Aaron It Out: No Division Between Us

Hello! I hope you had a great holiday and are having a great start to the year. My beautiful daughter has started the year with a double ear infection and has increased the number of states she has puked in to 4 with Mississippi having the most recent honor. Other than that, all is well!

We come to a point in the year where football is unfortunately winding down. The College Championship game was this past Monday, a satisfying beatdown of Alabama by Clemson and Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass clone Trevor Lawrence. The NFL Wild Card playoffs occurred last week, and some nice wins with the TY Hilton clown mask thing pretty much owning the weekend, along with the Chargers’ “lol all the defensive backs” scheme stopping the Ravens cold. (Get it? Cold. Because it’s winter.)

But we do have so much to keep us occupied! The coaching carousel continues to spin, the draft talk has begun in earnest, and signings and potential trades are going on, even as the playoffs continue.

Let’s look at the coaching hires…

CLEVELAND – New head coach FREDDIE KITCHENS – This is a great hire. Someone from the post-Hue Jackson coaching staff deserved a chance at running things because of how the culture kind of immediately shifted once Hue and Todd Haley were gone. Kitchens showed he was capable of thinking on his feet and tailoring the offense to Baker Mayfield’s strengths. As long as he hires a solid defensive coordinator, he’ll be good. I think the Browns are going to challenge the Ravens for the AFC North next year as Cincy and Pittsburgh retool.

NEW YORK JETS – New head coach ADAM GASE – I guess he knows the division, and he does good work with QBs, but I just don’t get this one. It doesn’t make sense. But, I also don’t think he should have been fired in Miami – they had significant injury problems. We will see what happens with this one.

DENVER BRONCOS – New head coach VIC FANGIO – It’s a blow to the Bears that they lost Fangio. He will be a great head coach, and paired with Gary Kubiak as the offensive coordinator, I think they will turn things around in Denver, especially as the Chiefs and Chargers continue to make advances in the division. Fangio’s hire makes Denver relevant again – they just need either better play out of Keenum or another answer at QB.

GREEN BAY PACKERS – New head coach MATT LAFLEUR – I guess they basically traded out offensive philosophies, as GB’s current defensive coordinator is expected to be retained. This is one that doesn’t make sense, but considering the breakdown in relationship between Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, something had to happen. So we’ll see if the guy who ran it a lot in Tennessee can keep Rodgers happy.

TAMPA BAY BUCS – New head coach BRUCE ARIANS – I really like this hire, even if the dude was supposed to have been retired. Arians is an amazing offensive game planner and puts together solid coaching staffs. As long as he can keep Jameis Winston’s personality reined in and get him to focus on football, they could rise to the top of the NFC very soon. Also of note, the offensive play-caller (not coordinator, I believe) is going to be former Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich, who got his start in coaching with Arians in Arizona.

ARIZONA CARDINALS – New head coach KLIFF KINGSBURY – This is the guy I wanted the Jaguars to hire if they moved on from Marrone, but that didn’t happen. Good hire for the Cardinals, who have a lot of defensive pieces in place and some definite talent on offense. Kingsbury should know what to do with them and put together a winner, but the key for him is going to be a solid defensive coordinator. We’ll see what happens.

The BENGALS and DOLPHINS haven’t made any hires yet but I’m thinking that (and there have been reports that) Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy (not sure I spelled that right) and Cowboys defensive assistant Kris Richard are in the mix for both jobs. Both would be solid hires, and Kris Richard has a buzz around him and he basically put together the Legion of Boom, so it would make sense to give him a shot.

PICKS AND PREVIEWS

COLTS @ CHIEFS, Saturday 4:35 – Here’s my bold prediction: the Chiefs peaked at the wrong time, and the Colts have peaked at the right time. Indy is playing their best football right now, and Kansas City is still good but may run the risk of coming into this game a little too favored, kind of like when everyone expected the Jaguars to just demolish the Chiefs because KC hadn’t faced a defense like the Jags (lol). I don’t think it will be a repeat of their last playoff appearance, and it will be a lot closer than Colts-Texans, but the Colts will win.

IND 24 KC 20

COWBOYS @ RAMS, Saturday 8:15 – The Rams aren’t as unstoppable as they used to be, and the Cowboys have everything coming together, so this will be an interesting game for both. Nobody thought the Rams could be stopped last year and they got beat pretty good. This will be more of a defensive game than anything else, in my opinion. This is the game with the murkiest outcome in my opinion.

DAL 27 LAR 30

CHARGERS @ PATRIOTS, Sunday 1:05 – Despite Bill Belichick coming up with a gameplan for everything, I think the Chargers are doing enough stuff differently that they will be able to shock the Pats and pull out the win. The Chargers have gotten a lot of talent back from injury and the Patriots lost one of their wide receivers, who weren’t that good in the first place. I’m thinking the Chargers pull it out here.

LAC 21 NE 17

EAGLES @ SAINTS, Sunday 4:40 – Philly’s miracle run ends here, with the Saints doing enough on offense to keep up with whatever scheme the Eagles come up with to slow them down defensively. However, it was a good one, if you ask me. The Saints are my current pick to make it to the Super Bowl, and I don’t see that changing. If it does, I’ll be sure to eat plenty of crow come Sunday night.

PHI 24 NO 28

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Aaron It Out: Weeks 16-17: Kith and Kin

Ah, yes, the Christmas Special Aaron It Out!

I hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday and a safe New Year, and that you enjoy some football!

Oh yeah: highly recommend “The Christmas Chronicles” on Netflix. Especially if you have kiddos. It’s a new Christmas movie starring Kurt Russell and it is a lot of fun.

On to football things…

This is being written on the Monday after the Jaguars gave up a stinker to the Redskins. Change obviously needs to happen in Jacksonville. Personally I think the entire coaching staff is in for a shakeup, as well as the front office; I think Tom Coughlin comes back just because Khan will want to give him a chance to build the team “his way” and not saddle the next coach with previous years’ assistants. What would I love to see? GM Reggie McKenzie, Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio. Am I crazy? Probably.

I won’t get into the players, because every one of them is mad in some way about how this season has gone – you go in expecting Super Bowl, and end up with a losing record and see Gus Bradley flashbacks. But I think the last home game has occurred for Donte Moncrief, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Blake Bortles, Carlos Hyde, Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Jermey Parnell, AJ Cann, and maybe even Marcell Dareus.

Change is coming at the quarterback position and the Jags better get it right. The last time Coughlin helped draft a quarterback he fell into a situation where he could have gotten one of three future Hall of Famers, and wound up with Eli Manning who led his teams to two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots dynasty. Not too shabby; I’d certainly take that in Jacksonville. But look for the Jaguars to draft Haskins from Ohio State or Grier from West Virginia, and then employ a veteran to back him up. Who? Here’s a controversial one for you: Shad Khan, the only minority owner in the NFL, should advocate the signing of Colin Kaepernick. He will come in and compete and try to make the new QB better. Do you really think that Joe Flacco, Derek Carr, or Tyrod Taylor want to come in and let yet another young QB steal their job? Just something to think about.

Okay, let’s do this: we’ll do one final regular-season top five, then the picks for weeks 16 and 17, and then I’ll close with some horribly wrong playoff predictions.

AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Saints
2. Chiefs
3. Chargers
4. Rams
5. Colts

PICKS AND PREVIEWS
WEEK 16

REDSKINS @ TITANS – Remember how the Redskins were good against the Jags? They won’t be here.

WSH 9 TEN 20

RAVENS @ CHARGERS – The Lamar Jackson spaceship crashes back to Earth. It’s okay, he’s gonna be good for years to come.

BAL 17 LAC 25

BUCS @ COWBOYS – No chance for the Bucs. Dallas needs their groove back. Bye, Dirk.

TB 9 DAL 20

VIKINGS @ LIONS – Minnesota’s making a playoff push. Detroit just wants to get everything over with.

MIN 30 DET 17

FALCONS @ PANTHERS – Both of these teams need to readjust for next year.

ATL 12 CAR 19

TEXANS @ EAGLES – Philly’s surprising people, but I don’t think they can take down Deshawn.

HOU 15 PHI 7

GIANTS @ COLTS – Giants trying to stay in the playoff picture; Indy’s trying not to be embarassed again. The Colts will try hardest.

NYG 7 IND 24

BENGALS @ BROWNS – Can Baker Mayfield cause Hue Jackson to lose two jobs in one season? (Spoiler alert: yes.)

CIN 10 CLE 20

BILLS @ PATRIOTS – New England not quite as scary… unless you’re in their division.

BUF 12 NE 21

PACKERS @ JETS – Honestly, will anyone watch this?

GB 14 NYJ 10

JAGUARS @ DOLPHINS – One of these teams is playing to keep their playoff hopes alive. The other one is starting Cody Kessler.

JAX 9 MIA 19

BEARS @ 49ERS – Surprising San Francisco will be good next year, if Jimmy comes back healthy. This year, they’re playing that Chicago D.

CHI 21 SF 6

RAMS @ CARDINALS – Nothing soothes the ache of a loss like a gimme against the Cardinals.

LAR 30 ARI 14

STEELERS @ SAINTS – The Steelers are trying to show that they’re capable of winning it all. The problem is, their defense won’t be able to stop the Saints’ offense.

PIT 21 NO 28

CHIEFS @ SEAHAWKS – This may be a must-win for both of these teams, but only one can win it. I think the Chiefs peaked too early and I’ll do a rare pick of Seattle.

KC 19 SEA 24

BRONCOS @ RAIDERS – The AFC West has two contenders and two pretenders, and the latter two happen to play each other on Monday.

DEN 17 OAK 7
WEEK 17

RAIDERS @ CHIEFS – If you ain’t first, you’re last. The Chiefs will pick up a W but their record will relegate them to the Wild Card spot.

OAK 10 KC 21

DOLPHINS @ BILLS – Can this one be all-throwback? It would look better than the play people will see on the field. Miami squeaks by but misses the playoffs.

MIA 17 BUF 10

COLTS @ TITANS – The Titans have had a good season; the Colts have had a better one. Indianapolis wins and takes the sixth seed.

IND 17 TEN 10

BEARS @ VIKINGS – Minnesota fights this one hard, and Chicago with a playoff spot locked rests its starters. Vikes wind up in the postseason with a W.

CHI 17 MIN 20

BROWNS @ RAVENS – The Browns end their storybook season on a high note, even if they don’t make the playoffs. In my opinion, this matchup should be flexed into the last Sunday Night Football spot. Jackson vs. Mayfield is too compelling of TV to not give to a national audience.

CLE 24 BAL 17

LIONS @ PACKERS – Both of these teams are tapping out at this point.

DET 12 GB 17

JETS @ PATRIOTS – The Patriots win their division, for whatever that’s worth.

NYJ 10 NE 21

PANTHERS @ SAINTS – The Saints have me thinking they will roll to the Super Bowl. The Panthers have me thinking they need to do a lot of thinking.

CAR 17 NO 30

JAGUARS @ TEXANS – Will the Jaguars surprise the Texans? Sure, they’ll probably surprise them at how many times the sieve also known as the Jags’ o-line will allow sacks of whoever is playing QB.

JAX 10 HOU 20

COWBOYS @ GIANTS – I think the Giants will pull an upset here and plop Dallas into the 4th seed. Still, not bad if you’re Dallas.

DAL 20 NYG 24

EAGLES @ REDSKINS – The Redskins’ backup backup backup QB is not enough to beat the Eagles’ backup QB.

PHI 20 WSH 10

FALCONS @ BUCS – Nah

ATL 12 TB 12

BENGALS @ STEELERS – Good night, Marvin Lewis. Take care of yourself.

CIN 17 PIT 30

CARDINALS @ SEAHAWKS – Hopefully Fitz doesn’t retire, but would anyone blame him?

ARI 7 SEA 21

49ERS @ RAMS – Good night, Nick whatever your name is. Take care of yourself.

SF 7 LAR 40

CHARGERS @ BRONCOS – Good night, Vance Joseph. Take care of yourself.

LAC 35 DEN 21
PLAYOFF SEEDING PREDICTIONS

AFC
1. Chargers
2. Texans
3. Patriots
4. Steelers
5. Chiefs
6. Colts

NFC
1. Saints
2. Rams
3. Bears
4. Cowboys
5. Seahawks
6. Vikings

BLACK MONDAY PREDICTIONS: Vance Joseph, Todd Bowles, Doug Marrone, Steve Wilks, Marvin Lewis, Adam Gase

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Kiss My Butt, Kiss His Butt, Kiss Your Butt, Happy Hanukkah.

Aaron It Out: Week 15: Oakland Rai-durrrs

While the Jaguars can blame their bad year on a multitude of events (Bortles not being as good as thought, front office mishaps, injuries, communication issues), nothing represents the active dysfunction of a team quite like the Oakland Raiders, who this week fired their GM Reggie McKenzie (a person who drafted Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, and Amari Cooper). This move of course cements the status of new coach and football czar Jon Gruden with the Raiders as the de facto authority of putting together a team. The bad thing is, he made a lot of awful decisions this past offseason that have contributed to their crappiness this year, including trading away two of those great picks, Mack and Cooper. Do they have draft capital for those trades? Yes, yes they do… but also, Gruden is notorious for making bad football decisions. We’ll see how it all works out in the end, but I’m thinking Vegas winds up with more of a stinker than a winner.

The Jaguars this week face the Redskins, who look absolutely inept… but don’t give Jacksonville a pass yet. Josh Johnson was mobile and a lot more comfortable than Mark Sanchez at the end of the Redskins’ game last week. We’ll see what happens, but I won’t be surprised if the Jaguars lose out.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: First, I apologize that this column has been published a day late; I woke up yesterday with a migraine that made me miss work (check out that incorrect Chargers/Chiefs pick below). Second, next week will be the Double-Picks-Christmas-Extravaganza, where I will post the picks for weeks 16 & 17. The week after, there will be no column – sorry. This is due to the fact I will be on vacation. We’ll pick it back up in time for Divisional Playoff Goodness.

AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Rams
2. Chiefs
3. Saints
4. Chargers
5. Cowboys

PICKS AND PREVIEWS

CHARGERS @ CHIEFS – This is the Thursday night matchup the world deserves as we move into both Thursday and Saturday games. This may be the battle for the AFC’s #1 spot. What will happen? I think it will be close but the Chiefs can do it.

LAC 30 KC 35

TEXANS @ JETS – I think I’ll use the obvious games this week to talk about Christmas movies. Die Hard’s a meme this point. One of my favorites is Elf. I just really enjoy the joy and wonder that the movie evokes, and also it handles a lot of mythology in a real-life way. Also, it’s just fun.

