It’s a beautiful day, a wonderful week, and Christmas will be here soon. I hope as you get closer to the holidays, that work is not too crazy and plans are easily made. Welcome to week 15 of Aaron It Out. As the immensely brilliant scribe Fred Durst once said, let’s begin this week’s column by “taking it to the Matthews Bridge.”
Yes, new December Power Team Jacksonville straight up laid a whoopin’ on former December Power Team the Seattle Seahawks last week. It was a beautiful, glorious, and just plain fun game to witness. I found myself watching the highlights several times. Before I add my two cents to the garbage that happened at the end of the fourth quarter, I’d like to talk about the game itself and some personal highlights.
First, can you believe Blake Bortles is out there killin’ it right now? Two games in a row, he has displayed some surprising traits that he has somehow developed, at the right time for the team. He is not choreographing his throws, he is looking off receivers, and he is playing marvelously while on the run; one of his best throws last week was an off-the-back-foot completion for a first down.
It’s almost as if he is out there having fun, and has gotten out of his own head. I have notably written about his mediocrity on this site several times before, and he may have felt that the onus was on him to win games single-handedly. When teams are behind, they turn to the passing game, and I dunno about you, but when I am under undue pressure to carry the rest of my colleagues via my performance, it affects my performance. It appears that may have been the case previously for Blake. But now, he has a line, and it’s good. He has running backs that play competently. He has receivers that can get open and have the hands to catch what he puts out there. And the defense doesn’t give up huge plays, or at least, not often.
With the injuries at wide receiver, it’s honestly surprising that Blake (or the Jaguars) are excelling the way they are. Allen Robinson was a huge loss. Allen Hurns is not on IR but has been out several weeks (maybe they are saving him for the playoffs). Beyond that? Marqise Lee was almost it for a while, but rookies Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole have stepped up phenomenally. Tight end Dan O’Shaugnessey has been a great target as well, and the backs are great safety valves. That says something about the depth that Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin have built on the Jags’ roster.
As an unabashed Jaguars fan, it is amazing to see the team thrive like this. The offense is averaging 28 points per game when they win. The defense is first in the league in several categories; the entire unit deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. It is spectacular to see and I am enjoying the ride.
Around the rest of the AFC, the Patriots suddenly look very vulnerable, and it’s not just because Gronk was out last week. They looked old and tired in Miami and maybe they used all their juice in the regular season this year. We’ll find out for sure on Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The Pats’ schedule has also been uncharacteristically easy this year; they have played 7 teams that will probably wind up with losing records, and their losses to the Chiefs and the Panthers are telling. With a strong defense and pressure in the pocket, you CAN take down Brady (and Roethlisberger for that matter).
There is speculation that if the Jags win out, and the Steelers beat the Pats, then Jacksonville gets the 2 seed in the playoffs. That would be excellent, but let’s not forget that the Jaguars are very likely going to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. No matter what happens, that is pretty significant.
As is tradition, I’ll put together some playoff predictions next week, so you all can laugh at me.
At the end of the Jaguars-Seahawks game, the Jaguars were in victory formation. A few Seahawks players dove at the legs of Jags center Brandon Linder. This resulted in heated exchanges between members of each team. The Seattle players state they were “diving for the ball,” a ball that was in Blake Bortles’ hands, because, you know, it was victory formation, the ball is hiked to him and then he kneels.
One of these players is Michael Bennett, who got a lot of positive media for some sort of philanthropic work and working with Kaepernick and stuff, and he is a Walter Peyton Man of the Year nominee. He was not suspended for his unsportsmanlike actions of trying to injure another player. I certainly hope that this misguided individual does not win Man of the Year. Behavior like that does not belong in the game of football. Several children watch games like this, and this action tells Seattle fans and impressionable children that purposely injuring another player simply because you are upset is okay. It is not; it is bad sportsmanship. It is your own fault for being so upset that you got beat by a good football team.
Two players were ejected for this action and for making contact with a referee. These were Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson. As they left, stupid (probably drunk) fans threw items at Jefferson, causing him to mouth off to them and then attempt to climb the wall separating the playing field and the stadium seats to confront them. This was a dumb action by someone getting paid way, way more than the fan in the stands, also upset because the Seahawks lost to Jacksonville. This does not represent Jacksonville as a fan base (as Peter King was wrong to point out), and Jefferson should have been the better person and shrugged these actions off.
Listen, Seattle Seahawks, and your fans: nobody outside of Seattle likes you. You’re the Patriots of the NFC. Your defense plays dirty (but they’re injured right now) and you are literally riding Russell Wilson to victories because your run game is on par with a Pop Warner team and he has to try and extend the every play by running all over the place so the cheap wide receivers you get for him can get open. The people of Jacksonville really don’t like you because you gave us Gus Bradley, head coach. Stop criticizing other teams and being surprised that you get beat. You’re about to hit salary cap problems and the Rams are peaking right as you are waning. I look forward to not hearing about you for a while.
Now only if I knew how to get this website to play a Future song after you read the above paragraph.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Believe it or not, Christmas is around the corner (who knew?!?!?). This is the period of time where I load up my wife and two children, drive for 14+ hours, and spend time in a house with relatives I see way too little. Therefore, next week will feature a small commentary on the week 15 events, and previews/picks for both weeks 16 and 17. There will be no week 17 column. The week after 17, we’ll have a smaller column the following week with Black Monday reactions and Wild Card weekend playoff picks. It will be smaller because it will be written on my iPad. So look forward to that, and as always, follow me on Twitter for more up to the minute analysis and stuff like that.
