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O-Zone: The big payback

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bill from Jacksonville

John, let's set aside for a moment the wins. We all know that's what's most important. Did you think Doug Pederson would be able to change the culture of the team this quickly? He spoke when he took the job about how he felt the locker room basically needed to "heal." Did you see it healing this quickly?

It was evident quickly upon Pederson taking the Jaguars' head coaching position that he would "fix" the culture. That's because it was clear he was a professional head coach who understood how to coach and communicate with grown men. What was unknown then was how well he would handle adversity and how consistent he would be throughout a long season. You can't know some things until life happens, and the 2022 season had to play out for those traits of Pederson's to be clear. Bottom line: I believed quickly Pederson would change the culture. Did I expect this level of locker-room cohesion? This level of buy in? This level of chemistry? This level of success? This quickly? No, I don't think anyone could have predicted that. At least not outside the locker room.

Andy from Halifax

Quick question, who would we play next (even placeholder) if we beat the Titans? Or, to not jinx myself, who will the winner of the Jags-Titans play next?

The Jaguars would be the AFC's fourth seed if they win Saturday. The fourth seed would play host to the fifth seed in the first round of the playoffs. The Los Angeles Chargers currently are the fifth seed, though that could change this weekend.

Hill from Denver, CO

All this talk about the game on Saturday. If we win, let's hope we get another Saturday game on Wild Card Weekend against a team to have played on Sunday during Week 18. Turnabout is fair play.


JT from Palm Coast, FL

I'm optimistic that we win on Saturday, but cautiously optimistic. This team we are facing has traditionally snatched our proverbial soul. New Jags fans may think this is an "easy" W, but those of us that have suffered for decades understand that the Titans need to be stomped out for us to breathe a little easier. It's poetic that they are our opponent now because when we win, it very much feels like our division in the future. So ready for Saturday, John!

This "take" is understandably shared by many Jaguars fans and observers. My sense, though, is that this is a feeling shared mostly by outsiders. While Pederson has acknowledged the importance of the rivalry, he doesn't acknowledge any ability on Titans' part to snatch souls – proverbial or otherwise. And there are plenty of Jaguars players with unblemished records against the Titans. This is not to say that the Jaguars are guaranteed victory Saturday. I don't know that they will win, and I don't expect it to be easy. But win or lose Saturday, this still feels like a new era for the Jaguars with the hexes and jinxes of the past no longer pertinent. And win or lose Sunday, my sense is more Jaguars fans will feel less jinxed and hence as this version of the Jaguars improves and wins more moving forward.

Mike from Omaha, NE

The Jags' home crowd will be fired up, fill the stadium and ready to cheer on the Jaguars. They won't be made up of one half Titans fans like the Dallas game. The energy they bring might be the difference in the game for the home team.

I expect the atmosphere Saturday at TIAA Bank Field to be unlike any in recent seasons – perhaps even more intense and raucous than late 2017 and early 2018, which were easily the most raucous Jaguars crowds of the last decade. Could the crowd be a difference? Absolutely.

Bruce from Owensboro, KY

Hey, Zoney. If the Jags win the AFC South, it would be a real shame if Dougie P doesn't win Coach of the Year. The leadership ability he has shown, the offensive play calling and going from worst to first in the division should warrant the recognition in my opinion. If the Jags are up 28-0 or more at halftime, do you sit the starters again?

Multiple outlets award Coach of the Year honors. I would expect Pederson to receive such honors from one or more of those outlets, particularly if the Jaguars win Saturday. As far as what Pederson will do if the Jaguars are up 28-0 at halftime … I suppose we should just wait and see on that. I'm not sure anyone's projecting that scenario.

David from Orlando, FL

KOAF – At the end of October, when the Jaguars lost five games in a row, you never wavered in your belief that Trevor Lawrence was our franchise quarterback. When fans criticized him, your answers were consistently some version of … he must improve/he is improving/be patient. When Rob from Jacksonville wrote, "Trevor is not the answer. Not happy at all about this, but it's the truth"- you didn't waver. When Ron from Orlando, FL wrote, "One man is holding this team back at this point and I'm curious to know when we start someone who won't blow the game?"- you didn't waver. When Steve from Jacksonville wrote, "He is young, talented and not a very good NFL quarterback. Him failing to be the man dooms us as fans to another eight-to-ten years of being fans of an inept and terrible franchise"- you didn't waver. When Timmay from Loserville wrote, "Lawrence is just not the generational quarterback we were promised"- you didn't waver. When Tristian from Crystal River, FL wrote "How many more of these before we accept that Trevor Lawrence is not the guy? Pathetic stat line, and the eye test didn't look any better."– you didn't waver. When Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ wrote, "It's October 2022 and Trevor Lawrence still hasn't shown he's going to be special and lead a team to a Super Bowl much less be a long-term franchise quarterback."- you didn't waver. You always preach the importance of being nice, so that's why I'm giving credit where credit was due.

I am the king of all funk.

Pradeep from Bangalore, India

Hi John, looks like defence has improved but we see few possible interceptions are getting dropped due to lack of anticipation. Isn't it an area for improvement?

I'm never surprised or even all that upset when players drop interceptions. The first task of the defensive player is to prevent the completion. All else is essentially a bonus. There's an old football saw that a defensive back would be a receiver if he had good hands. That old saw is often accurate.

Seamus from Yankton, SD

I think I am missing something here...many readers are being fussy (permissible for fans, I hear) about us playing Saturday like it is some sort of snub. However, and please correct me if I am wrong, but aren't we playing at 8 p.m., "prime time"? Aren't we playing the only game at that time? Isn't this game going to be nationally televised? Didn't the NFL flex us to this slot because it is an 'important' game? Maybe I just don't get it?

Why do Jaguars fans complain about a Saturday night game rather than Sunday? Because Jaguars fans love their team, and because Jaguars fans are tired of the perceived slights for being a small-market team. My sense is these "slights" for the last decade or so have been more about the Jaguars not being good and therefore not being popular than about any sort of bias against the Jaguars. But yes … the NFL flexed this game to Saturday because it's important. Saturday night is prime time. It's high-profile. I don't know that it would have been more intense Sunday than it will be Saturday. And if the Jaguars win, I don't know that fans will enjoy it any less Saturday than they would have Sunday.

John from Sebastian, FL

Mr. Funk, all the noise about the game being on Saturday night instead of Sunday is short sighted. It's a clear advantage for the fans being Saturday night. Tailgating, aroma of meat on the hot grill beer flowing around noon, the crowed will be "JACKED UP" loud and proud by 8:15 kickoff. Should be a great Victory Sunday Fun day! This match up is exciting and scary. The stage is set, Titans will be ready to fight to the end, Jaguars will need to earn every yard! This game is the Test, NOW GO WIN IT.....

John is ready for some football …

Josh from Atlanta, GA

I am so unbelievably excited for Saturday. A night game, National audience, division title up for grabs. Against that disgusting team up north no less. The Bank is going to be an unforgettable atmosphere, and we show the world (again) Trevor has arrived.

… and so is Josh …

Sgt Hulka from The Army

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday…Saturday, Saturday, Saturday…Saturday, Saturday, Saturday night's alright

… and so is Sergeant Hulka …

CaptBob from Jax via Northern Westchester, NY

In response to fans that think the Texans game was boring, first, I'll take boring over losing everything. Second, as an original ticket holder, I remember the number one biggest NFL playoff blowout. JAGS 62, MIAMI 7, 1999. It was exciting and boring at the same time. It also became quite painful to watch Marino get pounded, humiliated and finally struggle to limp off the field to the bench. A bad way to end a great career. As much as I dislike the Titans, our bogeyman, I guess I would feel just as bad for our local product, Derrick Henry. But that feeling probably won't occur until I'm celebrating our win Saturday night for several months. GO JAGS! It's 1996 again and payback for 1999.

… and so is Captain Bob. I sense he's not alone.