Up The Gut: Week 2

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers averted disaster in Week 1, which will alter the 2018 season – and not just in Green Bay

The DA Show
September 14, 2018 - 9:29 am

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By: Shaun Morash

Cold Open

Has there ever been a bigger swing of a low to a high in emotion in any sport in any season opener for any fan base in the last 25 years than what Packers fans were feeling Sunday night? Aaron Rodgers on a cart, a facial expression that told the worst, all making Packers fans say, "Here we go again." Two hours later, they were all smiles having just witnessed the signature moment of Rodgers' career – behind only his Super Bowl victory.
    
As with any quarterback, but seemingly in particular with Rodgers in recent memory, the war of attrition is everything. If Rodgers is ready to go and this injury scare is it, the Packers will be the team to beat in the entire NFC. If Rodgers' knee lingers all season, the Vikings can go back to being paper champs of the Great North.
    
​One thing is certain: You will not be able to tell the story of the 2018 NFL season in time without Rodgers' second half for the ages, and you will never be able to tell the story of Rodgers' career without this game either. The NFL is a special league, with special moments. This season has already featured one thanks to Mr. Rodgers in his neighborhood.

Ten Yard Gain

1- Matt Patricia wasn't fit to be a head coach. There was a reason the Patriots moved mountains to keep Josh McDaniels as the coach in waiting and not the artist formally known as a rocket scientist. The fact Jets players admitted to knowing what offensive plays the Lions would be running under Jim Bob Cooter speaks to how little Matt Patricia grasped putting his finger print on all phases of the game and the fact he is no longer a defensive coordinator. There is such a thing to overreacting to Week 1 in the NFL, and being down on Patricia in Detroit isn't one of those times.

2- The Buffalo Bills may be ready to throw any of the flukey goodwill they built up in 2017 out the window. Josh Allen is now the starter, in Week 2, just six months after every expert and scout seemed to believe Allen was the one quarterback in this class who needed to sit a year.  So why would the Bills trade AJ McCarron, even with injury? Ruining a young quarterback is the kiss of death to a franchise; the Bills leaving themselves with just Nathan Peterman to groom Allen was more like a lethal injection.

3- How can the Giants allow Ereck Flowers to remain a starting tackle in 2018? Flowers' first two plays of the season, now at right tackle, featured an egregious tripping penalty, and a disastrous sack. The Giants went "all-in" on an aging Eli Manning but are still allowing him no time to throw the football. That is the kind of backwards thinking that gets a new regime fired two seasons in. Be very careful Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman, the Flowers ship is not one to go down on in New York.

4- The Tampa Bay Bucs beating the Saints on Opening Day is what separates the NFL from every other sport. Knockout pools galore were lit on fire, and unlike the sports featuring 82 or 162 games a season, a season-opening loss by a Super Bowl contender versus a team nobody was picking drops jaws. The Saints have been slow starters for five seasons now, including last year's 0-2, so I won't hit the panic button in New Orleans just yet.

5- If you were fooled by the Chargers once again in the Philip Rivers era, shame on you. Joey Bosa now seems destined for Injured Reserve with the designation to return, and the Chargers' aging quarterback had four receivers drop potential touchdown passes on him in Week 1. 0-1, and a home loss to a division rival already on the board for a team that can't sell out an MLS stadium. This franchise defines and is the model of inconsistency. 

6- It is hard to buy the Steelers after this week – and yes, it is only one week. But blowing a 14-point lead to the lowly Browns and having your starting receiver threatening writers on social media while a head coach sits back and ignores it gives this Steelers team a feel of one that just isn't right to start the season. Le'Veon Bell returning to a locker room pointing fingers at Bell may not necessarily help things.

7-The weather delay in Miami seems botched worse than a Trey Junkin snap in a Wild Card game. A game that was over seven hours long thanks to two lengthy delays. Baseball rain delays to start games are often handled properly, and I would hope that inside football stadiums the same easy to access technology exists. There was no reason this storm should have surprised anybody in Miami. It could have very easily been postponed to a later afternoon start rather than the stop and go nonsense the fans were subject to. 

8-"Khalil Mack didn't want to be here." Those are Jon Gruden's words not mine. Gruden apparently believes this is high school football where he can cut whomever he feels if they don't put in the time. No, Jon, Mack did want to be a Raider, and be paid like the best player on the franchise, which he was. 0-1 and ticking for the new Gruden era. 

9- Andrew Luck throwing 53 passes in his first game back is mind-numbing. One on hand, if he is ready to go, he should be ready to go full bore; on the other, this is a quarterback whose next 10 years, hopefully, are more important than opening day versus the Bengals. How Luck looks and how often he slings it in Week 2 is an underrated story line.

