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Philosophy of football

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

Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
It seems to me the AFC is simply a tougher conference than the NFC. What is the AFC's overall record against the NFC this year?

Vic: 23-15.

Steve from Kernersville, NC:
Several of the networks are using the sky cam over the center of the field. From TV it is easy to get the idea that the moving camera might distract the players or that the wire might interfere with the kicking game. How does it work?

Vic: One of the TV guys pushes a button and the camera moves forward. He pushes another button and it moves backward. It's not as though it can fly.

Chase from Orange Park, FL:
I wanted to know if the Steelers-Jaguars game on ESPN will be blacked out locally because it's a school night and most parents won't let their kids go and I'm one of them.

Vic: Don't worry, Steelers fans are buying up what's left. As of this morning, the only available pairs are in the club seats. The only remaining tickets in the non-premium seating areas are singles.

Roger from Jacksonville:
I am a disciple of your "run the ball/stop the run" formula for winning football, so I looked up the rush-offense and rush-defense stats on the three 8-1 teams in the NFL and the results surprised me. The Steelers are second in the league in both categories, whereas the Eagles are 23rd in both categories. Moreover, the Patriots are in the high middle but show the same symmetry, 12th and 13th respectively. Coincidence? Or do coaching philosophies somehow align those two stats? Also, I wondered how the Eagles could be so dominating with bottom-third performances in both categories.

Vic: The Eagles and the Colts (17th in rushing and 19th against the run) are the teams that dispute the theory. We'll watch to see what happens to them in the second half of the season and in the playoffs. Can you go all the way with just a passing game? That's what it'll take for the Eagles and Colts to win it all. They are in the bottom half of the league in rush-offense, run-defense and pass-defense. Let's take a closer look at the rush-offense and rush-defense stats of the teams who are ranked high in each. As you mentioned, Pittsburgh is second in both and they are 8-1. Atlanta (7-2) is third in rushing and fourth against the run. Baltimore (6-3) is 10th and sixth. Denver (6-3) is sixth and eighth. The Jets (6-3) are fifth in each. San Diego (6-3) is seventh and first. Seattle (5-4) is fourth and 10th. The Jaguars (6-3) are 20th and seventh, but watch that first number because I think it's going to make a dramatic move upward. The Titans (3-6) are an interesting study because their rankings are decent across the board (11th in rushing, ninth in rush-defense, 10th in overall defense and no ranking in the bottom third). So what's the problem? That's a good question. Stats don't tell the whole for any team, but I think those "run/stop the run" stats for the teams mentioned above make a statement. Now, who will make the loudest statement? The "run/stop the run" teams? Or the Eagles and/or Colts? More on this later. By the way, it's no coincidence that rush-offense and rush-defense go hand in hand. They very much align themselves and very much represent coaching philosophies. When you practice running the ball, you also practice stopping the run. Believe me, the Steelers spend a lot of time in nine-on-seven.

Kamal from Novi, MI:
I haven't asked a question in a while but I'm never going to get into the "Ask Vic" Hall of Fame if I remain quiet. My question is, does a team's philosophy depend more on the coach or the personnel? I ask this because Jack Del Rio seemed to be committed to running the ball and stopping the run, even when it didn't really seem that we had the personnel to do it effectively at the beginning of last season.

Vic: Coaches will tell you strategy depends on what their personnel permits, but I can't ignore the transformation that occurred overnight in Jacksonville. The team Jack Del Rio inherited from Tom Coughlin did a radical about-face in playing style, yet, the personnel was largely the same. What that means is that the same personnel was capable of playing two different styles. In those situations, the coach is going to impose his beliefs and mold his team to fit his fundamental philosophies of the game. Certainly, there are examples to the contrary: Brian Billick and the Ravens and Tony Dungy and the Colts. In those cases, the talent is so dramatically tilted in one direction that those teams' playing styles can't be altered. Frankly, Dungy should be the coach of the Ravens and Billick should be the coach of the Colts. The fact that each is winning in a way that is not consistent with his beliefs says everything about their ability to adapt to their personnel and adjust their coaching styles. You introduce an interesting study, but it's not something about which you can make a blanket statement. Each team is an individual matter and requires separate study.

Glenn from Sumter, SC:
If a team blocks an extra point attempt, recovers the ball and runs it back to the kicking team's end zone, are they awarded points?

Vic: No need to run; the play will have been blown dead the moment the non-kicking team gains possession of the ball. The defense can not score on a conversion attempt, period.

Greg from Orlando, FL:
I keep hearing that David Garrard is going to be traded to another team as a first string QB next year. What is his trade value for the Jaguars, if any?

Vic: I would put the David Garrard meter at a second-round pick, currently. That could change after Sunday.

Scott from Jacksonville:
Love your column. I'm interested in your thoughts on Coughlin and the Giants. I've always respected Coughlin and thought he did a great job in Jax, but it seems to me he's panicking in his decision to bench Warner and start Manning next week. The Giants are 5-4, in the playoff hunt and their problems have been more with their offensive line and the defense's inability to hold a lead than with the QB position. Manning will inevitably suffer from rookie mistakes, turnovers and holding the ball too long in the pocket, and he will be starting against some of the best defenses in the NFC over the next three weeks. Big mistake! Your thoughts?

Vic: I don't agree. Eventually, Eli Manning has to be "The Man." The Bengals wasted last season on John Kitna. Why wait? Move on. The Jaguars are glad they did.

Matt from Jacksonville:
What is the latest on the Darius trade options? And what teams are interested? What has been offered so far?

Vic: The trade deadline has long passed. Teams may not trade, again, until next March. By then, I suspect the Jaguars will have either signed Donovin Darius to a new contract or have allowed him to move into free agency. I don't see them "franchising" him again.

R.J. from St. Augustine, FL:
With only 5,600 tickets left to sell, why not ask for the extension?

Vic: Only 5,600? That's a lot of tickets. One day wouldn't have made a difference.

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