Up The Gut Week 3: Injuries could derail 2020 season

The NFL can survive injuries to running backs and pass-rushers, Shaun Morash says, but if quarterbacks keep going down, the league is in big trouble

The DA Show
September 24, 2020 - 8:26 am
Jimmy Garoppolo 49ers

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By Shaun Morash

Cold Open
The NFL's biggest issue in 2020 is no longer COVID-19; it is having enough star players on the field in the second half of the season. I am sure this may be living in the moment, but I cannot remember a more devastating week of injuries in my life in the NFL. Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Drew Lock, Saquon Barkley, Raheem Mostert, Jimmy Garoppolo, Courtland Sutton, Malik Hooker, Christian McCaffrey and more players are all either lost for the season or for the immediate future.
The 49ers were quick to blame the MetLife Stadium turf, but the rest of the league not playing in New Jersey on Sunday may beg to differ on the cause. The lack of the body being prepared to take on hits in training camp, the lack of preseason, all must be major factors. It was the first Week 1 in NFL history where every starting quarterback made it through without an injury or benching, and outside of Denver, San Francisco, and with the Chargers it better stay that way. The league can survive pass rushers and running backs being lost, but if the quarterback position begins to get devastated we could be in big trouble in terms of a fun and safe season.
While all the COVID-19 testing was put in for player safety, player safety may have been hurt with no preseason. Remember Week 2 of the 2020 season in the next argument you have with someone who tells you those games and the practices leading into them are unnecessary. 

Ten Yard Gain

1-Drew Brees is now atop the leaderboard for old quarterbacks fading out of supremacy after Monday night. Michael Thomas being out of action would hurt any quarterback – that is without question – but the offense looked like it was missing much more. The threat of dialing it back and hitting a streaking receiver on the run seems gone. This is a station-to-station offense now due to Brees’ deteriorating ability. Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara are where the big plays come. Brees is masquerading as an elite quarterback on name only, and it is worth monitoring as the Saints try and finally chase the Lombardi again this season.

2-Kirk Cousins is who we thought he was all along. A win in the postseason last year did nothing to change who Kirk is, a meddling quarterback who was way overpaid. Now the Vikings are stuck in Andy-Dalton-with-the-Bengals-territory from many years ago. It is no-man’s land. They likely won't be bad enough to get a franchise-changing quarterback, but they will never be good enough to truly compete for a title.

3-Adam Gase does not trust Sam Darnold to make an audible. It is Year 3 of a No. 3 overall pick under center; Darnold knows the playbook, and he knows the scheme (if Adam Gase even has a scheme). If he doesn't have the authority to audible, that says more about the head coach. Does Adam Gase not see he is leading a ship into an iceberg? 

4-Ryan Tannehill may not be a fluke. The Jaguars gave the Titans everything they could handle and more on Sunday. The Titans defense faltered, the running game sputtered at moments, and it was Tannehill who saved the day. His trajectory shows how quick we can be to dismiss quarterbacks and not understand that development is a real thing for some of these guys. The Titans may have lucked into a franchise quarterback. 

5-The Chargers defense got disrespected in postgame conversations this week. Justin Herbert starting on no notice and keeping the Chargers in the game, of course, is a storyline. But the only reason they really were in the game was because of their defense finding a way to keep Patrick Mahomes under 30 points. If the Chiefs dropped 30 or more, is Herbert versus Taylor even a storyline this week? 

6-The Texans are uncompetitive versus elite competition. Bill O'Brien's power trip has led them to bad losses versus the Chiefs and Ravens, while DeShaun Watson now looks like he doesn't belong on the same field as Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. Trading DeAndre Hopkins was an unforgivable disaster, as the Texans now stare 0-3 in the face. 

7-Dan Quinn returning as head coach of the Falcons in 2020 never made any sense. It makes even less sense now. Matt Ryan is playing good football, but the second half of his prime has been derailed, similar to the way Eli Manning's was with an older Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, and eventually Pat Shurmur. Now Quinn will almost certainly be out after this season, and next year a new head coach will likely bring a reset year, again wasting time for Matt Ryan. 

8-Joe Burrow sure does look the part of a franchise quarterback. With every Browns strike last Thursday night, it would have been easy for Burrow to drown in comeback-mode pressure, but he swam like Michael Phelps instead. He was so cool under the primetime pressure he even casually rode a stationary bike to Troy Aikman's surprise. I understand a lot of this column is overreacting, but the Bengals and their fans have to feel really pumped up about the idea that they may have finally gotten this position right. 

9- I cannot believe Cam Newton looks this good already. I wanted to be bold and stand proudly in how confident I was that the Patriots would be a bad football team. Their roster, on paper, was bottom five in the league. There is a long way to go for Cam to stay healthy, but he looks like an MVP candidate and Bill Belichick is laughing under a bird-beak mask. 

