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Road paved for Colts

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

Randy from Mobile, AL:
You say Denver is an elite team. Other than the fact they've made the playoffs recently and are playing very well right now, what makes them an elite team?

Vic: Isn't that enough? There's no hard and fast rules on what qualifies a team as being elite. The teams I consider to be elite are probably not the same teams you consider to be elite. Lots of things will qualify a team for elite status, according to my standards. Winning three Super Bowls in four years will do it. Being a playoff fixture, as Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Denver and Philadelphia have been in recent years, deserves high marks. Bursting onto the scene as San Diego did last season is deserving of elite-watch status. Having a mega-star player, such as Michael Vick, can bring a team to prominence. When you put all of that together and add in a team's record, you should be able to come to an opinion as to a team's level. It's difficult to assign the Jaguars elite status. They haven't been in the playoffs since 1999, they don't have a mega-star player, they don't lead their division and their record is one of 16 in the league that fits into that middle category (5-3 to 3-5). One of the big criterions I use is that elite teams should have elite-type or at least high-profile wins. Indianapolis didn't have one of those until Monday night in New England, but the quality of that win and its high-profile nature qualify it as being elite. Denver has played an elite schedule. Cincinnati has the record of an elite team but it doesn't have a win against an elite team. You know, we really spend too much time on this. It's completely subjective. Jack Del Rio gave you his opinion a couple of weeks ago and I think he was being very honest in his assessment.

Chris from St. Augustine, FL:
You owe me a new keyboard. I spit coffee all over my keyboard when I read yesterday's column. Classic! You are in midseason form. How about your midseason predictions? After the halfway point, who do you see in the Super Bowl?

Vic: If ever the road looked paved for one team, the Colts would be that team. Not only does it appear they'll have homefield advantage for the playoffs, they won't even have to go outside to play the Super Bowl. If Peyton Manning doesn't do it this year, he'll never do it. In the NFC, there isn't a team that jumps out at you. I'm leaning toward Atlanta or Carolina right now.

Joseph from Statesboro, GA:
What happened to the Eagles and the Patriots? At the beginning of the year, you hailed them as the best at replacing players and managing the cap. Both teams lost players this year but, unlike years past, they haven't seemed to be able to replace them. What happened?

Vic: In the Patriots' case, the losses became too many. When they lost Rodney Harrison and Matt Light in the Pittsburgh game, that became too much to overcome. You might remember that I picked them to be my disappointment team this year. The offseason losses made them thin and incapable of overcoming injuries. I'm starting to wonder now if Miami won't win that division. They would tie the Patriots for the lead with a win this Sunday. The Dolphins have a running game on the rise and Nick Saban will make them better on defense. That's a good late-season formula. In the Eagles' case, losing Correll Buckhalter was a killer. He was their running game. Then, of course, Terrell Owens destroyed what was left of the Eagles. Don't count them out, though, because the Eagles have a gutsy quarterback around whom that team could rally. You could say the same about the Patriots. They don't come any better than Tom Brady.

Seth from Jacksonville:
No deferring on a coin toss? If we win the toss, we pick our option to receive or defend and get the other option at the start of the second half. How is that not being able to defer?

Vic: Come on, guys, we've been at this for 11 seasons now. Jacksonville isn't new to the NFL any longer. We should know this stuff. It's real simple. A coin has two sides. One side belongs to you and the other side belongs to your opponent. If your side lands face up, the referee gives you first option to receive or defend a goal. To start the second half, your opponent is given the first option and he's probably going to elect to receive, again. There is no deferring. Just pick, baby, pick.

Jack from Palm Bay, FL:
Pretend you are in charge of the competition committee for a day. After you got rid of all of the rules that cause the refs to call so many stupid penalties, would you consider replacing the sudden death overtime with the college rules for overtime, or would you keep it the way it is?

