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

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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.

Aaron It Out: 2018 Week 7: Factory of Jag-ness

One more shortened column this week. Report card grades are due. Also, I’ve been a sad Jags fan.

BUT! Rejoice, Bench Points land! Our esteemed founder, editor, and occasional college football when he feels like it writer Gavin had himself a little bundle of joy this week! Congrats to Gavin and his wonderful wife, who now not only has to put up with him, but a tiny clone of him as well.

Let’s get down to football!

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

PREVIEWS & PICKS
Week 6 Record: 4-11. Whoo!

BRONCOS @ CARDINALS – Do yourself a favor and watch something else. Catch up on the DVR, check out Netflix, do SOMETHING else. This is an ugly game between two ugly teams and Denver will win.

DEN 19 ARI 7

TITANS @ CHARGERS – This week’s London game sees two teams that are trying to figure themselves out on an international stage. Who prevails here? Los Angeles, who is in the midst of trying to figure out just what they’re doing in L.A. Might they, eventually, call London home?

TEN 9 LAC 24

PANTHERS @ EAGLES – The injury bug keeps biting the Eagles, and I’m not entirely sure they’ll completely get over it in time. The Panthers were handed a loss from the Redskins but appear to be in position to bounce back. This will be a close one.

CAR 17 PHI 10

VIKINGS @ JETS – The Jets are coming together, and maybe they can put together a Wild Card run – to be completely honest, their division is totally up for grabs right now. But, Minnesota is gaining confidence and their backfield is looking healthy. I think they continue their resurgence here.

MIN 24 NYJ 13

BILLS @ COLTS – Buffalo is already on its third QB this year, and that QB has been employed by the organization for a whole two weeks. Indianapolis is beginning to see players come back from injury. It’s pretty obvious who will win.

BUF 6 IND 30

PATRIOTS @ BEARS – If Khalil Mack is healthy, this will be a fun game to watch – especially if Chicago can press like the Jags did back in week two. Yes, the Patriots’ running game is picking up steam but if you load the box and don’t give plays time to take shape, you take away New England’s confidence. I think Chicago continues to surprise.

NE 20 CHI 28

BROWNS @ BUCS – Cleveland is getting better, Tampa is getting worse. There’s no amount of Fitzmagic or Finger-Lickin’ that can help them right now.

CLE 19 TB 13

TEXANS @ JAGUARS – Oh, friends, if the Jaguars don’t win this game somehow, their confidence may be shot and we could get Cryin’ Ramsey 2.0 in the next few weeks. Houston’s offensive line is porous but Jacksonville’s isn’t much better with all their health concerns. However, the Jaguars should be able to pick themselves up after last week’s Disaster in Dallas.

HOU 13 JAX 19

LIONS @ DOLPHINS – Oh, Detroit. Are you good, or are you just ok? I think the more important thing here is that Miami stood up to a much better defense last week, with their backup quarterback, and I think that makes them better prepared here. Especially considering that backup QB was Brock Osweiler.

DET 10 MIA 17

SAINTS @ RAVENS – Two prolific offenses clash to try and obtain national recognition and legitimacy, as if the Saints really need it. I see New Orleans dominating this – I am seeing their early-season loss to Tampa as more of a momentary lapse in ability.

NO 35 BAL 21

COWBOYS @ REDSKINS – To say both of these teams are inconsistent is an understatement of epic proportions. Which teams will show up? I guess the home team.

DAL 20 WSH 24

RAMS @ NINERS – Lol

LAR 45 SF 7

BENGALS @ CHIEFS – This potentially will be a good game, if the Bengals can bounce back from the Steelers squeaking by them. The Chiefs are firing on all cylinders and went toe to toe with the Pats. They should win here.

CIN 21 KC 30

GIANTS @ FALCONS – One team stinks and the arrow is pointing up, one team stinks and the arrow hasn’t decided which way it will point. Both teams have lots of talent and not a lot of defense, so it will be a confidence-builder either way.

NYG 16 ATL 21

Aaron It Out: 2018 Week 6: It’s All Coming Together

Something a little different due to the craziness of Hurricane Michael. Quick hits on the games, and score predictions so I can be really, really wrong when I look at this next week.

