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Chargers are lurking

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Dave from Kitchener, Ontario:
Does a "turnover on downs" actually count as a turnover for the offense involved?

Vic: No, only fumbles and interceptions qualify as turnovers.

Eddie from Cocoa, FL:
Since the Patriots are in such a horrible division, it looks like they should coast to a division championship. If the Jaguars can not catch the Colts but still win the rest of their games, making their record 13-3, and the Patriots go 8-8 but win their division, would the wild-card game still be played in New England? Do you think it's possible for the Jaguars to host a playoff game without winning the AFC South division?

Vic: I've gotten this question a multitude of times and I've already answered it at least once, but I'll go through this one more time because I know it's confusing. The six playoff teams in each conference are seeded one through six. The four top seeds are the four division winners and the two bottom seeds are the wild cards. If the Jaguars claim one of the two wild-card spots, the Jaguars could only host a postseason game if it's the AFC title game, the Jaguars are the number five seed and the opponent is the number six seed. So, if New England wins the AFC East and the Jaguars are a wild-card team, any playoff game between those two teams would be played in New England.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
With the most important player on the team in Leftwich now out for a number of weeks, how does your outlook on the chances of the Jaguars making the playoffs change?

Vic: Not much. The Jaguars have five games remaining and, if history holds true, will probably only need to win two more games to make it into the playoffs. I'm not telling you to give up on catching the Colts in the AFC South race – injuries happen to all teams – but I realistically think the Jaguars are playing for a wild-card berth and two wins will probably do it; three wins for sure will do it. I don't think two or three wins against the Jaguars' remaining schedule is especially demanding. As I explained above in the playoff seeding question, I don't think it really matters whether you go in as the five seed or the six seed. Either way you're going to be playing on the road. David Garrard should be able to close the deal. By then, Byron Leftwich should be able to return to action, provided his timetable for recovery remains the same. In my opinion, the real issue is whether or not Leftwich will be able to resume playing at the high level of performance he had achieved in recent weeks. That's always the issue with quarterbacks who've been out of action for awhile. The Steelers are facing that same issue with Ben Roethlisberger. What do you think the level of panic would be in Indianapolis if the Colts lost Peyton Manning?

Stephen from St. Augustine, FL:
When it comes right down to it, don't we want the Colts to win on Monday night? We are fighting for a wild card spot now; I don't think we can overtake the Colts. Our biggest threats are Chiefs, Chargers and Steelers/Bengals. I think we need to become Colt fans when they play the Steelers and Chargers. What are your feelings?

Vic: I can understand your logic, but I tend to believe it would be best for the Jaguars if the Steelers won tonight. Here's why: The Jaguars own the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Steelers, so even if the Steelers won tonight the Jaguars would still be number one in the wild-card standings. The Steelers and Bengals play against each other next Sunday, so that right there is going to drop one of them a peg. I agree with you that San Diego could be a player in the wild-card race and it's because of my high opinion of the Chargers that I think it would be best if the Steelers beat the Colts. My concern is that if the Colts keep winning, they might be in position to shut it down when they play the Chargers on Dec. 18. As you can tell, I don't like the idea of the Chargers lurking a game behind the Jaguars. As long as it's just the Jaguars and Steelers or Bengals, the Jaguars are in the driver's seat. If you introduce another team to a possible tie-breaker, the criterion becomes more confusing.

Eric from Palm Coast, FL:
Is there any chance we could have Byron back in time for the playoffs?

Vic: Jack Del Rio told reporters after Sunday's game that Leftwich will be out a month. That prognosis is subject to change and I have no doubt Leftwich will tell reporters he'll be back a lot sooner, but I think we need to stick with the "month" timetable for now. That means Leftwich could be back for the final regular season game, against Tennessee.

Mario from Oviedo, FL:
Are there any incentives in David Garrard's contract, like earning more money for throwing for a certain amount of touchdowns or throwing for a certain amount of yards?

Vic: Yeah, he has some play-time and performance incentives, but he can't reach them with what's left of the season.

Joel from Orange Park, FL:
Can we develop an absolutely dominant running game and a shut-down defense in two weeks?

Vic: I think the Jaguars already have a shut-down defense. As far as the running game is concerned, Fred Taylor's return would be the key. The Jaguars need Taylor to get back into the lineup.

Greg from Winter Park, FL:
I guess teams will be playing "Dare Garrard" now.

Vic: I don't think there's any doubt about that. You gotta prove you can do it before teams will respect your ability to do it. Tennessee used that strategy against the Jaguars last season and it worked. Cleveland, the Jaguars' next opponent, is 28th in the league against the run. I expect the Browns will load the box against the run and dare the Jaguars to pass the ball. That can be an especially effective strategy in the cold weather. The Jaguars won't be caught off guard. They know that's what they're going to get. That's the first challenge David Garrard is going to face.

Keith from Charlottesville, VA:
My son and I were watching the highlights of the Jaguars game and when they showed Wimbush's kickoff return for a touchdown, we racked our brains and couldn't remember us ever doing that before. Is this the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Jaguars history?

Vic: The Jaguars have returned five kickoffs for touchdowns. The first was by Jimmy Smith against Denver in 1995 on a lateral play that covered 89 yards. Reggie Barlow took one back 92 yards for a touchdown against New England in 1997. Alvis Whitted owns the all-time longest Jaguars kickoff return, 98 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee in 1999. Elvis Joseph went 95 yards in Pittsburgh in 2001.

John from Little Rock, AR:
I do see it now; you are right. I have become just a Jaguars fan and it's a plus that a Razorback star is on the team, but I have gotten to the point to where I watch the game and actually just want the team to win. They play so electric and I respect that. The whole team is acting like a team. They have chemistry and that's how you win ballgames. I do not agree with a lot you say but this time I do. What do you think will be the final record for the Jaguars at the end of the regular season?

Vic: I would have no problem with 11-5. It would get them into the playoffs and would probably buy some time to rest some players for the first playoff game. I just don't see any advantage to being the top-seeded wild-card team. In my opinion, the advantage the Jaguars have is that because they are number one in the wild-card standings, they could clinch a playoff spot early and use the last week or two to rest some guys. Once you make it in as a wild-card team, your record is meaningless. You're going on the road.

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