By now, you should know how much I preach about throwing the football on first down.

The run, run, pass approach to football has been a pet peeve of mine since I first dove into the game decades ago.

Maybe that's why I loved to watch the Air Coryell San Diego Chargers and Dan Marino and the K-Gun offense and the Houston Oilers' run-and-shoot system.

The pass is there to score. The run is there to win.

Throw early and get the points, and then pound the opponent with the running game is the right approach to winning football. It's not how much you run or throw, but how you run and throw.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are considered a running team and lead the NFL in rushing. But the past three weeks, quarterback Blake Bortles has morphed into a quarterback who can win games with his arm.

Reason? They let him.

In the past three games, Bortles has a passer rating of 126.8, the highest rating for any passer in the league. In that span, he also has seven touchdowns, 903 passing yards and no interceptions with a completion percentage of 71.7 percent.

How did Bortles, who seemingly was the one thing holding back the Jaguars, turn into this version of himself?

They let him.

In the past three games, the Jaguars gave Bortles more chances to throw on first down. And he has responded. Until the score was 31-7 against the Texans this past Sunday -- which meant bleed-the-clock time -- Bortles passed on 11 of his 22 first-down plays. 

Of the 31 points the Jaguars scored to that point, 24 came on drives where he started with a pass.

Four of his longest pass plays the past three weeks -- 75, 73, 41 and 32 yards -- all came on first-down throws. 

More freedom means a better player. In his short career, Bortles is one of those quarterbacks who can go off the ledge when things start to go bad. That was one of the major concerns of fist-year vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin when he took over. He wanted his quarterback to be better at getting over the bad stuff.

When put in obvious pass situations over his career, Bortles has made mistakes and gone into a funk after doing so. Now, with much more freedom, he's playing better and the funk has been gone the past three weeks.

That's why the Jaguars are 10-4, already a playoff team, and one victory away from locking up the AFC South. It's also why they are sixth in my latest Power Rankings. 

It will be interesting to see if this team built on the ideals of running the ball and playing great defense will continue to allow Bortles more freedom when the opponent improves and the stakes grow.

They should. The proof is in the past three weeks.

Throw to score, and run to win.

Biggest Movers
6 Chiefs
4 Chargers
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Patriots By beating the Steelers, the NFL playoffs will likely go through Foxborough. Beating the Patriots will be tough to do in their building come January. 1 10-7-0
2 Steelers The health of receiver Antonio Brown is the important thing. They will still likely be the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but he has to be back for the playoffs. 1 9-7-1
3 Eagles Nick Foles did a nice job against the Giants, but Eli Manning shredded that defense. That's two weeks in a row that unit has struggled. -- 9-8-0
4 Saints It wasn't pretty against the Jets, and they will have to be better against the Falcons this week. But you have to win those types of games. -- 9-8-0
5 Panthers They are getting it going at the right time. Cam Newton looked like the Newton of 2015 against the Packers. -- 5-12-0
6 Jaguars They are a playoff team as of right now, but they want a lot more than that. That defense is special. -- 3-14-0
7 Vikings The Vikings are playing for the No. 1 seed the next two weeks. If they get it, Mike Zimmer might be the coach of the year. -- 8-9-0
8 Rams That was a statement victory at Seattle. The message was sent: They will be a factor in the playoffs. -- 12-5-0
9 Falcons That wasn't pretty in Tampa on Monday night, but now they have to regroup quickly for the big one at New Orleans. Where is Julio Jones in their offense? -- 7-10-0
10 Cowboys They held on against the Raiders and still have playoff hopes. Ezekiel Elliott will be back this week to help make it happen. 2 12-5-0
11 Ravens Their task is simple: Win their final two and they are in the playoffs. That means beating the Colts and Bengals at home. They are getting in. 3 8-9-0
12 Chiefs They impressed in dominating the Chargers last week. If they win out, they are the division champs. 6 12-5-0
13 Seahawks Did the Seattle dynasty die in the blowout loss to the Rams? It sure looked like it, but they aren't done yet this season. 3 7-10-0
14 Bills They dominated the Dolphins and kept their playoff hopes alive. Can they beat New England this week in Foxborough? 3 11-6-0
15 Chargers They need to win the final two and hope for help to get into the playoffs. They were awful at Kansas City. 4 9-8-0
16 Titans They've lost two straight on the road and now face the Rams and Jaguars at home in successive weeks. They could miss the playoffs. 3 12-5-0
17 Lions They kept their hopes alive by beating the Bears last Saturday and face two must-win games to close against Cincinnati and Green Bay. 1 3-13-1
18 Packers They are eliminated from playoff contention, which means they will likely shut down Aaron Rodgers -- and they should. 3 13-4-0
19 Raiders Derek Carr fumbled their playoff chances out of the end zone late against Dallas. They have to be one of the biggest disappointments this season. -- 10-7-0
20 Football Team Their biggest issue now is whether to give Kirk Cousins a long-term deal. They almost have to give him one. 2 7-10-0
21 Broncos They had to be happy with the way Brock Osweiler played against the Colts. Then again, it was the Colts. 5 7-10-0
22 Dolphins That was a pathetic showing in Buffalo. They are done now when it comes to playoff talk. 2 9-8-0
23 Cardinals Blaine Gabbert cooled after his early success and is being replaced by Drew Stanton. They are officially done after losing to the Redskins. 2 11-6-0
24 Bengals The big question is who will be the next head coach with Marvin Lewis reportedly leaving. Will it come from within? -- 10-7-0
25 49ers They are 3-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo playing quarterback. He is their future. 2 10-7-0
26 Bears Mitchell Trubisky is growing up as a passer, which is a good thing for the future, but it probably will be with a new coach. 3 6-11-0
27 Jets The season is done as they play Bryce Petty at quarterback for the injured Josh McCown. At least they competed at New Orleans. 2 4-13-0
28 Buccaneers The hope from early in the season is long gone. Are changes coming? -- 13-4-0
29 Texans The injuries have turned this team into a mess. The question now is whether Bill O'Brien comes back. -- 4-13-0
30 Colts Not only did the Broncos blow them out, but now comes word that Andrew Luck might need more surgery. It was a bad week. -- 9-8-0
31 Giants At least the offense showed some life against the Eagles. Eli Manning can still sling it. -- 4-13-0
32 Browns It's looking more and more like it's 0-16 for this team. Their best chance to win might be this week at Chicago. -- 8-9-0