HOU 52 NYJ 17

BROWNS @ BRONCOS – Who can wear orange better? Seriously, though, both of these teams are realizing that they have solid defense, so it comes down to who has the better offensive attack, and who wants it more – I think that’s Cleveland.

CLE 17 DEN 14

CARDINALS @ FALCONS – Definitely the comedy classic (for adults) of Christmas is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s a treat to watch, quotable, and you can relate to it in so many ways, from the frustrations of Christmas, to trying to force Christmas on your family, to the joy of family.

ARI 5 ATL 2

RAIDERS @ BENGALS – Home Alone is like a real-life Looney Tunes come the end of the movie, which is really the highlight. Although Kevin gets into some escapades at the beginning his ingenuity and the Wile E. Coyote style injuries of the Wet Bandits coupled with the Christmas theme really draw the movie together.

OAK 10 CIN 17

DOLPHINS @ VIKINGS – Maybe the Dolphins don’t suck? But the Vikings kinda do. The Vikings’ former offensive coordinator was trying too hard to get a head coaching job, and he drummed himself out of a job.

MIA 21 MIN 17

COWBOYS @ COLTS – Two hot teams come together and battle it out for playoff spots, believe it or not. Indianapolis has a solid chance of landing a wild card spot and Dallas is trying to keep its hold on the East and attempt a first-round bye. Here, I think the more competent offense wins.

DAL 16 IND 24

BUCS @ RAVENS – Lamar Jackson, former potential Jaguars quarterback, is a lot of fun to watch and almost led the Ravens to a win against the prolific Chiefs. Here, he’ll definitely lead them to a win.

TB 3 BAL 27

LIONS @ BILLS – Home Alone 2 is a solid sequel, ratcheting up the antics and moving the concept to a foreign place to its protagonist. I don’t enjoy it quite as much as the first one, but every time I watch it I get the Cougar song stuck in my head.

DET 3 BUF 6

PACKERS @ BEARS – Someone seriously thinks the Packers beating Atlanta means they’ve still got a shot at the postseason. This game will change that perception.

GB 9 CHI 20

REDSKINS @ JAGUARS – I don’t wanna talk about it.

WSH 7 JAX 7

TITANS @ GIANTS – Once you get past the weird motion capture, The Polar Express adaptation is a movie that’s really nice if you stick with it. It captures a lot of wonder and really endears itself to kids. I enjoy it and my 7 year old really enjoys it as well.

TEN 10 NYG 13

SEAHAWS @ NINERS – I’m supposed to say I was wrong about the Seahawks, but I still don’t know if I was or not. They look okay but they don’t look… great. We’ll see what happens, they are still trying to work under the salary cap.

SEA 30 SF 2

PATRIOTS @ STEELERS – If the Steelers lose out, Cleveland has a chance of winning the division. For that reason alone, I think the Patriots will win.

NE 15 PIT 12

EAGLES @ RAMS – Last, but certainly not least, is Ron Howard and Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It takes the animated version and also the book and makes it a little over the top. Especially when you have kids, Christmas is supposed to be over the top. It’s a family favorite.

PHI 3 LAR 60

SAINTS @ PANTHERS – Also, the Santa Clause holds up surprisingly well. It takes the mythology in a different direction and makes you think a little about how Santa’s held up for so long (we all know the answer is Christmas magic, duh).

NO 55 CAR 17

Aaron It Out: Week 14: Feeling the Importance of the QB

Well you can SAY that “you can plan around your quarterback” as you build a team, but this year is showing us more than ever that a team needs to have its quarterback position shored up more than anything to guarantee success in the National Football League. Yes, coaching matters too, of course, and the other aspects of the game matter as well, but without a solid QB or a relatively solid backup plan in place, you’re kind of hosed.

Last month Alex Smith had his leg jacked up during a game. Washington was like, okay, we’ll go to Colt McCoy, he’s been in the system forever and should do okay. Last Monday against the Eagles, Colt McCoy got HIS leg jacked up, and so Mark Sanchez, who was last active during a game in the 2016 season, is now the Redskins’ starting quarterback. He will be backed up by Josh Johnson, who almost got drafted by some sort of thing called the Alliance of American Football.

Mitch Trubisky of the Bears is having some sort of nerve problem, which is holding him out of playing right now. Chase Daniel, who could charitably be described as “a’iight,” has started a couple of games, going .500. Not bad. Marcus Mariota of the Titans has been battling nerve injuries all season. His backup is former Jaguars washout Blaine Gabbert. (You can tell the difference.)

Right after Thanksgiving, Andy Dalton of the Bengals got his thumb messed up. Jeff Driskel (did I just hear Florida fans spit out their drinks?) is now the Bengals’ starting quarterback. Matthew Stafford of the Lions has a back injury. If he winds up having to sit out, Matt Cassel will take over.

And of course, as readers of this column know so well, Blake Bortles has been benched due to his general lack of skill throwing the football, with Cody Kessler starting and winning his first Jaguars start. Jameis Winston, formerly the starting scumbag-… er, I mean quarterback of the Bucs, has been benched again for Ryan Fitzpatrick. So it goes.

However, the Ravens traded up to the last pick of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft this past offseason and selected Lamar Jackson. Joe Flacco went down with an injury. Jackson has come in at quarterback and led the team to three wins in three starts, stopping a three-game losing streak. He has played competently and been worthy of that draft pick.

So why don’t NFL teams spend more relatively high draft picks on quarterbacks? Granted, there are some diamonds in the rough. Tom Brady was a late-round pick. Case Keenum, who almost led the Vikings to the Super Bowl, was undrafted. But multiple teams passed on quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers. Now, with the rookie pay scale, it makes even less sense to pass on players of this caliber, especially when they fall into the second round and you have gotten that “big” first round pick you want.

It’s becoming extremely obvious, even as the league becomes more and more quarterback friendly, that you not only need a solid QB to succeed, but also a relatively decent backup as well.

In Jacksonville, I think that they won’t bring in a potential “big name free agent” to be the QB. First, I don’t think they have the money. They won’t be able to count on being able to trade Blake’s contract away at this rate. Additionally, a big name QB will be expensive, and there won’t be as many this coming offseason as there were last season. Flacco will probably be the biggest one.

Also, while some teams may indeed be tanking, I don’t agree with it. Nowadays teams can trade wherever they want in the draft, for the most part. Players aren’t thinking of tanking. They want to win as many games as possible. Josh Scobee, former Jaguars placekicker, confirmed this. If the team somehow wins out, don’t worry, fans. They’ll go where they need to go. Of the teams at the top of the draft order, I’d say that only one will be in need of a new QB, which is Oakland, because Gruden is an idiot who may try to get rid of Derek Carr. Maybe the Giants, maybe Detroit. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is if a team is locked into a player enough, they will do what it takes to get him.

I wouldn’t be mad at either Dwayne Haskins or Will Grier coming to Jacksonville. I am not picking favorites at this time, though.
AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Rams
2. Chiefs
3. Saints
4. Bears
5. Steelers

PICKS AND PREVIEWS

JAGUARS @ TITANS – Part of me thinks the Jaguars will win, but considering their previous records against the Titans on Thursday nights, including that one game where they wore their Grey Poupon jerseys and were just plain awful, I don’t necessarily expect to see a return to Sacksonville again. Maybe I’m wrong, and the Jaguars could be 5-8 and have hope returning to town, but for now, I can’t pick them. Coming soon, though: the battle of the horrible quarterbacks (Jax vs. Washington in 2 weeks).

JAX 14 TEN 17

PANTHERS @ BROWNS – The Panthers have lost four in a row, including two mystery stinkers against the Lions and the Bucs. Cleveland doesn’t have the best record, but is a team on the rise and is looking to upset a few people along the way. You know what, I’m here to pick the Browns. Why not?

CAR 17 CLE 27

RAVENS @ CHIEFS – This should be a fun game to watch, Lamar vs. Patrick. (Also, the Jaguars fan in me will cry a little, realizing that the Jaguars could have picked both of those players to be their quarterback in the last couple of years.) Will the post-Kareem Chiefs be able to stick it out, or can Lamar lead the Ravens to another improbable victory? KC will probably win, but it will be close.

BAL 24 KC 27

COLTS @ TEXANS – I like the progress of both of these teams. However, Jacksonville exposed a lot of weaknesses last week, and Houston’s got a healthy JJ Watt bouncing around behind its defensive line. If Indy’s o-line gets with it, they can hang in. I think this game will be a clone of their first matchup, with the winner being the last team with the ball.

IND 28 HOU 24

PATRIOTS @ DOLPHINS – Who do you think will win?

NE 42 MIA 0

GIANTS @ REDSKINS – Oh my goodness, who cares? The Redskins suck now. They have lost not one, but two quarterbacks.

NYG 20 WSH 5

SAINTS @ BUCS – The Saints are eager to rebound from their loss to the Cowboys. They’ll do so, and it’ll be a big one.

NO 35 TB 9

FALCONS @ PACKERS – Do yourself a favor, Green Bay and Atlanta fans. Instead of watching this game, go to the Redbox, or go on your favorite on demand video service, and rent Mission Impossible Fallout. It is a far better use of your time than watching these two teams compete for draft position.

ATL 12 GB 15

JETS @ BILLS – Or, you could watch a Christmas movie. There are many great ones. Christmas Vacation and Elf are favorites in our house. There’s also Santa Clause and Christmas With the Kranks, for those of you who can tolerate Tim Allen. Die Hard has lots of action and Professor Snape. Home Alone 1 and 2 provide great slapstick comedy.

NYJ 3 BUF 6

BENGALS @ CHARGERS – While we’re on the subject, when did Frozen become a Christmas movie? Yes, it came out during that time, but Wreck it Ralph 2 came out at Thanksgiving, and that doesn’t make it a Thanksgiving movie. Just because there’s snow and ice, doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. There is no Santa, there are no trees or ornaments or lights, and no death-defying Bruce Willis stunts.

CIN 0 LAC 30

BRONCOS @ 49ERS – One of my current guilty pleasures, as I further my experience in seasonal outdoor illumination, is the Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC. Some people are ridiculous. For example, there were people that live by Disney that have a ton of Disney things. But some people are very innovative, putting a lot of time and effort into their decorations, or doing the decorations for charity. A fun show.

DEN 21 SF 6

EAGLES @ COWBOYS – This is all kind of coming off as a clone of another Thursday NFL preview column, which I promise is not the intention, but I feel bad just doing one-sentence blurbs on games with obvious outcomes. How about the Broncos, by the way? They’re gonna be all right. And hey, the Cowboys are doing a great job of setting themselves up to flame out in the divisional round of the playoffs.

PHI 14 DAL 28

STEELERS @ RAIDERS – Speaking of playoffs, I made homemade cheese dip for the first time last week. It was different, but pretty good! I melted cheese, milk, and butter and seasoned the ever-loving crap out of it. Definitely a step in the right direction and something easier to do than throwing on “go in public” clothes so you can schlep back to Winn-Dixie at 5:45.

PIT 45 OAK 7

LIONS @ CARDINALS – I have to say, though, some of these games just make me sad. Oh, and Matt Stafford’s hurt. Are they trying to explain why he’s bad this year? Has he been hurt his whole career?

DET 9 ARI 12

RAMS @ BEARS – Oh, look, an actual game featuring teams that people might actually watch. Very nice of them to schedule one of these. If the Bears can get to Goff, look out! They have the defense where it may be possible.

LAR 28 CHI 27

VIKINGS @ SEAHAWKS – So are, like, the Seahawks good? Will they make the playoffs? I don’t know. They definitely aren’t winning the west, they have already been spanked twice by the Rams, but okay. Sure. They face two tough games out of their last four, this being one of them. Minnesota will probably win this, because I like their defense.

MIN 24 SEA 19

Aaron It Out: Week 13: Goodnight, Sweet BOAT

Goodnight, sweet BOAT.

You were fun to watch, even if you were frustrating, which couldn’t be said for the Jaguars’ previous first-round quarterback misstep. You made beautiful throws, until you didn’t. You sometimes made mistakes, but you bounced back, until you didn’t. You weren’t rattled by what the haters said. You got cursed out by your wide receiver in the preseason and then helped your team get to the AFC Championship game.

Unfortunately, my sweet, sweet BOAT, you really suck now. I know you won’t care, but your windup has gotten worse as the year went on, your throws have gotten wobblier, and the team doesn’t trust you anymore. You will begin riding the bench officially on Sunday, and you will most likely be traded to someone with the cap space to allow you to be a backup, like Oakland or Cleveland. Good luck, BOAT, in your new role as clipboard holder.

So, you know by now that the Jaguars removed Blake Bortles from the starting quarterback job and also fired offensive coordinator Nate Hackett, partially because they are both not good but mostly because the Jaguars didn’t trust Blake anymore and he was getting worse. He threw for a comically small amount and just straight-up missed his receivers in some cases against the Bills last week. As far as the Hackett firing, there needs to be a scapegoat and he was it, for now.

What’s going to be the solution moving forward? At the least, I think Todd Wash is also gone at the end of the season. I’m not sure why he hasn’t been let go now; they have someone else with DC experience on the staff in Perry Fewell but that’s just me. Will Doug Marrone stick around? Maybe, I’m not sure. General Manager Dave Caldwell NEEDS to be let go. He was responsible for drafting Bortles and has missed way more than he hit. If I were Shad Khan, I would back up the money truck to bring in Kliff Kingsbury, but he probably has been promised jobs already. We will see what happens, but at least the Jaguars will be in good position to draft a quarterback, I guess.

Quickly around the league, the Ravens are surprising everyone being 3-0 with Lamar Jackson as their starter and in position to challenge for the 7th playoff seed… the Colts are now on a 5-game winning streak, going in to play a beatable Jags team and the only hiccup I see on their schedule the rest of the season is their game against the Texans… the Saints continue to roll… look out for the Bears, who held their own against a bad Lions team but are still working with a backup quarterback.

AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Saints
2. Rams
3. Chiefs
4. Colts
5. Texans

PICKS AND PREVIEWS

SAINTS @ COWBOYS – This has quickly become a test for both teams, as Dallas looks to put themselves in position to win the NFC East and New Orleans wants to keep their hold on the number one seed and a first-round bye. Hopefully this will not devolve into a blowout. I think it will be a close game.

NO 27 DAL 21

BEARS @ GIANTS – Speaking of blowouts…

CHI 28 NYG 7

CARDINALS @ PACKERS – The Packers are Not Good this year but at least they’re not awful, which is what the Cardinals are.

ARI 10 GB 20

COLTS @ JAGUARS – You can put lipstick on a pig but it’ll still wind up as bacon. The Colts are on a streak. The Colts are the 2017 Jaguars in 2018. Frank Reich is coaching right and Andrew Luck is the comeback player of the year.

