Merriman on Antonio Brown: 'We just watched somebody destroy everything they’ve worked for'
The final week of the NFL regular season is upon us, and former NFL Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman is back to discuss the biggest storylines and give his picks to help with your NFL betting.
We discuss the must-win situation the Los Angeles Chargers are in, the Antonio Brown drama and Aaron Rodgers’ case for MVP.
Gambling.com: The Chargers are coming off a dominant win over the Denver Broncos and set themselves up for a play-in game against the Las Vegas Raiders. What is your take on the team getting to this situation in Week 18?
Shawne Merriman: The year hasn’t gone the way they wanted to, but it certainly has lined up exactly with what they need. This is the best scenario they could have for the season that’s gone on.
The Chargers have the ability to put up 30-plus points every game; we know they can score. But it was great to see them keep their foot on the gas against Denver. And as long as they’re doing that, they’re going to be hard to beat, man. When they get lackadaisical and go through the motions, they get in trouble. But they dominated a team they should have dominated, and that’s what it should have been.
GDC: As a player, what’s it like coming to the final week of the season and having a chance to extend your year?
SM: When you’re growing up as a kid and you think about the NFL and how big certain stages are, there’s no bigger stage than playing to win or go home. This is the ultimate test and reason why you do this. You win, or you go home. This makes you appreciate the game this much more. At this point, every little mistake counts. You know, they talk about football being a game of inches, this is the week where that meaning comes out. It’s a game of inches and that’s what it will come down to.
Cowboys Sometimes Don’t Show Up
GDC: The Arizona Cardinals stopped their losing skid and defeated the Dallas Cowboys. We mentioned them as a team that needed to turn it around. Do you see them as being on the right path now after that win?
SM: It’s hard to say because it was the Cowboys. It was another team that sometimes just doesn’t show up. But we talked about going into the playoffs with momentum and that was the type of win Arizona needed to get back on track going into the playoffs with the confidence they’ve played with throughout the entire season.
Rodgers MVP Favorite
GDC: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is now the betting favorite to be named MVP (-400). Do you see him as a lock to win the award?
SM: Yeah, but I always thought he was MVP. From the midseason all the way until now. And you know, I think initially going into the season, this was going to be Aaron Rodgers’ last year in Green Bay no matter what, but I think he returns to Green Bay now.
Burrow to Chase Could be All-Time Great Combo
GDC: The Cincinnati Bengals picked up a signature win by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs. What did that show the rest of the AFC about their potential?
SM: To watch Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase for this many years and what they will do, we might possibly be looking at the best one-two combo that has ever played the game. I’m talking about the Steve Young to Jerry Rice or with Joe Montana. I’m talking about the best one-twos at quarterback and wide receiver, and it’s going to be fun as hell watching them for the next 10 years.
GDC: Do you think the Bengals can be a Super Bowl contender in the AFC?
SM: No, I don’t. I think the win over the Chiefs was great, but right now, the Chiefs have been exposed in certain areas and stuff like that anyways. But when I think it’s crunch time and the game is on the line and you’re playing a complete team with everything on the line, I believe they don’t have enough to be a Super Bowl contender.
Antonio Brown Meltdown Should Cost Him Career
GDC: The Antonio Brown drama has been dominating headlines after he quit on his team during the middle of a game. What did you make of that?
SM: You know what? I’ve seen a lot of stuff, man, playing the game and even now being away from the game and watching the game. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like that before, and I hate saying never, but I think we’ll never see anything like that again. We just watched somebody destroy everything they’ve worked for and Antonio Brown is known as one of the hardest workers that ever played the game, and we just watched him destroy everything he worked for.
Now, I don’t care that people are saying that coach told him to go back into the game. Yes, there are three sides to a story, and there’s ways to handle that. If Antonio Brown didn’t do that, he probably could have gotten another two or three-year deal after he left there. He knows what happened and coach Bruce Arians know. But let me tell you: We just watched someone throw away everything they’ve ever worked for ever in their life. We watched them throw it away.
There was so many different ways to go about that, man, and it’s sad because this dude is a certified hall of famer, first ballot. Certified. One of the best to do it. And we watched him throw away everything he worked for by doing that.
GDC: Do you think he’ll play in the NFL again?
SM: No. People are saying you can get second chances, no. Not doing that. Because you know what? If you’re a great talent, the NFL will deal with some off-the-field issues. They will. But they won’t deal with on-the-field issues because on-the-field affects how you play. It doesn’t matter how great you are, if you’re not available because of your actions on the field, it doesn’t matter how great you are.
Ode to Ben Roethlisberger
GDC: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likely played his last home game during Monday’s win against the Browns. What do you think his legacy is if he does retire this year?
SM: A Super Bowl champ. A Steeler legend. Me personally, and I’m sure everybody feels this way, but I hate to see guys play two to three years longer than they should. That’s me personally. Normally, I’ll tell guys to play until they kick you out. I make a joke about that, but these are the guys that are not superstars and hall of famers in the NFL. I say that to guys who play in the NFL for a long time and if a team will take you back, play as long as you can.
But when you’re a hall-of-fame type guy like Ben Roethlisberger and some of these other guys, I don’t like to see them stay too long. Because what happens is people start to see you on that decline and it’s the last thing they remember you for and they’ll hold on to your last two years of what you did. Not the 14 years or however long you played before. They’ll hold on and use those last two years against his whole body of work. And so personally for me, I hate seeing that.
Week 18 NFL Picks and Analysis
Here are Shawne’s picks for Week 18. All moneyline odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Kansas City Chiefs (-490) at Denver Broncos (+360)
SM: Chiefs. A lot of it with them is health. They’re locked in the postseason, so for them, it’s making sure everyone gets to the playoffs healthy. That should be No. 1 for them.
Dallas Cowboys (-320) at Philadelphia Eagles (+250)
SM: Cowboys. Both teams clinched, and with teams that already clinched, when you get to the playoffs, the No. 1 thing is health. The healthiest teams win. Period. So, if you already clinched, don’t sit guys and have them do nothing, but have them go through their routine and give guys some snaps to stay in it, but health is No. 1.
Green Bay Packers (-180) at Detroit Lions (+155)
SM: Packers. I think they should go through their routine and cut their reps back. No, their starters shouldn’t play the whole game. Guys need to stay in their routine and make game prep, wake up at the same time, eat the same meals and get to the stadium at the same time and mentally game prep to stay in it. It’s never been beneficial, in my experience, to deviate from that process.
Cincinnati Bengals (+185) at Cleveland Browns (-225)
SM: Bengals. Baker Mayfield can be the answer for a team for the right price, but if he’s looking for big money, as in the top five or top 10, then no, absolutely not.
Chicago Bears (+120) at Minnesota Vikings (-140)
SM: I’ll go with the Vikings since Chicago coach Matt Nagy is out of there completely, and they know that, it’s obvious in the locker room and they talk about it.
Washington Football Team (-320) at New York Giants (+250)
SM: I’ll take Washington.
GDC: What it’s like playing in these pointless games at the end of the year? Are guys planning their vacations already?
SM: It’s two things you’re already doing: Thinking about wherever your first class trip is or your flight for vacation, or you’re thinking about saving yourself for a contract. It’s either of those two things when you're playing in a game like that.
Indianapolis Colts (-1000) at Jacksonville Jaguars (+650)
SM: I’m taking the Colts.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+185) at Baltimore Ravens (-225)
SM: Let’s go with the Ravens.
Tennessee Titans (-525) at Houston Texans (+385)
SM: Let’s go with the Titans and locking up the No. 1 seed.
New Orleans Saints (-210) at Atlanta Falcons (+175)
New York Jets (+750) at Buffalo Bills (-1250)
San Francisco 49ers (+170) at Los Angeles Rams (-200)
SM: I’m going with the Rams. They’ve taken a few weeks for everybody and Von Miller to get acclimated with the defense and Odell Beckham Jr. to get acclimated with the offense. They’re trending in the right direction and are a scary team to play.
New England Patriots (-265) at Miami Dolphins (+215)
SM: Dolphins. Patriots are already a lock for the postseason, and since the Dolphins are pridefully playing to get momentum for next season, I think it’ll be a situation where Miami coach Brian Flores will pump them up to go into next year. The Patriots might not want to show their hand with going into the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks (+230) at Arizona Cardinals (-290)
Carolina Panthers (+280) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-365)
SM: Bucs. One thing that coach Arians and Tom Brady and people who have been around for a long time, the Antonio Brown drama won’t be a distraction. They’re not a young team trying to figure it out. They got a bunch of crafty vets. It’s one of those things where it’s more of a media thing than it is in the locker room.
Los Angeles Chargers (-160) at Las Vegas Raiders (+140)
SM: It’s going to be a great game early on, but I don’t see the Raiders having enough to play four quarters of football. I do think it will be a good game for the first two quarters, but I think the Chargers win by a minimum of a touchdown, or maybe two.
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