MVP season especially. However, our lack of patience with quarterbacks is just another example of our need and quest for hot sports takes.
    
So, I am sorry, Mr. Jackson, I am for real. His run was electrifying Sunday, his passing on the money. I did not like his running into the tunnel and not even shaking Ryan Tannehill's hand postgame. That was a lack-of-maturity moment that he needs to learn from. But his ability to win a big game can now no longer be questioned. Just as much as Lamar learned from his past playoff failures, some of us, including me, need to learn that not every big-game loss for a young quarterback should turn into a drastic leap of wondering if that player can ever win a playoff game. 
     
The Ravens’ turnaround from out of the playoffs and into the division round is a team effort, but it was led by Lamar Jackson, who currently looks even better than he did in 2019. On to Buffalo they go. 

Ten Yard Gain

1-The rumor swirling after the Week 17 debacle was that Doug Pederson was simply following marching orders from ownership and management to lose on purpose for a higher draft pick. Eight days later, he was fired. This clearly had more to do with him vs Carson Wentz, but it just goes to show anyone who defended Pederson that, as a head coach, blatantly throwing a game in front of America will only tarnish you. Before Week 17, Pederson would have been an attractive free-agent head coach. Now, unless the Jets sign him, he will likely not be a head coach in 2021. 

2-Ben Roethlisberger crying on the sidelines at the end of Sunday night's loss said it all. He dialed back whatever he had left in the second half, but his first half was a further sign he is cooked. If Big Ben chooses to come back and make the Steelers spend big cap money on him, he would be hurting the organization out of his own selfish quest to not admit his career is over. 

3-Russell Wilson is a great quarterback, a Hall of Fame quarterback, but losing to the Rams and being dominated should not have surprised as many people as it did. The Rams are now 6-3 in their last nine games against Russ and the Hawks. While the Seahawks have given Wilson a good complement of receivers, they have failed him along the offensive line. The 49ers’ 2019 defensive front is the reason Seattle was playing on the road last year, and the Rams’ defensive line is the reason the Seahawks are one-and-done this year. They have done a terrible job building a team to prevail in January within their own division. 

4-Philip Rivers likely got new life to his career with the Doug Pederson firing in a butterfly effect. The perfect fit for Carson Wentz was to rejoin Frank Reich in Indianapolis. With Pederson out, Wentz likely stays, meaning the Colts running back this team one more time led by Philip Rivers makes a lot of sense. Rivers did not throw a back-breaking Rivers interception in Buffalo on Saturday. In fact, had Rodrigo Blankenship not missed a first-half field goal, Rivers would have likely had a chance at some glory in overtime. I don't love Rivers and the Colts can do better, but what I think doesn't matter. Colts fans embraced Rivers, as did the organization, and him coming back for one more year feels inevitable. 

5-The Bills and Josh Allen have now climbed one huge mental hurdle. Winning their their playoff game since 1995 is a tremendous feat. They now belong in the NFL elite. Ironically, the team they will see Saturday night feels the same way after Lamar Jackson's first win. No matter how the rest of this month plays out for the Bills, if they are eliminated this week or next week, picking them preseason to make the Super Bowl will now not be a crazy proclamation. 

6-Chase Claypool taking to Twitch to say the Browns would get clapped next week in Kansas City was such a soft move. The Browns may get “clapped," but they just embarrassed the Steelers in their own building. It is okay to give credit to a team without being a pouting baby afterwards. 

7-The Houston Texans have high-fived the Jets, Browns, Cowboys, and others on the highway down to most dysfunctional team. JJ Watt told Deshaun Watson they wasted a year of him, and now even Andre Johnson is saying Watson should look for a way out. I have never seen a team have its greatest legends lobby against the franchise's current face to get out of there. The Texans don't have to trade him, but it sure feels like they may be publicly forced to. 

8-Taylor Heinicke looked the part of an NFL quarterback at times Saturday night. However, Washington's arrow is clearly pointed up and they should not go into the offseason believing he is their starting quarterback or they will not capitalize on the playoffs in back-to-back years. He could surely be a veteran in there with a first-round rookie, but basing an enormous decision off one game would be a mistake. 

9- The Nick broadcast will have their haters, but it was a huge success. Fathers and mothers trying to get their kids into football finally had a perfect, easier avenue to teach the game to their kids while still watching a playoff game. This is a genius marketing tool that frankly the NHL and MLB, who are 20 years behind in marketing, could have taken a page from and been the first sport to do this. 

