JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Sid from Sidsonville:
And it ends with a whimper...
John: I suppose this is as good a place to start this next-day O-Zone as any. The inbox after Sunday's 15-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans was stuffed with anxiety and angst, with many people convinced that the Jaguars losing their final two regular-season games surely means disaster entering next Sunday's Wild Card Playoff against the Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field. That's not necessarily the case. Anyone who read the O-Zone this past week – and he knows who he is – will know that I wrote all week that I was concerned about Sunday's game, but that I wasn't nearly as concerned about the following week's playoff opener. I wrote that assuming the Tennessee Titans would be the Wild Card opponent if the Jaguars lost Sunday, but the fact that it will be the Bills changes nothing. The reality in the NFL is it's very hard to beat a team on the road late in the season if that team is desperate and playing for a playoff spot, particularly if you have your playoff seeding secured. What happened in Baltimore with the Ravens losing to Cincinnati Sunday and getting knocked from the playoffs is an outlier; it simply shouldn't happen because the adrenaline and the urgency of the moment is so in favor of the desperate team. The Titans played with that urgency Sunday and they had some breaks in the way of turnovers happen that enabled them to win. The Jaguars played with heart and gave themselves a chance to win late, but did not. This is not to simply dismiss the Jaguars' offensive issues. Those are real and the team is struggling to run consistently. But that has been the case more often than not this season – and the Jaguars managed to win 10 games with that being the case. The Jaguars' two season-ending losses have come on the road with a total of seven turnovers and just two takeaways. That's a difficult-formula for winning and the Jaguars indeed lost those two games. In retrospect, it's impressive that they were even in those games late considering the turnover margin. Bottom line: if the Jaguars reverse the turnovers and hit a couple of plays on offense next week, they will probably advance. If not …
Sucky Sucketron from Sucktown:
Welcome to Sucksonville! Home of the one-and-done Jaguars! What a season-ending letdown. The way this team is playing it has zero chance in the playoffs.
John: This is categorically incorrect.
Jacob from New York:
Please convince me we have an offense, because right now I don't think we do.
John: That's an understandable feeling considering the offense's performance Sunday, but you probably would feel better about the offense if rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook had caught a touchdown pass instead of dropping it – and if there hadn't been a couple of other costly drops. The Jaguars entered Sunday ranked No. 6 in the NFL in total offense. They have scored points in bunches at times this season. I can't argue that Sunday's performance inspired confidence, but I can argue that there is evidence to suggest the Jaguars are capable of scoring enough points to win next Sunday.
Shane from Atlanta, GA:
Mr. Padre from Kingsland, GA:
Please, please tell me Cam Robinson will be back for the playoff game!
John: Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said after Sunday's game that both Robinson – the Jaguars' starting left tackle – and nose tackle Abry Jones were trending in the right direction entering Sunday. He also said there is hope that wide receiver Marqise Lee (ankle) could return Sunday against Buffalo. Getting Robinson and Lee back seems critical at this point. The Jaguars need to protect Blake Bortles better than they did Sunday, and the Jaguars' receivers sure need to play better if this team is going to do much in the postseason.
George from Jacksonville:
I'll bet you're getting a lot more email this year.
John: Not really, actually.
Chris from Roseville, CA:
I lived in Chicago in the '80s and I think the better comparison for the 2017 Jaguars defense is the 1984 Bears. This is Year One and I wouldn't be surprised if the Jaguars take a huge step forward towards total defensive dominance next year. Look out!
John: Will do.
Reggie The Jaguar Fan in the Rocky Mountains:
Is this THE YEAR?
John: Yes. The Winter Olympics are held every four years. They start sometime in early February, if memory serves.
Chance from Windsor:
This is crazy to see how bad this offense is playing and it's definitely not LF27 or BB5. Jaydon Mickens made two huge mistakes. Josh Wells can't block the edge, A.J. Cann getting destroyed. If you would have said 10-6, No. 3 seed before the season … 100 percent I would have taken it. Not positive vibes going into the postseason. I think the saving grace is that we are not going to play the Chargers. Can Blake actually get some dang help?
John: A couple of thoughts on your thoughts. One is that while most Jaguars fans obviously would have taken 10-6 and the No. 3 seed before the season began, there is no reason to believe that securing that seed will be the high point of this season. While the Jaguars' offense struggled Sunday, the defense looked like the defense that played much of the first 14 games. That's important and the thought here is it bodes well for the playoffs. Remember: it is the defense that is the core of this team and it's the defense that will give it a chance against anyone in the postseason. That unit played with heart and fire on Sunday, giving the team a chance to win a game that probably should have been more one-sided. The guess here is the offense will have a wrinkle or two Sunday it hasn't shown in the last two weeks, and my guess is the Jaguars' young wide receivers give Bortles the help you so covet. If that happens, I can see the Jaguars getting a lead and turning Sunday's game into a feel-good afternoon for the sold-out crowd at EverBank. We'll see.
JT from Rosamond, CA:
John, we are losing in the first round. This team is playing its worst football right now. Great year, but it's not happening this year. To my knowledge teams don't go in like we are and win the Super Bowl. Happy New Year to you and yours though because this has been a surprising for many of us Jags fans.
John: I appreciate the New Year's wishes and I humbly accept, but don't at all agree with the idea that the Jaguars are guaranteed of losing in the first round. Momentum is what happens in your first playoff game. I watched Colts teams I covered in the 2000s lose plenty of playoff games after finishing the regular season with momentum and I watched them win the Super Bowl following the 2006 season after losing three AFC South games in December. This is hardly an outlier. The 2012 Baltimore Ravens lost four of five games late in the season and won the Super Bowl. I can't predict this Jaguars team winning the Super Bowl, but can I see them winning Sunday against Buffalo? Absolutely. After that, who knows?
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Jags are one and done. This version of the Jags has a very different feel than the team earlier on. Blake is a liability and the defense is overrated. Great that there will be a game in the bank but that good feeling will be short-lived.
John: Happy New Year, Jerell.
Marc from Oceanway:
Our playoff game will be tough, regardless who we play, but why am I so relieved we are not playing the Chargers?
John: Because the Chargers had a very good defense this season and they have a quarterback who might be in the Hall of Fame one day. That's a formula for a team that can beat anyone in the postseason, so yes – the Chargers were the potential first-round matchup I thought least favored the Jaguars, too. But remember: every team in the postseason has strengths. Every team has a formula that it has relied on to win successfully enough to be in the postseason. That means if things break the right way, any team can beat any other team in the postseason. The Jaguars' formula is to get an early lead and let the defense make plays to take the opponent out of its game and stretch the lead. That's the formula of many teams, but the Jaguars were better at it this season than most teams in the NFL. I believe they can get back to that formula and I don't believe the fact that they were unable to get to it the last two weeks means they won't do it Sunday. My sense from reading emails this week is that many people disagree. Perhaps that makes me disagreeable. That's OK. I've been called worse. I was called worse twice on Sunday, in fact.
O-Zone: Mr. Disagreeable
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Sid from Sidsonville: