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O-Zone: Consistency is king

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Mark from Richmond, VA

There are still huge games left to play here, Zone. C.J. is capable of getting the ball to our playmakers. We might not put up 40 points on Cleveland, so would you put more emphasis on defense in this game coming up? Could be a serious bounce-back game for this defense and we can do just enough on offense. I'm still all in on meaningful ball in December!!!

First, the feeling from this view is that quarterback Trevor Lawrence will start against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday. He practiced limited Thursday and Friday and appeared to be moving – and throwing – well in practice Friday. That's speculation, but that's the feeling. But you're absolutely correct that Sunday is very meaningful, perhaps on par in terms of meaning with any Jaguars game this season. I don't know that the Jaguars will put more emphasis on defense in this game, because they always emphasize defense. I do know it's an important game for that unit. It figures to be low-scoring whoever plays quarterback – Lawrence or backup C.J. Beathard – and the Browns thrive this season at home. The Browns are also a very good defense. The intriguing matchup in this game to me is the Jaguars' defense versus the Browns' offense. The Browns are a powerful running offense that can dictate the tone of a game with a strong offensive line. The Jaguars until this past Monday were a strong run defense this season. They still believe stopping the run is a team strength and defensive identity. That strength and identity will be tested in a big way Sunday. And it could decide one of the biggest games of the season.

Johnny from Jacksonville

You keep bringing up the 2022 season, but I feel like you need to be reminded that 2022 was last year. This is 2023 and what happened in 2022 has little-to-no bearing on what happens in 2023. Who called the plays and how the Jags performed down the stretch are both irrelevant in 2023. In 2023, the Jags can't seem to win at home against playoff-caliber teams, the offense is predictable and the defense is inconsistent. These are all valid concerns going into a playoff race. Plus, unless the playoff rules have changed, one loss ends the season so being consistent (and consistently good) is what keeps you moving forward. I'm not looking for blowouts or complete domination. Tthis is the NFL so what I'm looking for is consistency. That's what makes a "good" team in the NFL.

Wow. One always appreciates a good reminder. I know what year it is. I also know that when discussing an NFL team, recent seasons absolutely can be pertinent to the discussion. Not always, but sometimes. I know, too, enough about the NFL to know that while consistency is the ultimate goal for all teams, it's also a most elusive goal. The best teams of all-time had it. One team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, had more than any other team and did not lose. All other teams in the history of the league have been inconsistent enough to lose or tie at least once. Maybe the Jaguars eventually will be consisted enough to never lose. In the meantime, I'll keep answering questions and analyzing to the best of my ability – and I'll know there always will be someone all-too eager to note the limitations of that ability.

Motler from DC

I know fans fan. I started fanning after the loss, but then I had a moment of clarity. I remembered what I was fanning about three years ago and stopped myself from going off the edge. We have a lot to be excited about. We have our coach, our quarterback, our pass rusher and it's looking like we'll be in the playoffs for the second straight year at a minimum. I'm choosing to be optimistic and excited. Go Jags!

If you're a Jaguars fan and not enjoying this season, you may never enjoy being a fan.

Tommy from Fernandina Beach, FL

John, If Cleveland moves out to left tackle who do you see taking the left guard spot? Tyler Shatley or Blake Hance?

I expect there's a very good chance Ezra Cleveland starts at left tackle for the Jaguars in place of Walker Little Sunday. If this happens, I expect there's a very good chance Tyler Shatley starts in place of Cleveland at left guard.

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

It's probably time we let the excuses go. The Jags are who they are. A good team at times, a bad team at times and never a great team. Teams that go far in the postseason get better and are more consistent toward the end of the season and into the playoffs. They're always building up toward their best. The Jags simply aren't great and aren't improving.

I don't know what "excuses" means in the context of this conversation. The Jaguars are indeed a good team that hasn't shown it's a great team. They have had bad games, but 8-4 teams in the NFL aren't "bad teams." The Jaguars very possibly will be a back-to-back division championship team and they appear to have a good chance to win 11 or 12 games this season. As far as teams that go far in the postseason always getting better and more consistent toward the end of the season, this sometimes is true and sometimes it's not true. I once watched the Indianapolis Colts lose three road division games in four weeks in December and win the Super Bowl the same season. Five games remain for the Jaguars until the playoffs. Can the Jaguars improve as the postseason approaches? We'll see. But just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it can't happen in the coming weeks.

Nick from South Carolina

Does everyone know we have the same amount of losses as the Kansas City Chiefs and one more than the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens. Also, the Jaguars hold most tiebreaker advantages and really have only two "difficult" games left? I was hurt Monday night, but we need to right ourselves and support this team. It's easy to fan when we win. Devoted is being there when we lose. We need to realize we are in the best times we have had in 20 years and the core is coming back. Jags Fans - Stand Up and dust yourselves off for Sundays to come!

Fans have every right to feel however they feel. As far as assessing just what the Jaguars are this season … they're what I think of as "normal good" in the NFL. "Normal good" is contending, winning a lot of games, losing fewer games and fighting for the postseason. Sometimes teams are better than "normal good" and clinch things long before the end of seasons. That's rarer than "normal good." "Normal good" in the NFL can be stressful. Not every week is fun. It is a lot more fun than "normal bad" or "really bad."

Brian from Round Rock, TX

No one says it. Why? The main reason players love to play on prime time is that they can get the attention of the personnel departments of the other teams. This can cause higher pay in the future due to negotiations etc. It's not playing for their peers or national fans or for talking heads.

You're correct that no one with the remotest knowledge of how the NFL works says this. NFL personnel departments scout other teams and have every game played by every team on video to execute that scouting. Personnel departments don't need to watch primetime games to become aware of players.

JohnnyD from Cedar Rapids, IA

The way I look at it is they are going back on the road. I think THIS game will be the bounce-back game and we start a new win streak!!

JohnnyD is ready for some football.

Marji from Jacksonville but in DeLand

Is it true the Cleveland Browns are a team that has allowed the fewest passing yards, the fewest first downs and fewest total yards in the NFL? Now that they have acquired a prior Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Joe Flacco (assuming he has something left in the tank), this may mean this team may be more formidable then the average Jaguar fan may think? What say you?

The Browns are 7-5 and currently the No. 6 seed in the AFC. They are a very good defense and have lost just once at home this season. I don't know what the "average Jaguar" fan is thinking about this game. What I am thinking is if the Jaguars win Sunday --- considering their own injury situation, considering the quality of opponent, considering the location – it's one of the signature victories of Head Coach Doug Pederson's tenure with the Jaguars.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Even when the quarterback sprains an ankle, you suck.

I am the king of all funk.