10- Getting Odell Beckham Jr. involved in the Browns offense early isn't just about feeding his enormous ego; it is about making the Browns’ offense tick. Baker Mayfield fed 13 on Thursday Night early and often. This loosened up the defense and let their two-headed monster of a run game get rolling. The Browns can compete for a Wild Card spot by simply getting Odell the ball. It is an offense-changer. 

Five Games To Chew On

5-Raiders @ Patriots:  The Raiders are in a tough spot off a short week traveling to New England. However, they impressed many on Monday Night and at 2-0 feel like a real playoff team finally. The Patriots at 1-1 have Cam Newton rolling. This game oddly feels like a measuring stick for both: a Patriots win and it is officially "here we go again" time, a Raiders win and Jon Gruden has brought this organization back to legitimacy for the time being. 

4-Cowboys @ Seahawks: The Cowboys are fortunate to have avoided an 0-2 start. Any other team besides the Falcons last Sunday – and a Cowboys start to that game – would not have led to a comeback. Now they see how they stack up versus arguably the best team in the NFC in Seattle. Mike McCarthy's sudden over-aggressiveness could haunt Dallas as Russell Wilson will make them pay for short fields and turnovers on downs. 

3-Rams @ Bills: A Rams and Bills game in Buffalo as one of the games of the week feels so odd, yet here we are. Buffalo danced with disaster in Miami last week, but Josh Allen put his team on his back and looks like a true franchise-changing quarterback. Sean McVay has the Rams back to their 2018 versions at 2-0. McVay's offense vs Sean McDermott's defense, though, is where the intrigue with this game lies. 

2-Packers @ Saints: As we highlighted earlier, Drew Brees looks shot. At home, though – with or without fans – the Saints are a different team. The Packers won't be going away anytime soon, and there is a chance this game in Week 3 may determine where an NFC Championship game could be played. This is an enormous spot for the Saints, who need to navigate this season to home-field advantage if they want a realistic shot at getting Brees another ring on the way out the door. 

1-Chiefs @ Ravens:  A gift to ESPN and ABC for Monday Night Football. For years they have gotten fine games, but not great games. They luckily had the Rams/Chiefs instant classic two years ago, but they haven't had an early season matchup of this magnitude in what feels like forever. These are clearly the two best teams in the AFC and may even be the two best teams in football. Can Lamar Jackson outplay Patrick Mahomes with the whole world watching? His brand could explode by Tuesday morning if he does.

My Picks

A big 3-0 week ATS has us flying at 5-1 for the season. For this week:

Cardinals -5.5 vs Lions:  I am not on the Kyler Murray for MVP hype train like so many are riding right now, but the kid is damn good. There is a light bulb that has gone on for him, and the switch to turn it on just may be DeAndre Hopkins. In come the Detroit Lions who didn't belong on the same field as the Packers, a week after collapsing versus the Bears. Matt Patricia will need more than a pencil in his ear to figure out how to slow the Cards offense. A touchdown win covers you here. I expect that and then some. 

Bucs -6 @ Broncos: It is going to take a lot more than a win versus the Panthers to sell me on the Bucs. However, this game in this stadium is where Tom Brady's leadership comes in. He's dealt with the thin air, he's dealt with the long flight, and he has won. Now throw in Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, and of course Von Miller nowhere near the field for these Broncos and asking the Bucs on talent alone to win by at least a touchdown should be an easy task.

Chiefs +3 @ Ravens: The Monday Night game everyone is rubbing their hands together waiting for. The main reason I am picking this game has nothing to do with the Ravens. I think they are awesome and only getting better. They are home, with no fans screaming, and the Chiefs led by Patrick freaking Mahomes are underdogs? The Super Bowl champs, led by the best player on the planet, are getting a field goal? Excuse me? Yeah, give me the Chiefs with a side of pulled pork.

Football Food of the Week

Sausage and Pepper Empanadas. Cool your jets, folks, I am back with a food of my own. Yes, I will still take suggestions throughout the season. If they are good, I will for sure use them so keep them coming. But here I give you a variation of a yearly staple in this column: The ever-versatile empanada.

Purchase empanada shells from your grocer, and let them thaw a bit before using. Get either ground sausage or sausage links (if cooking the links, you will need to chop the meat very small), and grab some peppers and onions.

Chop the peppers and onions very small, and cook in a pan with the sausage. Let the juices come together so that your kitchen smells like your favorite Italian Street festival. Once finished, let cool for 5-10 minutes. Scoop the mixture of meat, peppers, and onion onto the empanada shells, evenly distributing. Fold the shell over in half and use a fork to fan and seal the edges. Then fry each empanada for three minutes on each side in some hot oil on a pan. Serve them hot.

You could throw some cheese into the mixture if you want a gooey effect. I prefer mine cheese-less. You get that flaky, crunchy texture of the empanada shell with the impactful taste of a sausage and peppers hero with every bite. How does that sound on a Sunday?

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