IND 21 JAX 17

BROWNS @ TEXANS – This will be a hard-fought game; the Browns seem to be tailoring things to the strengths of Baker Mayfield and are riding a wave of success even if their record doesn’t reflect it. The Texans appear to be dominating, far from their mediocrity of last year.

CLE 20 HOU 21

PANTHERS @ BUCS – This is obvious.

CAR 27 TB 7

BILLS @ DOLPHINS – Slightly less obvious, but both of these teams stink.

BUF 17 MIA 20

BRONCOS @ BENGALS – The Bengals are faltering, the Broncos are rallying.

DEN 28 CIN 17

RAVENS @ FALCONS – One of these birds is flying high, the other has crashed and has a few broken wings.

BAL 35 ATL 20

RAMS @ LIONS – There is no way the Lions will be able to stop the Rams.

LAR 28 DET 17

CHIEFS @ RAIDERS – Oakland should just forfeit this.

KC 42 OAK 9

JETS @ TITANS – Two teams in freefall; one is falling a little further.

NYJ 10 TEN 17

VIKINGS @ PATRIOTS – I think the Vikings upset the Pats.

MIN 27 NE 17

NINERS @ SEAHAWKS – The Seahawks will win big-time.

SF 6 SEA 30

CHARGERS @ STEELERS – This is a fun matchup and I think it will go all the way up to the end. I think the Chargers will take this, though.

LAC 28 PIT 24

REDSKINS @ EAGLES – The Redskins may be hurting, but the Eagles look worse.

WAS 17 PHI 10

Aaron It Out: Week 12: Let’s Eat the Jags’ Troubles Away

The Jaguars’ season is kaput, done, no more. They had a little bit of hope as they went into the Steelers game, and as I went outside to put copious amounts of Christmas lights in my front yard, I had a good feeling. However, despite grand efforts by the Jags’ defense and Leonard Fournette, Blake Bortles looked awful again (surprise!) and the team was hampered by stupid coaching decisions. The sad part is, it’s sounding more and more like this season will be blamed on injuries, not “Blake sucks,” which he does, and not on “we should actually draft a competent wide receiver,” and “we should not bring in free agent linemen that take a vacation.” As a Jaguars fan, that really stinks. Maybe changes will be made at the end of the year. Dave Caldwell should go, and take Blake with him. Anyway, I talked a little about the AFC playoff picture last week, and even though the Jaguars are not mathematically eliminated, they are pretty much out of the picture.

Jacksonville will win maybe two more games (I’m thinking the ones against Washington and Miami). But that’s besides the point – Houston and Indianapolis are both hot; the East looks like garbage other than New England; the North looks like garbage other than Pittsburgh; and Kansas City and Los Angeles are the only teams in the West with a playoff prayer. The first three seeds will be some form of KC/LA, Pittsburgh, and New England. The fourth seed will be whoever wins the division between the Texans and Colts. The fifth seed will be whoever in the West doesn’t win the division, and the sixth will be whoever in the South doesn’t win the division.

We talk a lot about the Steelers and their win streak, but the Colts are low-key looking like a hot team in the league. They are sitting on a four-game win streak and Andrew Luck hasn’t been sacked in like five weeks. They are putting up at least 24 points a game since week 4 and have put up at least 29 points a game in their last four games. They are “only 5-5” but they have four very winnable games coming up against the Dolphins, Jaguars, Cowboys, and Giants, with games against the Texans and Titans as well. I see them being a sneaky-good team in the playoffs.

AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Rams
2. Saints
3. Chiefs
4. Steelers
5. Colts

PICKS AND PREDICTIONS

BEARS @ LIONS – One of these teams looks like a fun, gritty playoff upset contender, and the other looks like the same sad old Lions. As I recover from eating copious amounts of food Thursday, I will note especially how former Jaguar Allen Robinson will be burning the Lions’ secondary multiple times.

CHI 24 DET 12

REDSKINS @ COWBOYS – It really sucks that Alex Smith is hurt, but Colt McCoy is a pretty good QB and doesn’t make them automatically awful. The Cowboys got a good win against a Falcons team that doesn’t know what it is other than bad, and should be heading into this week on a positive note. I think Washington “wins one for Smith” here.

WSH 28 DAL 24

FALCONS @ SAINTS – The Saints will demolish the Falcons. RIP Matt Ryan’s season. RIP Julio. Goodnight, sweet HAWT-lanta. The Saints are one of the best teams in football; the Falcons are the Jaguars of the NFC.

ATL 10 NO 52

GIANTS @ EAGLES – This game is less notable for being Eli vs. Carson, and more like blah vs. blah.

NYG 5 PHI 9

JAGUARS @ BILLS – The Bills are capable of being surprisingly good, except for when they’re bad. The Jaguars are just surprisingly bad. Now that the fog of optimism has cleared my brain, I don’t think the Jags can hang with the Bills.

JAX 17 BUF 21

SEAHAWKS @ PANTHERS – The Seahawks are on a bit of a comeback but the Panthers are on more of one; Carolina is looking to prove that they can still hang with the Saints and Rams in the NFC. They’ll make a statement here.

SEA 17 CAR 30

RAIDERS @ RAVENS – Lamar Jackson looks like a good starting NFL QB! Good job, Baltimore, says the Jaguars fan whose team could have drafted that player. Oakland stinks.

OAK 12 BAL 21

NINERS @ BUCS – Nah, I’m good.

SF 5 TB 9

BROWNS @ BENGALS – Yuck.

CLE 21 CIN 15

PATRIOTS @ JETS – Who’s gonna watch this? New England in a landslide.

NE 49 NYJ 3

CARDINALS @ CHARGERS – This is what we’re calling late-season NFL games now?

ARI 7 LAC 35

STEELERS @ BRONCOS – Because some of these games have the potential to be good, but only in an upset fashion.

PIT 38 DEN 21

DOLPHINS @ COLTS – And I would rather take a leftover turkey induced nap.

MIA 16 IND 24

PACKERS @ VIKINGS – The Packers are broken. Will McCarthy stick around? I don’t know. But his game management is questionable at best. The Vikings need a bounce-back win.

GB 20 MIN 24

TITANS @ TEXANS – Tennessee is regressing, and unfortunately Mariota is injured again. Houston is rolling to the division crown. The outcome of this game should be obvious, but the game should be good anyway.

TEN 18 HOU 24

Aaron It Out: Week 11: Welcome to Sadsonville

A quick programming note before we dive in: next week will be the traditional “it’s Thanksgiving, I’m not writing much” edition of the column. Also, it will be released on Wednesday of next week, November 21st. I mean, are YOU going to be bored on the internet on Thanksgiving morning? Don’t answer that. Watch the Macy’s parade.

OH, JAGUARS…

The Jaguars were defeated by the Colts last weekend and the offense actually did their jobs, but the defense… did not. And that’s putting it mildly. Multiple touchdowns allowed to tight ends that were slower than most of your defensive backs just shouldn’t happen, and there were blown coverages all over the field Sunday. It was ridiculous. I am kind of looking forward to the rematch of Colts/Jags if only because the players on defense that seem to give a crap will look at it as a revenge game, but… man. To see the offense look at least halfway decent, but the defense now be the problem is disheartening to say the least.

