OPINION: 'Up the Gut' with Shaun Morash: NFL Week 12

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott
Photo credit Adam Bettcher / Stringer / Getty Images

Cold Open

Jerry Jones is hearing bells and talking Super Bowl again following the most impressive regular season win for the Cowboys in quite some time. Make no mistake: this is usually 'Fade the Cowboys' time, as everyone hypes up their title hopes, only to see the team crush hearts. But, this victory in Minnesota was so obviously different. The Vikings were coming off an emotional win in Buffalo, and from the opening snap, Dallas never allowed them in the game.

For the rest of this season, the excuses are gone for the Cowboys. The NFC is as wide open as it's been during the Dak Prescott era. If the Cowboys can flex like that, on the road, and run the ball with their two-headed monster of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, then there's no excuse to lose to this Vikings team, or the 49ers again, or even the rival Eagles, which suddenly look flimsy.

Pound for pound, Dallas has the best roster in the NFC. Their 40-3 beatdown of the Vikings was further proof. If Jones wants to talk about their Super Bowl hopes, while no other owner is, there's no excuse for them not to fulfill those championship goals. Be careful what you preach, Jerry.

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Ten-Yard Gain

No. 1: Brian Daboll has been the toast of the town in New York all season, and deservedly so. But on Sunday afternoon against the Lions, he made a mistake that could cost the Giants multiple games. The roster's thin for top-end talent, their top cornerback is Adoree' Jackson, and he hurt his knee returning punts in such an unnecessary decision. How could Daboll be so negligent?

No. 2: The Jets' locker room could burst at the seams as their defense stays dominant and Zach Wilson offers nothing on offense. New York didn't have to take Wilson with the second-overall pick in 2021. Justin Fields could've been the guy, or they could've punted and stayed with Sam Darnold one more year. But, they chose Wilson. And as a result, this regime has to stick with him and allow growing pains to occur, while the defense keeps playoff hopes alive.

No. 3: The Bengals are lurking, after two straight wins without Ja'Marr Chase. They're back up to 6-4, while the Ravens don't look like a runaway train in the AFC North race. Last winter, they proved what they can do when Joe Burrow is hot, so the Bengals remain one of the Chiefs' biggest threats in the AFC.

No. 4: In primetime against the Chargers at SoFi Stadium, Patrick Mahomes sent yet another reminder that it's the league against the Chiefs, in terms of who you should trust to win each and every weekend. Kansas City is simply on another level.

No. 5: Sean McVay says it's not yet time to shut down Matt Stafford, but in reality, it should be. The Rams have seven losses -- with their latest to Andy 'Freaking' Dalton and the lowly Saints. This has to be the worst defense of a reigning Super Bowl champion in league history. They lost some pieces, for sure, and now Cooper Kupp is hurt. But the Rams had their quarterback and most of their stars back. Somehow, they've been an unmitigated disaster.

Patrick Mahomes
Photo credit Kevork Djansezian / Stringer / Getty Images

No. 6: Difficult to judge how good a team becomes after beating the Texans, but it's clear the Commanders are flat-out different with Taylor Heinicke under center. He plays with energy. He knows he should be utilizing Terry McLaurin. And Ron Rivera feels like a coach in total control, when he doesn't sound like he's coddling Carson Wentz in postgame press conferences.

No. 7: As lousy as the Rams have been, they somehow may not be a bigger disappointment than Russell Wilson and these Broncos. "Let's Ride" has now turned into "Let's Suck," and at home on Sunday, Denver couldn't even beat the Raiders. Yes, the Raiders -- the team Jeff Saturday beat after walking into the Colts' building just six days earlier.

No. 8: The Eagles will happily take that close victory in Indianapolis, but let's not pretend they don't suddenly look very flawed. They would lose that game to 25 other teams. Mistakes and turnovers have returned to that offense, and Jalen Hurts looks anything but elite in back-to-back weeks.

No. 9: The Packers' season is officially over. Their win over Dallas was merely a blip. They failed to out-bully the Titans at Lambeau with a ton of starters out. Cold weather football in Green Bay, during big games, always seems to end in Packers losses. Aaron Rodgers' return for 2023 now becomes the question.

No. 10: It's time for some Thanksgiving thoughts. If you hate turkey because you find it too dry, it simply means your cook sucks. Sorry if that offends your mom or grandma, but they don't know how to properly baby the bird. It needs to constantly have broth poured over top, with bacon strips melting fat onto it for the entire cooking process. So if you're not doing that, don't make blanket statements that turkey sucks or that it's dry.

Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett
Photo credit Justin Edmonds / Stringer / Getty Images

Five Games to Chew On

Chargers at Cardinals: The Chargers' home loss to the Chiefs buried them once and for all in the AFC West. And now, in a tight wild-card race, they can't afford to screw around in Arizona. The Cardinals are as flawed as any team we viewed as a playoff contender. But these two squads mirror each other more than most would acknowledge.

Falcons at Commanders: The Falcons are going to really regret losing to the Panthers two Thursdays ago. Their home win over the Bears keeps them in the mix in a terrible NFC South. But, of course, the Bucs could be ready to take off. A road victory against the Commanders -- the flavor of the month -- may be just enough to buy back the goodwill the team has lost.

Bengals at Titans: This is a much bigger game for Cincy than Tennessee, considering the divisional races. But make no mistake: the Titans could use this game to right some wrongs, as they lost to the Bengals in the divisional round last season. The Bengals would get to 7-4 with a win, and it'd be a win against an apparent conference contender. This is the best game on Sunday. Unfortunately, it's buried amongst the early start times.

Patriots at Vikings: Kirk Cousins in primetime on Thanksgiving, coming off the worst loss of the Vikings' season, presents a true fork in the road. Will Bill Belichick further confuse Cousins into that "Can't win in primetime" narrative? Or, will Cousins exorcise those nighttime demons and beat the best coach of this generation in a get-right game?

Giants at Cowboys: When the league schedule first came out, this felt like an enormous mistake by the NFL. Instead, it's the juiciest game of Turkey Day weekend, in the juiciest Thanksgiving timeslot. The Giants' injuries, on a short week, do take away from this game. But the winner of this rivalry game can all but pop the champagne on a playoff berth.

Daniel Jones
Photo credit Jamie Squire / Staff / Getty Images

My Picks
A 2-1 week keeps the winning ways going, and we move to 18-15 overall. Now for Week 12, note that these are very early lines, due to the holiday weekend.

Falcons (+3) at Commanders: Don't know this for sure, but my gut feeling is, come Sunday, the Commanders are going to be a very public play. They've become the lovechild of NFL fans this November. The Falcons can run the ball well and get big plays from Cordarrelle Patterson. This'll be a close game, one way or another, as both teams really do muck things up in the trenches. Give me the points with Atlanta, and a hunch that Washington is the next team due for a letdown in this up and down league.

Bucs (-3) at Browns: The Browns are now awaiting the return of Deshaun Watson. But, in their attempt to tread water and stay in the playoff mix, they keep losing -- like they did against Buffalo on Sunday. Now they host Tampa, which is coming off two straight wins and a restful bye week. This is foot-on-the-gas time for the Buccaneers, and I'm buying that they'll stay hot and win the NFC South. So, asking them to lay three isn't much for Tom Brady against these Browns, and I'll do just that.

Seahawks (-3.5) vs. Raiders: The Raiders still stink. But the Broncos just may stink worse, and that's all last Sunday showed. Seattle finally laid an egg in Germany, but they've had a week to regroup and refresh. There's no doubt who the better team is this season, and it's never easy for an opposing team to communicate on offense in Seattle -- especially a unit that's struggled as much as the Raiders have. Las Vegas hasn't proven they can string together back-to-back good weeks all season, and they won't do so this weekend.

Football Food of the Week

Stuffing Waffle Sandwich. If you've read and listened to "Up the Gut" over the years, this is becoming a staple during Thanksgiving weekend. There's no reason to get nuts coming up with a new concoction while the leftovers sit in the fridge. Use them. Manipulate them. Manifest the leftovers into something glorious, such as this.

Spray your waffle iron with non-stick spray -- this is important. Take leftover stuffing and put it in the middle of the waffle maker and push down the top. The stuffing essentially becomes a hot-pressed waffle. Take leftover turkey, cranberry, and -- if you want to get nuts -- mashed potatoes (make sure to warm them up) and put them onto cooked stuffing waffle. Fold the waffle in half, create two avenues of bread, and devour until your pants button pops.

​​Thanks for reading as always, and enjoy Week 12. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Adam Bettcher / Stringer / Getty Images