Up The Gut Week 15: Legacies on the line for Brees, Rivers, Big Ben

The end is near for Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, Shaun Morash says, and a Super Bowl ring would significantly alter each QB's legacy

The DA Show
December 17, 2020 - 10:30 am

By Shaun Morash

Cold Open
Legacies are on the line as the weather has become frigid throughout most of the country and the playoffs are within sight. For three quarterbacks, time is of the essence to hoist a Lombardi Trophy. Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion – the Hall of Fame is a lock– but a third ring makes him an immortal. He is now on the record of saying if he cannot help his team win, it might be time to think about hanging it up after two straight bad Steelers losses. The offense has become dink-and-dunk; could this be Big Ben's last great shot at a third ring?
Philip Rivers, meanwhile, has found the perfect team. A ferocious defense, solid run game, and great coaching staff have put him in a position to succeed. The only reason the Hall of Fame is even a debate for Rivers is because of never making a Super Bowl. His toughness is unquestioned, but never beating Tom Brady, Roethlisberger, or a great Ravens team to be the king of the AFC has to be held against him. Now it is Patrick Mahomes' conference; can Rivers rise to an elite level down the stretch and etch his name in history?
Last but not least, the Drew Brees watch is here. Missing the last month due to injury could be a positive for Brees and an opportunity for his aging arm to get fresh. The Saints have waited long enough for him to return; their loss to the Eagles was the trigger. Getting a bye over the Packers would be enormous in shortening the road for New Orleans. Brees is sometimes overlooked because of the success of his peers. His one ring can never be taken away, but a second ring puts him in Peyton Manning territory.
There is a real changing of the guard at the league's most important position, but for these three household names, the next eight weeks could mean everything in terms of their legacy and how we think about them forever. 

Ten Yard Gain

1-The third year is always critical in terms of where a quarterback's career can go, and Josh Allen is not disappointing. He is playing like an MVP-type quarterback. We came into the year thinking of the Bills as a defense-first team where you hope Allen can make enough plays without screwing the game up. The Bills are now going as Allen goes and credit to Buffalo for building an offense around him that has put him in position to succeed. 

2-Speaking of Allen's offense, as great as Stefon Diggs has been, there was no reason to speak this week about why he left the Vikings. In doing so, he could have politely said anything but what he did say. What did he say, you ask? That he wasn't happy with the Vikings’ run-first offense. Yes, a Minnesota team that was finally winning, Cousins won a playoff game last year and Dalvin Cook is all-world at the running back position. Yet that wasn't good enough for Diggs? He has helped the Bills, but this sounds like a guy who will never make winning his first priority if anyone else is getting the shine.

3-Sean McVay had to feel good last Thursday night avenging his Super Bowl loss to Bill Belichick by embarrassing the hoodie's weaker 2020 Patriots on national TV. It is still curious how little McVay seems to trust Jared Goff this year, but the Rams still have the look and feel of the most complete team in the NFC. 

4-The Jets are three losses away from joining the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns as 0-16 teams. It is a remarkable feat to be this bad. But consider this: the Jets, at the moment, have three losses that have been one-score games; the 2008 Lions had four. If the Jets get rocked in these last three games, we may have actually witnessed the worst team in NFL history this year. How 2020 is that? 

5-Joe Judge and the new Giants staff had seemingly done everything right until last Sunday against Arizona. Daniel Jones, coming off his hamstring injury, was nowhere near ready to play in that game. He never trusted his leg to throw and had no ability to run any RPOs, which is where so much of his success has come. He had a rookie LT turn back into a turnstile, which further complicated things. Jones is lucky he did not get more seriously hurt, but it was a bad look for Judge and company to have allowed Jones to start this game. 

6-Ron Rivera now has his turn for a week sitting atop the NFC East. Imagine going to a new place and within months having an announced name change, a blockbuster article exposing the franchise’s mistreatment of females, and also being diagnosed with cancer. Rivera dealt with – and is still dealing with – all of that. Now throw in playing three different quarterbacks. How, at 6-7, he isn't a lock for Coach of the Year is incredible. Just take a sip of whiskey and think of what Rivera has had to deal with and where he has the Washington Football Team.

7-The Bucs were very lucky that Dan Bailey had arguably the worst kicking game in NFL history. Four missed kicks were the difference between the Bucs winning like they did or having a brutal home loss off of a BYE to an injury-depleted Vikings team. Keep drinking the Tom Brady Kool-Aid; the Bucs would be fortunate to beat an NFC East winner in this year's playoffs. 

8-I am going to wait another week or two before I declare the Ravens and Lamar Jackson "back." Their offense was humming on Monday night, but it was still the run-heavy, dare-you-to-stop-it look we have seen the rest of the league adjust to EXCEPT the Cleveland Browns. There is no coincidence the Ravens’ best two offensive games have come against Cleveland. The Browns defense looked a lot like what Lamar Jackson was running down the tunnel to do in the second half of this game.

