Aaron It Out: Division Isn’t My Strong Suit

The postseason is a wonderful time of year, full of change for bad teams, hope for successful ones, and good football for everyone watching. Welcome to the divisional edition of Aaron It Out.

Last week’s games didn’t bring too many surprises, other than the Titans’ win. Everything else went pretty much as expected, with Atlanta proving that a little experience does help in the long run, and the Jaguars showing the world that defense is winning games. Yeah, you may think 10-3 is a boring football game, but the truth of the matter is both offenses couldn’t get much going. The Jaguars need better out of Bortles, and better out of their wide receivers as well, if they want to remain in the playoffs. I personally think the Jags’ ceiling is as high as they want it to be. It’s not easy to replicate that defensive success of teams like the Dilfer-led Ravens or the Manning-led Broncos more recently; you have to be ready for whatever the other team throws at you and capitalize on mistakes, and the offense has to at least contribute a LITTLE BIT. If we’re being perfectly honest, we’ll have to see how it plays out, but I’d be a huge fan of Bortles returning to early-December-form for the rest of the playoffs.

The coaching hires so far… meh. Matt Nagy, I guess, will do an ok job in Chicago and hiring a former Chip Kelly protege as his offensive coordinator will make things about as interesting as they can get with Da Bears, I guess. But everyone else is waiting to see which horrible Patriots assistant they can hire, so there’s not much movement.

I’m watching the Colts, Cardinals, and Giants jobs with a little interest. The Colts have yet to swing for a big name, although I would imagine we may hear something about that this week. I would love to see Jim Harbaugh return to Indianapolis. The Cardinals are looking for a successor and they may very well be on-staff, or Vikings OC Pat Shurmur could get hired and take one of the three Minny QBs with him. And if Pats DC Matt Patricia gets hired by the Giants, I just want to hear “PATRICIA” with a New York accent.

What’s more entertaining to watch are the shake-ups on staffs that already have a coach. Green Bay and Seattle are looking for coordinators, as is Carolina. Interesting stuff, and we’ll see if it works – both the Packers and the Seahawks could make a move at head coach next year if the plan doesn’t play out.

And finally, Jon Gruden. You know, I don’t too much care if the Raiders broke the Rooney Rule; teams unfortunately bring in minority head coaching “candidates” and likely slip them a little stipend under the table for having a “meeting” so they can fulfill the rule. But it’s ridiculous to think that Gruden can “turn around” a franchise that was clearly on its way to success – one not-great year does not a failure make. This was done for the headlines and attention.

Raiders owner Mark Davis will be paying for this for some time. The only reason Gruden won a Super Bowl was because he played a team he built. He was able to exactly replicate then-Raiders QB Rich Gannon’s cadence and movements in practice. In Gruden’s time with the Bucs, although they had a brief playoff appearance, he never lived up to the hype he built for himself, causing nasty feuds with players like Keyshawn Johnson. I don’t like Del Rio getting messed over and I don’t like this hire. I may be wrong but I doubt it.

THE AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE, DIVISIONAL EDITION
1. VIKINGS
2. EAGLES
3. JAGUARS
4. PATRIOTS
5. FALCONS

FALCONS @ EAGLES – Man, the Falcons looked solid against the Rams last week, but the Eagles only had three losses all season. And those losses were very fluke-y, coming at the hands of the Chiefs, Seahawks, and Cowboys. Philly beat many of its opponents soundly. I’m torn on Atlanta, man. They show flashes of “good” and they beat the Rams pretty convincingly but I think that they’ll get crushed by the Eagles’ defense. Matt Ryan is a way better QB than Nick Foles but there is so much around Foles that it shouldn’t matter. I’ll say that this will be a good game that the Eagles win.

TITANS @ PATRIOTS – Most, if not all, of me thinks that the Titans have absolutely no chance here. But it’s the playoffs, so who knows what will happen? The Pats are in a time of upheaval and Tom Brady can only carry them so far. The Titans had to rely on their running back and miracle plays out of their pedestrian QB to beat the Chiefs last week. I can say this: the Titans will at least give the Pats a run for their money on the ground, and New England’s defense is pretty beat up as it is. This will be a hard-fought Patriots win.

JAGUARS @ STEELERS – This is pretty much the game of the week, if you ask me. People keep going back to that week 5 matchup to gain analysis from this and it will give you an idea of what this week’s game will be like, but it won’t tell the whole story. Pittsburgh’s star offensive players have a season of wear and tear on them. Jacksonville’s defense has gelled more, gotten even better, and added a run-stuffing defensive lineman. We remember the final score of the week 5 game as well but don’t forget: until the 2nd quarter it was 3-0 Steelers, and it was 9-7 Steelers until midway though the third quarter, until big plays were made. Antonio Brown will get some catches, but not as many as one thinks. Who knows which Blake Bortles we’ll get. This will likely be a classic game, but I also think injuries and wear and tear will stop the Steelers. Jaguars win.

SAINTS @ VIKINGS – The Saints looked pretty good against Carolina, even if they had to poke out Cam Newton’s eye. But the Vikings are on course for something special and I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon. They beat the Saints in week one; even if that was a long time ago, it still stands to reason that Minnesota is the better team here. The Vikings have the complete package to take them all the way to the Super Bowl, and what a story it would be. I’m here for it, to be honest, and glad to watch it and I hope the outcome matches my prediction. I’ll call a Vikings win here.

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