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O-Zone: Flip the switch

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jake from Illinois:
There are multiple guys I feel are capable of "taking over a game" on this defense, but I think Marcell Dareus (maybe the defensive tackles as a group) will be the guy if this is a deep run. Any one player on the defense you could see carrying the team? More the group as a whole? Or does going deep into the playoffs fall more on the offense?
John: No one player truly "carries" a defense, though a player such as Dareus certainly can make a major postseason impact because of his talent level – and I do expect Dareus to play well against his former team when the Jaguars face the Bills in an AFC Wild Card playoff Sunday; he is a motivated guy this week. I also see Jaguars cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, because of their ability to take the ball away and make momentum-turning plays in big situations, potentially changing a postseason game. And don't overlook defensive end Yannick Ngakoue's ability to strip-sack quarterbacks; on such turnovers do postseason games usually turn. Here's the formula I see for a potential deep Jaguars playoff run: the defense plays as it has played all season and gets takeaways in the first half; the offense makes enough big plays to give the Jaguars the lead; the defense rushes the passer and extends the lead to close out the game. The Jaguars are capable of using that formula to beat any team. If they give the ball away and can't run or hit big plays offensively, they're capable of losing to any postseason team. This has been their story all season and it remains their story as the postseason begins.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
This offense is the worst offense in the entire NFL playoffs. No one could possibly argue otherwise.
John: The seven offenses in the postseason ranked below it might argue otherwise. The seven postseason teams who didn't score as many points as the Jaguars this season might, too.
Eric from Water Ways/Stepford, GA:
"Here's something to remember, though: Sunday's game was played in very cold temperatures in Nashville. Neither offense was effective. Here's guessing the Jaguars are more efficient offensively Sunday in the passing game." Well ... that's all well and good, but what does it portend for the rest of the playoffs?
John: It portends that if the Jaguars play in an extreme cold-weather game it might mean the weather affecting both teams and resulting in a low-scoring game that comes down to a few big plays. That's often what happens in those conditions.
Ryan from Dearborn, MI:
John, what are the chances that the Bills and Jags could just swap quarterbacks this offseason? Maybe throw in a sixth-round pick for good measure. But Buffalo seems to want a big-bodied pocket passer like Blake Bortles instead of Tyrod Taylor. And Taylor doesn't fumble or throw picks and can run, which would make him a perfect fit for the Jags' offense. It seems to make sense for both teams. What say you?
John: No.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
One thing Marcus Mariota and Taylor have in common is they are both mobile, read-option quarterbacks. We got burned multiple times with this, which is one of the big reasons we lost to the Titans. What adjustments do you believe are going to be implemented to account for this? Because unless they get someone on the quarterback lanes to keep him the pocket, I see a repeat of the Titans game coming.
John: The Jaguars will certainly scheme keep to Taylor in the pocket and they will enter Sunday's game knowing the read option will be a part of the Bills' offensive game plan. That's the case when you play mobile quarterbacks – and the reality is mobile quarterbacks are going to make a play or two above the Xs and Os, which Mariota did on Sunday. But the Jaguars didn't lose to the Titans on Sunday because they couldn't contain Mariota. They lost because they committed four turnovers and couldn't score enough to win a game in which the defense clearly played well enough to win.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brasil:
John: who is the most-dangerous offensive player for the Bills outside of LeSean McCoy? Who absolutely needs to be stopped on offense for the Jaguars to come out with the first playoff home win in the century?
John: Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. He and Taylor have shown the ability to connect on a few plays downfield in the passing game in the second half of the season, and his frame makes him a threat.
Jon from Trinidad and Tobago:
Jaguars got to come out in the Teal unis for the home playoff don't you agree? #battleteal
John: Not necessarily.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
I would like to have seen how Bortles' numbers would have been affected by a full season of Allen Robinson. I think he has done pretty well when you consider the top three wide receivers on this team missed quite a bit of time. Re-signing Allen has to be a priority in the offseason.
John: I don't disagree with much of what you say. I'm not overly concerned about Bortles' numbers, per se, but I wrote at the time of his injury that losing Robinson would probably cost the Jaguars a couple of games – and a strong argument could be made that they would have won at the Jets, at Arizona and/or perhaps at Tennessee had he been available. At the very least he would have helped. And yes … I think re-signing Robinson will be an offseason priority.
Ron from Virginia Beach, VA:
Any chance that Allen Robinson will be available for the postseason?
John: No.
Cody from Boston, MA:
O-Man: I'm sick of these "Patriots-versus-Steelers" lock-ins. Do you personally see it that way as well? When you look at it, we've beaten the Steelers at Heinz Field. Chiefs have beaten the Pats up here in Foxboro. If anything, I've already made an agreement with a Pats season-ticket holder that if the Jags end up coming here, I'll have a seat! I'll see you there!
John: I think the Patriots and the Steelers deserve to be big postseason favorites in the AFC. Winning 13 games is difficult, and when you're assured of playing a Divisional Playoff game at home, you by definition should be favored to make the conference title game. But being favored doesn't guarantee winning – and I agree with your scenario. The Chiefs can beat the Patriots. The Jaguars can beat the Steelers. But to beat those teams you must face those teams – and to face those teams you must win this weekend.
Chris from Niagara Falls, Canada:
Hey, Zone. I personally would consider re-signing Blake long-term, while still drafting a quarterback early next year. But football is a business, so I have to ask? How deep must Blake take the Jags into the playoffs to earn a "mega contract?"
John: A mega contract? I imagine that could happen if the Jaguars win or make the Super Bowl, but I don't know that there is urgency to necessarily do a megadeal with Bortles this offseason. He is under contract for next season at $19 million guaranteed, meaning he can play under that contract. The sides could then agree on a long-term deal at some point next season or even the following offseason. The Jaguars also have the franchise tag available for Bortles for the 2019 season if necessary, which is a legitimate option for a quarterback in Bortles' situation – i.e., one who has potential and has shown progress, but who hasn't yet established himself as a sure-fire franchise player.
Steve from Upper Tract, WV:
It is amazing how you fall on your sword for this team. I'm 50 and never seen a team enter the playoffs trending downwards like this one is.
John: You haven't? Really? The only way to interpret your second sentence is you haven't watched enough football. I'm 51 and I've seen plenty of teams "trending downward" late in the season play fine late in the postseason. I saw the 2012 Baltimore Ravens lose four of five games in December and win the Super Bowl. I saw the 2009 Colts lose their final two games after winning their first 14 and make the Super Bowl. I saw 2006 Colts lose three December games and win the Super Bowl. I saw the 2009 New Orleans Saints lose their last three games of the regular season and win the Super Bowl. I saw a Colts team in 2008 finish on fire and lose in the first game of the postseason. I don't know what will happen Sunday because all postseason games are difficult tasks. But I do know this team has just as much chance of succeeding in the postseason as it did two three weeks ago.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Who is in charge of flipping the player switch from "these last two games don't matter" to "now it matters?"
John: Human nature.

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