Hello, week eleven! You’re looking mighty fine, a smorgasboard of interesting matchups as we head into the long holiday weekend next week. And hello, dear reader, and welcome to Aaron It Out.
There will be some separation in the league at the conclusion of this week, for sure: four of the top teams in the NFC will battle it out this weekend, as will some of the top teams in the AFC. I’d like to spend a little time on the marquee games, if you don’t mind.
The Los Angeles Rams will be heading to Minnesota and this will be one of the premier games of the week. The Vikings have a five-game winning streak and the Rams a four-game winning streak. Both teams are firing on all cylinders on offense, and playing pretty darn good defense. In the four games prior to their matchup against Washington last week, the Vikings allowed 14.75 points per game, which is pretty darn good. The Rams, somehow, are better: in their last four games, they have only allowed 10.25 points per game.
Of course, something has to give; these teams each have prolific and balanced offenses. Each team could realistically wind up being the 1 or 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Rams, by virtue of being in an overall weak division, have the easier schedule remaining of the two teams, and so the landscape could change no matter who wins this game. But this is quite honestly one of the best games on paper of the year, and I am really looking forward to seeing what happens. I really think the Vikings are smart for sticking with Keenum for now, as well. He has the hot hand.
The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off their bye and heading for Dallas to take on the Cowboys this weekend. The Cowboys have probably the most interesting storyline: how do they replace Ezekiel Elliott, who is serving his suspension (finally)? Again, if Elliott had just taken his punishment, he would be done by now, and playing down the stretch when his team needed him. Instead, Elliott will come back on Christmas Eve against the Seahawks. Fortunately, after their matchup against the Eagles, the Cowboys’ schedule gets a bit easier, with games against the Chargers and Giants, but they also have to face the Redskins and Raiders without their star running back.
The Eagles are killin’ it, on a ridiculous winning streak and don’t look to stop anytime soon, but the Cowboys always give them a problem. It will be interesting to see what happens this week; will Philly come out of the bye swinging, or has the rest made them lethargic and susceptible to Dallas’ game-planning?
Moving on, it’s official. I’m all in. The train is moving, and I have officially jumped aboard. CHOO CHOO! (Sorry.)
The Jaguars are a GOOD NFL TEAM AGAIN. At least right now.
But hey, it’s been a long time. The last time this team had a winning record was probably 2010 or 2011. The last time the Jaguars won 6 games was 2010. The last time the Jaguars were in playoff contention was 2010, I think. It’s been a long time. The team has toiled in mediocrity, trying to rebuild, trying to get out from the shadow of the bad drafting of James Harris and Gene Smith. Also, the shadow of the bad drafting of Rookie GM Dave Caldwell, who we can admit whiffed pretty big on his first draft. Also also, the shadow of bad coaching – Gus Bradley and his “who cares if you win or lose, you gotta LEARN.”
It’s been double-digit loss records, poor quarterback play, garbage wide receivers, and not playing to your personnel.
I’ve been afraid to pick the Jags to win games. No more. I’ve been doubtful of their ability to win. No more.
What has caused me to change my mind? Last week’s game against the Chargers. L.A. took away the run, and forced Blake Bortles to pass. The defense was getting gassed because when you pass, you take up less time and don’t control the clock as much. Gus Bradley, now the Chargers’ defensive coordinator, knew much of the personnel and he knew what he was facing in Bortles. However, in the third quarter, Bortles led a masterful drive down the field to score a touchdown and played with more patience than I think I’ve seen out of him his whole career, notably extending plays with his legs and finding his receivers open without forcing throws, AND bringing home the two-point conversion as well.
However, when Bortles threw two interceptions basically in a row (which would have crippled previous Jags teams), the defense found a way. The team got with it and stuck together, and didn’t break down. They turned the tide, forced overtime, and then took the ball away from the Chargers again to kick a field goal and get the win.
I’m here for the Jaguars, I’m buying into the hype, I’m down with the playoffs talk. Yes, please. It’s been a long, long time and I’m officially on board. The Jaguars may lose one more game this year. Also, they may not. But with the schedule being as favorable as it is for them, I’m ready to ride a winning record here in Jax. The schedule story will be different next year, but I’m here for the rest of this season. Bring it on.
TV GUY NOTE: Every time the Jaguars tried to fire up their crowd, every time they celebrated, James Lofton, doing color analysis for the CBS TV broadcast, essentially told them they were unprofessional and needed to stop. Hey, Lofton: the Jags have been bad a while. The Jags have swagger. People enjoy seeing things like that. Deal with it.