9-The Green Bay Packers won yet again, and if this were college football, a committee would be asking major questions about just how great they are. Every time they would go up two scores inside a dome against a bad Lions team, they allowed the Lions, seemingly, to come right back down the field and make the game interesting again. The Packers are not a team that can pull away from an opponent and maybe it is a positive they know how to win close games. However, my trust level versus an elite team with everything on the line is very much wavering.

10-The Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores, and of course Tua could have rolled over against the Chiefs as they went on a 30-point run, but instead they fought back and made this game very dicey for Kansas City late. I have no idea – nobody does – on how great Tua will be or if he will be healthy year in and year out, but if he is, last week could be just the beginning of a potential fun Dolphins-Chiefs AFC playoff rivalry over the next 8-10 years. 

Five Games to Chew On

5-Eagles @ Cardinals: Jalen Hurts injected life into the Eagles and their offense against New Orleans last Sunday. Now comes a test with his beat-up offensive line against a Cardinals defensive front that just set sack records against the Giants. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals have to feel as if they are getting some of their swagger back, but can Jalen Hurts have the last laugh and get the Eagles back in the playoff hunt in this battle of the birds?

4-Panthers @ Packers: A Saturday Night in Lambeau is a fun setting in December. The Panthers’ plucky play has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks. The early season playoff contenders have really lost their luster, but this is a setting and spot for them on national TV to rise up and play like it is their season's Super Bowl. The Packers have played down to opponents and need to win to keep the heat for the top seed in the NFC Playoffs.

3-Browns @ Giants: Over the last four seasons, no teams had a worse cumulative record than these two. Yet both franchises have begun to turn a corner, with the Browns obviously further ahead than the Giants in that department. This game was originally supposed to be Odell Beckham Jr.'s return to the Big Apple. Instead, it is a Sunday Night game with both teams fighting for a playoff spot. Can the Giants defense do to Baker what they did to Russell Wilson two weeks ago? They will have to with their offense more anemic than ever. 

2-Seahawks @ Washington: Washington has won three games in a row and has the look of the best team in the NFC East. This will be a tougher task, and the Seahawks will not take Washington lightly after admitting to taking the Giants lightly. Can Washington continue to run the ball and win time of possession as they did two weeks ago against the Steelers?

1-Chiefs @ Saints: This may be the best matchup of the year ahead of time. Maybe it doesn't live up to the hype or feel as fun as Monday's Ravens-Browns game did, but it has all the makings. The Chiefs have been beatable, even if they are 12-1. The Saints need this game to try and close down a 1-seed in the NFC. If New Orleans wins, it will go a long way toward how we feel about both of these teams as the playoffs approach. Another Chiefs win, and I don't know how anyone with two eyes doesn't believe the Chiefs should end up being the Super Bowl champions when the dust settles in early February.

My Picks

Another 3-0 week, 6-0 the last two weeks, 24-18 on the season. For this week: 

Bills -5.5 @ Broncos:  This is a moderate number to lay here, especially on the road. However, the life jacket has to come off the Bills and, as bettors, we have to respect them as an elite team. Just when we doubt them, they keep coming through. Underdogs against the Niners? Disrespect. Favorites against the Steelers? No problem. A Saturday game against a bad Broncos team should not be asking much for this hot team to win by a touchdown. 

Panthers +8.5 @ Packers: The second game of the Saturday double-header takes us to Lambeau: 27 degrees under cloudy skies, so no snow for this game. However, in my bad weeks picking games, it has been the trust in the Packers laying a big number that has haunted me. I will not make this mistake here. They will have moments in this game with two-score leads, but the Panthers treating this game like their Super Bowl and Green Bay taking their foot off the gas will result in a closer game than this should be on paper. I am grabbing the points with the Packers. 

Dolphins -2.5 vs Patriots: A long layoff for the Patriots after their season effectively ended at the Rams last Thursday night. Now they head to Miami, where the Dolphins no longer have room for moral victories. To close the season, Miami has the Patriots, Raiders, and Bills. Not an easy schedule by any means when trying to lock up a playoff spot. Remember, in Week 17 last year, the Patriots' season was ruined by these Dolphins, and Brian Flores knows better than anyone that Bill Belichick will not forget that. Talent wins out, though, and getting this spread under three is important. Miami wins by at least a field goal, so I will lay the points here. On Sunday morning, if the Money Line number is worth it, I may abandon the spread and take Miami straight up.

Football Food of the Week

Perfect Queso Dip: As I type this, snow is pounding the Northeast, it is cold, and I am longing for warmth and tingling taste buds in my mouth. Save your dip jokes; Queso will do the trick. A melted consistency of Pepper Jack, American cheese, or even Velveeta will do. Combined with diced tomatoes, garlic, green chilis, cilantro and more. The gooey ease to this ever so spicy cheese will have the hair on the back of your neck stand up with every crunch of the chip. The best recipe I use comes to us from Delish, which you can find here.

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