What’s going on? The onus lies in two areas: players and scheme. The safeties were regularly beat on Sunday by the Colts. Jalen Ramsey had to cover for Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson multiple times. Last year Church provided a lot of great leadership for the team, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Additionally, Telvin Smith looked a little lost. Is that due to scheme or mental issues? Whatever the case, it needs to be fixed. Personally, I think backup safety Ronnie Harrison has been a stud, even if he’s a rookie. He needs to be placed in the starting lineup. That might help shore up some issues. The Jaguars are hopefully getting AJ Bouye back this week, which will help as well and allow their nickel corner to truly play nickel. But man, it seems like defensive coordinator Todd Wash has been figured out. When you load the defense with that many playmakers, they shouldn’t look lost. When an offensive line as young as Indianapolis’ is your opponent, you should at least sack Andrew Luck once or twice. Something’s up.

Will it continue this week against Pittsburgh? I don’t know. The Jags always seem to elevate their game when they play the Steelers. I don’t think it will be enough for them to win. Would I love to see a miraculous turnaround, and a playoff push from the Jags? Absolutely. Will they get there? Probably not.

Why? Jacksonville has three losses in the division already. They don’t own a tiebreaker over anyone in the AFC South. Unless the rest of the division has a mental breakdown and loses out while the Jags win out, Jacksonville will not win the division. So they have to hope for the Wild Card. What’s the problem there? Well, again, unless a team has a complete breakdown, the first Wild Card spot is locked up by the Chargers, who currently sit at 7-2 and are second in the AFC West, which will likely be won by the Chiefs. Again, the Titans and Colts all currently hold a better record, as well as tiebreakers, over the Jags for the second spot. We will see how everything shakes out, and they’re not mathematically eliminated at this point.

So, smartypants, you may ask, how would you fix the Jaguars?

I’m glad you asked, dear reader.

First, I would drop Dave Caldwell like a hot potato. He’s missed on too much stuff and stuck too hard to “his” players. Why is Rashad Greene still on the roster? Because he’s a Caldwell guy. Drop him.

Second, I would drop both coordinators. Todd Wash and Nate Hackett do ok but I think they need more development in positional coaching before coordinating again. Who would I replace them with? Hear me out: on defense, I would hire Jack Del Rio as coordinator. He spent three years as Denver’s DC turning them into an elite defensive unit. Yes, it helped that they had star players like Aqib Talib, Demarcus Ware, and Von Miller. Hey, look at that, the Jaguars have star players too. Also, I think he has the scheme that will work with the talent (he’s not afraid to change from zone to man, and he’s not afraid to be aggressive) and also he’s had a lot of head coaching experience, which gives him the perspective on how the trends in the league are going (more passing offense). On offense, I would bring in Kevin O’Connell, who currently is the QB coach and passing game coordinator for the Redskins. They are having an unexpectedly excellent year and he seems to be able to take advantage of the talent he has on hand.

Player-wise, the Jaguars are currently over the 2019 salary cap. They need to release or restructure a lot of guys to get under it. I would release Blake Bortles and take the cap hit there, or trade him. The Jaguars can probably find a trade partner for him; if they could for Blaine Gabbert then surely they can for Blake, so that everyone comes out of the situation okay. I would jettison Andrew Norwell and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who have not been worth the money they were signed, and I would not sign Donte Moncrief or Keelan Cole to a new deal. I would also cut DJ Hayden, Barry Church, Tashaun Gipson, and Marcell Dareus. I would attempt a team-friendly deal with Calais Campbell, because he is still a good player.

In the draft, I would highly consider taking a quarterback in round one. Also, I would draft a TE, non-project WR, FS, and a lineman on each side of the ball.

Free agency wise, if Joe Flacco becomes available, I would do what it takes to sign him. He immediately makes your team better. Trey Flowers may come out of New England, and he’s who I would take to replace Dareus on the defense. Golden Tate is a bit of a journeyman but after whiffing on Donte Moncrief and letting Allen Robinson walk, the Jags need a guy to be reliable.

Those are the moves I would make. Do they make more sense than what the Jags are doing now? I’m not sure, but it sounds a lot better than turning on the TV with dread at 1PM on Sunday.

THE AARON IT OUT COACHING CHANGE FORECAST

Here are the coaches that I see not being with their teams come the Monday after the end of the season:
Hue Jackson – Browns – GONE. I do not expect Gregggggg Williams to stay with the team.
Jason Garrett – Cowboys. He has presided over seasons of disappointment for far too long.
Vance Joseph – Broncos. Elway can’t hit on them all. This was a bad hire, and it’s starting to show big-time.
Todd Bowles – Jets. They’re a train wreck.
Jon Gruden – Raiders. Will it happen? Probably not. Should it happen? Uhhh yes.
Sean McDonough – Bills. He might get a flyer because his QB has been injured most of the season.
Dirk Koetter – Bucs. This season has been a disaster for him.
John Harbaugh – Ravens. All reports indicate he’s unhappy and ready to dip out.

AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Saints
2. Rams
3. Chiefs
4. Steelers
5. Vikings

PICKS AND PREDICTIONS

PACKERS @ SEAHAWKS – Green Bay always has an issue going into Seattle, but I don’t think it will break them tonight. As long as they have Aaron Rodgers, they’ll find a way to win.

GB 21 SEA 17

TITANS @ COLTS – The Titans looked brilliant against the Pats last week, but come in to face a healthy elite QB this week. The Colts have shored up a lot of their problems and may be looking for a return to dominance. This may determine a wild card playoff spot.

TEN 20 IND 30

BUCS @ GIANTS – Nah.

TB 3 NYG 7

STEELERS @ JAGUARS – I said what I was going to say about the Jags up there. Hopefully they can stop the Steelers. But the Steelers are on a five-game winning streak, and I’m not sure they can be stopped.

PIT 27 JAX 24

PANTHERS @ LIONS – The Panthers will bounce back from a Thursday night thumping, and the Lions will continue to look like lost kittens.

CAR 28 DET 21

COWBOYS @ FALCONS – Can we just sit here and reflect on how great it was that Cleveland beat the Falcons? Both of these teams are just looking kind of pathetic.

DAL 10 ATL 17

BENGALS @ RAVENS – They say that Robert Griffin III is getting ready to start at QB, but you and I both know Lamar Jackson will get the start if Joe Flacco can’t go. Cincinatti’s been exposed to the point of firing their defensive coordinator.

CIN 15 BAL 21

TEXANS @ REDSKINS – This will be a solid game that people will enjoy watching. Washington is surprising everyone with their success and is looking like a top NFC team this year… well, behind the Rams and Saints, at least. Houston will see some adversity. Can they overcome it?

HOU 24 WSH 30

RAIDERS @ CARDINALS – Watch a movie, or a Christmas movie, or make plans, or something, other than watching this game.

OAK 5 ARI 12

BRONCOS @ CHARGERS – The Broncos will get their butts handed to them in this game. Will John Elway make a midseason coaching change? (Probably not.)

DEN 17 LAC 35

EAGLES @ SAINTS – This looked like a good game, a long time ago. Now, it looks like another day in the park for New Orleans.

PHI 20 NO 49

VIKINGS @ BEARS – I’m looking forward to this – it may show us who is #1 in the NFC North. It also may be a defensive snooze-fest. Go Vikings, I guess?

MIN 24 CHI 21

CHIEFS @ RAMS – The Game of the Week is on Monday night – two offensive powerhouses slug it out. Who will win? Well, the Chiefs have some defense, and the Rams have better defense. It doesn’t matter, because whoever has the ball last will win if you ask me.

