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Patriots or Bengals?

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

Joe from Jacksonville:
I'm very impressed with David Garrard's play. Do you see a quarterback controversy coming to Jacksonville now?

Vic: Now? We've had a quarterback controversy since the day Byron Leftwich was drafted and it has never relented, not even when Leftwich has put the Jaguars on his shoulders and carried them to victory. Now we have a situation in which Leftwich appears ready to return to action but Garrard is coming off a top performance in the Jaguars' playoff-clinching win in Houston. You don't think the supporters of each quarterback are ready to voice their opinions on who the starter should be for the wild-card playoff game, do you? What's important to note is that Jack Del Rio all but told us who the Jaguars' starting quarterback will be for that playoff game. In his remarks to the media following the game on Saturday, Del Rio said Leftwich will be the starter if he proves he is physically recovered from his broken ankle and able to play up to the level at which he was playing when he was injured on Nov. 27.

Luke from Dallas, TX:
Are the Patriots locked into the fourth seed in the AFC or is there a scenario in which the Bengals would be the Jaguars' first-round playoff opponent? Which of those two teams do you think the Jags match up best against?

Vic: The Patriots will become the third seed and the Bengals will move down to number four if the Patriots win their final two games and the Bengals lose in Kansas City on Sunday. Frankly, that's what I see happening and I don't think the Bengals will lament their decline one bit. In my opinion, the Bengals want no part of Pittsburgh. The Bengals want the Jaguars. I guarantee it. Should the Jaguars want the Bengals? I'm not sure. I'd like to watch New England play tonight and against Miami before I decide. I have said all along I'd rather see the Jaguars play the Patriots because the Patriots don't present the one-two punch the Bengals do. The Patriots are 25th in rushing and second in passing. The Bengals are 10th in rushing and fifth in passing; they can kill you with the Johnson and Johnson combination. I'm starting to change my mind, however, because the Bengals may be a team in decline as we head toward the playoffs, whereas the Patriots would seem to be playing their best football. If you're one of these respect addicts, then you should wanna play the Patriots. It would offer a more meaningful game and a win in New England would result in much greater esteem for the Jaguars. The Bengals, however, may offer the better chance of advancing.

Chris from Valdosta, GA:
What's up with the high number of dropped passes over recent weeks? Wilford, it appears, can only catch one out of every 2-3 passes. Matt Jones has had problems, as well, and Kyle has been horrible. What, if anything, can the coaches do to solve this problem heading into week 17?

Vic: Recent weeks? How about since training camp? This team has dropped passes this season with uncommon regularity. Byron Leftwich and David Garrard have been victimized equally and it hasn't mattered if the ball has been drilled or feathered. Reggie Williams dropped a pass against San Francisco that had beautiful touch on it. Matt Jones dropped an apparent touchdown pass in Houston that couldn't have been thrown more perfectly, after having dropped the same short, over-the-middle toss the week before at the 49ers' 10-yard line. When you're heading into the final week of the regular season and you're doing the same thing you did in training camp, I think you have to accept the fact that it's something you'll have to overcome.

Chris from Jacksonville:
What is the team going to do about the right cornerback position? Can we win with a guy who consistently got burned on Saturday?

Vic: The Arizona, Cleveland and Indianapolis games exposed the Jaguars' pass-coverage and it's on tape for all of the Jaguars' opponents to see. Houston went after the Jags' pass-coverage with major results, too, and that'll also be noted. Those four games have produced 1,160 yards passing and eight touchdowns. Jack Del Rio, Mike Smith and Dave Campo know that fixing their secondary is their top priority heading into the playoffs, especially since the wild-card round opponent is going to be either Tom Brady or Carson Palmer. I think it's obvious the Jaguars will have to lean harder toward defending the pass in their overall defensive strategy, and that, of course, could cause problems stopping the run. The Texans got the Jaguars in "nickel" and had some success running the ball, even without Domanick Davis. Del Rio and company know what's going on. If it can be fixed, they'll fix it. The challenge is fixing the pass-defense without exposing the run-defense. In the playoffs, everyone wants to run the ball.

James from Jacksonville:
Even if Leftwich is cleared to play against the Titans, would you play him considering the game has no ramifications on the playoff seeding?

Vic: In my opinion, he almost has to play against the Titans to feel good about playing him in the first playoff game. You wanna see him perform in a game. He needs to knock the rust off in a meaningless regular-season finale. In my opinion, it's the only thing to be gained this week; get him ready for the playoffs.

Clyde from Mandarin FL:
Do you feel Matt Jones may be more suited to pass patterns along the sidelines rather than over the middle?

Vic: Yes.

Sean from Sunnyvale, CA:
I know you are sick of the whole respect issue, but I do believe it's a serious problem. I've seen a ton of bashing in the media, by the fans at various sites and even by the people. Is a playoff win going to be the only thing that will shut the critics up?

Vic: Of course.

Ricky from Fairport, NH:
On a field goal attempt, at what point does the clock stop? Is it when the ball goes through the uprights, the officials raise their arms, when the ball hits the net, or whenever the timekeeper decides to stop it?

Vic: The clock stops when the referee signals for it to be stopped. That occurs when the kick is deemed to have succeeded or failed.

Ashley from Jacksonville:
After Saturday's performance, do you feel Taylor will emerge as our play-maker for the postseason?

Vic: That's exactly what I'm hoping. Did you see those moves, that power, that explosiveness? Only a few running backs offer that kind of suddenness and you have to have a guy like that if you're going to win in the playoffs. If Fred is back, it couldn't have come at a better time. Maybe he'll be "The Man."

John from Southampton, England:
What a great job you do. For Jags fans overseas, your reporting (and now blogging) is by far the best way to keep track of the team. You said earlier in the season that at some point the offense would have to bail out the defense. Is that what we saw on Saturday?

Vic: That's exactly what we saw on Saturday. It was the offense who was under the gun with 12:15 to play in Houston, after the Texans had scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass to take a 20-17 lead. It could've all gone to ruin right there if the offense hadn't responded. What if David Garrard had thrown an interception? What if the offense had gone three and out? Instead, the offense responded with a 66-yard, game-winning touchdown drive. On a day when the defense did not play its best football, the offense did and it was at its very best at crunch time.

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