System is working

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

Terrence from Jacksonville:
You said last week we are a team in search of a defining moment. Obviously, we are still looking. Could it be this weekend when our quarterback returns from injury to carry us into the playoffs?

Vic: This Sunday's game isn't going to define the Jaguars' season. The Jaguars' season is going to be defined in the playoffs.

Tim from Jacksonville:
Do you think the problem with our pass-defense is that our corners are constantly put on an island without safety help?

Vic: The Jaguars were in "nickel" all last Saturday. How is that putting corners on an island? The problem with the pass-defense is that it's hit a little slump and has probably lost a little confidence, and the remedy for that is a top performance that reverses the trend.

William from Savannah, GA:
Nice call on this season. I remember reading your columns during training camp talking about the fact that this could be an 11 or 12-win team that would probably be happy with a 3-3 record after the first six and then probably win all but one or two on the way home. You were pretty close. Looking at next year's schedule, would you agree the Jaguars could be a better team and not win any more games than this year?

Vic: Yes, I do agree. I wrote recently about adjusting expectations for what appears to be a more rigorous schedule next season. Not everybody puts that kind of stock in schedules but I have always been a big schedule-watcher and I strongly believe in the strength of schedule factor. Let me put it this way: It seemed to have been predictable this season. When you looked at the Jaguars' schedule when it was announced last spring, it was easy to see that it was most difficult at the start then slacked off at midseason. Was that an accurate assessment? When I look at next year's schedule, I don't see much slacking off. Teams such as the Patriots, Steelers and Giants are premium franchises that don't fall off much from one year to the next. I expect the Cowboys, Dolphins and Bills to be difficult foes and I have no doubt the Eagles will rebound. The Jaguars would also play the Chiefs. What would Reggie Bush do for Houston? No one will criticize the Jaguars' schedule for being weak next season. It's a schedule that will earn this team a lot of respect if it's successful against it. You've got the right attitude. Acknowledge the increased difficulty and adjust expectations.

Greg from Princeton, NJ:
What do you think about the playoff system where the division winners automatically get a home game? I think division winners should automatically get a berth but records should decide playoff seeding.

Vic: Earlier in the season, when the AFC East and NFC North appeared to be weak, there was a lot of discussion about the system not working. Since then, Chicago has risen to the top of the league and New England is now on its usual late-season roll. Name one division that won't produce a worthy champion. You can't. There's not a division champion that won't be worthy of homefield advantage. The system is working this year.

Drew from Jacksonville:
You said the Bengals would rather play the Jaguars than the Steelers and all they have to do is lose their last game and let the Patriots win. What about the Patriots? Do you think they have any preference who they play? If they don't want to play the Steelers, all they would have to do is lose their last game, right?

Vic: That's correct. Right now, Cincinnati is number three and New England is number four. For that order to change, Cincinnati would have to lose in Kansas City and New England would have to beat Miami. This is intriguing stuff. Jack Del Rio said last week the NFL is all about match-ups and I completely agree with him. So, if you're Marvin Lewis or Bill Belichick, I would think you'd have to consider all of the options. Finishing third will guarantee that you wouldn't have to play in Indianapolis until the AFC title game. If you don't like the way you match-up against the Colts, then finishing third would probably be your goal. I don't, however, think the Bengals wanna play the Steelers for a third time or Kansas City in consecutive games, which the Bengals would have to do if they're third and the Steelers or Chiefs are sixth. The Steelers won in Cincinnati earlier in the season and I don't think the Bengals want to risk losing to the Steelers for a second time at home. That would make it awfully difficult for the Bengals to celebrate their division title. When you think about it, what's the difference between the third seed and the fourth seed? They each get homefield in the wild-card round and would have to go on the road the following week. When the Bengals lost to the Bills, my first thought was the Bengals would treat this week as a bye, rest their players and steer away from the Steelers. Then, when I thought of it from the Patriots' perspective, I decided they might try to do the same thing. The Patriots are on six days' rest this week. Remember how Belichick rested all of his starters for a preseason game against the Jaguars? I'm thinking he might do the same thing this week, take the four seed and opt to play a Jaguars team that has a situation at quarterback.

Bernard from Goldsboro, NC:
What controversy? If last Saturday's stats are the best of Garrard's career, how can you put him before Leftwich, who has played at a much higher level?

Vic: This isn't week seven, this is week 17, which means the following week is the start of the playoffs. Byron Leftwich is coming off a broken ankle and hasn't played since Nov. 27. That's the issue. Is he physically capable of playing at his highest level? There's no question as to who the team's starting quarterback is. It's Leftwich. The issue is whether or not he's fully recovered.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
My first-born son was born yesterday. Any tips on how I can assure he'll grow up to be a Jaguars fan?

Vic: Way to consolidate Christmas and his birthday, Howard. The kid'll never know which gifts go with which day. You're going to save a lot of money over the years. Hold off on the fan thing for now. Let's get a 40 time on him first.

Jim from East Palatka, FL:
Should the Jags try to pick up Ty Law in the offseason?

Vic: No, the Jaguars shouldn't try to pick up Ty Law in the offseason because it's a young man's game, but what a great player he is. Law was coming off major foot surgery this year and he still played at a Pro-Bowl level, and how about that interception for a touchdown against Tom Brady last night? He's a first ballot Hall of Famer which, in my opinion, is the highest distinction the game can offer.

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