KC 49 LAR 56

Aaron It Out: Week 9: Bortles-ing It Out

It’s time to admit it, whether you want to or not: the Blake Bortles era is coming to a screeching halt in Jacksonville. Bortles is a liability more often than not, and can’t be relied on to manage the game the way the Jaguars are trying to get him to. The Jaguars need to make a change at QB, and they need to do it soon. However, quarterback is the one position in which you can’t just come in and start playing right away, so unless a trade occurs, we’ll forego the “give up all the first-round picks for a big-name guy” talk here. Additionally, we’re going to have to look at realistic scenarios, not pie-in-the-sky items. For example, it would be great to have a two-time-Super-Bowl-winner as the QB of the Jaguars, but Eli Manning will very likely not waive his no-trade clause.

There are three names to keep an eye on this offseason, as the churn of rosters picks up and trades can once again be agreed to. First, Tyrod Taylor. The Jaguars and Browns have a history of making trades, and Taylor could be swapped for Bortles and a low pick. Taylor is an underrated quarterback who is an extremely hard worker. I really like his skill set and athleticism. Second, although I don’t see him going anywhere, Nick Foles. He will be a hot name again and the Eagles could move him and draft a backup to save cap room. Third, Joe Flacco. The Ravens traded back up into the first round of the 2018 draft to pick Lamar Jackson. While he looks very inexperienced in the Wildcat, Jackson worked a lot as a traditional QB in Bobby Petrino’s system at Louisville, and I think that if he is entrusted with the full responsibilities of a QB instead of being a gadget guy, he will thrive in the league. That makes Flacco expendable, and Baltimore could take the dead money hit to cut him and move on. Although everyone in the country could question whether he is an “elite” quarterback, Flacco is a definite, significant upgrade over Bortles. If Flacco hits the free agent market he would likely command just as much money as Kirk Cousins did in the 2018 offseason.

I did not include Derek Carr on that list because Jon Gruden is an absolute nut bar and could hold onto Carr throughout all his craziness with the Raiders.

The Jaguars could also draft a quarterback. Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield have shown that QBs don’t need to sit quite so much anymore. Josh Rosen, to a lesser extent, has shown the same. If you find the right QB, they will pay big dividends for your franchise in the long run. This year will be unique as well, because several QB-needy teams took the plunge last year with drafting one in 2018. A quick examination of the league shows that of the likely high-picking teams, the only ones that should be in the market for a QB in the top ten are likely the Giants, Denver, and maybe Tampa. Everyone else has their guy, most likely. In this sense, I would say it is highly likely the Jaguars will pivot and pick a quarterback in the 2019 draft, especially if they pick one through fifteen.

Nobody likes to think about the draft in week 8, but I’m here not to say the season is ruined (even if it may be), but rather look toward the future, with a Quarterback That Doesn’t Suck. One of the big names is Ryan Finley of NC State. He’s got arm strength questions, meaning people don’t think he can move it down the field, but at least seems to look the part. Another one is Drew Lock of Missouri. While I, a Jaguars fan, am extremely hesitant to pick up another Missouri QB in the draft (I think that fear is called Gabbertitis), Lock appears to have the football smarts, makes good progression in his reads, and has the physical game to back up his brain. Also he’s not transferred all over the place.

But a name I’m intrigued with and one I think you should keep in mind is Will Grier of West Virginia. Grier has a little bit of baggage and didn’t have the best start to his college career, playing at Florida during the Muschamp era. We won’t go there, I don’t want to stir up too many bad memories. He was suspended for a year for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and transferred to West Virginia. Since his return, however, Grier’s been pretty solid, racking up nearly 3,500 yards in 2017 and on pace to do at least that this season. He seems to have matured from the incident that occurred that caused him to be suspended and he does look like he has the field vision needed to not zero in on his targets and tell the defense what he’s doing. I really like his arm, and his release is solid. He does a really good job with those back-shoulder throws, putting the ball where the receiver can easily grab it. He could be one of those “underrated gem” QBs.

Whatever may happen, I hope it happens soon. The Bortles era needs to come to an end, so that the Jaguars can truly make the change they need to and keep up with the rest of the league – yes, running is great and balance is important, but teams win with passing and offensive innovation, too, not just “ground and pound” all day.

I wrote all that before the Jaguars signed Landry Jones on Wednesday. I still believe each and every word and think that some sort of change will happen, but now with this “non-throwing-shoulder injury” it is pretty telling, in my opinion, that Blake’s season is done. An injury to one shoulder will affect your overall range of upper body motion. Also, it can make you afraid to get hit. Blake has played a lot through injury; he played through a wrist injury all last season, it seems. However, this may be the excuse the team needs to put him on the shelf for the rest of the year. If you think your starting QB will play in the next game, but you need a guy to come in and take scout reps so the backup can take the first-team reps, you don’t do that on a bye, where guys will be off for an extended period of time, you do it on a Monday or Tuesday before practice for the next game starts. Landry Jones’ signing and the timing of it rings loudly of “we need you to come in and get a basic understanding of the playbook,” something that would not be needed if Blake truly were healthy. If Blake doesn’t improve significantly, the Jaguars will place him on Injured Reserve this week or next and go with Cody Kessler the rest of the season. The move would not only serve as a way for the coaches and staff to show the players they’re willing to make a change to help the team, it would also serve as a bit of a spark to the offense. Kessler doesn’t represent the upgrade at the position the Jags need, but he is at least a parallel move, and probably won’t fumble the first series of the game.

We had a few interesting trades as the deadline came and went on Tuesday, and nothing major really happened. Green Bay fans are up in arms over the trades of running back Ty Montgomery and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but to be completely honest, unless the Packers trade Aaron Rodgers, they’ll be in contention for a long time to come.

And finally, our first firing of the year came on Monday, as the Browns not only let go of Hue Jackson (finally), but also Todd Haley (why was he even there), and made Greggggggg Williams their head coach to finish out the season (lol). I said multiple times that the Browns needed a coach to take their talent to the next level but I don’t think Bountygate Guy is the permanent answer. They’ll move on to another guy after the season is over. Don’t get too excited until you see the name, Browns fans.

Oh, did you see my story on how the Jags need to make a change at GM on Monday? Go read it if you haven’t.

AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Rams
2. Saints
3. Chiefs
4. Ravens
5. Panthers

BONUS AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE: PIE EDITION
1. Pecan
2. Pumpkin
3. Apple
4. Coconut Cream
5. Cheesecake

WEEK NINE PICKS AND PREVIEWS

RAIDERS @ 49ERS – If you willingly watch this tonight, please have yourself examined by a medical professional.

OAK 2 SF 5

FALCONS @ REDSKINS – This should be a fun game, except… what’s that? Washington shored up its secondary by trading for Ha Ha Clinton Dix, and may win its division? Welp… unless Sark can pull a miracle out of his Special Bag of Sark Treats, we may see the Redskins win this. They have a pretty solid three-game winning streak, and the Falcons have only notched wins over the Panthers (early-season edition), Bucs, and Giants.

ATL 21 WSH 30

LIONS @ VIKINGS – The Vikings are Not Great this year, but they’re better than the Lions, slightly. If the Lions get their crap together, they can outmatch a Vikes team that doesn’t quite know what it is yet. However, I’ll stick with Minny here – their only home losses have been against the Bills in a fluke and the Saints, one of the best teams in the NFL.

DET 17 MIN 35

STEELERS @ RAVENS – Remember how last week the Jaguars needed a win going into the bye to keep their season feeling secure? That’s the Ravens, only they can actually pull it off. The Steelers are still not sure what they are and their defense is a trash pile. They have a three-game winning streak but the Browns game was a lot closer than the score suggests.