A few more quick-hit observations: How is Ben McAdoo not gone after losing to the forty-friggin’-niners? Dead man walking alert… Looks like Deion Sanders picked up on my Eli-to-Broncos theory. The Broncos would be silly to not make that happen; they may also invest in a first-round pick to develop behind him, too. Another name for Denver? Case Keenum… What the Saints are doing is nice, but not sustainable beyond this year; Drew Brees has $18 million in dead cap money… It’s horrible that Richard Sherman got injured but that is just another indication of the Seahawks’ downhill slide, I mean they had problems with the Texans… Doug Marrone for Coach of the Year.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Aaron It Out will be truncated (shorter intro, plus top 5 and picks) next week, and will run on Wednesday morning. Hey, it’ll be Thanksgiving. A guy’s gotta eat.
THE AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
PICKS AND PREVIEWS
TITANS @ STEELERS – This may very well be an excellent game, and I have high hopes for it – as long as the Steelers of recent weeks, and not the ones from the beginning of the season, show up. Also, it will be a game that will be shown almost totally in “Madden view,” or via Skycam. At least visually, it should be interesting. That said, I think the Steelers are on a roll, and the Titans are ready for a bit of a letdown. Plus, I think in a matchup of the two offenses, the Steelers have a definite advantage. This should be a compelling game, but one that the Steelers win.
JAGUARS @ BROWNS – Here it is, no more “Jags lose” picks or being afraid of jinxing the team. The Browns occasionally show flashes of competence in games, and their run defense is okay, but the Jaguars have the superior offense and more talent in the run game and the passing game, and the defense should absolutely stifle the Browns. Jaguars win.
BUCS @ DOLPHINS – This game is notable in that it’s the game that was postponed due to Hurricane Irma… and that’s about it. Two woeful teams playing each other, each with their own problems. Here, the Bucs have more problems, so the Dolphins win.
RAVENS @ PACKERS – The Packers with Rodgers would dominate this game, but they don’t have Rodgers. I think that the Ravens give Green Bay a tough time with their defense (such as it is – it’s improved since the Ravens got skunked by the Jags). I think that this will be a hard-fought game between the two teams, but I also think that the Packers win.
LIONS @ BEARS – The Bears seem to have a run game that’s developing, but also, they stink pretty much out loud. The Lions are trying to pull themselves up over teams like Dallas and Seattle and get into that 5 seed in the playoffs, because the Vikings (barring a meltdown) have the division locked up. Lions win.
RAMS @ VIKINGS – As I stated above, this is going to be one of the best games of the week, and should be a lot of fun to watch. Look for this to be a pretty high-scoring game (in my opinion) and lots of big plays, because I think both of these offenses are going to gas the other team’s defense. It will probably come down to who has the ball last, and here, I like that team to be Minnesota. Vikings win.
CARDINALS @ TEXANS – Yikes. This game doesn’t seem like it’s worth watching, but I guess you have to pick a winner. The Cardinals’ defense will be able to stop Tom Savage and the Texans’ offense. Cardinals win.
CHIEFS @ GIANTS – The Chiefs are coming off their bye and ready to make another statement, reminding the rest of the league that they mean business. The Giants are praying for the end of the year and Eli is having his agent look into Denver’s housing market. Chiefs win.
REDSKINS @ SAINTS – Another excellent matchup here – the Redskins shut down the Seahawks a couple of weeks ago and took the Vikings to the end last week, and the Saints are running over their opponents and looking to make a statement that they can hang with the Rams and Eagles. Problem is, the Redskins pick out one or two games per year to flash and surprise everyone, and I think that’s going to happen here. Also, they’re not too far out of another wild card spot, and they play a pretty easy schedule for the rest of the year, facing the Giants twice, the Chargers, the Cardinals, and the Broncos. I’m going to go with the upset here and say Redskins win.
BILLS @ CHARGERS – The Chargers are banged up (including their QB) from last week, and while the Bills may be starting a new QB themselves, they have a better chance of showing up and dominating. Nate Peterman will struggle, but I see this ending with a Bills win.
BENGALS @ BRONCOS – Both these teams stink right now, and the Bengals can play dirty besides. I think that the Broncos defense wants to show the last few weeks have been flukes, and I also think the entire Denver squad wants to stop their losing streak. This is as good an opportunity as any. Broncos win.
PATRIOTS @ RAIDERS – There isn’t much advantage in playing in Mexico City for the Raiders, other than they’ve done it before. However, for some reason, playing down there always results in an interesting game, so I’m gonna do it: pick against the Patriots this week. I’m not really sure why, it’s just that the Raiders are likely wanting to make a push for the end of the season, and a punishing defense like what Oakland is capable of can throw Brady off his game. Raiders win.
EAGLES @ COWBOYS – This game will be closer than many people realize, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Eagles will win, and continue their roll toward a first-round playoff bye.
FALCONS @ SEAHAWKS – The Falcons are sitting over .500 and got a solid win over Dallas last week. The Seahawks are hurting, minus a few key players, and waiting on their offensive line to gel (it’s week 11). I think that Atlanta builds on their success and the confidence that came from that, and march into Seattle to get the job done that the Texans couldn’t do a few weeks ago. Falcons win.
Enjoy the games, and see you next week!