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O-Zone: Get in line

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mark from Archer, FL:
We crushed the Steelers and we beat the Seahawks. The Jags have proven that if they get into the postseason they can hang with any team and win. No one is going to want to face them in the playoffs.
John: You are correct – and this is a point that shouldn't get overlooked. The Jaguars are in no way a fluky 9-4. This team is not fortunate to be where it is, and it's not sneaking into anything. The Jaguars have won six of their last seven games because they're an elite defensive team that now has an improving offense. Not only did they beat the Steelers on the road, they also have victories over three other playoff-contending teams – Seattle (8-5), Baltimore (7-6) and the Los Angeles Chargers (7-6). They beat the Seahawks on Sunday in a December game the Seahawks very much needed to win. They beat the Chargers during a stretch in which Los Angeles has been one of the best teams in the NFL. They were the last team to beat the Steelers before what is now a league-best eight-game winning streak – and that victory was in Pittsburgh by 21 points. It's not right to say the Jaguars are the AFC favorites. They haven't earned that. But to think they couldn't beat any team in the conference? That's not right, either.
Jonathan from Daytona Beach, FL:
Big O', if Pittsburgh were to beat the Patriots this Sunday and the Jaguars win, would the Jaguars get bumped up into the No. 2 seed?
John: Yes. If the Jaguars win the rest of their games and the Patriots lose to the Steelers on Sunday, the Jaguars would be assured of no worse than the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
Courtney from Jacksonville:
Hey, John: Since Marqise Lee's and Allen Robinson's rookie deals are up at the end of the season, which one do we pay big money to? Or do we not have to pick and pay both? Or do we even want to pay both? Hmm ... tough decision. In my opinion Lee has really stepped it up and become a "go-to guy" … when a play on third down is needed, he is the man.
John: What the Jaguars do at receiver will be a major offseason issue, with the dynamics of the position seemingly changing by the week. I have written before and continue to believe the Jaguars will figure out a deal for Allen Robinson; whether that's a long-term, break-the-bank deal or a shorter deal remains to be seen. Lee is trickier. I don't have a good feel for what the market will be for him. Considering his level of play in recent weeks, it seems riskier to let him go. He has been very, very important and is becoming a player quarterback Blake Bortles can trust. It's difficult to part ways with such a player.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
The-most-under-the-radar team – and we're OK with that.
John: If you like the Jaguars not getting much notice in terms of prime-time games and national recognition … well, enjoy it while it lasts. The guess here is this team is going to contend for a while. If that happens, the personalities on this team – and the style they play – won't be ignored for long.
Big on Blake from Philly:
I hate to say I told you so … no, wait: I don't. I told you so. I've been Big on Blake since we drafted him No. 3 overall. Has it been a storybook career? Nope. Did he have consistency or help throughout much of his first three seasons? Nope. Is he showing true to his draft status this season with a steady offensive plan, a complementary run game and a stifling defense? Absolutely. It's been a long time coming. He has shown willingness to improve and the dedication it takes to succeed. I'm glad to see him take advantage of the opportunities being presented to him. One fer Blake and the guys upstairs giving him the system he needed to finally develop.
John: One fer Blake? Absolutely. I'm the first to admit I didn't have much confidence that Bortles would develop into a front-line quarterback this season. And it's fair to say that his overall body of work this season doesn't put him among the NFL's best. But he absolutely has shown major strides in recent weeks. A lot of his issues against the Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland Browns and Arizona were with receivers dropping catchable balls. Does this guarantee Bortles is the quarterback of the future? Not necessarily. But the argument against that being the case gets weaker by the week.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
The Jags drafted Aaron Colvin in the fourth round of the 2014 draft AFTER he blew his knee out in the Senior Bowl. I believe he spent most of the 2014 season on injured reserve. My understanding was that Mr. Colvin was very appreciative at the time of being drafted by the Jaguars knowing they would not get much contribution out of him in Year One.
John: Colvin indeed was appreciative of the Jaguars' drafting him that season, though it's safe to say he would have been drafted by someone and given time to develop and rehabilitate had he not been selected by the Jaguars. I also believe Colvin likes playing for this team and with this defense. He unquestionably feels a connection to this franchise and his teammates. But if you believe any of that means Colvin will sign with the Jaguars for significantly less money this offseason than he could earn somewhere else … nah. This is the NFL. I hope Colvin re-signs with the Jaguars. I'm sure the Jaguars would love to have him back. But Colvin almost certainly will sign where the money is greatest – as well he should.
Mark from Jacksonville:
To anyone who says Blake Bortles can't throw a spiral, watch the three-minute Zone Blitz video by you and Ashlyn Monday. That is all.
John: I haven't heard much about Bortles' spirals in recent weeks.
Johnny from Jacksonville:
Who are these guys and what have they done with the Jaguars?
John: These are the Jaguars and it's time to get used to that. They're a good defensive team and a team that seems to be rapidly improving offensively because of improved quarterback play. One significant factor: the play of the offensive line. That group hasn't been consistent in recent weeks, but it was outstanding Sunday. If it plays closer the rest of the season to how it played Sunday, this is a team that can definitely win in the postseason.
Robert from Reno, NV:
Hey, John: So, first I wanted to say that you surprised me in a recent O-Zone. You've always been the one to caution us on expectations. But, for the first time, you made a statement to the effect of us having a chance at making the Super Bowl. I too kinda feel it's possible. My question, though is we have a stat of 8-2 for the conference, only second to the Steelers. What, if any, is this an advantage to the Jags, or is it a meaningless stat?
John: It matters when it comes to breaking conference tiebreakers. Beyond that, not much. And I've been saying for weeks that the Jaguars have a chance to make the Super Bowl. When you play defense as this team does, you have a chance in every game.
Ian from Leeds, UK:
Doing some quick math … am I right that we can lose the next two games and – as long as we beat the Titans – we're still likely to finish the No. 3 seed unless Kansas City wins out?
John: No. Under your scenario, the Titans and Jaguars could both finish 10-6. If that happens and the Jaguars win the final game of the season, the Titans would have had to win their next two games. Under that scenario, the teams would finish with the same head-to-head record (1-1) and the same division record (4-2). The division title would be decided by record against common opponents and Tennessee in this scenario would have a 9-3 record compared to the Jaguars' record of 8-4.
Eddie from Jacksonville:
There are two kinds of speed in sports: physical and mental. People forget about the mental speed, which allows players like Poz to continue to play at a high level even as the physical speed starts to dwindle.
John: Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny indeed processes tremendously quickly. That's a big reason he is as good as he is, but let's not paint Posluszny as being slow. His "lack of speed" has been overblown for years – as has his supposed "lack of ability in coverage." He's fast to the ball. He plays fast. He plays with suddenness. He plays with great instincts. He's not as fast as Myles Jack and he's not as fast as Telvin Smith. If a line forms of NFL linebackers who aren't as fast as Smith or Jack, Posluszny won't be alone in it.

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