10-Injuries a plenty in Carolina. Greg Olsen being listed as month-to-month doesn't sound promising. Luke Kuechly leaving Sunday's game, even though he is now "ok," was also troubling. Every season there is a playoff caliber team that gets derailed due to injury. I already can't help but wonder if the Panthers fall into that category in 2018.

Five Games To Chew On

5) Panthers @ Falcons: Speaking of the banged up Panthers, at 1-0 they have a huge opportunity despite those injuries, to build a two-game lead on what could be their biggest contender within the division in Atlanta. The Falcons' play-calling, especially in the red zone, needs to show it is different than last year or Week 1 to have players even in their own locker room believing. This is a fascinating NFC South showdown in the early Sunday window.

4) Giants @ Cowboys: What had seemingly become the annual Opening Sunday Night game gets shifted to Week 2 on Sunday Night this season? This one has the feeling of a season killer to the loser. The Giants began 0-5 last year; an 0-2 start will have many in that locker room saying, "Here we go again." The Cowboys look lackluster, unimaginative, and downright awful on offense. If they sputter again versus a division rival, maybe Jason Garrett's permanent residence begins to get hot. 

3) Chiefs @ Steelers: The Patrick Mahomes show could be a special one in BBQ land. That is, of course, until Andy Reid ruins it as he does annually in January. The Steelers' home opener comes with things feeling, for lack of a better term, "off" for Pittsburgh. This will be a big test for the Steelers defense in slowing down Tyreek Hill, who can seemingly easily go big play for big play with Antonio Brown. Very few in the league can do that.

2) Vikings @ Packers: Will Aaron Rodgers play? Will Aaron Rodgers not play? That question will determine just how fun a game this will be. I suspect #12 suits up versus the team that essentially ended his season due to injury last year. Kirk Cousins gets thrown right into the storm of his new found division rivalry. If Rodgers plays, you can bank on the fact he won't be turning the ball over all day the way Jimmy Garoppolo did to the Vikings defense last week. 

1) Patriots @ Jaguars: A rematch of the AFC Championship game, this time in Jacksonville, highlights Week 1. The Jaguars still seemed hesitant to turn Blake Bortles looks versus the Giants in Week 1, much like they failed to do during the stretch run of the AFC Championship game. You cannot play Tom Brady and the Patriots scared, or you will lose. Leonard Fournette, whether he plays or not, won't be 100% healthy, meaning for the Jaguars to get their revenge, Bortles will have to make plays.

My Picks

2-1 gets us on the winning side of Week 1, and truthfully, I have no regrets when the one loss was because of an incompetent head coach being unprepared for a rookie quarterback in his debut in your building. Yeah, thanks Matt Patricia. As for this week:

Eagles -3 vs Bucs: The Ryan Fitzpatrick hype train has been built and derailed before. Playing inside a dome in a pinball match with the Saints is one thing, avoiding the Eagles pass rush in The Linc is another? The Eagles offense still concerns me, and I don't believe they put up 30+ here, but the Bucs should be held to 17 or less in this game. Philadelphia cruises to 2-0 with extra days off.

Rams -12.5 vs Cardinals: ​Big spreads in divisional games usually scare me off. The Rams' offense wasn't as sharp in Week 1 as we saw all of last season. However, that was due in my opinion to that unit not playing a lick in the pre-season. The kinks should be worked out and this Cardinals defense no longer scares anyone. If Adrian Peterson can gash it at his age, what will Todd Gurley do? 

Giants +3 @ Cowboys: This line is clearly the traditional "home team gets 3 points." While the Giants' offense sputtered versus the Jaguars due to inconsistencies along their offensive line, the truth is the offense took more shots down the field and looked light years better than it did under Ben McAdoo. There is no Jalen Ramsey in the Cowboys secondary, and now the Giants feature a back who can break a game open in Saquon Barkley and match whatever Zeke brings to the table. Last year's Giants started 0-5; that team feels a lot like this year's Cowboys. The Giants win outright.


Football Food of the Week

Buffalo Chicken Empanadas. Much like Santa Claus every Christmas, this item appears annually on Up The Gut. So easy to make, and even easier to enjoy. Purchase empanada shells, usually in a freezer section at your local grocer. You also need Ground chicken, a bottle of buffalo wing sauce, blue cheese dressing, and shredded taco cheese. Brown the chicken and stir in sauce. Take two spoon fulls of the cooked buffalo chicken and put them in raw shell, top with shredded cheese, fold over the shell, and use a fork to press down edge of shell to close. Repeat this step for each empanada dough shell you have. Fry in oil each side for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with blue cheese as dipping sauce. You get crunchy, spicy, and handheld enjoyment all in one.

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