JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bryce from Waterloo, IA:
Why are the Jags 7.5-point underdogs? Aside from both teams improving since that matchup, the Steelers lost the heart and soul of their defense in linebacker Ryan Shazier, and we added defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to plug up the middle. I understand why we're the underdogs, but 7.5 is a stretch. Jags will win 23-20. That ain't no guess; that's what it's gonna be.
John: The Steelers are favored to win by a little more than a touchdown for a few pretty simple reasons. One is they won three more games than the Jaguars in the regular season, and therefore are perceived as playing better more consistently. The Steelers are also playing at home, and home-field can be a significant advantage in the postseason. Plus, the Steelers are loaded with Pro Bowl players and a bunch of players with a lot more postseason experience than the Jaguars. All of that adds up to an overall feeling by most observers that the Steelers will win – and the Steelers are perceived to be playing much better than they did in October, so the addition of Dareus for the Jaguars and the loss of Shazier for the Steelers probably isn't factored into people's thinking much. Here's the good thing for the Jaguars. None of that matters and none of that decides anything. The Jaguars have won in Pittsburgh this season and they have a defense that's perfectly capable of shutting down any team left in the postseason, including the Steelers. That doesn't mean they will do it. It doesn't mean they will win Sunday. But they have a good chance. Absolutely.
Marlin from Newberry, FL:
Three more wins! Three more wins and you and Prisco can write another book. Won't that be great?
Jeff from Orange Park, FL:
Kudos to the Ozone! Let's talk BB5. If the coaching staff does not have faith in Blake, then why would I call a pass play on fourth-and-goal from the 1? That play says it all.
John: The Jaguars' coaching staff has faith in Blake Bortles. The players have faith in Bortles. Whatever else you hear about Bortles, you needn't question those things. And yes … kudos to the O-Zone. Now and for always.
Cole from Jacksonville:
The only way to beat the Steelers is with FULL CONSISTENCY!! #moodachay
John: #Fullconsistency #Moodachay
Travis from High Point, FL:
I've been reading a lotta stuff lately about the Steelers defenders being very upset about the Jaguars rushing for so many yards on them in Week 5 – also that their defensive coaches have been giving them the business about it all week. Do you believe that that's a matchup we could exploit early in the game? If they're so fired up to stop our running game, maybe we could hit some play-action passes early. Even if they're not deep balls for touchdowns, we can probably hit some 12-to-15-yard passes behind aggressive linebackers that are wanting to bite on the play fake. Also, wouldn't it be great to have Allen Robinson right now? I really miss that dude.
John: The Jaguars absolutely would benefit from having wide receiver Allen Robinson, but it's hard to complain about injury luck if you're the Jaguars this season. They lost Robinson on the first offensive series of the season, but while they have had other injuries on offense, he's the only key player they lost on a long-term basis. And their health on defense has been once-in-a-decade stuff. As for how the Jaguars will game plan, I have no idea. But I doubt very seriously their approach will be to run Fournette all the time – and I think there will be wrinkles neither I, the readers or the Steelers are expecting.
David from Jacksonville:
When a quarterback scrambles beyond the line of scrimmage can he stop back up behind the new line of scrimmage and then pass the ball?
Scott from Rehoboth Beach, DE:
So, do they turn the air conditioner down in the practice facility with maybe giant blowing fans with ice behind them? How do you prepare for harsh weather conditions, O man? I live outside of Pennsylvania the weather's gonna be nasty. I'm a southern boy just like a majority of the roster. It's tough and I won't even leave the couch, let alone run and play when it's cold out!!
John: The weather will be a factor. I expect it to be perhaps the deciding factor because it's tough for teams unaccustomed to it to beat teams that are accustomed to it – particularly in the postseason. Perhaps I'll be wrong. It's not a ridiculous notion.
Dylan from Aurora, OH:
How weird is it that the two possible opponents that the Jags could face in the AFC Championship Game are the two teams they've lost to in their AFC Championship game appearances?
John: Sorta … I guess.
Troy from York, PA:
O, if you can pass along to our defense I believe the Steelers are gonna try and win the game on the ground through Le'Veon Bell instead of putting the ball in Big Ben's hands.
John: I don't think there's any question the Steelers will emphasize Bell far more than they did in the October meeting. It felt as if they got away from him too quickly. I doubt that will happen again.
Colin from Orlando, FL:
Realistically, great defenses in the NFL (mid-80s Bears, early 00s Ravens, mid-00s Bears) only have about a two-to-three year window of true dominance. Do you see a similarly sized window with this Jaguars team going forward?
John: The Seahawks' defense was elite for five seasons, and it wasn't bad this season until it was overcome by injuries. Five-plus seasons is a long time in the modern NFL.
Tim from Doboy Island, FL:
Speaking of Blake Bortles' being on the receiving end of criticism from fellow NFL players, where do you think this is coming from? There have been a lot of players in the NFL, and quarterbacks specifically, that weren't great players, but I can't recall many getting called out as much as Blake does. Isn't it getting kinda weird at this point?
Kenny from Bangor, ME:
Will Blake Bortles be the starting quarterback next year?
John: I don't know.
Cbass from Puerto Rico:
O-zone! Just finished reading Mike Taniers distasteful article about BB5 being the laughingstock of the NFL despite us still competing in the playoffs. I sure hope he can overcome all the noise and get us a W against the Steelers. I almost feel bad for the guy. They definitely took some shots below the belt there.
John: I hadn't the foggiest idea who Mike Taniers was before your email and still don't. He's probably a decent sort. It's just that his opinion on Bortles or on anything NFL interests me not in the least. No knock on Mike Taniers. It's probably more old age on my part. And it's quite likely he hasn't heard of me, either. Whatever.
Jim from Edgewater:
O, Have you told Boselli he can-?
John: More times than I care to count.
John from Cocoa, FL:
Big O. No question, just a comment. I don't understand why so many Jaguar fans are so out to put BB5 down, based on all the posts I see. And this team is not "one and done" as others predicted. I have been a big fan of the Jags for years, and I feel that a fan should support their team through thick and thin, good as well as bad seasons and root for them regardless. That's what being a fan means. Sure, Blake has had some bad days, but he has had some great days too. LF27 has good and bad days also. The point is they are the JAGUARS, and if you are a fan of this team, show your support at all times. #GJTTSB #JATW (Go Jags to the Super Bowl) (Jags All the Way).
John: #FGF (Fans gonna fan, John. Fans gonna fan).
Adam from Lynbrook, NY:
One very important aspect of this game that I think is flying under the radar is the presence of Gipson. He played in the same division as that QB for a few years and that familiarity helped get him two picks in the last game. I predict that he will be instrumental in getting take aways Sunday. The Steelers are not ready for Duuuuvalll to come to town!!! #DTWD
John: Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson has been overlooked all season, and people around the Jaguars consider his importance to defense on a or at least very close to the four players who made the Pro Bowl. Preying on mistakes by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be key Sunday. Gipson absolutely is a big factor.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
Worried. Excited. Thrilled. Worried.
John: Fanning. Playoffs. Game Day.
O-Zone: Playoffs. Game Day.
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bryce from Waterloo, IA: