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How big is the gap?

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Jeremy from Jerseyville, IL:
No one has brought up how the Jaguars finished second-to-last in the league in sacks with 26. Sure, it's double what they had the previous year, but it still needs a lot of improving. Do you think the defensive line still needs more talent – I know losing Kampman was a big part of the ranking, too – or was the bad ranking due to the poor secondary play?

Vic: It's a combination of all those factors. The defensive linemen they drafted were rookies; they'll be better pass-rushers next season. You're correct that the secondary didn't hold its coverage long enough to allow the pass-rush to get home. The Jaguars need to do a lot of work in their secondary before next season begins. Obviously, they missed Aaron Kampman, and I think it can also be said the Jaguars need to address the linebacking positions. I think what we came to realize this past season was that the Jaguars' problems on defense weren't all about the pass-rush. They need to fix a lot of things. As they do that, the pass-rush will improve naturally.

DaMillion from White Sulphur Springs, WV:
I am a Jags fan stuck up in Steelers country. I was lucky enough to attend the Steelers-Ravens game this past weekend. The atmosphere was electric. It was probably the second-most fun game I have ever been to (the 62-7 Miami game being number one). I really hope we get to this level of passion for our team. It was amazing to be a part of it.

Vic: I love nothing more than covering big games played in packed stadiums.

Bob from Silver Springs, FL:
Santonio Holmes' catch for the winning touchdown in Pittsburgh's Super Bowl win over the Arizona Cardinals and his clutch catch this past weekend against the Patriots were two of the greatest catches for touchdowns I have ever seen. To catch those throws and remain inbounds just amazes me. He may just be the difference in Sunday's game and the Steelers may be sorry he is no longer on their team.

Vic: You might be right.

Kevin from Tallahassee, FL:
Let's take a look at the facts. The four remaining teams are teams with the most impressive defenses in the game today. Is it possible to make it to the Super Bowl in this pass-happy league with just a mediocre defense?

Vic: There's no one way to do it, but when has it ever been desirable to not have a good defense? If the four teams in the conference titles games are telling us anything, it's that defense matters and, if that's a fact, then it's also a fact that the Jaguars have to do a lot of work on the defensive side of the ball.

Shawn from Lakewood, OH:
Could you please clarify a rule on attempted field goals? From what I understand, a field goal is good if any part of the ball is within the inside edge of the post as it passes the upright, but is no good if it hits the upright. What's the deal? This makes no sense. Maybe a hit on the goalpost should be worth two points? Your insight would be appreciated.

Vic: The ball must pass between the uprights. If it hits an upright and caroms between the uprights, it's a field goal. If the ball hits an upright and caroms to the outside of the upright, meaning that it fails to pass between the uprights, the field goal attempt has failed.

James from Jacksonville:
The Ravens were outscored 33-6 in the fourth quarter and overtime of their two losses to the Steelers and one loss to the Patriots. Elite teams can score touchdowns when they need to against the Ravens defense and then stop the Ravens offense from scoring. How do the Ravens become an elite team at this point?

Vic: As I've said, winning in this league is all about what you do at crunch time. The Ravens struggled late in games this season. They nearly lost in Houston after holding a large lead. They nearly lost to Buffalo the same way. Usually, when a team fades late in games, you would take a look at its age. Is it tiring toward the end of games? Is it tiring toward the end of the season? The Ravens, in my opinion, are starting to show some age spots. I think you'll see them address that matter in the offseason.

John from Jacksonville:
The playoffs expose the gap between where the Jags are and where they need to be to compete at that level. On the other hand, the Patriots are the perfect reminder of how a team can be lined up perfectly with a great quarterback, great coach, great team, homefield advantage and a bye week and still end up one and done. I wonder how angry Jags fans would be if they were Patriots fans this week? I think fans in general need to level their expectations, calm down and realize that any team can be great or a bust on any given Sunday.

Vic: I think you've achieved a level-headed view of the Jaguars and of the challenge facing all teams in the playoffs. Make sure you're ready to play, because every game is do or die.