PIT 21 BAL 28

CHIEFS @ BROWNS – Congrats, GreggggGGgggggGG Williams, your first game as Browns Interim Head Coach is one you will lose, by a lot.

KC 49 CLE 21

JETS @ DOLPHINS – Who cares?

NYJ 18 MIA 21

BEARS @ BILLS – Peterman is starting again. The question is not “who will win” but rather, “how much will the Bears win by?”

CHI 35 BUF 9

BUCS @ PANTHERS – Tampa is in freefall. Carolina is very much not. The winner is obvious.

TB 17 CAR 24

CHARGERS @ SEAHAWKS – If the Chargers get good, but don’t have anyone to watch them in their stadium are they still good?

LAC 20 SEA 12

TEXANS @ BRONCOS – As a Jaguars fan I am obligated to dislike the Texans, but they are starting to look better and better. They may win the division, although the Colts are starting to surge too. The Broncos whiffed on their head coach choice, big time. Starting to think Denver is where Jack Del Rio may make his next stop as head coach.

HOU 19 DEN 7

RAMS @ SAINTS – Game of the week material right here. Drew Brees has a ton of weapons, so does Jared Goff. Both head coaches are named Sean. But so far, Wade Phillips has had an answer for each of the Rams’ opponents, and I think he will here too.

LAR 30 NO 24

PACKERS @ PATRIOTS – This should be a really fun game to watch, with two of the greatest quarterbacks of our time duking it out. But man, I just really hope the Packers win.

GB 21 NE 17

TITANS @ COWBOYS – Oh, man, really? This is what we’re closing the week out with? Folks, the ratings for this will be artificially inflated because it’s the Cowboys. This game will, otherwise, be uninteresting.

TEN 10 DAL 21

Aaron It Out Special Report: Jags Problems Start At Top

The Jaguars have a problem, and it starts at the top.

The Jacksonville Jaguars lost their London-hosted matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, a loss that was closer than the last three have been, but still was a little messy and seemed just out of reach.

The Jags’ defense seemed to play better football, despite getting burned more than a couple of times and the now-infamous Liquor Club Incident in which who-knows-how-many players were smashing multiple bottles of substances and thought they were getting comped and then realized that football is just a novelty in Europe, not a way of life like it is here.

Much-maligned (deservedly so) quarterback Blake Bortles did not do much to help, fumbling the first offensive snap, but he looked a little better than in previous weeks, not making horrible mistakes and getting the ball out a little quicker.

But those aren’t the issues here.

Allen Robinson, Aaron Colvin, Chris Ivory, Marcedes Lewis, and Kirk Cousins. These are all names that the Jaguars missed on or passed on in free agency. Oh, I forgot about Brandin Cooks.

Teddy Bridgewater, DeSean Jackson, Le’Veon Bell. These are all names that the Jaguars could have traded for. The trade deadline is coming soon and unless something crazy happens, there won’t be much movement.

Here’s the big one: DeShaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson. Those are three quarterbacks the Jaguars could have drafted in the last two years. Even as backup, or whatever. Instead they drafted Leonard Fournette, who hasn’t played meaningful football since the Jags played the Patriots, and Taven Bryan, who was intended to be a replacement for Calais Campbell but looks nothing like one right now.

Andrew Norwell, Donte Moncrief, DJ Hayden, Austin Sefarian Jenkins, and Niles Paul. The Jags’ main free agent acquisitions from the 2018 offseason didn’t seem to show much promise. Everyone talked themselves into believing the Jaguars knew what they were doing.

Whoops.

The Jaguars gave an extension to Marqise Lee, who wasn’t even the third-best receiver on the roster, and who rarely plays a full season. They paid gobs of money to an offensive lineman that hasn’t had much impact. They let go of a corner that knew the system and brought in an older one that is injured. They let go of a tight end that was arguably more productive than the tight end they signed. They built themselves to run and then only carried three RBs on the active roster, two of whom are now injured, one is gone for the season.

Whoops.

Since taking over in 2013, General Manager Dave Caldwell has drafted in the first round Luke Joeckel (number two overall), Blake Bortles (number three), Dante Fowler (number three), Jalen Ramsey (number five), Leonard Fournette (number four), and Taven Bryan (number twenty-nine). Of course, Ramsey is far and away the best player on that list. But when you seemingly whiff on three of your first four picks, and the jury is still out on the last two (due to injury and inexperience), it’s indicative of a problem.

When you spend your free agency money fortifying the offense with head-scratchers like Donte Moncrief and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, it’s indicative of a problem.

When you insist that your quarterback is not a liability when, in fact, he appears to be to everyone else, and then you don’t make the moves to get a replacement, it’s indicative of a problem.

Kirk Cousins is at least okay. No, he’s not GREAT, and he’s not put together enough season in Minnesota to make a judgment as to whether the Vikings whiffed on that one or not. But, he is an upgrade over Bortles. When a report comes out that you were prepared to offer him 25 million but not go to thirty – what’s the difference, really? Five million dollars is chump change in the NFL. You couldn’t find some spare hundos in the couch up at The Bank to massively upgrade the QB position?

There are two examples of spending up to the cap and getting results right now. One is getting amazing results, the other is disappointing.

We’ve outlined the issues with the Jaguars, and they are up against the cap, and will have to jettison some guys next offseason. They think their window is open, and unless they go 7-1 to close out the season, it’s all but shut. However, the fact of the matter is free agency is how they chose to spend, and put it all on defense and hope for the best. Last year, we got it. This year, not so much.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Rams are playing near-championship-level football. They signed many, many free agents but the difference here is they are 8-0 now. Jaguars fans would cry at the sight of an 8-0 start to the season. The Rams have continuity, a coach that knows what he’s doing, and a GM that spends and drafts smart.

Yeah, sure, you have a comparison of apples and oranges, a little. Sean McVay, the Rams’ head coach, is an offensive guru with a memory that puts computers to shame and he and his staff have the appeal of putting their mark on their team in a new, hot area. Plus, he has defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who hasn’t been a great head coach but has excelled at every DC stop he has been at. The Jaguars have Doug Marrone, trying to overcome his last NFL head coaching job and the impression he made on everyone by leaving, with a young offensive coordinator without much experience in the area, and a defensive coordinator that people are still trying to figure out.

That said, though, both teams did enough to make the playoffs last year. What’s the difference this year? In my opinion, the Rams were willing to change and adapt. The Jaguars stayed with what they thought worked last year, except it’s not this year. While that can partially be blamed on the coach, it can be laid mostly at the feet of the individual who brings the players onto the team – the General Manager.

Let us also not forget that Dave Caldwell blessed us with several years of Gus Bradley.

A change needs to be made, and it needs to be made before the offseason is fully underway. Whatever happens the rest of the season, happens, but I don’t think Doug Marrone is totally at fault – I think that the personnel side plays a major factor in all this, and that smarter decisions could have been made.

Who can fill the void? In my opinion, there is one name that sticks out: Jerry Reese. Reese oversaw the rosters that won two Super Bowls, both over the dynastic New England Patriots. Reese worked extensively with Tom Coughlin and undoubtedly has some sort of connection with Doug Marrone. As the lone holdout of the previous Jaguars era of football operations, Dave Caldwell has worn out his welcome. It’s time for Tom to put his guy in at GM, just like he did at HC, before the Jaguars spin too much out of control.

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