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O-Zone: Dealing with it

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ryan from Dearborn, MI:
I'm seeing five wins on the low end and maybe, MAYBE, nine on the high side. Given the current makeup of the AFC, do you see any chance for a nine-win Jags squad to make the playoffs?
John: There's little point in predicting an upcoming NFL season in April, but – if forced – I'd project somewhere in the mid-to-high-range of your Jaguars Victory Spectrum. Yeah, I think this team can push for .500. That doesn't mean they'll achieve it, but I think they will be far more capable of doing that than I believed they were last season. If – and it's a huge if – the Jaguars get to nine victories would that get them in the playoffs? That's truly impossible to say, because when you get in the postseason with nine victories you're usually holding your breath waiting for a few final-weekend scenarios out of your control. But is it possible? Sure.
Mike from Section 122 and Port Orange, FL:
Why can't you stop referring to the London game as a home game? The league calls it our home game, but it is not. We only get seven. Home is when we can drive to the game and watch it in our stadium.
John: I certainly understand the frustration. Because of that, while there's little reason to start a London-Home-Game thread in the O-Zone, I'll address it once more. First, I'm usually pretty specific when referring to the London game that while it's a home game in the NFL schedule sense it's certainly not a home game in the traditional sense. There's little more I can do than acknowledge that, which I do pretty regularly. I have enough dialogue with fans about this topic that I do claim a decent understanding of many feelings on the matter. Probably the most important thing to remember is this: while some fans locally may feel "cheated" out of the game, having a game in London right now is a significant part of the local-revenue equation that allows this franchise to function in this market. London makes the Jaguars stronger in Jacksonville, and that's vital.
Bill from St. Petersburg, FL:
Week 5 in Tampa could be like a home game with the Buccaneers' attendance issues. If enough Jags fans can make the three-hour drive south that three-game stretch wouldn't be so bad in the schedule after all.
John: True that. Road games to which a lot of Jaguars fans travel are cool. I like them. If the Jaguars fare well in their first four games, that Week 5 in Tampa could be really, really cool.
Damien from Jacksonville:
Am I the only one who doesn't get bothered by the order that we play our opponents? We knew what teams we would be playing before the schedule was released. Who cares what order they are in?
John: I'm a lot more with you on this one than most people would be, Daniel. I'm not big on worrying about the schedule in April because you simply don't know what teams are going to be good until a few weeks into the season; how could you possibly know in April? There are factors that matter in a schedule. Playing road games against New England and Indianapolis back-to-back … playing three consecutive road games … playing one game at EverBank Field in two months … playing four games in five weeks at home in November and December … those elements can be real factors once the season begins. But to over-worry about who you're playing and when you're playing … yeah, there's not much use.
King from Duval:
I think playing Brady and Luck early could be a huge advantage. Even most good teams aren't clicking on all cylinders early in the season … for example, Aaron Rodgers last year. Our defense is pretty solid returning a lot of players from last year. We have a better chance early then middle-late season. Then we get the home stretch late in the season to really make a push for the "P word." I like our chances!
John: #DTWD
Jack from Oviedo, FL:
I know the business model supports having a London game each year, but the Jags are going to have to do a lot of work to keep fans who live in Jacksonville interested in the NFL over a two-month period with 1 home game. Go JAGS.
John: Winning a bunch of those games during that stretch would go a long way, probably.
Cory from Frankfort, NY:
Is it by chance that Dave (Caldwell) just seems to line up our need positions with the depth positions of the draft? I mean we need Leo and it's deep in the draft, which is rare. We need running back and it's super deep. We need wide receiver, which just so happens to be deep as well. What say you, O?
John: I say while it's probably giving Caldwell a bit too much credit to say he peered into a crystal ball and perfectly aligned need with draft depth he certainly believes in scouting future years and planning present drafts accordingly. You can't be perfect in that area, because you can't predict injuries and you can't perfectly project what players will indeed be available in what draft classes. But Caldwell absolutely scouted quarterbacks in last year's class and this year's class and drafted Blake Bortles accordingly. It's safe to say he had at least a vague idea that pass rusher would be deep this offseason.
Dalton from UCF:
Ever since we signed Julius Thomas I have gotten to like him more and more by the day. His introductory press conference was strong and proved as to why he was a culture fit with what we're building here. He's always on social media boasting about how excited he will be to finally get on the field and represent the Jags. And his press conference on 4/21 was exciting, especially hearing about how Blake and him were already forming a relationship and building chemistry before OTAs even started. I'm excited about the future!
John: Julius Thomas is cool. I like him. A lot of fans seem to like him, too. It's not hard to see why.
John from Jacksonville:
I've seen several bits of analysis on the Jags' schedule for 2015. While it's nice to pick apart the good and not-so-good, the Jags can't let the schedule get in the way of performing well this season. They need to focus on the upcoming game each week and forget about looking ahead to who they will play (and when). Do you think the players care much about the overall schedule or is it not even much discussion for them because they knew in advance who their opponents were going to be and they have to play them anyway in whatever order?
John: I wouldn't worry about this much. While media and fans love to break down a schedule in April, such breakdowns are forgotten rather quickly. And by the time September rolls around, dynamics such as injuries and player development have made April opinions practically moot. Besides, fans and observers worry far, far, far – did I say, "far?" – more about the schedule than players or coaches. Players and coaches worry about preparing for the season and preparing for individual games and most players I talk to in September have little to no idea who the team is playing in October. Perhaps they have a vague idea of an opponent outside the division, but few could tell you when the game falls on the schedule. It's not that they don't care; it's not a huge concern until the game approaches.
Mike from White Plains, GA:
I've got a different bone to pick with the schedule makers. At least three years in a row with no home game on the Sunday before a Monday holiday (like Columbus Day or the Monday before Thanksgiving). With the long-distance drive it makes me feel guilty to go to a game on Sunday and then have to call in sick on Monday because I can't make it back at a decent time. What makes you feel guilty, John?
John: Guilt.

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