But first, your AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE:
1. Chiefs
2. Rams
3. Saints
4. Panthers
5. Jaguars

EAGLES @ GIANTS – In preseason, this looked great. Now, not so much. Can Philly bounce back? Thursday nights have been favorable for the home teams mostly this year.

PHI 20 NYG 23

BUCS @ FALCONS – Both of these teams look meh now, but Atlanta is lower on the meh scale than Tampa. I don’t think the home crowd will make a difference.

TB 17 ATL 12

CHARGERS @ BROWNS – An intriguing game but the Chargers are having troubles on defense, and they never travel to the East Coast well. The Browns are gaining confidence. Can they string together two home wins in a row? I think so.

LAC 10 CLE 14

COLTS @ JETS – Indianapolis has gotten bit by the injury bug hard. The Jets are trying to right the ship but Isaiah Crowell may not be there to get their ground game going.

IND 21 NYJ 14

SEAHAWKS @ RAIDERS – Ugh, I am sorry if you are going to watch this game. I hope that you can either watch another game or take a nap during this one. Both of these teams stink for entirely different reasons. One is in salary cap heck, the other is dealing with a coach that shouldn’t be there.

SEA 10 OAK 20

PANTHERS @ REDSKINS – Will the Redskins get their team back on track after getting plastered at New Orleans? No, no they won’t.

CAR 27 WSH 18

BILLS @ TEXANS – Uhhh… these teams are 2-3, and they have those records because their coaches are awful. That’s all I have to say.

BUF 21 HOU 17 in an ugly one.

CARDINALS @ VIKINGS – Minnesota won’t let themselves get Buffaloed again.

ARI 7 MIN 35

STEELERS @ BENGALS – Antontio Brown is on my fantasy team and I hope he has a great game. The Steelers defense is absolute trash and the Bengals will run all over them.

PIT 20 CIN 27

BEARS @ DOLPHINS – Two teams that have similar stories but are on diverging trajectories. Miami won’t be able to keep up with the score, or keep their QB up after Khalil Mack gets to him.

CHI 24 MIA 10

RAMS @ BRONCOS – If you want to see a team get pasted, watch this game.

LAR 45 DEN 14

RAVENS @ TITANS – Tennessee has found ways to win in their victories, but they won’t this week.

BAL 14 TEN 10

JAGUARS @ COWBOYS – If the Jaguars can overcome their injuries, they’ll win. The Cowboys don’t have as much of a chance – Jacksonville’s injuries are mostly all on the offensive side of the ball.

JAX 19 DAL 7

CHIEFS @ PATRIOTS – This should be a fun game, but New England’s defense won’t match up well at all with Kansas City’s offense.

KC 35 NE 20

NINERS @ PACKERS – Green Bay has to win this.

GB 17 SF 3

Aaron It Out: 2018 Week 5: Past the Quarter Mark

We’ve officially passed the quarter pole of the 2018 NFL season and week 5 is upon us. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the storylines of the season so far:

  • DOMINANCE DOMINOED: The Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings came into the season looking like two of the darlings of the NFL, but that is hardly the case. They have struggled in some spots and lost games they should have won. These are not the NFC Championship caliber teams that we got to see at the beginning of this calendar year – at least, not yet. We’ll see what happens, and yeah, it can take time for a team to gel and get to the point they’re a finely-tuned machine. It’s not just these two teams though – the Atlanta Falcons are looking like garbage, and it’s not all Sark’s fault this time. Atlanta’s chances of heading to a game in February on their home turf lessen by the week. New England made a trade for a receiver that may be on his way out of the league, and get a receiver back from suspension this week, but is it enough? They certainly beat the pants off of Miami, but the Pats look far from the scary, consistently dominant team they have been in the past. And lastly, the Pittsburgh Steelers are just looking sad. They seem to have let the Le’Veon Bell thing get away from them, and they did absolutely nothing to bolster their defense in the offseason, and it’s starting to show big-time. Will the Steelers tank, or keep playing the middling football they have so far? We’ll see.

