JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Ray from Palatka/Jacksonville, FL:
John, I love your column; it's one of the things that keeps me plugged in during the offseason. My question: When selecting questions, do you intentionally pick from the most negative? Not trying to seem sarcastic, but it seems we have a lot of crybaby fans. All of these jokers with their "one-and-done whining" were probably predicting a losing season during the preseason. Nobody thought we would have a winning season, much less be division champions with a playoff home game. I've watched losing for years and I am very thankful my team has drastically improved and – though not perfect – is on the road to success. The road is the postseason. How far they go remains to be seen. #DTWD
John: I pick questions I feel like answering. It's that simple. I could get more complicated and try following some formula – or I could make a commitment to some standard. But following things is hard work – and goodness knows commitment isn't easy, either. The reason I answer a lot of negative emails is I get a lot of negative emails. The reason isn't that the entire fan base is negative as much as people who are unhappy or discontent are far more to be moved to act – or in this case, write – than someone who is happy. My sense is many fans feel as you do – pleasantly surprised with this season and enjoying it. I believe that also applies to most fans who complain after losses, and that's OK: fans who are passionate are supposed to be unhappy when their teams lose; they're supposed to complain and question what went on. It is up to players, coaches and leadership to block that out and play. Overall, the Jaguars have done that this season; the result is a season I believe most fans will remember as enjoyable, memorable and special – even if a few complain a bit along the way.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
I think Cam Robinson is the Jaguars' offensive Most Valuable Player. The way this team dealt with the blitz without him on the field only underscores that thought, John.
John: Robinson is valuable, but Blake Bortles is the Jaguars' offensive Most Valuable Player – and I'm not sure it's particularly close.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
As relieved as I am to see Tyrod Taylor instead of Philip Rivers under center on Sunday, I'm a bit perplexed as to how the NFL sets up its tiebreakers. The Bills and Chargers both finished with the same record and the Chargers beat the Bills earlier in the season. It seems the Chargers should get the tiebreaker. They obviously didn't, but shouldn't this be changed?
John: The NFL tiebreaker rules are out there for all to read, so I'm not going to go into the depths of every step that decided why the Bills got in the postseason over the Chargers. Suffice to say had it been only the Chargers and Bills tied with 9-7 records, then the Chargers would have made the postseason based on a 54-24 victory over Buffalo this season. Because there were four teams from four different divisions with 9-7 records, the tiebreaker moved past head-to-head competition to conference record, record against common opponents and strength of victory. The Chargers were eliminated at the conference-record stage and the Bills got in over the Ravens based on better strength of victory. Easy, right?
Jason from Da'Hass:
John, Blake had what could be considered his worst game of the year Sunday. I saw some ducks, and poor throws. I also saw dropped passes and lots of pressure. This is concerning heading into Sunday's game. I'm not panicking, just concerned that the struggling offense from earlier in the year is making a return.
John: Bortles certainly didn't have the worst game of his career Sunday, but no question the offense didn't play well. This goes against what generally had been a trend of that unit playing pretty well over the last month and a half. The reality is this offense has had some fits and starts this season, meaning it hasn't been as consistent as would be ideal. Some of that is because of a running game that isn't nearly as dominant or as consistent as its No. 1 league ranking indicates. Some of that is because the line has struggled at times. Some of that is because Bortles has had some rough moments. Some of that is because the wide receiver corps has been decimated by injuries and is playing right now mostly with rookies and first-year players. 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.
Bill from Hammock, FL:
Zone, what's with the situation on Chris Ivory? I thought he played pretty well in his last couple games.
John: The Jaguars have a bunch of good running backs. It's one of their deepest positions. Sometimes this season that has meant T.J. Yeldon being inactive when uninjured and it meant Chris Ivory being inactive when uninjured Sunday.
Tom from Charleston, SC:
Does or does not Blake seem to process what is happening on the field at a pace that is much slower than the NFL game? His mechanics are bad but improving and that is an area that he can be retooled. The mental game is either you have it or you don't. Blake just doesn't seem to have it. He throws the ball up for grabs and prays way too often.
John: I thought for a couple of years Bortles didn't play as quickly and make decisions as well as necessary, and I wrote often during 2015 and 2016 that decision-making in particular was an area that needed to improve. I think he has improved in that area dramatically this season and his command overall of the offense is a big reason the unit ranked sixth in the NFL in total yards and fifth in scoring this season. He also from my point of view dramatically has reduced the number of throw-up-and-pray balls – although he obviously threw one Sunday that he would like to have had back.
Chris from Jacksonville:
Nathaniel Hackett forces the run too often. Our offense is productive without Leonard Fournette, but I think it's because of Hackett's game plan. We need more balance. Why is Hackett so adamant on forcing the run with Leonard Fournette even when it isn't working?
John: Because it's the organizational belief that you must stick with the run even when it's not effective at times in order to run enough to have it be effective. As Hackett often says, the running game isn't always pretty; sometimes you must run and get one, two and one yards to get the five- and six-yard runs later in the game. The team also does not want this offense passing huge numbers of attempts because it increases hits on the quarterback, chances for sacks and chances for interceptions.
Jeff from Wake Forest, NC:
Leave it to us to win the AFC South ... and not be happy because we lost the game and then make the playoffs ... but not be happy because we lost the last week to a team fighting to get in. For everyone complaining, if you told us at the beginning of the season, we would lose twice to the Titans but STILL win the AFC South (and North for that matter), we'd be ecstatic! C'mon people. Get some Bobby McFerrin in your system. It's the playoffs where anything can happen! We have a HOME game and I, for one, am very happy that Marcell Dareus is on our side of the ball and not theirs this weekend! #DTWD!
Sandro from El Paso, TX:
The Jaguars may have had a bad last couple games, but wouldn't you say our matchup with the Bills is favorable? Their defense is subpar, and with running back LeSean McCoy not being 100 percent, our defense should dominate.
John: I had the Titans, Ravens and Bills about even in terms of matchup difficulty entering this past weekend with the Chargers as the toughest matchup because of their defense and quarterback Philip Rivers. The Bills have played better down the stretch and their defense has played better in the second half of the season. But I agree that this matchup favors the Jaguars. It's why they're generally considered the favorites.
Frankie from the Mean Streets of Ponte Vedra, FL:
Would you rather be 2-0 versus your closest divisional rival or AFC South Champs?
John: Anyone with even a hint of knowledge about the NFL would rather win the division than beat a rival twice. You can beat a rival twice and finish with the worst record in the NFL. If you win your division you're in the postseason. Period.
Dave from Glass Half Full:
Zone, the real season starts now. Enough with the preliminary stuff. Can I get a HooYa
John: Yes. HooYa.
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Ray from Palatka/Jacksonville, FL: