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Let's clear the air

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

Amit from Fort Myers, FL:
What are the chances Denver and Buffalo both lose and the Jags win? Also, if the Jags do end up the sixth seed, who would they play?

Vic: I think the chances of Denver and Buffalo both losing are slim. The Colts' and Steelers' agendas this week are not solely based on winning. Whoever wins the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs will play at the Colts, who are locked at the third seed.

Rob from Philadelphia, PA:
Can you explain to me what the difference is between probable, questionable and doubtful, in terms of injuries?

Vic: A player who is categorized as "probable" has a 75 percent chance of playing; "questionable" is 50 percent and "doubtful" is 25 percent.

Wil from Jacksonville:
I pulled into my tailgate spot at 8:45 a.m. and we played in great football weather. When we walked into the stadium together we were stunned by the sea of empty seats. In a playoff hunt, each game's importance doubles until elimination and to date this was the most important game and the fans did not show. Why? Can you tell us if anyone is defending this absence in your e-mails?

Vic: The vast majority of responses I have received echo your sentiments. A high percentage of those e-mails have expressed outrage and disgust at the number of no-shows at Sunday's game. I have received a few e-mails that favor the no-shows' position. I have included a few e-mails in this "Ask Vic" column that I believe are representative of what I have received overall.

Daniel from Orange Park, FL:
It's Christmas time, Vic. Many people were off visiting their families. We still sold over 66,000 tickets and you want to get on the fans? What a way to build a fan base with a young franchise, in the smallest market and in a military, transit town. Get off the fans already. You sound like a bunch of whiners. The Jags have to compete with over 30 years of football fandom to build a following. Acting like a crybaby and pointing fingers isn't going to do it.

Vic: The fact that half the stadium was empty for the Jaguars' most important game in five years is newsworthy. It can't be ignored. No more excuses: That's my mantra for 2005. The downsizing of Alltel Stadium will leave the Jaguars with the fourth-smallest blackout number (49,000) in the league next year. There can be no more excuses for blackouts.

Jim from Jacksonville:
I am personally getting tired of the fans being hammered for not showing up but I'm also getting tired of the fans whining. I am at every home game and I don't miss a televised away game. Win or lose I'm there. When are the fans going to quit making excuses for not supporting the team and when is the team going to start recognizing the loyal fans that do show up? I was very disheartened to see how many Steelers fans were at the Steelers/Jags game. We should have filled up the seats and made them watch it on TV. The Houston game was also disheartening because, although the weather was cold, it wasn't that cold. Just take a look at what Green Bay fans will endure to support their team. The fans need to not only show up but also make yourself heard. Jaguars, a little recognition to the fans that do support you won't hurt.

Vic: Jim, what do you want, a thank you note from the team for having attended? Jack Del Rio has repeatedly praised the fans who attended the games for their vocal support. Frankly, I thought he showed great restraint at Monday's press conference when I asked him if the no-shows on Sunday were a downer for his team.

Patrick from Elida, OH:
Pitt and Indy have said they are going to play to win next week, so I hope Jacksonville prepares like this is a game against GB. What is your take – since you know both coaches – on how Indy and Pitt will play this week?

Vic: I think it's unfair to expect the Steelers and the Colts to do the Jaguars' bidding for them this weekend. The Steelers did their part against the Ravens this past Sunday. The Steelers' win left the Jaguars with a win-and-in circumstance and the Jaguars didn't take advantage of it. The Steelers and Colts are responsible for themselves, not the Jaguars, and the Steelers' and Colts' interests are in getting their teams ready for the playoffs. Because they are locked in their respective seeding positions, they are certain to rest as many players as they can. That almost certainly means no Ben Roethlisberger, who has bruised ribs, and very little Peyton Manning. The Steelers and Colts will give dedicated performances against Buffalo and Denver, but it won't be with their top personnel or most creative gameplans. The Steelers are 1-4 in regular-season finales under Bill Cowher in which they were locked in a playoff position. The Colts have not been in that position under Tony Dungy.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
Do you still think this team is one offseason away from being a contender?

Vic: Yes.

Greg from Yulee, FL:
Did the Jags look like they had a lack of motivation and, if so, what more motivation do they need than the Super Bowl being in their hometown this year?

