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Look inside yourself

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

Benjamin from Jacksonville:
I'm a relatively new reader of your column and find your opinions to be more honest than most writers'. Am I alone here or did the Jags offensive line come out stronger in the second half against the Texans than they have been in at least two years? I've never seen Leftwich with more time in the pocket.

Vic: I don't know about two years but, yes, the offensive line protected Byron Leftwich very well on Sunday. I must point out, however, Houston is 25th in the league in sacks/pass play average. The passing game is, obviously, a three-parts process: the protection, the pass, the catch. All three parts worked on Sunday. Early in the season, Leftwich wasn't getting the protection he needed. When he started to get better protection, there were too many drops. In Pittsburgh, I thought he was off target. In the second half on Sunday, he got protection, his throws were on the money and they were caught.

Gabe from Jacksonville:
How is it that a single player can change the success or lack of success of a whole unit? Khalif Barnes comes in and the offensive line gels. Wilford comes in and the offense finds success. What have these individuals done that have made the rest of the players around them so much better?

Vic: In the case of Barnes, we're talking about left tackle; we're talking about the guy whose job it is to block the other team's premier pass-rusher. If you don't block Dwight Freeney, he's gonna sack you. If you don't block John Abraham or Joey Porter, you've got problems and it doesn't matter what the other four guys on your line are doing. In the case of Ernest Wilford, you're talking about one half of your starting wide receiver corps. The Jaguars needed someone other than Jimmy Smith to step up at wide receiver. We've known that for a long time. Look at the players the Jaguars have used at that position since Keenan McCardell was released: Bobby Shaw, Patrick Johnson, Troy Edwards, J.J. Stokes and Reggie Williams. Sunday, Wilford stepped up.

Joel from Orange, FL:
You have told us how to win in the NFL. The Jaguars followed it to the letter and won and we are still a bunch of whiney, unhappy fans. Where does margin of victory count in wild-card tie-breakers?

Vic: Elite teams will win going away, but not all of the time. The Colts proved on Monday night they are an elite team. Denver is an elite team. The Jaguars are not an elite team. I think that's one of the problems. Jaguars fans expect the Jaguars to be an elite team and that's unrealistic for a team that hasn't made it to the playoffs since 1999. In almost all cases, teams make the playoffs before they graduate to the elite-team ranks. Non-elite teams generally don't blow away other non-elite teams. In most games in this league, the verdict is still in doubt inside the two-minute warning. You'll find yourself either trying to score to win or tie or trying to protect a slim lead with two minutes to play in the game. That's the NFL game; I call it the "one-point game." Jacksonville fans have difficulty accepting that concept. I'm not going to get into why that is, it just is. They want points. This is a town that loves offense and that's a little bit of a problem because pro football is by and large a defensive game, especially in the postseason. As for the points differential tie-breakers, they begin with the seventh tie-breaker. In each case, however, they are "net" points, which means the difference between the points you've scored and the points you've allowed. What that does is reward defense as much as it rewards offense; a 10-0 win is as good as a 40-30 win. There is no tie-breaker that goes to points scored only.

John from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I know there's a thing called freedom of speech in our wonderful country and I know everyone has an opinion, but I don`t understand why you put up with so many people giving you a bunch of junk and challenging you about what you write. Your writings help me relax after a very long day. I'm a commercial fisherman and spend 75 percent of each day in the ocean. Thanks for helping me unwind! Keep up the fantastic work.

Vic: I love it! Help you unwind after a tough day at sea? It's a fish-eat-fish world out there, huh? What's the traffic like on the sea lanes at rush hour? John, today you are the one helping me relax.

Mark from Kansas City, MO:
Do you ever get inside info from the Jaguars that you can't tell us but try to hint to us?

Vic: Yes, I do.

Bill from Springfield, VA:
When was the last time the Jags scored first and were never tied or trailed in a game?

Vic: The Jaguars went coast to coast in their win over Cincinnati on Oct. 9.

Andrew from Baton Rouge, LA:
I was just wondering, how is it that the Redskins are the wealthiest team?

