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Colts most predictable?

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

Jeffrey from Elgin, SC:
I read that the Jaguars-Steelers game was viewed by 8.06 million homes, making it the highest-rated cable telecast of the year. Do you see Monday Night Football in the Jaguars' near future?

Vic: The TV ratings for the Jaguars-Steelers game are unbelievable. In Jacksonville the game pulled down a 34.9 rating and a 49 share. The Jaguars usually get a 25 or 26 rating for their games. In Pittsburgh, last Sunday night's game earned a 57.2 rating and a 73 share. Wow! Those are Super Bowl-like numbers. They are almost too high to believe. So what does it all mean? It means that, in my opinion, you can count on next year's game between the Jaguars and Steelers at Heinz Field being on Monday Night Football.

Brandon from Malabar, FL:
I was thinking of ways to get better in the red zone and I came up with this: When we get first-and-goal from around the 10, as it seems we do a lot, I think we should line up in shotgun with five-wide or four-wide and Fred in the backfield. We can then do draw plays and the defense is more spread out…

Vic: Whoa! Before you go any farther, permit me to share this with you. I was told recently by a certain former defensive coordinator that the Colts are the most predictable team in the league in the red zone. In the red zone, I was told, the Colts rely on two plays, "trap" and "trap pass." They are Tom Moore's favorite plays and he used them with Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh and now with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Play-calling or play-execution?

Danny from Jacksonville:
Exactly how many hours do you watch football in a week? It seems like you see every game, college and pro.

Vic: The question you're asking has, from time to time, been a sore subject in my house. The other day my wife walked into the house while I was watching the 2003 Mid-American Conference title game between Bowling Green and Miami of Ohio on ESPN Classic. "More football?" she said disgustedly. I said, "You know I have to watch this stuff to get ready for the draft." She doesn't know anything about football and sometimes she makes it so easy I actually feel bad, but I get over it.

Scott from Thunder Bay, Ontario:
You and many people believe the key to success is running the ball and stopping the run. Can you be just as successful passing the ball and stopping the run?

Vic: Boy, that would be a great combination of an explosive offense and a butt-kicking defense. The problem is they just don't seem to go together. One of the reasons run the ball and stop the run go hand in hand is that when you're practicing to run the ball you're also practicing to stop the run. The salary cap is the major obstacle in building a team with an explosive passing game and a strong defense. Passing games are costly because they put a premium on quarterbacks and receivers and those are usually expensive positions that don't leave you with enough cap room for quality defensive players. The Patriots won the Super Bowl last year as a pass-the-ball/stop-the-run team, and the main reason they were able to do that is because they got the quarterback in the sixth round of the draft and their receivers are largely bargain-basement guys. Bill Belichick, of course, would rather the Patriots be a run-the-ball/stop-the-run team and he has been able to move the Patriots in that direction this year after trading for Corey Dillon. The Patriots are currently eighth in rushing and tied for 12th in passing. As the playoffs near, I expect those numbers to move even farther apart.

Danielle from McKees Rocks, PA:
Great game. Great city. Great fans. Great stadium. Great weather. Cannot wait to come back in February.

Vic: The Jacksonville chamber of commerce thanks you.

Randy from Mobile, AL:
I appreciate your restraint and patience with the play-calling faction, but I have a question: If I can sit on my couch and predict without fail that we will run on third-and-short, don't you think opposing coaches can, too?

Vic: First of all, it's not just about predicting run or pass. That's a 50-50 proposition, right? Can you predict what kind of run or pass it's going to be? Is it going to be a draw or a sweep? There's a big difference in how you defense each. How about the blocking scheme? Are the guards going to pull, trap or drive-block? Again, there's a big difference between them because you introduce specifically different techniques with each. For example, the rule for defensive linemen against trap-blocking is: If nobody blocks you take one step across the line of scrimmage and turn to the inside. See what I mean? It's not just about run or pass. NFL schemes are so sophisticated. Let's do this: The next time you watch the Jaguars play on TV, chart the plays. You make your call, run or pass, and see if your batting average is above .500. You might be surprised. Oh, yeah, don't include offensive series that are obviously dedicated to passing or running against the clock.

Dan from Isla Vista, CA:
Where do you rank the Jaguars against other teams in rebuilding mode, such as the Bungles?

Vic: Bungles? You better take another look at the Bengals. They are a team on the rise with a sensational young quarterback. The Jaguars and Bengals offer a good comparison. They each began a major rebuilding project in 2003 with a rookie head coach and a high-pick quarterback. The Bengals chose to break Carson Palmer in slowly; the Jaguars threw Byron Leftwich into the fire. Now, near the end of the second season of those projects, each team is 6-6 and each quarterback is playing at a high level. The two teams and their young quarterbacks are mirroring each other, and I think that's a positive reflection on each.

Keith from Jacksonville:
I love the way you respond to some of the questions from these fans that criticize your judgments and answers. I was wondering earlier in the seasons why the Jags would not trade one of their players for a veteran defensive end.

Vic: Defensive end is such a premium position that nobody is going to trade one of any value. You almost have to get a defensive end in the draft or you are going to pay a ridiculously-high price in free agency.

Shawn from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Could you perhaps update me as to the status of George Wrighster. I've begun to think we are saving him for next year. I don't remember him hurting his back so bad. When was it hurt?

Vic: I'm a bad-back guy, so this is an all-too-easy question for me. Once George Wrighster's back injury went longer than a couple of weeks, it was easy for me to figure out, although I don't know the specifics of it. Let me put it this way: Anybody who's suffered from bulging or herniated discs knows what the real issue is about bad backs. The pain goes into the hip and down the leg and it seems like it'll never go away. In the process, you develop weakness in the leg. Back surgery is not a big deal nowadays and it worked for me twice, but once you have it you're going to be out for awhile, so the tendency is to just hang in there and hope it goes away.

Alan from Jacksonville:
Given that Buffalo plays Cleveland, Cincinnati and San Francisco in their next three games before hosting Pittsburgh at home the final week of the season, could we wind up with the darkhorse Bills being the final wild card in the AFC if Jacksonville or Denver stumble? What a turnaround that would be.

Vic: What a job Mike Mularkey has done in Buffalo. If the Bills had hung on for that win against the Jaguars, the Bills might be on their way to the playoffs right now. Nobody gave them a chance when they hit 1-5, but here they are now in an unlikely but doable situation. In my opinion, the key game for Buffalo is at Cincinnati on Dec. 19. If they beat the Bengals, they could get to 10-6. Pittsburgh could be locked in a playoff position in the final week of the season, which would clearly mean the Steelers would rest key personnel. Nobody's criticizing Tom Donahoe's pick of Willis McGahee now, are they?

John from Brooklyn, NY:
Where do the Jaguars rank in allowing rushing touchdowns, how many, and is it a good number?

Vic: The Jaguars have allowed six rushing touchdowns, which is tied for fifth-best in the league.

Brian from Jacksonville:
I've always wondered, can the sixth seed and the third seed be in the same division and still play each other in the wild card round?

Vic: Yes.

Eric from Jacksonville:
On average, how many questions do you receive per day?

Vic: During the season, I probably receive a couple hundred e-mails a day. This week has been off the charts. That's what Sunday night's game did. I can't even give a guess as to how many I've received because I've had to read, select and delete on a continual basis, rather than letting them collect.

Andrew from Waipahu, HI:
The 3-4 defense has been getting a lot of attention. Can you break down the pros and cons of the 3-4 and the 4-3?

Vic: I've done this more than a few times, but there's a lot of interest in the 3-4 this week because of the Steelers, so let's do it one more time. The 4-3 is a conventional alignment that is good against any kind of offensive play. The 4-3 requires a minimum of schematic adjustment. It's also a good defense for your offense to practice against, since most teams use the 4-3. The 3-4 offers much more in the way of strategy. You can do a lot of things with those four linebackers that'll cause great disruption in the offense's backfield and at the line of scrimmage, but you have to have big-time athletes at those four linebacker positions. That's where the premium is. The premium positions in the 4-3 are up front; in the 3-4 they are at linebacker. They have got to be playmakers, and teams such as the Steelers and Patriots, both of whom use the 3-4, have linebackers who are playmakers. They are athletes. Mike Vrabel, for example, went from the Steelers to the Patriots and Vrabel is even used as a pass-catcher on offense. The important thing to remember is that you must commit to one or the other defense because the talents of the personnel and the numbers at each position are distinctly different. The 3-4 requires a nose tackle, who tends to be a squatty guy who wouldn't interest most 4-3 teams. I like the 3-4, but not because of the strategy it permits. I like it because it lets you draft against the grain and that means all of the players who aren't of interest to 4-3 teams are now of interest to you, and since there are far more 4-3 teams than 3-4 teams, the competition for those players is not as intense. All of the defensive linemen who aren't good pass-rushers are just fine for 3-4 teams because they don't use their linemen to rush the passer. And all of the tweeners who aren't big enough to play end or good enough in coverage to be linebackers in a 4-3, fit nicely as run-and-hit linebackers in a 3-4. One such player who comes to mind is David Pollack of Georgia. Size concerns may not make him a good fit for a 4-3, but he may be just right in a 3-4.

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