JACKSONVILLE – It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas – because it is Christmas.
So, celebrate, OK? At least a little.
The Jaguars on Sunday lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 44-33, but also clinched their first AFC South title. They didn't really celebrate at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, because it's tough for players and coaches to pull on AFC South T-Shirts and hats after losing a game they clearly wanted to win.
But it's a day later now, and this forum isn't about players and coaches. It's mostly about loyal, long-time readers and fans who have waited 18 years for a division title.
It didn't happen in ideal fashion, but it did happen. So, the Jaguars are assured a home playoff game. And they're assured of no worse than the No. 3 seed in the AFC. They earned that by winning 10 of the first 14 regular-season games.
It's only the third division title in franchise history, which means this will at some point be rightly remembered as one of the best seasons in this team's history.
Let that resonate on Christmas. Enjoy it. And have an egg nog, OK? For me?
Let's get to it …
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
O-man, making history wasn't as fun as I'd hoped, imagined or expected. Sigh.
John: All true, but as I said above, the sting and weirdness of Sunday will fade soon enough and the memory of what this season has been to this point will take its place. The 2017 Jaguars deserved the AFC South title and there's still much about this team that should give people hope for the postseason. It's not a perfect team, but no NFL team is perfect. And the Jaguars are no more flawed than they were this time last week. It's a team with a good enough defense to beat any team in the NFL. It's a team that must play with a lot more discipline than it did in the second half Sunday. It's a team with a quarterback who in the last month is improving and who has shown this season he is capable of huge games for a team that can beat good teams. He also has shown he can still throw interceptions at inopportune times – just as the Jaguars' rookie receivers have shown this season and showed again Sunday they are still young players capable of huge plays and big mistakes. Where does that leave the Jaguars? Pretty much where it looked like they would be before Sunday. With a home playoff game, probably on Wild Card Weekend. And with a chance to win that game and get to the divisional round. After that, who knows?
JP from Jacksonville:
Merry Christmas to you and your family! The Manning family is known for their football skills. The Kennedys are known for their political ambition. The Kardashians are known for … well, I'm not really sure. My question to you is, "What are the Oehsers known for?
John: Fear. And the cool clothes we wear.
Thad from Albuquerque:
This defense is not elite! This defense is horrible and we are going to be one and done in the playoffs.
John: Chill, Thad. Good teams have bad days. Good defenses – even great ones – have bad days. I watched the 2000 Baltimore Ravens allow Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith nearly 300 yards receiving in a game – and that defense was one of the best two or three defenses of all time. The Jaguars' defense is good. It can win in the postseason. That's not to say they can't lose in the postseason, but the Jaguars absolutely can win in the playoffs.
Josh from Harrisburg, PA:
Happy festivus to you and yours. I hope the feats of strength last well into the New Year.
Shane from Atlanta, GA:
At least we can rest our starters next week??
John: Very possibly – and the Jaguars also have another week to get wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns back. That could matter very much.
Chris from Jacksonville:
And we're brutally batted back down to earth by a team we should have easily beaten ... this looked like the Bradley Jaguars.
John: Yes, Alex … I'll take Short-Sighted Overreactions for 400 please …
No D from Loserville:
Bad Blake is back! Best Defense in the league? I think not! Leonard Fournette not worth the No. 4 overall pick. Back to laughingstock of league and now all the naysayers will be out in full force. And for good reason!
John: Thank you, Alex … Short-Sighted Overreactions for 500 …
Bryan from Portland, OR:
John, I've never seen a more unprofessional and emotional officiating crew. They seemed to let the game get away from them. Is it just me being biased, or was this crew out there intervening in ways they shouldn't have?
John: That was my first reaction, but it's honestly hard to tell until I re-watch the game. It's sometimes hard when writing multiple stories to tell from the press box whether a specific penalty should or shouldn't have been called. I plan to watch the game Monday. I hope I have a better feel then.
Shane from Atlanta, GA:
This loss could be the best thing that's happened to us.
John: I'm usually not a believer this theory – that teams need "wakeup calls." I usually just sort of believe that sometimes good teams lose games, and then those good teams play better after that – as good teams have a tendency to do. But you know what? I sort of believe the wake-up call thing could work with this team. I don't necessarily think the Jaguars were flat Sunday; I think they just took a while to adjust to what the 49ers were doing offensively early and then they did a good job of getting back in the game. But it did seem the emotion of the moment got to the Jaguars at some key points in the second half, particularly with the defensive penalties that were incredibly costly. If the team can learn from that and play with control in that situation in the postseason … then, yeah … Sunday eventually could be a good thing.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, I'm not asking this question sarcastically. I'm honestly asking because I want to know. Why do players get into stupid little skirmishes or head butt opponents in game situations that matter, where the game is actually at stake? What causes them to do this?
John: Emotions – and I'm not being sarcastic, either.
Dakota from Fleming Island:
Our guys have to stay composed and play their game. Too many unnecessary penalties, especially on defense. Back-to-back unsportsmanlikes that appeared to be properly called. That's not our style and we can't do that in the playoffs and expect to do well. (Talking about Myles Jack's and Yannick Ngakoue's penalties). Is there something I missed that started this issue?
John: Not really. The Jaguars got too caught up in the emotion of the moment Sunday. Head Coach Doug Marrone correctly said it's an issue that has happened before. It got fixed before and needs to get fixed again because you can't give away yards and first downs in the playoffs and expect to win.
Marc from Oceanway:
If the Steelers win Monday, how do you think Marrone will approach the Titans game?
John: In a bus.
Frankie from the Mean Streets of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Blake Bortles is a mid-tier quarterback who struggles in the harsh face of stardom. You know it. I know it. Jaguars know it. The question is do we continue with the ostrich in the sand approach or do we address the most important position on the field next year?
John: Yeah, I can't get on board with this – and I sure can't say that a statement like that is true based on one game. I actually feel OK about Bortles after this one. A couple of his interceptions were miscommunications, and the one that wasn't was a great one-handed interception by cornerback K'Waun Williams. Bortles responded to his first interception – a pick-six in the first quarter – by playing very well at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third. He also responded pretty well to the second interception, driving the Jaguars to the 49ers 42. That drive ended in a punt that pinned the 49ers at their 14, after which the Jaguars' defense committed multiple penalties that allowed the 49ers to drive for a touchdown. Bortles wasn't perfect Sunday, but when listing grievous errors I don't know that I'd pin his at the top of the list.
Jeffrey from Gainesville, FL:
We are sorry to see that you lost, but if you play like that again you got no chance of winning in the playoffs. You need to play like a team to be a team. No excuses.
John: True. If the Jaguars play as they did Sunday, they probably won't win in the playoffs. If they play as they did in 10 of their other games, they probably have a pretty good chance of winning in the playoffs. We'll see what happens. But this season's not over yet. Not by a long shot.