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  • Writer's pictureGladys Louise Tyler

NFL 2023 Wildcard Weekend Tastes Like Pineapple&Jalapeno Margarita


Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco gearing up for a pass
Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco heading into Wildcard Weekend versus Houston Texans

 

It's the Wildcard Weekend, and if you aren’t feeling like consuming a Pineapple & Jalapeño Margarita while you watch the games, are you really watching?

Let’s discuss specific games: the Cleveland Browns v Houston (Division Winning) Texans and the Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys. Grab a margarita while we discuss the games.

Wildcard Weekend and a Pineapple & Jalapeno Margarita

In its simplest form, the margarita is just tequila, lime juice, agave, or simple syrup. It’s a classic that originates in the late 1940s but whose multiplicity of origin stories makes it hard to pin down. Let’s agree that the margarita's beginnings involved a bartender, a woman, and tequila (nothing could go wrong here).

This weekend’s wildcard games now call for a bit more sweetness and spice. Now the sweet: Joe Flacco’s comeback versus C.J. Stroud’s emergence, two Head Coaches of the Year candidates going head-to-head, the Cleveland Browns versus the Houston Texans.

And then you have the youngest team in the NFL going against >cough< “America’s Team.” It is a chance for Mike McCarthy to show up his former team while guiding the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense (57 offensive touchdowns and 371.6 average offensive yards per game) against the Green Bay Packers 17th ranked defense ( allowing 335.1 average yards per game). That’s spicy.



Bar glass filled with pineapple jalapeno margarita with a lime jalapeno and pineapple garnish and spicy rim
Salud! Grab a Pineapple Jalapeno Margarita and join the party!

 

Making the Pineapple & Jalapeno Margarita

Grab yourself a shaking tin (or something comparable)

ADD to Shaking Tin

3-5 chunks of fresh pineapple cubes

2-4 slices fresh jalapeño

Pinch sea salt

Muddle the pineapple cubes, jalapeno, and pinch of salt.

ADD to the muddled goodness:

2 oz tequila (preferably blanco or reposado)

1 oz pineapple juice

1 oz fresh lime juice

½ ounce Triple Sec

Tsp of Agave or Simple Syrup

Shake for about 25 seconds.

Strain into glass with ice (wouldn’t be mad if you just poured ingredients into a glass with ice---but if that is your course of action…shake it for another 25 seconds)

Also, remember, if you are going to rim your glass, do so before the ingredients are in…please.

For the Rim of Your Glass

Combine sugar, sea salt, chili powder, and fresh cracked pepper on a small plate.

Just rub the glass rim with a lime wedge and place in both sides or one side on small plate.

Now, here is what we are drinking for:

NFL 2023 Wildcard Weekend Saturday Game: Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans, Browns -2.5, 44.5 o/u

This game is a rematch of the Christmas Eve game. In that game, Browns’ quarterback Joe Flacco had 42 passing attempts with 27 completions.

He finished the game with 368 yards and three touchdowns. Flacco also tossed two interceptions.

Flacco has had multiple touchdowns in his five games in Cleveland. He has also thrown at least one interception in every game.

Can this game be worthy of both the sweetness and spiciness of the Pineapple/Jalapeño Margarita? Yes, the answer is an emphatic Yes.

Forget about the Deshaun Watson bullshit. That was a different time; besides, he isn’t even playing. This game is Flacco’s show versus C.J. Stroud's show.

Sweet because you have a rookie head coach, DeMeco Ryans, and a rookie quarterback, Stroud, making the playoffs when there wasn’t even a glimmer of possibilities at the beginning of the season. It's spicy because they are playing against a man who was literally carpooling his kids to school three months ago. A man who called the New York Jets when Aaron Rodgers went down, only for them to say, ‘Nah, we good.’

In this game, you can increase your tequila pour to four ounces and maybe prepare a pitcher of margaritas.

Players to Watch

David Njoku, Tight End, Cleveland

Amari Cooper made the impression the first time these two teams played. He finished the game with 15 targets, 11 receptions, 265 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. The Texans were also without defensive end Will Anderson Jr., linebacker Blake Cashman, and their sacks leader Jonathan Greenard, who had an ankle injury early in the game.

It is highly unlikely that a DeMeco Ryans-coached team will allow Cooper to run amok this game.

Enter Njoku. In his final four regular season games with Flacco, Njoku has 124, 44, 104, and 91 receiving yards. His 44-yard game was against the Texans, but with Cooper monopolizing 72.10% of the yards and 35.71% of the targets, it’s hard to get yours.

Expect a different plan of action this week. Especially since the Texans are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for allowing the most receptions (5.9/g) to the tight end position and the fifth most receiving yards (59.4/g).

Kareem Hunt, Running Back, Cleveland

This backfield is a running back by committee. So, if you are playing FanDuel, you go with Hunt; if you are playing DraftKings, you go with Jerome Ford.

The Texans have allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards to running backs in the regular season. At home, that average is 93.2 rushing yards per game. However, Jonathan Taylor gashed them for 188 rushing yards on 30 carries and a rushing touchdown last week. The Texans have allowed 19 rushing touchdowns this season.