  • SURPRISE QUARTERBACKS: Patrick Mahomes has come out of nowhere to be the new darling of the NFL. Good for him, and it appears not immediately starting was beneficial to his ability to play. Sam Darnold looks pretty good so far, and Josh Allen as well looks fine as they take over their new teams and head into week five in very different matchups. Jared Goff is showing that last season was not a fluke, and keeps the Rams in games as he should. Finally, yes, Blake Bortles is showing he was worth the investment by the Jaguars this past offseason and has continued, largely, his good play and not making many mistakes, and also making plays with his legs. If he stays smart and doesn’t make any major goofs, the Jaguars are suddenly not just a run-first team.

  • INJURIES ABOUND: I’m not sure if players are wearing their bodies out sooner or what, but man, there just seems to be a glut of crappy injuries in the beginning of the year, including some ACLs that just make you hurt for guys. I don’t know what the solution is here, because it seems like in some of these cases you just can’t help it, but I am thankful for these guys that the ACL is not as horrible of an injury as it used to be, and that recovery for most things is possible.

  • MATCHUP OF THE YEAR?: The Jaguars-Chiefs game this Sunday is going to be one of the best games you will see this year. Watch it, DVR it, whatever you need to do – enjoy it. The prolific and super fast Chiefs offense is going to go up against a stout and mean Jaguars defense, and it’s going to be fun to watch. The Broncos were able to limit Mahomes, Hill, and the gang for about three quarters this past week. The Jaguars’ defense is at least a couple of levels better than Denver’s. The Jaguars offense is still searching for an identity but is doing a great job of exploiting opponents’ weaknesses, and the Chiefs’ defense is one giant weakness. Provided the Jaguars do their job, they will win, but it won’t be easy by any stretch. I look forward to this game and you should too. It will feature two of the best teams in the AFC and may be a playoff preview.

  • TRADE FOR LE’VEON?: With the injury to Leonard Fournette, and him now being out indefinitely, should the Jaguars trade with the Steelers for Le’Veon Bell? The short answer is yes. If you can give them a third-round pick or less, absolutely. A running back that can give the juice that Bell does is worth it, when you’re thinking Super Bowl. The Jags brought in Orleans Darkwa for a workout as well and he is about their best free agent target they could get. But put me on the list of everyone else who thinks the Jags should take a shot and get a one-year rental for Bell.

AIO TOP FIVE
1. Rams
2. Chiefs
3. Jaguars
4. Saints
5. Bears

PICKS AND PREVIEWS

Colts @ Patriots – Neither the Colts nor the Patriots are what we thought they would be at the beginning of the year. However, anytime these teams get together, it’s compelling football. The injuries on the Colts’ defense will make things interesting for the Pats, but let’s see how well they integrate the returning Edelman and Josh Gordon into the lineup this week. Andrew Luck will keep Indianapolis in the game no matter what. Despite the dominance of New England over Miami this past Sunday, I expect to see a Colts win.

Broncos @ Jets – The Broncos have the defense to keep Sam Darnold a little rattled and the offense to match what New York does. The Jets have a few questions still, and are finding ways to lose games. The Broncos hung in with one of the AFC’s best teams last week. I see this as a Broncos win.

Packers @ Lions – I think I’m done thinking the Lions are a thing. The Packers beat a Bills team last week 22-0 that they should have beat 50-0 at least. There are seeds of discord being sown in Green Bay, and while it makes for good entertainment, it does not make for a good football team. I think that Detroit will have one of those games that surprises us like they did against New England. Lions win.

Giants @ Panthers – Uhhhh… the Panthers have Cam and Christian, and the Giants have Saquon and Odell. This game should be really fun, back and forth, and high scoring. What this game will be instead of low-scoring or something similarly crazy. Panthers win.

Titans @ Bills – The Titans play down to their opponents, such as they are. They do the bare minimum to get by when they win (yes, I know, only one loss). Each of their wins has come by three points. The Bills have played up and down football, and they aren’t sure who they are. The one game they can be noted for is their beatdown of Minnesota but the Vikings still don’t have it all together. However, I think that Buffalo figures something out this week, and they keep the game in hand. Bills win.

Falcons @ Steelers – Oh, man. Neither one of these teams, heavily expected to do well in the preseason, are good. Both of their defenses stink. Fortunately, they have lots of personnel on offense to make up for it here. In a shootout, I see Antonio Brown able to capitalize better than Julio Jones. Don’t know why, I just do. Steelers win.

Ravens @ Browns – The Ravens are starting to look legit. The Browns aren’t great, but don’t outright suck like they have in past year. This may be a fun game to watch. AFC North teams always seem to give each other a tough time so here’s my upset pick of the week: Browns win.

Dolphins @ Bengals – The clash of Guys Who Wear Orange will be a good one. Cincy’s getting Vontaze “Model of a Dirty Player, Oh Yeah And Do the Bengals Really Need Me” Burfict back this week but I don’t think it will have an impact. I look for Miami to bounce back from last week’s embarassing turn in New England and to give us a Dolphins win.

Jaguars @ Chiefs – I went over this game up top and not much has changed except I predict a Jaguars win.

Raiders @ Chargers – Seriously, the Chargers play in a (relatively) tiny soccer stadium while they’re waiting on the place they’ll be subletting from the Rams to be built. That stadium had tarps over seats. Can they not sell out their own teensy weensy stadium? Who knows. The Raiders are Bad and I would not be surprised if they jettisoned Amari Cooper and David Carr after this season. Chargers win, I guess.

Vikings @ Eagles – Neither of the teams that made it to the NFC Championship game are that good right now. Go figure. This looked to be a big, fun game at the beginning of the year. Now… not so much. Maybe one of these defenses can step up. Maybe they’re saving some juice for the postseason. But if I’m Minnesota, I’m looking over my shoulder for the Bears, who are off this week but definitely making waves. Anyway, I’ll say Vikings win.

Rams @ Seahawks – Hahahahahaha… Rams win. Big-time.

Cardinals @ Niners – This game will end in a tie.

Cowboys @ Texans – Ok offenses with not many stars vs. ok defenses with a couple of stars but not playing up to expectations quite yet square off in this Sunday Night Football matchup that should’ve been flexed. Houston stole a win from Indy last week and Dallas looks… ok. That’s about all I can say. I think Deshaun is the better QB of the two choices here, but I don’t think it’s enough to get them over the hump. Cowboys win.

Redskins @ Saints – The Redskins are doing enough to stay mostly competitive in games so far this year, but the Saints are exuding early-season dominance. This will be a good Monday nighter to flip to between your normal sitcoms and medical dramas. Ultimately, I don’t think Washington can get over the hump here. Saints win.

Aaron It Out: 2018 Week 4: Baker Special

Hey guys! This has been a rough week for me, mentally. A very close friend of ours lost his mother this week, work has been crazy, and for some reason, mentally, I just am spent. I have plenty of these half-takes with no thoughts to finalize them, and I think that the column would be better off without them. I’ll give you a few quick items, and then we’ll get to the good stuff. Next week, I promise I’ll give you a full-on column!

  • I think that it’s great Eric Reid was signed by the Panthers today. Will Kaepernick ever be signed? I’m not sure. They say QBs are a dime a dozen but guys like Tom Savage and Blaine Gabbert still have jobs, so I don’t know.

  • Arizona’s giving Josh Rosen the start at QB this week, and it won’t turn out like our other rookie QB debuts have, I’ll tell you that much. Arizona doesn’t have the stuff around him to do much, at least not this season. However, I won’t totally count them out – having Fitz and David Johnson on your team is never a bad thing.

  • Sucks to hear about Jimmy Garoppolo going down. The Niners can look forward to another high draft pick in 2019.

  • The Browns only have one loss (they tied in week one), and celebrated their victory last Thursday big-time, which they deserved. They won’t get more than 5 or 6 wins in my opinion, and they will return to earth soon, but as a Jags fan that endured the Mularkey and Bradley eras, I know how those fans felt.

  • Speaking of the Jaguars – big ole disappointment made its debut last Sunday at the Bank. Hopefully, Jacksonville can bounce back from their loss against the Titans. I’m pretty sure they can, they seem to have the resolve to do so, but if they don’t, or if the game goes down to the wire – you can pretty much expect armageddon and an announcements of the end days in the Jax media.

AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
1. Chiefs
2. Rams
3. Jaguars
4. Vikings
5. Eagles

PICKS AND PREVIEWS

Vikings @ Rams – The Vikings have a chance to prove on multi-platform national TV that last week was an aberration, and that they are still favorites to make the NFC Championship in January. LA’s top two corners are out for the year, and Minnesota has the receivers to burn them regularly. This depends on which Kirk Cousins we get, the “YOU LIKE THAT” one or the one that poo-pooed his team’s playoff chance at the end of last year, and how full the Coliseum is tonight. I’m going to say due to the experience here that we’ll see a Vikings win.

Texans @ Colts – Welcome to the big bucket of suck. The Texans are not good. The Colts are still trying to figure out what they are, and in an official rebuild. Let’s give it to the home team. Colts win.

Bills @ Packers – The Bills beat a team that is way better than the Packers last week. The Packers are still working on figuring out their line and also how to safely sack the opposing quarterback. I’ll call a Packers win here, but it’ll be close.

Bucs @ Bears – Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t throw the ball if he’s on the ground. The Bears may not look the greatest but they have a defense that is quickly becoming Good. Bears win.

Dolphins @ Patriots – The dysfunction in New England continues to grow. Nobody’s happy, they brought in another diva receiver and then sat him while they got humiliated on national television, and… yeah. The Dolphins look like the Pats should. QB on point, solid receivers, a defense that can at least kinda keep up with the other team. This is a conference-shaping game, and the Dolphins will win.

Lions @ Cowboys – The Cowboys are having issues on offense and injuries seem to be piling up on defense. The Lions have looked pretty good in two of the three games they’ve played so far. I’m thinking after the egg they laid in week two, Detroit is finding their way. Lions win.

Bengals @ Falcons – Cincy looks a lot better than anyone could’ve given them credit for, but their loss to the Panthers last week sort of showed their true colors. The Falcons currently have a losing record, and aren’t quite living up to expectations, but they’re entering a stretch where they could easily win 6 of their next 7 games, and this is one of them. I think Atlanta is just an all-around better team, and they’ll dominate this week. Falcons win.

Jets @ Jaguars – Although the Jets have looked relatively competent so far this season, they are still one of those teams in that nebulous void of “… eh?” I believe that with the record-setting heat this weekend in Jacksonville and the need of the Jaguars to have a bounce-back game, that New York will pretty much lay down for the Jags, giving the local audience a good show one more time before they head on the road for two weeks in a row. Jaguars win.

Eagles @ Titans – The Titans are bad, Mariota can barely pass, and the Eagles are getting the rust shaken off Carson Wentz. This is a game that the Eagles will win, big-time.

Browns @ Raiders – The Raiders are going downhill fast; it seems like they’re tanking to make leaving Oakland easier on them and on their fans. (I may have mentioned this a few weeks ago.) The Browns are on cloud nine with their rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield ready to tear up the NFL, at least for a couple more weeks. I could make the tie joke here but instead I’ll say Browns win.

Seahawks @ Cardinals – This game will end in a tie.

Saints @ Giants – The Giants finally won a game last week, but it was against the Texans, so that was sort of like playing JV. The Saints are starting to click after a fluke week one loss and have the opportunity to carry four wins in a row to the week six bye. I think the Giants don’t have the defense to keep up with the Saints, but New Orleans’ defense had better watch out for Saquon. This is a Saints win but it will be close.

Niners @ Chargers – Chargers win; the Niners’ season is over with their QB down.

Ravens @ Steelers – Both of these teams are having surprising starts to the season, and this will either be a really good game, which is what usually happens when they get together, or a one-sided blowout since Antonio Brown wants to prove he is the player he says he is. Here, I think that the Steelers will win.

Chiefs @ Broncos – Don’t really know what to make of Denver yet. They win a couple of games to start and then give up a stinker last week. Kansas City, however, has quickly established themselves as one of, if not the, top team in the AFC with a high-octane offense. I don’t think that will change here and the Chiefs win.

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