Vic: I'm not buying into the "they were flat" explanation. Everybody else is and maybe they're right, but I'm not buying it because it's just too easy and we've used it too many times. Jeff Lageman does exhaustive tape study of every game and reveals his findings on our "Jaguars This Week" radio show each Wednesday. I'll make sure I ask him this Wednesday to tell us what the tapes say went wrong against Houston. Maybe he'll say they were flat, but my reporter's instincts tell me this team just doesn't have the horses. I'll tell you this: the Jaguars haven't had great linebacker play since early in the season, and I think it was a big reason the Texans were able to gash the Jaguars with the running game. Have they been flat every week?

Lane from Lake Mary, FL:
This year, the referees put an emphasis on a rule already in the books as far as defensive holding goes. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think there's another rule on the books called offensive pass interference. Any chance of this ever being emphasized?

Vic: Not until Peyton Manning wins the Super Bowl.

Jeff from Gastonia, NC:
I watched the game on Direct TV this weekend and was shocked and saddened by the pathetic and embarrassing fan turnout. I switched over to other games all day and for the most part they were all packed, even games with no playoff implications. I was a season ticket holder for the first three years before I was transferred. Where has the passion gone?

Vic: I don't know.

Rick from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Can Jacksonville really be considered a legitimate NFL town? We have demonstrated to everyone that we lack the necessary passion for and understanding of the pro game. Perhaps it is time to admit that this is a second-tier city all around? We long ago made our peace with the image of being a second-rate city culturally, economically and educationally. Perhaps it's time to admit Jacksonville is also a second-rate football town; a college football town, without the college graduates, of course?

Vic: Let's get it all out. Maybe that's what we need to do: Clear the air and start over. This town is hurting this week. It's angry at its team and it's angry at itself. Maybe this can be a starting point.

Clay from Nashville, TN:
At this time of the year it is wise to spend whatever cap money a team has left. How much money do the Jags have left and who do you think they will spend it on?

Vic: The Jaguars recently signed Quinn Gray to a new deal that includes a $6 million bonus for 15 touchdown passes this season. Gray, of course, is not likely to throw 15 touchdown passes this Sunday in Oakland. What that means is the $6 million will be credited back to the Jaguars' 2005 salary cap. Obviously, that was the intent of the deal; to move cap room from this year to next, instead of having it expire, which it would've this Saturday had the Jaguars not used it. As I wrote earlier, teams don't let cap room go unused. Now the Jaguars find themselves with a lot of cap room for '05. I expect them to be a player in free agency.

Seth from Jacksonville:
With San Diego, Pitt, New England, Indy, Buffalo and Baltimore all in the AFC, wouldn't you say winning the AFC in the next few years will require a considerable upgrade in Jaguars talent?

Vic: Winning the AFC will be tougher than ever, if that's what you mean. By the way, you're forgetting some teams: Bengals, Jets and Texans.

Kevin from Tallahassee, FL:
I can not help but be upset with Fred Taylor. I understand he had a sprained ligament but I remember when the playoffs were on the line for Emmitt Smith and he played with a separated shoulder and carried his team on his back all the way to the Super Bowl. Is it wrong to expect a player to play hurt when he is so valuable to his team?

Vic: Let me get this straight: Fred Taylor should be expected to play with a knee injury, but Byron Leftwich should've been benched because he had a headache?

Scott from Jacksonville:
I just finished listening to the "Jaguars Reporters" show on Monday night. I really enjoy your work here in Jacksonville and I share your feeling regarding the loss to Houston and, in some regard, the potential loss of a franchise in Jacksonville. You talk about how embarrassed you were with the attendance in the game. I share your feelings and let me say this, the Jaguars players were embarrassed as much as anyone. I was sitting two rows from the Jaguars bench and I could hear the players talking. I could also see the look on Fred Taylor's face as he spanned the stadium in disappointment just prior to the opening kickoff with a fellow teammate, shaking his head in dismay. What was even sadder was Marcus Stroud's feeble attempt to energize the players on the sideline as the game slipped away. Marcus was energized but his teammates' enthusiasm was as flat as their play on the field.

Vic: It was not a big-game atmosphere and it should've been.

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