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Who are the 'sleepers?'

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

Kelly from Santa Rosa, CA:
What are your thoughts on "sleeper" teams in the league this year? Most analysts have given the Jaguars low expectations, so I'd include them as a possible darkhorse. Do you see any other surprise overachievers?

Vic: Parity in the league has reached a point that none of us are surprised when a team such as New England comes out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl, as the Patriots did two years ago. It's almost as though there are no true "sleepers" any longer, unless, of course, you count Cincinnati. So, I'll say the Bengals could be a surprise team this year. They're in a division that's favorable, with Baltimore clearly in rebuilding, Cleveland sort of spinning its wheels and the Steelers facing a very difficult schedule and some very distinct questions at critical positions. Baltimore may be a surprise team. How about San Diego? The Chargers have accumulated some talent. Buffalo no longer fits into the category of a "sleeper." Houston and Jacksonville certainly would. I think one of those two teams will jump up a little higher than expected. In the NFC, a lot of people will be looking for a quick rise from the Cowboys, since Bill Parcells is now their coach. Yeah, the Cowboys could be a "sleeper." But I think Detroit could be the biggest of all the surprise teams.

Sean from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
How do you see the teams in the AFC South ranked preseason in their division and then with the rest of the NFL?

Vic: I see the AFC South as a very unstable division. Tennessee is clearly the division favorite, but the Titans are so dependent on Steve McNair and there are so many trouble spots in the Titans lineup that the Titans could be a major disappointment team this year. Then there are the Colts. When do we re-adjust our expectations for Peyton Manning? Is Edgerrin James recovered from his knee injury of two years ago? Did drafting a tight end in the first round make the Colts defense better? Houston is a team on the distinct rise, but the Texans have focused their first two drafts on quarterback and wide receiver; no big guys. Of course, the Jaguars have been assigned a very low place in the NFL order in the preseason ratings. Frankly, I don't think it's a very strong division. Its order could turn upside down very quickly.

David from LaCanada, CA:
Would you consider it possible for the Jags to win the AFC South? The Colts didn't look very good in week 16 against us or in the playoffs against the Jets. And the Titans lost Kevin Dyson and Randall Godfrey? Am I crazy, or do the Jags have a chance to make the playoffs.

Vic: There's nothing wrong with being hopeful, but I think the realistic answer to your question is that the Jaguars are in a rebuilding phase and to not acknowledge that would be unfair to Jack Del Rio and this new era in Jaguars football. They have to be given time to fix what's broken. Otherwise, see my above answer about the AFC South. Who knows?

Mike from Burbank, CA:
How can I find out what players will be involved with the autograph sessions on Aug. 1 and 2?

Vic: All players and coaches will be available to sign autographs on Aug. 1. The Aug. 2 autograph session is still in the planning stages.

Nick from Jacksonville:
What happened to T.J. Slaughter? I thought he was going to be the Jaguars' first truly great defensive player to start his career here. He used to be so good. even has his picture in the background on the left column. But after reading the synopsis of the Jaguars offseason on, which didn't include Slaughter as a candidate for a starting linebacker spot, I have to ask: What happened here? I know he got hurt last year, but that can't be the only thing. Look at Fred Taylor. What went wrong, Vic?

Vic: That's all it is; T.J. Slaughter missed a major portion of the season due to injury. Now he has to reestablish himself. It's exactly what Fred Taylor faced last season. With the emphasis Jack Del Rio is placing on the linebacking corps, Slaughter could jump back into prominence very quickly, provided he stays on the field.

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