Vic: The Redskins' value includes ownership of their stadium. That greatly increased the team's value when it was purchased by Daniel Snyder. Having 91,000 in attendance for Sunday night's game sure doesn't hurt the team's bottom line. The Redskins have great revenue streams. They are one of the league's sold-out teams and they are in a big market that is in the midst of an economic boom.

James from Jacksonville:
I think it's funny how the Jags have used two first-round draft picks the last two years on Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, then Wilford, a fourth-round draft pick, comes along and shows them both how it's done. What do you think of that?

Vic: That's why I say wide receivers are a dime a dozen. Look at what Kevin Curtis did to the Jaguars in St. Louis. High-pick wide receivers have a frightening strikeout percentage. The position has always been over-drafted according to speed, then we find out these burners don't have the technical skills to be successful at the NFL level. Ernest Wilford lacks the speed but makes up for it with size, quickness into and out of his cuts, good hands, toughness, dedication, determination, etc. Wide receiver is a real trap position. In my opinion, the best formula for drafting wide receivers is just keep taking them until you find what you need, but save the high picks for the big guys. You can get receivers late in the draft, but you gotta get the premium big guys early.

Richard from Jacksonville:
I have a great idea. Instead of getting upset with having your credibility challenged, just do what the Steelers and other team sites do and charge their fans for the astute comments you give us for free. That's right, in Pittsburgh you have to pay $6.99 and up per month for valuable insight such as yours. That $6.99 per month would probably eliminate 90 percent of the nonsensical questions. Your information is too valuable to have you get frustrated by mindless freeloaders, although they do give your column some comic relief.

Vic: Hmmm.

Chad from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Is it just me or is it time for a new quarterback?

Vic: That information will cost you $6.99, Chad.

Mark from Rochester, NY:
Who do you think Terrell Owens will be playing for next year? Also, if the Jags had the chance to pick him up, would you take him?

Vic: Absolutely; how could you pass on a crowd-pleaser like Terrell Owens? Just think of the marketing opportunities he would offer. You could have a yell-at-everybody-and-act-like-a-nut day. Fans wouldn't have to boo Byron Leftwich any more. On the days that Leftwich isn't playing well, Owens could just follow Leftwich around on the sideline and berate him. Who wouldn't want that? I have to believe the Jaguars will be a big player in the T.O. free-agent sweepstakes. Never mind that he'll ruin your team. Football is about entertainment and he certainly is entertaining. He's my kind of guy.

Mike from Boise, ID:
My co-workers and I are having heated discussions over the run called in the KC game vs. a quick pass to win the game. I argued that a quick pass should have been called and if it failed it might still leave enough time on the clock to kick a field goal and take the game into overtime. I think it was a courageous call by coach Vermeil but I thought he went against what most coaches would do in the same situation. Had the play not worked, the critics would have had a field day with his decision. Do you think my assessment has some merit? What would you do if it was your call to make?

Vic: The problem with your strategy is that it's a plan to kick a field goal. Your strategy lacks commitment. Either pick a play for the purpose of scoring or kick and go into overtime. I don't have a problem with either decision; just commit to one and make it work. Dick Vermeil's decision to go for the touchdown wasn't without precedent. Vince Lombardi made the same decision in the "Ice Bowl." Yes, it's a very courageous decision, but look at it this way: No matter what you decide, you're going to have to make a play to win the game. If you play for overtime, however, you may lose the coin toss and never get a chance to make the play. You're on the goal line now. Here's your chance to make a play. Why leave it to chance? Make the play.

Guilty from Jacksonville:
I have to admit, I booed the team at halftime. I still had a hangover from 12-26-04 and was feeling really frustrated. I've cheered the Jags plenty over the years. So, am I OK to boo them?

Vic: You have a right to express yourself. You bought a ticket and if you wanna boo, that's OK with me. Pro football is a tough game. Players should be tough enough to deal with booing. A lot of great players, especially quarterbacks, have overcome booing and it's made for a more poignant story. The real answer to your question, however, lies within. You're feeling guilty. You're ashamed to even tell us your name. What's that tell you?

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