Each of the Browns’ running backs has their roles. Hunt just happens to be a short-yardage and goal-line specialist. He leads Cleveland with nine touchdowns. He is fourth among running backs in rushes per touchdown and is seventh in first-down rushes (28.1%).

It feels more likely that Hunt will get a touchdown or two than Ford replicating Taylor’s performance.

C.J. Stroud, Quarterback, Houston

Stroud overcame my apprehension about his home versus away splits last week. And that only bodes well for this week. Stroud has a 65.5% completion percentage at home and has thrown 17 touchdowns to four interceptions when playing at home.

Last week, in his first prime-time game away from home in a must-win situation, Stroud threw for 264 yards with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. For the season, he is toasting a 63.9% completion percentage a 4.6% touchdown percentage with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. Stroud also has three rushing touchdowns on 39 rushing attempts. It doesn’t wow you, but at least you know he is capable.

At this point, it is really hard to go against the young man, and why would you?

Nico Collins, Wide Receiver, Houston

This pick is obvious, right? After last week, another player I am not sure I can bet against.

The Browns’ defense is elite. But their home versus away split is worth mentioning. They only allow 126.3 passing yards per game at home. When on the road, they allow 207.9. They have allowed 23 touchdowns through the air, and in their last meeting (without Stroud), Collins had a lackluster performance (six targets, four receptions, and 18 yards), but he also managed a touchdown reception from Davis Mills.

Then there is Myles Garrett. In their Christmas Eve meeting, he had two tackles for loss. Garrett’s home versus away stats follow their trend. His two-best sack performances and his six games with three or more quarterback hits have come at home.

It’s easy, and it’s low-hanging fruit…it is irresistible. Is this what took Eve down?

NFL 2023 Wildcard Weekend Sunday Game| Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys, Cowboys -7.5, 50.5 o/u

This game has the second-highest over/under for Wildcard Weekend. You might want to add a couple of extra jalapeños for this one.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has a league leading 36 touchdown passes. Packers’ quarterback Jordan Love has 32 touchdown passes. That’s the second most in the league.

Then, there is Daron Bland, who leads the league in interceptions (9). On the other side, in the secondary, the Cowboys have veteran Stefon Gilmore. Together, they have held opposing wide receivers to the fourth-lowest rating (77.8).

Not to be outdone on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers front seven includes linebackers Rashan Gary with nine sacks, 22 quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles and Preston Smith with eight sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles.

Players to Watch

Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are undefeated at home (8-0). You can thank Prescott and his stats. He is first in touchdown passes (36), second in completion percentage (69.5%), fifth in passing yards per game (265.7), has a 105.9 rate and has only thrown nine interceptions.

Prescott also has 55 rushing attempts for 242 yards. He is averaging 4.4 rushing yards per attempt.

The Cowboys are also third in plays per game (66), averaging 69.6 plays per game on their home field. Before their Week 18 battle, 49.7% of their drives ended in a score. So, even though they are eighth in passing attempts per game (36.1) and 37.8 at home, they dominate plays per game.

Prescott has an abundance of weapons to choose from. Paraphrasing Alicia Keys, ‘This man is on fire’.

Jake Ferguson, Tight End, Dallas Cowboys

Ferguson is second on the team in targets (102) and the sixth most targeted tight end. He is averaging 10.7 yards per catch and has five touchdowns.

But more importantly, the Packers allow a 105.8 rating to the tight end position (23rd). They have allowed an average of 4.2 receptions per game and 50.5 yards.

Honestly, Cee Dee Lamb and Brandin Cooks will get theirs, too. Picking one of the pass catchers in this game is like playing the good kind of Russian Roulette. The Packers are giving up a 100.3 rating to wide receivers, 28th ranked.

Jordan Love, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers

There is Micah Parson’s and his 14 sacks and 33 quarterback hits. There is Bland’s league-leading nine interceptions. Then, there is the Cowboys' defense that blitzes 33.5%, which is the eighth-highest in the league.

Here is my counter: Love has an abundance of weapons. In seven of his last eight games, he has a 100+ rating. And, oh yeah, against the blitz, he has a 98 rating, 11 touchdowns, and one interception.

Aaron Jones, Running Back, Green Bay Packers

But I am not crazy enough to believe they will leave it all in Love’s hands. In Jones’ last three games, he has rushed for 111, 120, and 127 yards. He added 30, 10, and eight receiving yards.

There are two caveats: Jones has an injury designation that must be monitored. And the Cowboys’ run defense is trending up. After being shredded by Buffalo Bills James Cook for 179 rushing yards and a touchdown they rebounded in their last three games. They haven’t allowed a running back to rush for more than 70 yards. That includes Raheem Mostert (46 yards), David Montgomery (65 yards), and Brian Robinson (25 yards).

 

And yes, it is that time…Margaritaville! Cheers,

Thank you, Mr. Buffett, rest well.

 

Good Luck, and for your queries on puppies, drink recipes, how Pete Carroll is out of a job but Matt Eberflus is still a head coach, or any NFL question really, send me a DM at @gladysLtyler or email me at gladyslouise.glt@gmail.com.

Play nice!

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