Regan from Grant, FL:
Aren't the Jags the last team to have beaten the Steelers in the postseason?

Vic: Yes, they are. It was a fantastic game; one of the best I've ever covered. There will be more to come.

Roger from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I thought the coverage team had to stay in the field of play. I thought if a player covering a kick was forced out of bounds he had to return to the field of play as soon as possible. I could be wrong, of course, but it seems to me that running downfield out of bounds so that you can't be blocked should not be condoned, yet, it appears to be commonplace in the league. The game is supposed to be played between the sidelines, isn't it?

Vic: Yeah, but you're missing something. Nobody is going to intentionally run out of bounds to avoid being blocked because in so doing that person would effectively eliminate himself from downing the ball, to a degree, since any player who runs out of bounds, even if he's pushed out of bounds, can't be the first man to touch the ball.

Brian from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I was curious if you could put a little perspective on watching the teams in the playoffs vs. the Jaguars and how far we need to go to get to that level. Mr. Weaver put a tall order on his team in making the playoffs next year, considering we play almost all of those teams. Does watching the playoffs change your view on how our team performed or put our season more into perspective?

Vic: I see a gap. I won't lie to you. The Jaguars don't have defensive personnel to match the four teams in the conference title games. The Jags don't have a Darrelle Revis or a Troy Polamalu or a Julius Peppers or a Clay Matthews. Those four defenses also have a lot of other players the equal of which the Jaguars don't have. That's the gap. The gap is mainly on defense. I think most Jaguars fans would immediately go to the quarterback position, but I believe the gap is, by far, widest on the defensive side of the ball.

Stephen from New York, NY:
Super Bowl win with Revis? This is one of the dumbest statements you have made. Brady was 22 of 25 in that game and the Jags had no answers for them. You will never win a Super Bowl with David Garrard. Post that in the "Ask Vic" column.

Vic: Well, I just did and now I want you to hold on, Stephen, because we're gonna go for a ride. First of all, you need to learn how to read because at no time in the answer to which you have taken exception did I say the Jaguars would've won the Super Bowl. Secondly, Brady wasn't 22 of 25, he was 26 of 28. Here's the big part: That's why I said I think they would've beaten the Patriots had the Jaguars had Revis on their team that night, because he's a real good cornerback and his presence would've probably decreased Tom Brady's effectiveness. Get it? By the way, Garrard was on fire that night. He played as well as I have ever seen him play and he still might've beaten the Patriots had Dennis Northcutt and Matt Jones not dropped what should've been certain touchdown catches. I'm the dumb one? Duh! IJPMPLAY, Stephen.

Andy from Saint Johns, FL:
I loved Hines Ward on the first play of the game on Sunday. Start out with a physical play, a little cheap shot and a little fight. It set the tone for the entire game. What did you think of it? Was it worth 10 yards?

Vic: What's the big deal? I didn't see anything so awful. I mean, it had to be flagged so both teams knew the officiating crew wasn't going to allow that kind of stuff, but it wasn't much more than a little living room rough-housing. What would people today think about the stuff they did in the 1970's?

Michael from Jacksonville:
Just thought you might want to pass this along to some of your readers, as I see all the time the players vs. plays debate here. Peter King in his weekly MMQB column quoted Rex Ryan as saying, "Game plans are useless without great plays from your players."

Vic: Yeah, but he's a coach. What does he know about football?

Michael from Port Orange, FL:
How do I get this message to Gene Smith and Wayne Weaver? I am a season-ticket holder since the beginning. If the Jags draft Cam Newton, I will really find it hard to continue to support the Jags and go to the games. He is not the kind of person the Jags committed to bringing into the franchise. His many transgressions while a Gator and the latest unproven scandal about being paid to play for any major college program who would pay his family for his services does not make him a quality player or person. This kind of player will hurt the team in the long run.

Vic: I really wish you hadn't sent this message. I wish you had just trusted the team to do what's right, which I believe it has since Gene Smith has been its general manager. If every fan threatens to not buy tickets if the team doesn't acquiesce to their demands, then this will never work. This is what I mean by the disadvantage of having tickets to sell.

