Cold Open Undefeated no more are the Pittsburgh Steelers, dealt their first loss of the season by an NFC East team because, of course they were. The Steelers felt under-appreciated all year. Many, including myself, thought they would lose to the Chiefs in the AFC Playoffs, even if they went 16-0. Now, many will tell you this loss by the Steelers is a good thing. No more pressure of going unbeaten and the focus can be on simply getting through the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl. Maybe that is true, but having to do so on the road in Kansas City should the Chiefs finish 15-1 feels like added pressure to me. The real problem with the Steelers isn't even a potential road AFC Championship Game; it isn't even the glory of 16-0 being gone. It is the health of their defense and their quarterback. Bud Dupree's injury was going to be massive, and we knew that. However, as the weather turns frigid in most areas, Ben Roethlisberger is starting to look as cold as it feels. The big beard, the burly jacket, and now that arm speed looking just a tick slower in each of the Steelers' last two games against Washington and Baltimore.
Roethlisberger has deserved all of the credit of being Comeback Player of the Year, an MVP candidate, and the new quarterback to defy Father Time. Maybe he can still defy it. Maybe these last two weeks were a blip. But it is on the table that every question we had about Roethlisberger's recovery from elbow surgery and his age just catch up with him in cold weather. That kind of problem won't fix itself in the freezing temps in Pittsburgh or Kansas City in the next eight weeks.
Ten Yard Gain
1-The New York Giants had their biggest win since beating the Cowboys 10-7 in December 2016 on Sunday Night Football. That is a long time for a proud franchise. The McAdoo and Shurmur eras were short in real time but long in the minds of many in New York. Going on the road to Seattle, with a backup quarterback, and having a defense suffocate Russell Wilson into one field goal drive and one late touchdown is as good a coached game as you will see in the NFL all season. Bravo to Joe Judge and the staff he has put together. It appears the Giants finally got this ship righted.
2- The Hail Murray may be the last great image the Cardinals get out of this season. Another loss to the Rams went down on Sunday, keeping Sean McVay undefeated vs the birds. Kyler Murray still looks hurt and the Cardinals, who appeared destined for 11 wins, sit at 6-6 with an 8-8 record a very real probability. Perhaps the kudos to Kliff Kingsbury this year were premature.
3-The Browns have a legitimate win over a legitimate contender. Their defense may have looked suspect allowing the Titans a massive second half comeback to keep the game close, but offensively the real story is Baker Mayfield. The Browns have been able to run the ball all year, but we had doubts Baker Mayfield could sling it in a shootout and he finally did just did that. The irony of this game is Baker Mayfield feeling like he is last year's Ryan Tannehill. Arriving just in time to be taken seriously.
4-Deshaun Watson sounded dejected postgame after he fumbled away the Texans’ potential comeback win against the Colts. He is tired of losing and understandably so. He, however, is dealing with the first season of his career where the Texans aren't true contenders. This has happened to Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and other star quarterbacks. Watson needs to own the fact that the Texans moving forward will go how he goes, and pouting about the hard times postgame won't help him prevail. Own the bad times and turn them into the great times that are sure to come for him and his talent moving forward.
6-With Josh Allen you should never expect pretty football on a consistent basis. That is perfect for Buffalo. Allen keeps maturing and keeps getting better. He is a top-ten quarterback in my mind even if every metric and stat doesn't show it. The Bills are fun and blue collar. The real shame is they will host a playoff game for the first time in forever and there will be no fans.
7-Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy invent a new way to pad the "We should be fired" resume every week. Blowing a 10-point lead to the lousy Lions with three minutes to play is classic Bears over the last two months. This team went from beating the Bucs to seeming like they are years away when factoring in their lack of quarterback, offensive talent, and needing to get a head coach hire right, which is always a crap shoot.
8-The Carson Wentz disaster continues to unfold in Philadelphia. Dumping Wentz after this season would financially be devastating to the Eagles’ organization. That only is compounded by what happens the rest of the season with Jalen Hurts. If Hurts plays well, the Eagles would have the largest cap hit for a backup quarterback that we have ever seen. If Hurts does not play well, then Wentz deserves a chance at a reset. But, should that reset come with a new offensive-minded head coach and Pederson fired?
9-Justin Herbert is spiraling into a bad situation with the Chargers. He had his worst game as a pro, and it was masked because the Chargers’ special teams were even worse against the Patriots. The next four weeks are critical for him to build some momentum for himself personally and feel confident heading into next season. That is probably why Anthony Lynn still has a job but is the exact reason Lynn should not still have the job. Lynn is well-respected and by all accounts a great guy, but what he has done with young players is anything but develop them.
10- It makes no sense to rush Drew Brees back this week or even next week. Sean Payton said on Sirius XM this week that the next franchise quarterback for that franchise is in the building. If that is the case, it is probably Taysom Hill, who has progressed through each of the last three games. Things have not been perfect, but wins are wins and the Saints are both saving Drew Brees aging arm from unnecessary throws before the playoffs while installing confidence in Hill so that this team can still compete in 2021. Ride it out another week or two.
Five Games to Chew On
A 3-0 week, we are back! 21-18 is the record for the season. (These games were picked with spreads as of Wednesday afternoon) For this week:
Football Food of the Week
For the taco dip, get a small round foil tray. Layer the bottom with softened cream cheese, then a can of chili on top of that layer, followed by a bag of shredded Mexican blended cheese. Bake the pigs in a blanket and dip each for 10-15 minutes and serve together. Forget ketchup or mustard, dipping the pigs in this dip creates a mini chili dog party in your mouth all day long.
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