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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