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This defense scores, too

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

Chris from Philadelphia, PA:
What is the NFL's definition of a blocked punt and a blocked field goal? Mathis was said to have "deflected" that punt on Sunday and the Bears were said to have "tipped" a Minnesota field goal. Can you explain?

Vic: A punt does not qualify as having been "blocked" unless it remains on the punting team's side of the line of scrimmage. Any field goal attempt that is contacted by the defense and fails to score is considered to have been "blocked."

Chris from Jacksonville:
I love your column. With the Colts playing the way they are, what do you think the chances are the Jags can win the division?

Vic: The Colts have a difficult second-half schedule. If the Jaguars take care of their own business, which includes beating the Colts in Jacksonville on Dec. 11, the chance of winning the division will be very good. I don't think the Jaguars have to do anything but win their own games. Given the Colts' remaining schedule, I think it's very possible they could lose a couple of games. When I look at the Jaguars' remaining schedule, it's likely they'll be favored to win every game, barring significant injuries, of course. I think the Jaguars are in the division title race and will have a chance to win the division if they just win, baby, win. Just before the start of this season, I wrote a column in which I said the Colts reminded me of the 1999 Jaguars and the Jaguars reminded me of the '99 Titans. Six games into this season, the resemblance is even more striking. The Jaguars, of course, won the division title that year and the Titans finished in second place. We know the rest, don't we?

Scot from Jacksonville:
I'd like to disagree with the notion that the rest of the Jaguars games are easy just because the teams currently have losing records. Didn't the Jaguars go 1-7 followed by 4-4 a couple of years back? This is the NFL, not college; there are no easy games.

Vic: Every coach in the league would agree with you, but I'm not a coach. I'm a big schedule-watcher, but not only from the perspective of team records. The 2003 Jaguars are a good example. They were 1-7 when the 7-1 Colts strolled into town. It looked like a cakewalk for the Colts, but the Jaguars were coming off a loss in Baltimore in which they physically dominated the game. Anyone who knew anything about the Jaguars knew they were playing much better than their 1-7 record. That's the key. How are they playing now? What's the situation at quarterback? Is their arrow pointing up or down? When I look at the Jaguars' next opponent, I see a team that doesn't have its coach, apparently won't have its quarterback and looks like it's struggling. Am I supposed to ignore all of that? Go back to the game in Pittsburgh. That was an upset? When I look at the Jaguars schedule, I can't help but like what I see. Circumstances, however, change. We've certainly seen evidence of that through the first six games.

Nimrod from Toronto, Canada:
Love your column, Vic; look forward to reading it every day. My question is where do the Jags stand in defensive rankings this year?

Vic: The Jaguars are fourth in the league overall – 24th against the run and second against the pass – but that doesn't even begin to tell the story. If you wanna know what this defense's real value has been this season, consider this information: The Jaguars have had scoring drives of seven yards in one play, 10 yards in six plays, 16 yards in four plays, 23 yards in seven plays, four yards in four plays and eight yards in four plays. Who gets credit for those scores, the offense or the defense? On top of that, Rashean Mathis scored the game-winning touchdown this past Sunday on an interception return in overtime. When I apply that kind of formula to the Jaguars' scoring this year, I come up with a 50-50 split between offense and defense; 54 points are directly attributable to the offense and 54 points are either directly or logically attributable to the defense. In other words, this defense is not only stopping, it's scoring.

Dave from Chatham, NJ:
Dare I say Rashean Mathis is the best cornerback in football right now? Is he in the top 10?

Vic: When I add all of the factors together, I can't think of a cornerback I'd rather have. Mathis is young and dramatically ascending. He has great speed and athletic ability. He's durable. He catches the ball better than a lot of wide receivers. He has a great disposition. Mathis may be the Jaguars' best player.

Mike from Moberly, MO:
Please explain the NFL quarterback hook-slide rule. I thought quarterbacks had to be touched after a hook-slide to be "downed by contact."

Vic: When a quarterback slides to the ground feet-first, he is, in effect, tackling himself. He is surrendering and you better not touch him, as Deke Cooper made the mistake of doing to Tommy Maddox on Sunday. The ball is spotted where it was positioned when the quarterback first contacted the ground in his slide. The rule is meant to provide a form of protection to quarterbacks in the open field. If he goes head-first, however, that protection doesn't exist.

John from Tallahassee, FL:
Why doesn't the NFL implement a system such as the NBA, where home field would go to the team with the better record regardless of seeding. That seems to be a fairer system than the current one.

Vic: The NFL system of playoff seeding is meant to promote the division title races, which carry the excitement in December. I understand what you're saying but I like the idea of division titles being worthy of hosting a playoff game. I think it's important geographically that the various regions of the country be honored as an NFL playoff site. You wanna home game? Win your division.

John from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Could you please explain what goes on during the bye week? Do the players still report and practice or is it a mini-vacation?

Vic: The Jaguars will practice on Wednesday and Thursday and will take Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.

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