John from Houston, TX:
Aaron Rodgers is a heck of a quarterback, but consider this: How would Aaron have performed if he was behind the Steelers line? I think the Steelers have gotten away with that line because of the size and strength of Ben; broken foot, broken nose, he keeps getting up and playing.

Vic: I don't think there's another quarterback in the game that could do what Roethlisberger does behind that line. He took two cheap shots to his lower body in last Saturday's game without a penalty resulting either time and he never complained. He just got up, brushed it off and kept playing, and the one cheap shot occurred on the play right before the fumble that resulted in a touchdown. Isn't it funny how everybody talks about the great defense he has, but you seldom hear people talk about the offensive line he plays behind.

Kevin from Nazareth, PA:
I am a Jags fan and have been since they entered the league. I seem to always defend them and stretch their abilities in some way to believe that the team and players are better than they actually are. Now I attend the University of Pittsburgh and I am surrounded by Steelers fans that seem to do the same at an even higher level, which in turn has developed my strong dislike for the Steelers . This brings me to my question: Is Ben Roethlisberger as good as they think (top three in the NFL), or are his accomplishments a by-product of an amazing defense that seems to allow a mid-level quarterback to excel?

Vic: You're absolutely right. You can't be an elite quarterback if you play on a team with a strong defense because the goal is not to complement that defense in such a manner as to win the game, the goal is to accumulate the best stats in a losing effort. That's the definition of an elite quarterback. An elite quarterback is someone that can take all of the credit in victory and pass all of the blame onto his team's defense in defeat. Sound like anybody you know? Now I have a question for you, Kevin: Are you by any chance having trouble making friends at Pitt?

Joe from New York, NY:
This is a great read, is it not? To close his news conference on Monday, Ryan told a story about a 2007 Ravens-Steelers game in which Ryan was Baltimore's defensive coordinator and Tomlin's Steelers ran up a 38-7 halftime lead. "They ran the ball every play in the second half," Ryan recalled. Not only that, Ryan said, but one of the Steelers' fullbacks (Ryan couldn't recall the name, though Carey Davis was the Steelers' fullback who played in that game) spent part of the second half talking smack with then-Ravens linebacker Bart Scott. Near the sideline, Scott told the fullback to get back on the field if he wanted to back up his talk. Tomlin, hearing the conversation, sent the fullback back into the game. "And on the next play, Bart separated the kid's shoulder," Ryan said before dissolving into a maniacal cackle. "That's one of my favorite stories."

Vic: It's a tough game for tough guys.

Stephen from Jacksonville:
Why are the Colts in the AFC? Did the NFL kick them out for losing Super Bowl III? When and why did the Colts change their affiliation from National to American?

Vic: They got paid to move in 1970.

Jake from Harrisonburg, VA:
Christian obviously didn't watch the playoff game in 2007 where Brady went 26 of 28 against a Jaguars defense using almost identical plays. Players, not plays. Nick Folk missed a short field goal early in the game. I guess the coaches should have decided to go for it on fourth down instead, right?

Vic: It was a bad play; he should've kicked the ball with his left foot. You're right on the strategy against Brady. Mike Smith's game plan was to make Brady throw underneath; don't let him make big plays. So Brady threw underneath the coverage all night and marched the ball relentlessly down the field. What was the difference between what the Jaguars did that night and what the Jets did on Sunday? The Jaguars didn't have much of a pass-rush and they didn't have Revis to cut the field in half.

Andrew from Jacksonville:
We often praise the Steelers, Patriots and sometimes the Eagles for their winning front-office strategies and discipline. Do the Packers have any noteworthy strategies or have they just benefited from having one of the all-time great quarterbacks for many years and then transitioning to his young, very talented replacement at the right time?

Vic: I think that's a good assessment of the Packers, but here's something that's common to all four of those teams: They have long waiting lists of fans wanting to buy season tickets. Those teams never have to make a decision based on anything other than what's best for their football team.

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