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O-Zone: That which matters

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tim from Jacksonville:
John, conceptually how do you think the Steelers will make adjustments this week? I didn't play football, so I do not know how teams prepare from week to week. Is there anything different they will do this week since this is the playoffs and not the regular season?
John: I don't think the Steelers will change their game plan because it's the playoffs, but I do expect them to adjust based on what happened in the Jaguars' Week 5 victory – and based on how they are playing now compared to earlier in the season. I expect the Steelers to look at Week 5 and see that they probably got away from running Le'Veon Bell too early, and I expect them to say, "We need to run Le'Veon Bell more throughout the game, more than we did in Week 5." This is an intriguing issue in this game because Bell was running well in the first half in October and wasn't used much in the second half as the Jaguars took control. Can he match his early Week 5 effectiveness? Will the Jaguars' addition of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus in October help against Bell? I also expect the Steelers to load the box against Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette and not let him pinball off tacklers as he was able to do on a couple of occasions in October. There will be other adjustments for both teams, but these are two to watch.
John from American Fork, UT:
John, Blake Bortles sure takes a lot of verbal jabs from his fellow NFL players. I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it. From what I can tell Blake lets it roll off his back but it has to wear on a guy after a while. Do you think this constant criticism has a negative impact on his play from what you have seen?
John: No.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
Zone, my anniversary is Sunday, and the wife is giving me grief for caring more about game-day party plans than "our" day. Permission to tell her she can—?
John: No permission needed. Fight the good fight. Tell her the heart wants what the heart wants. Stay true to the cause. And be prepared for it all to go horribly and inevitably oh-so wrong.
Aaron from White Hall, AR:
So, one of my friends asked me to make a road trip with him this Sunday. I told him you know how I feel about the Jaguars and I never miss a game and no way will I miss this one. Am I bad friend?
John: You can tell your friend he can—
Preston from Oakville, CT:
O-Man, I never wish ill on a player and I certainly don't celebrate when the inevitable injury occurs. Having said that, how big do you think the absence of Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will be this weekend? He is a freak athlete and the heart and soul of their defense. Without him, I think we can control the ground game.
John: Shazier arguably was the Steelers' best defensive player. They have played well without him, but they're not as good without his freakish speed and athleticism. I don't think his absence will allow the Jaguars to control the ground game because the Jaguars have shown little evidence of controlling the ground game whoever the opponent. But it sure could open up a play or two in the middle of the field in the passing game and open up the opportunity for a big play or two in the running game.
Bob from Jacksonville:
The weather for Sunday looks to be a bit chilly. How much of a factor do you think this will be?
John: Big.
Jason from Colorado Springs, FL:
May I remind you someone was 9 of 14 for less than 100 yards in Week 5 of this season? It's a proven formula that must be repeated. We need the offensive line to dominate here to put up the rushing numbers from Week 5.
John: The Jaguars rushed for the most part OK in that game, and they had an unbelievable series when they ran on 12 consecutive plays to drain clock and kick an important field goal. Fournette also rushed for 91 yards on 27 carries before his 90-yard fourth-quarter run put him at 181 yards for the game and significantly increased his average. My point? The Jaguars' offensive line probably isn't going to dominate the Steelers or any other team enough to single-handedly carry the offense. The Jaguars need balance, and they're going to need Bortles and the receivers to make plays in the passing game to get it.
Matthew from Tomah, WI:
Mr. Zone: You've written that you expect BB5 to be under center next year. I tend to agree and that makes me a sad Jaguars fan. You've pointed out (correctly) that BB5 has been responsible for winning games this year. But doggone, the last few weeks have been rough to watch. I'm not asking for Aaron Rodgers, Big Ben or Drew Brees to sling it 45 times a game but even completing half of the passes might get teams from stacking the box and selling out against the run. For instance, Minnesota has three quality quarterbacks on the roster but none signed past this year. I know it's hard if you're dropping 19 large on BB5 next year, but do you bring in anyone else to compete?
John: I don't know what the Jaguars will do at quarterback next offseason, but I suppose I look at it at least somewhat like this: Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, General Manager Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone presumably did a good job putting this team together this past offseason. I presume that because they're one of eight teams still playing football this weekend. Those men probably made good decisions at least part of the time when judging this roster and determining whether to make changes at certain positions. If those men – who presumably did a decent job putting together the roster – decide that Blake Bortles is a better option than available rookies or veterans when weighing other factors such as needs at other positions, cost, etc., are you absolutely sure that should make you sad? If the Jaguars believe there is a better option available than Bortles, they'll bring him in. Fans may or may not agree with the decision they make, but don't doubt that they will try to improve the quarterback position – or any position – if it's possible and feasible to do so.
Karen from Jacksonville:
I don't get why we are waving white towels at football games when our primary color, I thought, was teal. And by the way, I would like to see more teal in our uniforms and clothing. Let's make more of a statement with TEAL terrible towels!!!!! Let's Go Jagggggssssssss!!!
John: What a glorious time it is in Jaguars Nation when the big crisis is the color of towel being waved at a sold-out home playoff game. #Divisionchampionproblems
Nick from Annapolis, MD:
After watching the "Playoff Memories" video, I can't help but think this game could have a very similar ending. It wouldn't surprise me if it came down to one final drive in the fourth quarter, and it wouldn't surprise me if Blake Bortles gets it done with his legs on that drive. It also wouldn't surprise me if it results in the Jaguars coming back to Jacksonville with a win and momentum heading into a matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots. This time, though, it will be for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, and the Jaguars will go to Gillette Stadium with the best defense in the NFL. #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Gamble from Jacksonville:
John, I love Jalen Ramsey as much as the next Jags fan, but can we hold off on prematurely crowning him the best Jags cornerback? Pretty sure Rashean Mathis still deserves that title, and going into this game against the Steelers I can't help but think of all the times Mathis was a thorn in the Steelers side.
John: I didn't cover the Jaguars from 2001-2010, so I missed much of Mathis' time with the Jaguars. I therefore can't say whether or not there were seasons in which Mathis was better than Ramsey. I can say that I've covered 23 NFL seasons, and Ramsey is the best cornerback I've covered during that time with A.J. Bouye a close second.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
The Steelers have a winning record at home against every NFL team since drafting Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 except New England (2-5) and your very own Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4). They know it and we know it. Can you speak to the relevancy of this?
John: I don't think the Jaguars' 4-1 record in Pittsburgh since 2004 means all that much when it comes to Sunday's game. I do think the fact that this Jaguars team won in Pittsburgh this season and doesn't care all that much about the tradition of the Steelers matters very much in this game.

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