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Getting the big bump

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

Scott from Laplata, MD:
Conference and division games being the most important, do you think the Steelers is our make or break game?

Vic: Absolutely, it is. The Jaguars must win each of their remaining three games against AFC opponents to have any chance of winning a tie-breaker in a multiple-teams situation. If they were in a head-to-head situation with Denver the Jaguars would win the tie-breaker based on their win over the Broncos in week two, but I'm more inclined to think in terms of more than two teams tied and, since those teams wouldn't have all played each other, the number one tie-breaker would be AFC record. Winning-out would be great, but if you're trying to make a case for 10 wins, well, then three of the Jaguars' four remaining wins must be against their remaining three AFC opponents. That pursuit begins this week against the Steelers. This is a must-win game, for sure.

Travis from Charlotte, NC:
Next year we are reducing stadium size to 66,000, but in the big games will they increase the size?

Vic: You can't do that. Once the seating capacity has been established, it must remain that way for the rest of the season. That's a league rule.

Jon from Ocala, FL:
I can't remember if Barry Sanders ever played against the Jags. If he did, what were his stats?

Vic: Barry Sanders played against the Jaguars twice in his career, most recently at Alltel Stadium on Dec. 6, 1998. Sanders rushed for 102 yards on 18 carries. He also caught one pass for five yards. The Jaguars won that game, 37-22. It is most memorable for the severe high-ankle sprain Mark Brunell sustained. In the Jaguars' inaugural season, 1995, Sanders rushed for 76 yards on 22 carries, scored on runs of four and two yards, and caught one pass for eight yards in the Lions' 44-0 victory at the Silverdome.

Jeremy from Jacksonville:
I am deaf and regularly read as well as the "Ask Vic" column. It is the only way I can keep up with Jaguars football news. My question refers to when the team is leading and wants to kneel to run out the clock to ensure the win. Why is there a player 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage? Is there a reason for having the player positioned there?

Vic: The reason is the "Miracle in the Meadowlands."

Gary from Jacksonville:
Has anyone out there besides me just had it with the blackout regulations set upon the fans by the almighty NFL? The fans need to look at each other for accountability and attend the games whenever they possibly can, but three years ago my job took me to Daytona Beach and not only was I still in a blackout area, even if I went to my local beer and wing establishment, who pays for the right to watch each and every game, they ran the risk of fines for showing it. Am I missing something or is there something we can do about this, Vic? Letters to our congressman? Ring up George Dubbya? These guys have gotten too powerful.

Vic: It wasn't the NFL that created the blackout rule; it was an act of Congress in 1973. The concept is very simple and, in my opinion, very fair: If the game is sold out, the NFL is required to televise the game to those people who wish to see it and are unable to purchase a ticket. That's how all of this began. The idea wasn't to keep people from seeing the game, it was to allow people to see the game. Originally, ALL home games were blacked out, and that included postseason games. It didn't matter whether the game was sold out or not, it was blacked out to local television. Congress got involved just before the start of the '73 season. Its position was that it wasn't fair for the NFL to deny its product to fans who were being denied a ticket. The Jaguars haven't denied one fan the opportunity to buy a ticket this season. None of its five home games have been sold out. I think you've lost sight of what this is all about.

Jamie from Jacksonville:
A few weeks ago you mentioned a one-point safety and no one knew what you were talking about. Well, over the holiday it happened in the Texas-Texas A&M game. Can you explain the rule again? I don't see how this can occur in the pro game, except during a field goal try, unlike in the game in which it was awarded after a missed extra point.

Vic: Yeah, we talked about earlier this season. It's called a "try-point safety," but the rules governing it in the NFL are different than in the college game. In college football, the defense can score on a conversion attempt by the offense. In the NFL, the defense can not score. Texas was awarded a one-point safety when its PAT kick was blocked, an A&M player gained possession, fumbled the ball into the end zone and a teammate fell on it. Once an A&M player gained possession of the ball, A&M was obligated to do something with the ball. In other words, if you don't want the responsibility that goes with possession, then just let the ball roll dead. That's my understanding of what happened in the Texas-Texas A&M game. I was watching it on TV but, frankly, television did a terrible job of showing replays and explaining the interpretation. In the NFL, the play would not have resulted in a one-point safety. It would have been blown dead when the kick was blocked because the defense can't score and the offense would've become powerless to score as soon as the kick was blocked. In the NFL, a one-point safety is awarded to the kicking team when a defensive player bats, muffs or kicks a fumbled snap from center through the end zone and out of bounds. The crazy part of all of this is that I had never seen the one-point safety rule invoked in all of the years I've watched football, but as soon as we talked about it in "Ask Vic," it happens.

Fred from Philadelphia, PA:
What's more important for the Jags to find in the offseason? A defensive end or a cornerback? I tend to think with Spicer coming back and Darius more than likely leaving, our secondary is going to need more work than our line, but I'd like to hear your opinion.

Vic: I can't imagine any position on any team in the league being more desperate than defensive end is on the Jaguars. In my opinion, it has to be the number one position of attention in the offseason.

John from Neptune Beach, FL:
Can you tell us the Jags' record in games in which Fred Taylor rushes for over 100 yards? It seems to me the Jags don't get the same bump, in terms of winning, that other teams do when their back rushes for 100. For all his yards on Sunday, I still don't feel he got the ball enough.

Vic: You took the thought right out of my head. On the way back from Minnesota last night, I was thinking that I need to do something on this subject. You're right, the Jaguars don't get the same bump from Fred Taylor's hundred-yard games. Why not? I don't know. Taylor has hit the 100-yard mark four times this season and the Jaguars are 2-2 in those games. That perplexes me. All I can figure is that Taylor's rushing stats don't seem to have the same impact on the Jaguars' success as, say, Jerome Bettis' stats have on the Steelers because the Jaguars don't live and die with the run as the Steelers do. It's a matter of emphasis and it goes hand-in-hand with defense. The Steelers have the number one defense in the league with the number one rush-defense. The Steelers also lead the league, by far, in time of possession average. When you put it all together, what it means is that opposing offenses are getting a limited opportunity to score against the best defense in the league, and that's a great combination for success. Given those ingredients, it's easy to understand why Bettis' rushing totals impact the Steelers so dramatically. Bettis carried 31 times on Sunday. By comparison, Taylor carried only 22 times. Taylor out-rushed Bettis by 47 yards and more than doubled him in yards per carry, but Bettis' stats had a greater impact on the Steelers than Taylor's did on the Jaguars. I may be wrong but, from where I sit, it goes to emphasis and philosophy. To get the big bump from your running back, you have to commit to him and you have to have a defense that will make every yard count.

Ryan from Toronto, Ontario:
Another great game for Fred Taylor but this team is clearly a year away from becoming a legitimate playoff team. What does your gut feeling tell you about the Jags' playoff chances? Do you think they have what it takes to win four or five down the stretch?

Vic: It's all about beating the Steelers now. If they can do that, I think the Jaguars can get to 10 wins.

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