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The playoff picture

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

Sam from Interlachen, FL:
With the time change, AM 690 cuts power about the time the "Jaguars Reporters" comes on the air. Same thing for "Jaguars This Week." I used to be able to listen on-line. Is that not possible now?

Vic: Go to and click on "on air now."

Rich from Jacksonville:
I know this is looking ahead, but what record do you see the contenders in the AFC needing to clinch a wild card?

Vic: Ten wins will usually get you in. Last year at this time I said 10 wins probably wouldn't do it, but, at the end of the season, the Jaguars had won nine games and would've made the playoffs had they won one more. History, therefore, would suggest 10 should be the goal, but, again, I don't believe 10 will be good enough. The AFC is really a "haves" and "have-nots" conference. Only eight of the 16 teams are playoff contenders. In other words, the AFC doesn't appear to be as balanced this year as it has been in the past. If you're going to run with the top group, you better get on a roll. I think 11 wins will be required to make the playoffs as a wild card this year, and you may need the tie-breakers, too.

Floyd from Charlotte, NC:
I noticed that on Pittsburgh's final drive on Monday night they didn't abandon the run, even though Baltimore successfully defended the Steelers' running attack most of the night. Pittsburgh didn't change who they are because they were down with time running out. Is there a lesson there for the Jags who didn't run the ball once in the final four minutes of the game?

Vic: The Steelers are a unique team. Nobody plays the game as they do, as witnessed by the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is averaging slightly more than 21 passes a game. Byron Leftwich is at 30 passes a game and that's toward the low end of the league average. The Steelers are not a scheme team. Preparing for them schematically is easy because you know what they're going to do. The Steelers are very close-to-the-vest on offense. They get a lead and they sit on it. Their idea of stepping on another team's throat, so to speak, is to get a lead going into the fourth quarter and then expire the clock with their running game. The Monday Night Football telecast tossed out a statistic that was so fantastic I thought they had surely made a mistake. The stat is that the Steelers have a streak of 126 home games in which they have not lost when they've had a seven-point or greater lead heading into the fourth quarter. The streak goes all the way back to 1970. What that means is the Steelers are very good at running out the clock with their running game when they have the lead and the ball. That's "Neander-ball" and Jaguars fans don't want that kind of football. They hate that kind of football. This is a town that wants a wide-open game. To play it the Steelers' way, you have to commit to it completely. You have to draft to play that way. You have to condition your fans to that style of offense with years and years of playing that way. You have to regard the pass as the thing you have to do to be able to do what you really want to do. That wouldn't work in Jacksonville or anywhere else in the league except Pittsburgh.

Gene from Jacksonville:
Tell me the Jaguars' chances for a wild-card berth.

Vic: As I said, I believe there are eight playoff contenders in the AFC: Colts (7-0), Broncos (6-2), Bengals (6-2), Steelers (5-2), Patriots (4-3), Jaguars (4-3), Chiefs (4-3) and Chargers (4-4). Six of those teams, of course, would make the playoffs. You'd like the Broncos to win the AFC West because the Jaguars lost to the Broncos, which means the Broncos would have the tie-breaker over the Jaguars in a wild-card situation. It wouldn't matter who wins the AFC North. At this point in time, and circumstances could change greatly over the next couple of weeks, it would appear the Jaguars will find themselves in a battle for one of two wild-card spots with the Chiefs, Chargers and either the Bengals or Steelers. I don't wanna go too far beyond that analysis because, first and foremost, the Jaguars' playoff chances rely on winning. If they don't win, they will fall quickly out of contention.

Clyde from Kingsland, GA:
I think when Del Rio took over he had a major lack of talent. I believe he has done a good job so far but we are still missing a few players.

Vic: I agree with you, but we also need to acknowledge that most teams are missing a few players. I don't care what the rankings say at this point, I refuse to believe the Colts are complete on defense. The Broncos, in my opinion, are the most impressive team in the AFC, but they clearly have liabilities in their secondary. The Steelers don't have a deep threat and, as a result, the field is shrinking on Roethlisberger and the Steelers' running game. The Bengals lack muscle in their front seven. The Chiefs are sorely under-manned on defense. How about the Patriots? They're 28th in run-offense, 24th in run-defense and 24th in pass-defense. The only thing they do well is throw the ball; they're second in passing. That sounds like a one-man gang to me.

Devin from Middleburg, FL:
Concerning the lease issue of Alltel, and every other problem now arising, is winning games that big of a deal in determining if our Jags stay in Jacksonville?

Vic: Winning games doesn't relate as directly to the lease situation as it does to ticket sales, and ticket sales will ultimately decide the team's fate in Jacksonville, provided the lease thing gets done. The Jaguars need to win games to sell tickets. The fans have clearly sent that message to Wayne Weaver. There are almost certainly going to be non-premium-seat tickets left when this weekend's blackout deadline is reached.

Sean from Sunnyvale, CA:
How much better statistically would the Jaguars run-defense be right now if Donovin Darius was not injured?

Vic: It would be better because Darius' forte is supporting against the run. There's no question about that. Let's not lay this all on Deke Cooper, however, because Cooper wasn't the starting strong safety last year when Domanick Davis rushed for 158 yards and Zack Crockett went for 134 in the last two games of the season. If your plan to stop the run centers on the strong safety, you got a problem. Stopping the run begins with the front seven and Jack Del Rio told us this week he's not getting what he needs from his linebackers.

Jason from Vancouver, BC:
Do you honestly think giving Ernest Wilford more playing time and sitting Matt Jones or one of the other guys is going to help?

Vic: It can't hurt. The pass-offense is stuck in the mud. It's not making enough plays. There are too many dropped passes and not enough big plays. No one is saying Wilford is the answer, but his increased playing time will send a clear message to all of the wide receivers that the way it is isn't good enough, and I'm firmly in favor of sending that message.

Rafi from Jacksonville:
First of all, Del Rio needs to re-think his strategy. This take the lead and play good defense technique is not gonna win you battles. You will not go anywhere in this league if you don't have an offense that complements its defense. A better defense wins you a championship, but a better offense takes you the majority of the way leading up to the playoffs. Your thoughts?

Vic: You have to have a good offense to be able to take the lead, and that's when you play good defense. That's how good teams play. I really don't know what you're suggesting.

Carter from Jacksonville:
You say you don't buy into the intangibles theory. How do you explain the dropped passes, inconsistent play and lack of discipline that the Jags show? Is it youth or poor coaching?

Vic: It's not poor coaching. Jack Del Rio's staff is loaded with veteran guys. This is a top-notch staff. I don't wanna get into names because I did that once before and I forgot to mention Pete Rodriguez and he won't let me forget what I did. Since I've now mentioned Pete, however, I'll tell you that they don't come any better than him. His special teams, however, have had a couple of bad games. Is it poor coaching? No way, but as I said yesterday, all coaches know they have to accept responsibility for the performance of their units. That's the way it is. Why do teams lose? Poor playing by the players, right? And who's responsible for poor playing? The coaches. It doesn't make much sense but that's the way it is.

Cole from Jacksonville:
Do you think the issue over revenue for the electronic signs will get resolved with this meeting or is it going to take several?

Vic: It better not take several, for our sakes.

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