10-The national championship game had its lowest ratings during the playoff or BCS era. There is Alabama fatigue for sure, but watching a big game, not a regular-season NFL game, on a Monday night after investing in over 24 hours of NFL playoff football on Wild Card weekend is a big ask. Those are two enormous factors. The College Football Playoff should move the game to a Thursday heading into an NFL weekend. It gives a full day to react and we are three days removed from football on our TV's.

Four Games To Chew On

4 Browns @ Chiefs: Kevin Stefanski will finally get to coach his Browns in the playoffs as they head to Arrowhead. All year the Chiefs cruised to the 1-seed, while many people believed we had not seen the best of what they are capable of. The best way to beat Patrick Mahomes is to pummel him with a pass rush, so it will be on Myles Garrett to have the day of his life Sunday to keep the magic of Cleveland alive for one more week.

3 Rams @ Packers: The Packers’ closing to the season erased some doubts in earlier stumbles. They were clearly the second-best team in football this year and now are faced with the pressure of getting Aaron Rodgers to the first NFC Championship game he would start at home. The Rams have had Jared Goff practice all week, and he better be healthy – because the dead ducks he luckily converted in Seattle won't be completed on a cold day at Lambeau.

2 Bucs @ Saints: I'm over-hyping this Brees-Brady quarterback matchup as a Part 3. Each of the first two meetings this season were rather disappointing with the Saints proving in every phase that they were the better team. The recent season-ending losses for the Saints have been heartbreaking in different ways. Losing to a division rival in what will probably be Drew Brees’ last ride could make the Rams’ non-pass interference call look like a day at Disney. 

1 Ravens @ Bills: Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen each come off their first playoff win, meaning obviously one of them will have two playoff wins by the end of the weekend. The weather appears dry right now, and for the Ravens and their rush attack, they may have actually preferred messy, snowy weather. The Ravens have another big defense, similar to the Colts, and this game could quite literally come down to the turnover difference in quarterbacks. 

My Picks

1-1-1 last week gets us to 31-21-2 on the season. For this week:

Rams +6.5 @ Packers: This is a semi-big number for the Packers to lay here, and really, I am riding the Rams because of their defense. Defense travels in the postseason, and it certainly traveled last Saturday in Seattle. Rodgers could get hit and punished pretty often in this game. Jalen Ramsey can absolutely contain Davante Adams. The Rams’ offense should be able to score enough to make this tight. If a turnover breaks the Rams’ way, they could be headed to New Orleans for Drew Brees and the Saints to get a rematch of the NFC Championship from two years ago. 

Ravens +3 @ Bills:  This has the potential to be the most thrilling game of the weekend. Now that the idea of “Lamar Jackson cannot win a playoff game” is thrown out, what is there to not like about the Ravens? Both offenses in this game should be able to make explosive plays. I am getting points in this spot with what I feel is the better defensive team, particularly up front. I do think being down 10-0 to the Titans and coming back will be something Baltimore can lean on and believe in if the Bills get off to a fast start. After playing tight against the Colts, I cannot see the Bills blowing by the Ravens in this game. 

Chiefs -10 vs Browns: This is an enormous number, and the Browns come in with confidence and swagger after whooping up on the Steelers. A big difference here is that the Steelers’ mistakes will not be made by the Chiefs. Frankly, even if half of them were, let’s not forget the Chiefs digging themselves a big hole in each of their three postseason games a year ago and responding in a big way. The Chiefs are well-rested and Patrick Mahomes essentially hasn't played in three weeks. The Browns may have a few moments in the first half, but the flex is on at Arrowhead in the second half. 

Football Food of the Week

Bacon Cheeseburger Empanadas.  Empanadas are such a forgotten, yet-easier-to-make-food-than-many-people-believe treat. The flakiness falling into your pillowy lips munch by munch. That snapping sound as your teeth tear through a juicy, crunchy crust. The feeling on your tongue as it wraps ever so delightfully on the fanned, sealed edges of this pocket of goodness.

The true beauty of an empanada is that you can put whatever you want in it. Buffalo chicken, Oreos, heck some Chilean sea bass, why not? So for this, I have a great recipe from the Food Network, but just add bacon. You know, WITH BACON! Because what is a cheeseburger without the bacon? Check out the link here.

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