Vic: I like it the way it is. I like the fact that the NFL overtime period is a condensed version of a real game, with kickoffs and punting and a premium placed on field position. I also like the uncertainty the coin toss adds to the situation. You don't know if you'll get the ball at all, so if you have it at the end of regulation, you better take advantage of your opportunity and do something with it. That's what Dick Vermeil did this past Sunday. In a game headed for overtime, overtime figuratively begins with each team's final possession of regulation. The college overtime is too antiseptic for me. It's not real football.

Chris from Jacksonville:
What is the Jags' home record with a pre-game fly-over?

Vic: Do you mean when planes fly overhead? Someone said they did that this past Sunday. Honestly, behind that glass in the press box, the only way we'd know if there was a fly-over was if the planes stopped in front of the window and blew their horns.

Tim from Bella Vista, AR:
Matt is fast at top speed but is having trouble with a burst off the line. Is that, in your opinion, an indication of indecision on route-running or is it just a lack of explosion?

Vic: Matt Jones is what scouts describe as a "build to speed" guy. Explosion is not part of his game. A lot of explosive receivers, however, don't possess Jones' height advantage. I don't see him as a guy beating cornerbacks out of the break. I see Jones as a red-zone receiver catching lobs and fades.

Kyle from Jacksonville:
I noticed that Jacksonville has a .621 strength of victory. This is the highest in the NFL. First, how is it determined? Second, why is it important? And third, does that actually say anything about Jacksonville's chances of finishing up the season well?

Vic: Strength of victory is the winning percentage of the teams you have beaten. It can be an important statistic in the tie-breakers; it is, for example, the fourth criterion in a two-team wild-card tie-breaker. I don't see any other importance to the stat. The Jaguars' strength of victory is likely to dip considerably in the second half of the season, but I doubt it'll hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

Mitch from Jacksonville:
Do you believe in fate? We played the Seahawks before they were established. Pennington and Fiedler go down. "Big Ben" and Hines Ward were out. Bulger, Holt and Bruce didn't play. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are out for Sunday. The Chargers (wild-card competitor) have hardest schedule of all-time. Priest Holmes (star of other wild-card foe) out for the season. The Jags have the easiest second-half schedule in the entire NFL. The football gods want the Jags in the playoffs. I'm starting to believe in this little thing called fate.

Vic: The Jaguars aren't the only team blessed with good fortune this year. The Colts had a very soft opening schedule that got them out to a big lead for homefield advantage which, if they win it, means they could win the Super Bowl without having to play one postseason game outdoors. When fate befriends you, the expectations increase in intensity.

Stanley from Bakersfield, CA:
Kyle Boller is expected to start on Sunday. Do you think this will help the Ravens offense or weaken them due to his rust?

Vic: I think the Ravens are coming down here to run the ball, a lot.

Chris from Malvern, AR:
When I first read "Ask Vic," I thought you were a jerk. Then I read it some more and you really ticked me off. Now that I read it every day, I find it insightful and entertaining. You really crack me up.

Vic: Thanks, I think.

Kenan from Jacksonville:
Who do you think had the best defense all-time? And who was the best defensive player of all time?

Vic: The 1976 Steelers would be my pick. In their final nine games of that season, they had five shutouts and allowed only 28 points. Three of those shutouts were consecutive and the Steelers did not allow a touchdown for five consecutive games. Sixteen of the 28 points they allowed came in a late-season blowout win. The greatest defensive player of all-time, in my opinion, is Lawrence Taylor. He changed the game and it has never changed back.

Joseph from Sacramento, CA:
You said it will take Matt Jones three years to mature as a promising wide receiver. How long did it take Hines Ward and Drew Bennett to become star wide receivers?

Vic: I said three years is a reasonable expectation. Hines Ward blossomed in his second year. Drew Bennett made steady gains through his first three years, then exploded in his fourth. One of the things you must take into account with Bennett is that he was undrafted, therefore, there wasn't a sense of urgency to his development. He was allowed to develop at a comfortable pace because the Titans didn't have a big contract hanging over their heads.

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