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O-Zone: Name game

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Logan from Wichita, KS:
We have always done horribly against Philip Rivers. We have dropped six in a row to the Chargers and it hasn't been close (202-86). The real kicker isn't just the score differential, it's that every time we have lost to them in the past three years it has felt like the end of the season in that we come into the game with hope – or fleeting hope – and we get DESTROYED. How do we avoid being devastated this Sunday? This year is gonna be different right? Right?? RIGHT????
John: Congratulations, Logan: You locked in on the defining pregame theme leading to Chargers-Jaguars Sunday at EverBank Field. The Chargers as much as any team in recent seasons have been the Jaguars' nemesis, and Rivers has been the villain as often as not. And there absolutely are Rivers-oriented demons needing to be exorcised at the 'Bank Sunday. But while that is a compelling pregame storyline, I don't get the feeling Jaguars players will enter this game with any sort of Chargers Monkey on their back. Why? A few reasons. One is that this isn't a team that dwells on past struggles; the core is made up young veterans and new-arriving free agents with little institutional memory of the Jaguars' recent struggles. Since Doug Marrone's hiring last December as interim head coach, remember, the Jaguars are 6-4 with six one-sided victories and three other games they easily could have won. There's no reason for this group to believe any team – even one led by the villainous Rivers – has "their number." But there's a final reason this year has a chance to be different against the Chargers and Rivers – and it may be the best reason. The Jaguars' defense is one of the NFL's best, and is very good against the pass. The Jaguars rush the passer well. None of that means Rivers can't beat the Jaguars; he's capable of beating even the best defenses. But has Rivers ever faced a Jaguars defense as formidable as the one he will face Sunday? Absolutely not.
Dustin from Duval:
Tom Coughlin has made a statement in support of Jalen Ramsey's play against the Bengals. It seems that not only is he attempting to provide support to the player, but also letting the team know that this is going to be a tough, physical, smash-you-in-the-mouth football team. More than the talent level, that is the part of this team that reminds me most of the "old" Jaguars and I LOVE it! It seems like Coach Marrone and Coughlin have that in common. Do you think that is why Tom decided to keep Marrone on as the head coach?
John: There were many reasons Coughlin was for retaining Marrone as head coach. Commonality in mindset was certainly chief among them.
Mark from Archer, FL:
John, if the Jaguars keep playing the way they have, is it possible they win out the rest of the season? I look at the schedule and no team to me stands out being a team that we cannot beat. I still maintain we are better than the Titans. I know they beat the Jags, but that was to me more because of all the penalties keeping the offense from doing anything and making the defense stay on the field. But back to my point: I think the Jags have a chance to win out but would love to hear your opinion on it.
John: The Jaguars can beat any team on the schedule if they play well, but being able to win in the NFL and winning are different things. "Winning out" would mean winning 10 consecutive games. You don't predict 10-game winning streaks in the NFL.
TC from Kingsland, GA:
On the Leonard Fournette benching: maybe this kind of discipline has something to do with how this team is performing.
John: Shhh.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, of course Coach can and should discipline his players as he sees fit given his more intimate knowledge of these men and the goings on of the team. I wonder, though, if perhaps there isn't a better option than benching a player for a home game. Perhaps bench them at the next away game even. I'm thinking about the working-class people who can afford to go to maybe one game a year (or maybe even just one every few years) – and how they missed the opportunity to watch a star of their favorite team play because Coach decided on this brand of discipline with his intimate knowledge of the situation. Am I off-base here?
John: Your point is not entirely off base. Still, a head coach must focus more on the good of the team than the fans in the stands. Remember, it's not as if Marrone didn't take this decision seriously. You don't sit your best offensive player without giving it serious consideration. Such a decision in theory could have cost the Jaguars a game in a league in which every game matters on a level unapproached in any other major professional sport. It's safe to say Marrone thought it through.
Nate from Fogartyville:
The Jags are the NFL's top-rated rushing team. Blake Bortles is playing well. It's kinda like the two have something to do with each other. Why haven't you ever told us that's how it works, John? Feels like the old days.
John: My bad.
Jarret from Crosby, ND:
Why is everyone so assured the Jaguars are going to win the division? Guarantees from Tony Boselli and Pete Prisco. You claiming they "ought to win" it. They're tied for first place at 5-3 with a team that already beat them at home. Let's pump the brakes on these winning-the-division promises, Zone.
John: We have different definitions of promises. I'm not standing on rooftops promising fans it will happen, but I believe a team with a Top 10 offense and Top 5 defense that plays defense at the level the Jaguars have played it has a very good chance to win the division. And at this point, I also do think they should win the division. You make a fair point, though. The Jaguars to win the division must win two more games the rest of the season than the Titans – or they may need to beat them in Tennessee. The task that faces the Jaguars is very doable, but it's certainly not easy.
Josh from Pensacola, FL:
I don't really care about or understand power rankings, but I associate them with college football rankings where quality of wins is the key. The Jaguars are the only 5-3 team that has dismantled a Top 3 team. Not to mention they did it on the road. (Steelers). The Jaguars should be the highest-ranked 5-3 team. No debate. There is no logic behind these rankings.
John: OK.
Miguel from Sectoon 144 and Duuuuuvaaaaaaall!!!!:
You know Zoney-One, Blake is more known as a chill, cool, calm kinda guy, but I'm seeing more of a competitive fighter side to him lately: from him finishing runs by leaning into tacklers to him yappin' back at would be tacklers. Did I miss seeing this before or is this a new way he's leading the team?
John: Bortles always had that competitive, fighting quality; it's hard to show it when you're team is struggling. When you yap at would-be tacklers in tight, competitive games or when your team is ahead, you're firey and competitive. When you do it trailing by 17 points in the fourth quarter, you just come off looking silly.
David from the Island:
Ok, O: Looking at 2016 draft … Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue!. Wow! I mean, really, just WOW! That's how foundations are built. Is there a team in the NFL that wouldn't trade for that draft class?
John: Not likely.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I know you don't want put this team at the level of the 90s teams. I'll agree on the offense currently; once Dede Westbrook is active that could change, though. But I will put this defense on par – or even slightly better – than those 90s teams. If they can stay healthy, they are showing all-time great potential.
John: A couple of thoughts on your thoughts. First, I wouldn't get your heart set on Westbrook dramatically changing your perception of this offense this season. He certainly could help, but it's probably unrealistic to think a player with zero NFL regular-season snaps who never has taken a first-team repetition is going to alter what's going on offensively too, too much. Second, the reason I don't put this Jaguars team with the teams of the 1990s isn't based on potential; rather, it's that those 1990s teams proved themselves over four playoff seasons. They won postseason games following three different seasons. They twice won division titles. They twice came within a game of the Super Bowl. They produced. This Jaguars team – particularly defense – certainly has special potential, but it has a lot of producing remaining to do.
Josh from Green Bay, WI:
I'm still not sure how I convinced my wife to use Jax for our son's middle name, but I've got a feeling there will be all kinds of great things ahead for both the him and the team he is named after.
John: Wow. You're optimistic and full of wide-eyed wonder. I tried that once. It didn't take.

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