THE AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
PICKS & PREVIEWS
BRONCOS @ COLTS – Nothing like a stinky pile of hot garbage to cap off your Thursday night! I do have to say the Colts were part of a very fun game last week, and did play to the end, but the fact that the Colts lost to a backup and an emergency quarterback speaks volumes of where they’re at. This game should be all offense, as neither team has much to offer on defense here. I’ll go with the home team and the fact that Denver backed into a win against a McCown-less Jets, and call this a Colts win.
BEARS @ LIONS – The Bears looked good against the Bengals, but so do a lot of other teams this year. The Lions may have some quarterback hand issues but if they want to make a playoff push, they need to be able to win games like this. On a national stage and at home, I think they can – Lions win.
CHARGERS @ CHIEFS – This game is quite possibly what decides the divison in the AFC West. Whichever team wins this game, so long as they win out, will get the crown. The Chiefs have a tougher remaining schedule, since they still have to go to Miami and face the Dolphins, but either team can do it. I think the Chiefs found their mojo against the Raiders, and will keep it up this week. I just don’t believe in the Chargers going to the playoffs. Chiefs win.
EAGLES @ GIANTS – As much respect as I have for Eli Manning and the Giants, they are a pile of trash this year, and lost last week to the Elliott-less Cowboys. The Eagles don’t have Wentz anymore but I don’t think that’s going to be as big a hurdle the rest of the regular season as some think it will be – Foles is a competent QB and will make it until the playoffs; they probably won’t make it to the Super Bowl. Eagles win.
BENGALS @ VIKINGS – Well, if Minnesota needed a bounce-back game from last week, this certainly is it. Cincy is awful and there is very likely a rebuild in store. The Vikes are playing for the number 2 seed in the playoffs. Vikings win.
RAVENS @ BROWNS – The Browns may be showing signs of life, but the Ravens are trying to get at that Wild Card spot. Ravens win.
CARDINALS @ REDSKINS – Yeah, so the Cardinals don’t suck quite so bad anymore, and that’s more thanks to their defense than anything. Their offense is not great. Then again, neither is the Redskins’ offense, which has only put up 13 and 14 points the last two weeks. Here’s your upset of the week: Cardinals win.
PACKERS @ PANTHERS – AARON RODGERS IS BACK LOOK OUT NFC oh wait CAM NEWTON’S RUNNING FOR NINETY-THREE YARDS oh hold on CAM AND AARON ARE LOCKED IN A WRESTLING MATCH FOR THE DISCOUNT DOUBLE CHECK BELT oh man THE LADIES ARE GOING WILD!!!!!!! I’m stupid, I know. Packers win.
JETS @ SAINTS – Saints win.
DOLPHINS @ BILLS – Jay Cutler and the ‘Fins just kicked the crap out of the Patriots, and the Bills may start Joe Webb at QB. Hopefully Buffalo enjoys this past week as the sixth seed in the playoff race, because they’re gonna start dropping fast. Dolphins win.
TEXANS @ JAGUARS – One of these teams has a surpisingly competent quarterback, a healthier-looking leading rusher, and the number one defense in the NFL. The other team is starting a quarterback that hasn’t started a game since 2015 and is decimated by injuries, and their number one wide receiver regularly gets owned by Jalen Ramsey. Jaguars win.
RAMS @ SEAHAWKS – The Seahawks… well, I talked about them up top in this column. The Rams need to win this game to keep hold of the third seed in the NFC playoff picture, and honestly I don’t think they’ll have much of a problem. Considering Seattle’s attitude at the end of the Jags game, though, I would expect that a fight breaks out here. Rams win.
TITANS @ NINERS – So everyone’s pointing out that the Niners are 2-0 with Jimmy “Rob Johnson” Garoppolo starting, but let’s all remember that they played the Bears and Texans in those two games and remember where we are at here – the Niners have only won three games this year. However, have faith, 50 people who actually attend San Francisco games! The Titans are Not Good Either! Their offense is becoming more and more ineffective and their quarterback’s leg is falling off (knee, ankly, hammy injuries). The Titans are about as overrated as Jimmy G. and on the downhill slope. Niners win this one.
PATRIOTS @ STEELERS – I love me a good top-seed game at the end of the regular season, because it means the teams I like in the playoffs have some tape of how to beat the teams they may play. Well, Miami beat the Pats last week with solid defense and solid offensive game planning. The Steelers have a decent defense and one of the best wide receivers in the league. Steelers win.
COWBOYS @ RAIDERS – Okay, how did this game not get flexed out of the SNF spot? Ugh. Do I really have to write a preview for this? Raiders win, giving false hope to their fanbase for a playoff push that won’t happen.
FALCONS @ BUCS – Kind of interesting that Jon Gruden will be in Tampa, considering the near-lock firing of Dirk “Why’d You Get Rid of Lovie” Koetter coming at the end of this season. In any case, Atlanta is pushing for a playoff spot and this game won’t stop that push one little bit. Falcons win.