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Just a real nice surprise

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

Viv from Jacksonville:
Players receive only $19,000-$21,000 for the wild-card playoff games? There's a real possibility James Harrison may experience a net result of paying $4,000-$6,000 to play in a wild-card game. For his sake and his family's sake, I hope the Steelers get a bye in the first round.

Vic: He's way past the $25,000 fine marker. If he gets a good head shot in, he could lose $54,000-$56,000 in a wild-card round game.

Chris from Orlando, FL:
What exactly is "strength of victory," in regards to tiebreakers?

Vic: It's the combined winning percentage of the teams you've beaten. I read that the NFL just informed the Steelers that they have clinched at least a wild-card berth on the "strength of victory" tiebreaker.

Jon from Jacksonville:
"I am still stunned they didn't measure on fourth down. I must've missed something." They didn't measure because there was a penalty committed that nullified the down, forcing us back and thus requiring the punt.

Vic: That's incorrect. Greg Jones' chop-block violation was during the play and was not treated as a false-start penalty that killed the play. I was told yesterday that it was determined by referee Mike Carey that David Garrard had gotten the first down and that the Colts then accepted the penalty, and I am still stunned the officiating crew didn't at least measure to determine if Garrard had, in fact, gotten the first down because I thought it was very close. In fact, I didn't think he got it. Had that been the case, the Colts could've declined the penalty and taken the ball right there, instead of accepting the penalty and allowing the Jaguars to put the Colts at their two-yard line with a punt.

Mark from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Fifty-three seconds left in the half and all three timeouts. Please give me a list of all football coaches and teams including NFL, college, high school, Pop Warner, etc. that do not try to score in that situation.

Vic: I'll give you the name of one person who thought the Jaguars made the right decision in not attempting to score with 53 seconds remaining and the ball on their 12-yard line: Vic Ketchman. I wrote it in my blog before they even snapped the ball. The Jaguars were fortunate to be down by only four points. Why tempt fate? It was a good time to get to the locker room and figure out why they had gained only 84 yards in the first half. Hey, what's the rush? Why the panic?

Lee from Jacksonville:
Does this team have enough left in the tank to win-out?

Vic: That's the $64,000 question. I wish I could answer it. We'll find out.

Jeffrey from Jacksonville:
On the Thomas fumble, the referee should have called fair-catch interference on the Colts and block in the back on the Jaguars, thus it would have been offsetting penalties. A re-punt would have been the result. Do you agree?

Vic: No, that's not the way the rule regarding this situation works. I checked with my personal officiating adviser on this matter yesterday and he confirmed that the proper application of the rule was eventually achieved. The only issue is whether or not the impetus from the block in the back did, in fact, carry the defender nine yards into the punt-returner. I think this is something that should be examined in the offseason. Loss of ball, in my opinion, is too harsh of a penalty for a block in the back. In my opinion, the penalty should be assessed from the point of the block in the back and the returning team should be awarded possession of the ball. That's what I would consider to be a fair punishment.

Rich from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
A host for NFL Network said the Daryl Smith hit on Austin Collie should be fined by the league. What is your opinion?

Vic: My opinion is that we've turned this whole season into a witch hunt for players that should be fined, and it's dominating the conversation and blunting our enjoyment of the game. My opinion is that the league has gone way overboard on this matter and has created a monster that threatens to devour the game. I'm all for player safety, but super-sensitizing everyone to this issue was a mistake and, furthermore, I don't think the players are any safer today than they were last year.

Paul from Jacksonville:
If the NFL is mandating a no helmet-to-helmet policy on the quarterback, then why can't they see one on Garrard? I'm beginning to believe there's collusion going on. I mean, hey, equal enforcement of the rules, or don't have any.

Vic: You've just made my point for me. Fifty percent of the e-mails I received following Sunday's game pertained to the non-call on Robert Mathis' shot on David Garrard. Fans, such as yourself, are obsessed with enforcement of head-hits on quarterbacks and defenseless receivers. By the way, it's not only helmet-to-helmet hits that are forbidden; it's any kind of hit to the helmet of the quarterback and defenseless receiver that's forbidden.

Dee from Surf City, NC:
The Vikings fans look like they still got it.

Vic: Attendance is listed as 40,504, but I don't know if that's tickets distributed or actual attendance. It looked OK, but a good portion of those fans, of course, were from Chicago. I'm going to give Vikings fans the benefit of the doubt on this one. I think I saw enough energy and heartiness in that crowd to recommend that they find a way to add seats to that stadium and make it the home of the Vikings, as well as the home of the University of Minnesota. Domes are for sissies and Vikings fans were anything but sissies. It's time for the Vikings and Vikings fans to go back to their roots. What I saw last night is a snapshot of who and what the Vikings and their fans are and should be. Hey, they play in the NFC North. It's a division that says cold and snow. Be true to who you are. Don't try to be someone and something else. It doesn't work.

Brad from Jacksonville:
I'm aware that if the Colts and Jags win-out and finish tied at 10-6, the Colts clinch because it would go to the third tiebreaker (common games), but isn't it true that, even with a loss this weekend to Washington and Indy winning in Oakland, that we can still win the division by beating Houston and Indy losing to Tennessee? We would both finish at 9-7, with the Jags having a division record of 4-2 and Indy at 3-3.

Vic: That's correct. That scenario would effectively change the tiebreaker employed from common games to division record. I encourage taking this one week at a time. Jags win this week and Colts lose, and you're back to the simplest of all formulas: Win and in.

Craig from Valhalla, NY:
What has happened to our run-defense over the past few weeks?

Vic: That's a very good question. The Jaguars have allowed 308 yards rushing in the last two games and that's not December football. Rushmen need to become runmen, if you know what I mean.

Mike from Syracuse, NY:
Did we expect too much too soon out of this team?

Vic: Mike, the first mistake was having any expectation at all. I just don't understand why we have to have expectations. What good are they? I watch, then I decide what I saw, and I didn't like what I saw in Indy.

Zarr from Jacksonville:
I thought an onside kick had to travel 10 yards before a player could touch the ball?

Vic: It must travel 10 yards before a member of the kicking team is permitted to touch it. The receiving team can touch the ball any time after it is kicked.

Jason from Mims, FL:
I was afraid the Oakland game was too much of a banger to come out healthy on the other end.

Vic: Your fears, I fear, were well-founded. I think the Jags left a piece of themselves on the field in that win over the Raiders. Vince Manuwai and Maurice Jones-Drew were hobbled all week, and I think a lot of other guys left that game battered and bruised.

John from Gloucestershire, England:
Every time the Jags lose, we hear the same excuse: "We didn't execute plays." To win in this league takes more than that. It means playing with fire in your belly, being ruthless and crushing the opposition, game after game without mercy. This is not a game for the faint-hearted. We need to see some of that on the field if the Jags want to get to the next level and make a serious challenge for the ultimate prize, the Super Bowl. Playing nice football just ain't going to get it done.

Vic: You watched Braveheart, again, didn't you?

Logan from Big Bear City, CA:
Are the Jags still in the running for the L.A. stadium?

Vic: No, we missed out on that one.

Steve from Jacksonville:
Regardless of the communication issues, doesn't David Garrard have the ability to audible to the QB sneak when it was obviously open?

Vic: All he had to do was goose him and go. No audible was necessary.

Eli from Washington, DC:
How does the referee get talked out of calling a false-start penalty, as the TV guys said happened on the do-over play? Mike Carey is normally a top referee, but he and his crew had a bad day.

Vic: I think it was the umpire that threw the false-start penalty. My guess is that he blew his whistle when he threw the flag. It's also my guess that after another of their many conferences, one of the other officials, probably a linesman, convinced Carey that a false-start was not committed, but the whistle blew the play dead so they had to void the play entirely and do it over. After watching the replay, it did appear that Eugene Monroe false-started. Here's my question: Are we officiating everything too closely? Are we looking for every little thing, as though the fans are paying to see the officials throw flags?

Chadwin from Oak Ridge, TN:
Based on the games you've watched, do you think this team deserves a playoff spot? Is this team one of the six-best teams in the AFC?

Vic: As of right now, no, it's not. That's what Sunday's game decided. The season, however, isn't over. Ask me again when the season is complete.

Paul from Jacksonville:
Our holidays were always such a mess. How did you get through it?

Vic: I got a little help from my friend, and I made four new friends on Saturday night when I went out for my cabbage rolls and something to chase them down. Four Jaguars fans – Chris, Patrick, Mike and Mike – recognized me and invited me to their table to share the evening with them. Here's the best part: They picked up the tab. Just a real nice surprise.

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