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Miami held key to geographic realignment

Join *Jaguars Inside Report *Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Matt Kochan from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I see the Jaguars this season closely resembling the 49ers last season. Both teams suffered major salary cap setbacks and both teams became mainly comprised of rookies at its base. That season, the 49ers started rather poorly, but closed the season strong. Is there something the Jags can do to allow the kind of success the 49ers had late in their season?

Vic: I don't see the resemblance of the Jaguars of 2001 to the 49ers of 2000. Go back a few years, to when the 49ers were facing major cap problems but were able to retain their core players and remain a playoff contender. That's where I see the resemblance. Of course, holding on against the cap is what put the 49ers in the desperate rebuilding stage they're currently in. We'll that be the case with the Jaguars? We'll find out in time.

Tyler Daniels from Cottondale, FL:
Having seen the new realignment for the NFL, do you think the Jags got a good deal with both the Colts and Titans with us, considering that the Texans won't be a problem for a couple of years?

Vic: I don't see anything wrong with the division the Jaguars have been put in. The Jaguars already have a flavorful rivalry with Tennessee, and I think they'll develop something quickly with Indianapolis. Houston has a great pro football tradition and has the market size to be the dominant city in the division. The AFC South offers the Jaguars nothing less than the AFC Central offered when the Jaguars joined it. Six years later, the Jaguars are disappointed they couldn't bring more AFC Central teams with them into their new digs. In time, the Colts and Texans will be every bit the rivals the Titans are.

Mark Snavely from Boca Raton, FL:
I don't totally understand the realignment that was approved this week. The officials said they really wanted the divisions to make geographic sense, which, for the most part, they do. However, two clubs appear to have dodged the bullet and kept their old rivalries intact. Last I checked, Dallas was nowhere near the east coast and is farther west than St. Louis (the Rams are in the West Division). In the AFC, wouldn't it make more geographic sense to have Baltimore in the East, Indianapolis in the North and Miami in the South? According to my Atlas, Miami is the southernmost city with an NFL club, and would make a natural rivalry for the Jaguars. I know Dallas and Miami are happy they stayed with their existing rivals, but why did they get preferential treatment?

Vic: You're absolutely right. Perfect geographic realignment was possible in the AFC. Miami's insistence on staying in the AFC East was the fly in the ointment. How were they able to stay in the East? Well, the Dolphins had friends who wanted them in the East. Those friends are the Bills, Jets, Patriots and the television networks, who would've lobbied hard to keep the ratings for games between the Dolphins and their three AFC East counterparts. Geography was important in realignment, but keeping the fans happy is always number one. Moving the Dolphins out of the AFC East would've been very unpopular.

Suzanne Webster from Jacksonville:
Coach Coughlin has said that with the strong running game in the AFC Central, the Jaguars had to be able to run and stop the run. We will still obviously need this going into the AFC South, however, with this new division do you feel a stronger emphasis will be placed on our cornerback position, with Manning now in the picture?

Vic: Peyton Manning clearly has to be considered in future defensive strategies. Pass-rushers and pass-defenders will certainly be at a premium in stopping Manning. How do you stop the Colts' passing attack? Some coaches might tell you that you run the ball, win time of possession and keep Manning and company off the field. Others might tell you the key to beating the Colts is stopping Edgerrin James. That's how the Titans won at Indianapolis in the 1999 playoffs. The fact of the matter is the Colts have a powerful and balanced offensive attack, and to beat them you'll have to have a defense capable of stopping the run and the pass. By the way, Manning is 0-2 in the postseason.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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