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O-Zone: Just no fun

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

_JG from Maryland        _

Would you say this Texans game is the most important game of the regular season? If the Jaguars win, they have a two-game lead plus a division-record tiebreaker – effectively a three-game division lead. If the Texans win, they will be atop the division based on the head-to-head record and with a favorable schedule. It's easy to imagine that this game will decide the division winner.

The Jaguars will play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday and it indeed is the most important game of the 2023 regular season for both teams – so far. You're correct that the winner will have a decided advantage in the AFC South race for many of the reasons you cite. I see the game as slightly more important for the Texans than the Jaguars because the Jaguars could still win the division by having a better record than the Texans in the final six games. The Texans with a loss Sunday would have to win at least two more games than the Jaguars – and perhaps three – over the final six to win the division. With so many games remaining, I can't absolutely say we will look back at season's end and say it was either team's most important game. December and January must still be played, with many games likely having serious playoff implications. But for a late November game? Yeah, this one's big. Monumental, even.

Rob from San Antonio, TX

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Speaking of Thanksgiving, how would you feel about the NFL changing things up and having a wider variety of teams play on Thanksgiving each year? I'm torn between continuing old traditions and letting other teams start new traditions.

The NFL took a step toward this when they implemented the night game on Thanksgiving. This allows two different teams in that slot each year in addition to two teams playing against traditional Thanksgiving teams Dallas and Detroit. The league also implemented a so-called Black Friday game this season, allowing two more teams into the Thanksgiving festivities. I don't expect any move to move Detroit and Dallas out of their host spots for the 12:30 and 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day games any time soon, nor do I want there to be such movement. I'm old. Leave my old-guy traditions alone.

Jim from Middleburg

Hi, John. Just a couple of games back you had to push back a bit when some wanted to crown Calvin Ridley of the Jaguars as a weak receiver. I know you keep telling us to be nice, so I guess that means you don't think or want to scream, "I told you so!"

If I scream "I told you so" every time I was right, my throat would always hurt. It also would be tedious. And more annoying than usual.

Mike from San Diego, CA

"Lock It Down and Light It Up!" That sounds so cool that the app will use the fans' phones to put on a pregame light show. I wish fans outside Duval could participate. That sounds like fun. I'm excited to see the fans show out for Monday Night Football. Go Jags!


Boxcutter Bill from Mass

I can't stand the Titans. Texans next. These next four are vital for playoffs and playoffs position. We get through this stretch at least even. With Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow going down, it makes it seem easier. But you never know. These next four are important, and they all are must-win playoff intensity football games. I'm just happy to be here. Go Jags.


Sean from Jacksonville

_Please respond with "OK."       _

I would never do such a thing.

JT from Palm Coast

It seems like Zay Jones unlocks this offense. I read a stat that said when Zay plays, Calvin Ridley has his best games. Hopefully these guys can stay healthy for the rest of the year. We definitely need them.

Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones matters. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence trusts him, and he draws coverage. Ridley's three 100-yard games this season indeed have come with Jones playing. The Jaguars have five front-line players around Lawrence: Ridley, Jones, wide receiver Christian Kirk, tight end Evan Engram and running back Travis Etienne Jr. They're at their best offensively when all five play.

Deven from Winder, GA

Given the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive struggles as of late, and if Jacksonville can be consistent on offense like how they were against the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday from here on out, do you like Jacksonville's chances more against the Chiefs in the playoffs this time around?

The Jaguars have seven games remaining and so do the Chiefs. A lot can change for both teams and both teams must make the playoffs for this question to matter.

_Rob from Orange Park, FL        _

Do you think the Eagles being able to pretty much always pick up one yard is a major reason their record and ranking is as good as it is? I believe it is not the only reason, but it is a HUGE advantage.

The Philadelphia Eagles' proficient use of the "Tush Push" in short yardage is an advantage. But they have a dominant offensive line, big-time skill players and a really good defense. They would be good with or without pushing tush.

Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL

John: Watching all those drops by Chiefs receivers Monday got me thinking. The Chiefs have most of their salary cap tied up in four or five guys and are playing with inexperienced receivers. Tom Brady did it with the New England Patriots. Will it work for the Chiefs?

The Chiefs traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins in the 2022 offseason. They played last season with a mostly young roster with much of the salary cap tied up in quarterback Patrick Mahomes and a few other superstar players. They won the Super Bowl and have every chance at the No. 1 seed in the AFC this season. Their run of success may not be as long as that of Brady and the Patriots, but they have hosted the last five AFC Championship Games and won two Super Bowls in that span. As long as Andy Reid is head coach and Mahomes is quarterback, I expect them to be good.

Mike from Azores

Hey, John. We're getting into the home stretch and should be in the playoffs. All year we've heard how the team needed to get their five best offensive linemen on the field. Thus, Walker Little moved from left tackle to left guard when Cam Robinson returned. Now with the pickup of guard Ezra Cleveland, shouldn't he be the left guard and Little the right tackle? Isn't that truly our best five offensive linemen? We have bigger goals this season than simply developing our first-round round pick and limiting our true offensive capabilities while he works through his rookie struggles! What am I missing?

Your premise assumes the Jaguars believe Walker Little is a better right tackle right now than Anton Harrison. This is not a safe assumption.

Jay from Jacksonville NC

The roughing-the-passer penalty on Jaguars outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson this past Sunday has been discussed to death and I see how the refs came to the decision, but it was also a judgement call. If the league reviewed the tape later in the week, would they come out and make a statement saying, "That was a missed call" or would they just say "I can see it from both ways and it is what it is?"

Teams routinely send calls into the league for review, explanation and interpretation – and the league often will tell teams mistakes were made on calls. The league rarely makes a public statement to that effect. It wouldn't change anything if it did.

Marty from Jacksonville

John, you said, "Jaguars fans didn't get to see their team in these [meaningful] games for much of a decade and a half. These are the fun ones." Speaking for myself, a diehard Jags fan, these games are not "fun." They are extremely stressful. Yes, I prefer meaningful games to meaningless ones, because I'm a fan and I want the team to do well, but for me, they are not "fun."

If you're not enjoying meaningful games – and therefore having at least a bit of fun – then frankly I'm not sure why you watch sports. Yes, they're stressful. Yes, you don't know the outcome before they start, but this is entertainment. Your team is competitive. Enjoy the stress. It has to be more fun than the games not mattering. One would think, anyway.

Dave from Jacksonville

KOAGF. Are you enjoying the ride? The Jags are one half game from first place in the American Football Conference heading into December and they control their own fate, with a real football team. What a ride! Hang on, Zone. Surf's up!

No. I don't like this. Meaningful games are no fun. I stand with Marty.