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Too early for tiebreakers

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Harrison from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
In the spirit of using pro football to create a stronger bond between myself and my two young boys, I decided to create a fantasy football league this season just for our family. I thought it would be a great way to get them more interested in the NFL and create some fun-loving competition in the house. Boy, was I wrong. I am now fully convinced fantasy football is an instrument of the devil. My boys immediately picked up on the reality it is all about the player and not the team. They could care less about the concept of team. They only care about their own players scoring as many points as possible, even if it means cheering for a player who is playing against the Jags. I am heartbroken at both the pure self-centeredness imbedded in the fantasy football model and my ignorance for thinking this would be a great teaching tool for my sons. The NFL is dancing with the devil with fantasy football. Sure it is driving demand for their product, but it also destroying the foundations of the league. I'm going on strike against fantasy football after this season is over.

Vic: Hence, the phrase, "He's not that good, he's just clutch." Fantasy football isn't about winning or losing, it's about the stats. It's turned quarterbacks who haven't been that good in the postseason into stars because they have the stats that make them popular in fantasy football drafts. Hey, it is what it is. If people enjoy it, they should do it. My dismay is for the lack of appreciation for the human element that is lost in fantasy football. Maybe you have to have played the game at some level to understand what it feels like to have your number called in the huddle and feel the anxiety course through your body. Maybe you have to have played the game at some level to understand what it feels like to know the guy across from you is bigger, tougher and better than you and he's gonna beat the poop out of you all day unless you find a way to get it done. In all my years covering the NFL, I've tried to convey the feeling of that basic human confrontation that is the game, but it's becoming more and more difficult. On the day after a game, my inbox is full of questions about the play-calling and I don't think anything I can write can change that. It's about the stats, Harrison, except for those fortunate few who truly understand and appreciate the game for what it really is.

Brandon from Palatka, FL:
Wouldn't the Jaguars be leading the AFC wild-card race since now their conference record is better than the Steelers?

Vic: Yes, they would, but it would be absolutely ridiculous to go there right now because wild-card tiebreakers are excruciatingly difficult to apply. Let me give you an example: If the Jaguars and the Texans were to finish with the same record and they were tied with at least one other team from another division, the Jaguars-Texans tie would have to be broken first before that team could advance to step two of the three-or-more-clubs, wild-card tiebreaker. If the Texans win tonight, of course, they will be tied with the Jaguars, so you shouldn't even begin to consider tiebreakers until after the Texans-Jaguars game on Dec. 6.

Kamal from Novi, MI:
We are the Miami Dolphins of this year, aren't we? We're a rebuilding team riding a favorable schedule to playoff contention.

Vic: That's a good comparison.

Brad from Jacksonville:
Don't get me wrong, Vic. I'm proud of my team and it's great to be at the top of the wild-card hunt in late November, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. The hardest part of our schedule remains ahead of us, including games against playoff contenders in four of our next five games. Getting it done at crunch time does not excuse a few less-than-stellar performances against teams that would be lucky to finish this season at .500. What do you think must happen or be improved to give us a realistic chance to make the playoffs?

Vic: Nobody's getting ahead of anything, Brad. Yeah, I saw the Bills' receivers running open yesterday and I know what would've happened had they had a quarterback that could've gotten the ball to them. I know 18 points isn't usually going to win against top competition. I'm aware the Jaguars couldn't run the ball against a defense that was dead last in the league against the run. I'm also enjoying the heck out of this wonderful surprise that is 6-4 and playoff contention. It's a wonderful dream. Please don't wake me.

John from San Diego, CA:
Are you as embarrassed as I am by the lack of fans at the game?

Vic: No, I'm not embarrassed, but I am saddened by the sight of sparse crowds, especially for a team that has won six of its last eight games and is clearly a playoff contender. The thing that's really making me sad is this new lowered standard we've achieved. I hear people saying, "I thought it looked pretty full today," or "We almost got to 50,000." This morning was the kill shot for me. I saw a report on a local TV station that showed people how to go to a website in the Netherlands to see the telecast of Jaguars home games. The guy who discovered the site looked like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. He was so proud of himself and the report bristled with enthusiasm for its good deed to the citizenry of Jacksonville. I was shaving when I heard the report and I stopped and walked to the TV to get a better look. I don't remember shaving off the rest of the shaving cream because I couldn't stop thinking about what I had just seen. Here's what I can't understand: If you didn't want to go to the game and see your team play, then why did y'all want this team in the first place?

Bryan from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I am intrigued by Mike Sims-Walker's request for Owens' jersey. What else can you tell us about that event?

Vic: Sims-Walker collects jerseys of famous, or in Terrell Owens' case infamous, football players.

Steve from Jacksonville:
You weren't kidding about how good we have it. I wasn't going to attend Sunday's game. My wife was busy with family and my daughter had a bad cold. At the last minute my wife came through and jumped in to watch my daughter. My friends were already at the game and I had nothing else going on so I figured why not give it a shot. I kept track of the time just to see how it would go. Vic, it was ridiculous. I left my house (about 15 miles from downtown) at about 12:30. I stopped at an ATM and got some cash and bee-lined it for the game. I quickly found parking nearby ($20) acquired a ticket from a free-agent distributor ($25) and was literally in my seat with 11:30 left in the first quarter and watched my beloved Jags battle their way to playoff contention. I can't imagine pulling off a day like this in any other NFL city and, yes, I've done some traveling and been to my fair share. Oh, and the ride home was a breeze; they've really got the traffic flow sorted out. You're right, Vic. There are no excuses.

Vic: That's nice, Steve, but it's not a good thing. I arrived at Giants Stadium last week at 9:30 and the parking lots were full with people tailgating. Going to football games in other NFL cities requires a day-long commitment, and that's the way you want it to be because successful NFL franchises are built on sell-out crowds and traffic, not leaving for the game without a ticket a half hour before kickoff and being in your seat before the first points are scored. Be that as it may, I'm glad you had a good time.

Alex from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I think it's fair to say David Garrard has officially entered the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. It just seems like now that he has weapons to work with, he's always getting it done at crunch time. He's a winner and he doesn't benefit from cheap personal fouls or rely on dramatic antics at the line of scrimmage. Your thoughts?

Vic: When have I said he wasn't a good quarterback? I was the one who said last year that Garrard played a lot better than people think. I was the one who said he needed better receivers. I'm not ready to put him in the upper echelon, but he's clearly a quality NFL quarterback.

Dave from Snellville, GA:
How many fourth-quarter comebacks has David Garrard engineered in his career?

Vic: Six, including the postseason. Three of those have been this season. That's the good news.

Gary from New Milford, CT:
The UConn Huskies? They ran the ball and stopped the run.

Vic: That's why their coach, Randy Edsall, should be considered a candidate for an NFL head job. He knows how to play football NFL-style (UConn throws it, too) and his players play a disciplined brand of football. I've known Randy since 1995, when he was the Jaguars' defensive backs coach, and he has developed into a top-notch head coach. I'm very happy for him and I sent him a congratulatory e-mail this morning.

Steve from Dayton, OH:
While combing through highlights of the game, I came across the clip of Eric Wood breaking his leg. Watching that helps put the physical toll of football in perspective for a fan that has never played on an organized level. The next time a player has a holdout for a new contract, I will remember the physical risks they take for the fans' entertainment.

Vic: Maybe you don't have to play the game. Maybe you only have to be smart enough and sensitive enough to understand what the game is really about: courage.

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