JACKSONVILLE – One day more.
Let's get to it …
Logan from Wichita, KS:
I get it. We should be happy with just getting to the playoffs. But it is so hard to be happy with just that. Is it because we could go back to under five wins next year? Is it because we have suffered for so long that this feels like only a Super Bowl can fix the pain our psychiatric doctors can't? Or is it we are so desperate that we are in full boom-or-bust mode?
John: I spent an appropriate amount of time sifting through this email. When I finished bemoaning the unrecoverable loss of those two seconds, I wondered why people continue to overthink this. Should Jaguars fans "just be happy" with their team getting in the playoffs? Why are they "scared" of losing in the postseason? Is anything less than winning the Super Bowl satisfactory? Stop, OK? Just stop. These are the playoffs; if you're anxious, tense and about to jump from your skin … that's how the playoffs are supposed to feel. You're supposed to feel nervous. You're supposed to believe your team just might be able to make it all the way, and you're also supposed to have a gut-churning, nauseating nervousness that something might not go right on a given day and that therefore your team might lose. The opponent is supposed to be something detestable and inferior that you believe your team should destroy while at the same time clearly being dangerous enough to shatter your team's hopes and dreams. Why are the playoffs these things? Because if they weren't, they would be boring. The teams are good. The pressure is high. There are no guarantees. If things were guaranteed, or there were no expectations, or nothing was at stake no one would care – and there wouldn't be much thrill when your team did win. So, yes … stress over this, worry, lose sleep … this is the fun stuff.
Thrill from the Ville:
Is there a difference between the best player on the offense and the most valuable player on the offense?
John: Of course.
Jason from Jacksonville:
It has been a long drought. People that have only experienced the stadium over the last 10 years or more have no idea what a stadium full of Jags fans looks and sounds like. Those of us that have been there through it all finally get the pay off. I will be there early. I will be loud. Go Jags.
John: If you were there during the last two regular-season games you know what a stadium full of Jaguars fans looks and sounds like. It will be loud. It will be crowded. It will be chaotic. It will be cool. The people who are there will like it.
Roy from Jacksonville:
Regarding our defense's struggles, I have seen nary a comment about opposing quarterbacks who are excellent at reading the field, doing their check downs and getting the ball out fast and accurately. That concerns me as much as his ability to scamper.
John: Your email implies that the Jaguars this season somehow have had extreme issues with quarterbacks who are excellent at reading the field, checking down and getting the ball out fast and accurately. First, the Jaguars finished second in the NFL in sacks, set a franchise record for interceptions and finished first in the NFL against the pass. Based on that, I don't know that it's fair to say the Jaguars have had undue "struggles" against any quarterback. Now, it is true that quarterbacks who evade the rush well, get the ball out quickly, read defenses well and deliver the ball accurately gave the Jaguars some trouble this season. Such quarterbacks give all defenses trouble. The league is set up for quarterbacks with those traits to excel. How do the Jaguars combat such a player? Pressure him. Force a turnover or get the ball back for the offense. Get a lead. Pressure him some more. Force another turnover. Keep him in obvious passing situations. And most of all: pressure him. It's the ultimate way to counter a good quarterback.
Dave from Glass Half Full:
Zone, how do you see it? I believe playoff success rests on one or two plays by the quarterback. Blake Bortles' career will start to be defined by his performance in the coming weeks in the playoffs. It does not have to be spectacular. It just has to show up at a crucial time in the game. I think he has come a long way, but his legacy starts this weekend. We go as Blake goes.
John: NFL quarterbacks are indeed remembered by many largely by how they fare in the postseason. It's not always fair, but it's how it is. If the Jaguars win a couple of games in the coming weeks and Bortles plays efficiently, he will be perceived by many as a guy who has won in the playoffs. Clutch. A winner. If he plays well and the Jaguars lose, he will be perceived by many as a guy who can't get it done when it matters. Bortles is key Sunday because the Jaguars need to hit some big plays and convert third downs. They also can't afford early turnovers. It's not completely accurate to say "the Jaguars will go as Bortles goes," but they darned sure need him to play well.
Bill from Jacksonville:
How many touchdowns will the Bills beat the Jags by in their Wild Card game?
John: Good effort, and a word of advice? Don't give up hope. It takes a lot of years of work and a lot of ability to be funny. I should know because I try to be funny all the time and I'm just not. Keep trying, though. You're showing gumption and that's admirable.
Travis from Jacksonfill-the-Bank:
Coming from a true fan that has been a bit of a sourpuss on all things Jaguars the past few years ... if you are not excited right now, and if you screaming one and done, then you are not a fan but a troll. True Jag Nation envisions Bortles hoisting the Lombardi Trophy! It isn't expected, we aren't delusional, but the unexpected underdog winning it all has the makings of a championship run none of us will ever forget. So one-and-doners: sit back, enjoy the ride. Some things are just better without having a safety net, so throw away your "I-told-you they'd-lose!-I'm-always-right!" safety nets and live a little. Allow yourself to believe the unbelievable for the span of four quarters and hopefully four games. Do this and maybe you won't live under a bridge collecting tolls. Fans gonna fan, but trolls gonna troll...
Jon from Chapel Hill, NC:
I remember too well the 1999 season when it seemed the Jaguars had no blemishes on their team only to get exposed three times by the Titans. I think after the Miami massacre that the Jaguars were overconfident coming into the AFC Championship Game against the Titans. I think the last two games will keep them properly balanced.
John: I'm not much on overconfidence or momentum on reasons teams win or lose in the playoffs. The Jaguars led that 199 AFC Championship Game throughout the first half, then lost their "momentum" during an awful stretch in the third quarter. That Titans team beat the Jaguars three times that season because it was a good team, something Tennessee showed by winning 13 games that season (1999) and 13 more the following season. The Titans also beat the Jaguars five consecutive times from 1998-2000, so maybe the Titans knew how to beat the Jaguars whatever the Jaguars' confidence level. I make this point not to overanalyze a game that occurred nearly two decades ago, but to make the point that what happens Sunday will be about how the Bills and Jaguars match up. I see this game turning on which team can make big plays and avoid turnovers in the first half. If the Jaguars protect the ball, run effectively and hit a big play or two early I think they will win. If the Bills do the same, I think they will win. I think the Jaguars' defense is better than that of the Bills, so I think there's a much better chance of the Jaguars being able to protect the ball, run effectively and hitting a big play or two early than the Bills doing that. We'll see.
Mike from Western New York:
Ironically, I became a Jaguars fan in 1996 when I watched them take on the Bills in the Wild Card playoff game. I was 9 years old at the time but I remember the game like it was yesterday. Surrounded by other Bills fans, I still remember watching the heart and determination that team showed as they battled back multiple times in that game. Follow that up with an amazing game in Denver and I have been hooked ever since. From a guy that is stuck in the heart of Bills Country I hope Sunday can bring more memories like that one and hopefully start a whole new generation of Jaguars fans. #duvalisinusall.