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O-Zone: Hunting license

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

JT from Palm Coast, FL

This has been one of the best seasons in our history. Obviously not in terms of success (yet), but from the perspective of the early highs, then low lows. To be where we are currently at now has been nothing short of special. I'll never forget this 2022 season. Now let's go kick the Chargers' ass!

My sense is this perspective is shared by many Jaguars fans, and rightly so. The 2022 regular season, capped by an AFC South title clinched with a 20-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field in Week 18, in a very real sense has been a well-deserved gift. The fan base and franchise persevered through a mind-blowingly weird, difficult and ridiculous 2021 season – a season that followed a stretch of difficult seasons. The Jaguars' 2-6 start to the 2022 season then seemed to some fans more of the same – despite plenty of evidence of improvement. The Jaguars then won seven of their last nine games, with the last four home victories – a 17-point rally over the Las Vegas Raiders, a last-minute rally over the Baltimore Ravens, an overtime victory/17-point rally over the Dallas Cowboys and a 10-point rally over the Titans to clinch the division – as dramatic as any in franchise history. The season also has the added element of feeling sustainable because of Trevor Lawrence and Head Coach Doug Pederson, so you have the heady combination of short-term euphoria and legitimate long-term hope. So, this indeed is a special season to remember. And yes … on to the postseason.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

I am trying not to get too caught up in the fact that the Jaguars beat the Chargers during the regular season. I remember that quarterback Justin Herbert played with an injury (rib cartilage), one of their better receivers was out (Keenan Allen) and their stud defensive end (Joey Bosa) left the game early with what turned out to be a severe groin injury. Although Herbert and Bosa were banged up during their regular-season finale, I expect all three to start Saturday night. The Chargers know that the Jaguars are one of the better run-stopping teams. Given all that, do you expect the Chargers to try and light it up with a pass-happy offense?

Remember, too: Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams caught just one pass for 15 yards in the Jaguars' 38-10 Week 3 victory in Los Angeles, and he's more often in the 60-to-120-yard range. Yes, I expect the Chargers to be effective passing Saturday. Herbert is very good, and the Chargers are very dangerous. He's the sort of quarterback who can complete big-time passes for momentum-turning plays even when you play well defensively. That's what elite quarterbacks to. I expect the Chargers to score in at least the low-to-mid 20s Saturday, and I expect the Jaguars and quarterback Trevor Lawrence will have to play better offensively Saturday than they have in recent weeks to win. I also expect the Jaguars will need a big takeaway or two – and to generate the sort of pressure they were getting late against the Tennessee Titans. It's the NFL postseason. You have to play well and make plays to win.

Jeremy from Jacksonville by way of Miami

Mr. O, Doug Pederson has to be Coach of the Year, no? I don't mean he should receive strong consideration, but he has to get the actual award. He changed the entire culture of the team, he got us past our West Coast woes, he broke the losing steak against our NFC nemeseses, and we took down the Titans two times for a total season sweep. We more than doubled the number of wins we have had over the last two seasons combined. But most importantly, Coach Peterson did all this without one single Pro Bowler on the team. How does he not get the award?

He deserves the award. Deserving doesn't always mean receiving, but he's deserving.

Aaron from Aldie

Mr. Zone. It has been a heck of year. What are your thoughts on facing a really good quarterback after a few weeks of playing less-than-elite quarterbacks the last few weeks.

I think playing Herbert is a much tougher task than the Jaguars have faced the last few weeks. I think the Jaguars can play well defensively Saturday and give up 20 or more points. I think the Jaguars may need to score in the high 20s to win. I think that's the nature of the NFL postseason these days.

Darwin from Cebu, Philippines

Hi KOAF! How about a one fer and big kudos to the Jaguars strength and conditioning, nutrition, recovery and medical team/staff? The Jags were relatively healthy all season and maybe on the top five list of teams with the fewest injuries all season. We don't get to this point if any major injuries happened to any of our key players both on offense and defense. Excellent job!

One fer strength and conditioning, nutrition and the docs.

Unhipcat from b bar h, ca

Hi John. can you clear up my confusion? I read/hear that if the Jaguars win, they travel to Kansas City, but doesn't the NFL re-seed teams? if either Baltimore or Miami wins, don't they as lowest seed play Kansas City and the Jaguars play either the Bills or the Bengals, whichever won?

Yes, the NFL reseeds teams after the first round of the postseason. If all the top seeds win this weekend, the No. 4-seeded Jaguars indeed will visit No. 1 seeded Kansas City in the Divisional Playoff round next weekend. If one of the top four seeds loses, Kansas City would play the lowest remaining seed. There also is a chance the Jaguars would host a Divisional Playoff game. That would happen if the Buffalo Bills (No. 2 seed) and Cincinnati Bengals (No. 3 seed) both lose this weekend.

Cliff from Callahan, FL

Looking back at Saturday night, I've come to a realization. Down 10 in the first half, a comically bad turnover, overthrowing receivers. For the last decade, even in 2017, the old Cliff would have turned off the TV and gone to bed. But now I'm saying to myself "they can do this." I have faith, I have hope. It's not just in the building that Coach Doug has changed the culture.

Yep.

Bobby From Section 410 from Summerville, SC

Hi, John. I really don't understand why the oddsmakers have the Jags as 1.5-point underdogs. Yes, the Chargers do have a better record than the Jags, but the Chargers are 1-5 against this year's playoff teams whereas the Jags are 3-3. And let's not forget that the Jags thrashed the Chargers 38-10 on the road in Week 3.

Pregame favorites and underdogs matter not a whit once a game begins, so I spend pretty much zero time considering such things. This is a game the Jaguars absolutely could win and a game the Chargers absolutely could win. Neither outcome would surprise me in the least.

Daniel from Section 409

Hi, John. Would you happen to know how many times a NFL team has gone from first overall pick to division champion? Seems like a rare feat but wasn't sure. Also, winning is nice but this just feels different than 2017…. like it's sustainable and not a fluke.

The San Diego Chargers (2004) and Miami Dolphins (2008) have done it, so yeah … it's rare. And no … this doesn't seem like a fluke.

Art from Glassboro, NJ

When was the last time an AFC South team didn't play the early game Saturday on wildcard weekend?

Last season, when the Titans were the AFC's No. 1 seed. That meant they had a first-round bye. No other AFC South team made the postseason last season, so a team from the division couldn't play in that early Saturday game. The last time an AFC South team didn't play the early Saturday game on Wild Card weekend when it was possible was following the 2014 season.

Nick from Palatka, FL

Zone: I think the Jags are going to win Saturday and that the defense will be the difference. I don't believe I would have imagined that one month ago.

Fair.

Boxcutter Bill from Mass

It sounds weird to say, but it seems like everyone in the division is trying to catch us now. Two out of four teams will have a new coach and quarterback. Maybe all three. This Trevor Lawrence guy seems legit, And Douggie P seems to know what he is doing. Am I spot on or what?

The rest of the division absolutely is trying to catch the Jaguars now. The Jaguars won four of six division games, and swept the second-place Tennessee Titans. They won the division and appear to have the most stable quarterback situation. Here's thing about the NFL, though: A chasing team can catch up very quickly. The Jaguars will be the hunted next season. That's a different, difficult dynamic.

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