"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, I agree with your assessment the game looks more dangerous because the players are so upright and more vulnerable to injury. Do you think the increased penalties also make it more dangerous because there are potentially more plays per game with the clock stoppage and plays having to be redone?
I don't know how many plays, if any, are added to a game due to penalties. What I can tell you is the game as it's being played today looks weird to me. The league wants to protect the head but its attempts to do that are causing players to play higher. Hey, that's where the head is. I rarely watch a game that someone hasn't sustained a concussion. By the way, what is causing players to do such ridiculous things? Cam Jordan punched Kyle Allen, a week after the infamous helmet swinging. The trash talking, taunting and chicken fighting are at an all-time high, and it's a bad look for the league. It has a WWF look to it. Every week brings another explosion of fines and wrongdoing. The league is trying to clean up the game, yet, I don't think it's ever looked dirtier than it does now. A big part of the problem is the league has neutered the coach. He's supposed to be the ultimate authority, but that ended when the league gave the players the game in the 2011 CBA.
Sean from Brighton, MI
Drafting defense in the first round has been the Packers' problem for the past eight years. It’s almost impossible to play defense in the NFL nowadays. This makes the transition from college to pros very difficult on defensive players. Why not load up on offense every year and build the defense with late-round picks and cheap, affordable patches in free agency?
A plan is only as good as the talent available to it. In my opinion, the best plan continues to be to draft the best available player, but I'll add this caveat to it: Never draft a guy you don't like. If you've landed in a soft spot in the draft, some how, some way, get out of that spot. Trade up, trade back, trade the pick for a pick in the next year's draft, do anything to avoid picking a player who doesn't excite you. I think teams that draft well see they're positioned in a soft spot in the order and they maneuver out of that spot. I'll even support trading that pick for a player. That's what I mean by don't just sit and pick. The draft has never been more of a crystal ball business.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
To be a true fan of a team, do you need to support a bad (losing) product on the field?
You have no responsibility for being a fan. If you don't like what you see, don't buy it. I think that's an awfully fickle attitude that will likely limit your enjoyment of the game, but I don't believe in this stand and howl crap. Fans have no responsibility for performance. All of the responsibility for performance rests with the team. Having said that, I'll also say football is a soap opera. We enjoy watching the story develop. We enjoy the dramatic swings. If you're only going to watch winning, you're going to miss the story.
Justin from Titonka, IA
LaFleur wanted Darren Rizzi as his special teams coach but the Packers were too cheap to sign him. They also forced him to keep Pettine, even though LaFleur probably had his own guy in mind. And he was blocked from hiring his own brother. Do you think LaFleur not getting his guys is hurting the defense and special teams? Or is it just poor roster depth?
They're 8-3. Come back and ask me these questions when the Packers are losing.
Fabrizio from Fossano, Italia
Hello, Vic, how do you make a great athlete as Lamar Jackson be a pocket passer?
I'm not a coach, just a sports writer. I was asked how I would stop Jackson, and I said I'd make him be a pocket passer and it's because the thing everyone fears most about Jackson is what he can do when he gets out of the pocket. So, job one is keep him in the pocket, right? Someone's going to do it. Rush three, drop eight and flood the field with defensive backs who can run with him? Rush defensive backs? Don't rush? Drive him toward one side of the field so you'll at least know where he's going? I respect Mike Smith as much as any defensive coach I ever covered, and I remember what Mike said about Vince Young: Make him be a passer. I also think that approach worked against Colin Kaepernick. I know, Jackson looks like a pretty good passer, but I want to see someone take his legs away. I want to see him play as a pocket passer only. What might happen if his run option is eliminated?
Ben from Albuquerque, NM
What is your favorite Thanksgiving food other people might consider a bit unusual?
Mincemeat pie? Quince pie? Shoo-fly pie?
Neil from Cheddar, UK
You regularly talk about the uneveness of the college game and the regular blowout games. I feel the NFL this season feels a little more like that. A lot of games seem to be so one-sided a neutral fan can't enjoy it and it must be brutal for the losing team's fans. Any given Sunday does not seem quite so meaningful this year. Is it me, or does the NFL aim of parity seem to be falling a little short this year?
We've had some blowouts the last two weeks, but 11 of the 13 games played in Week 11 were decided by eight or fewer points. I don't think one-sided games are a problem. What I don't like is the repeating pattern of one team getting a big lead and the losing team making a mad dash to catch up, only to fall short on a Hail Mary or onside kick attempt. It has a kind of scripted feel to it.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Here's what continues to puzzle me. Green Bay has a new head coach, a new defensive coordinator, tons of new defensive players, and a (theoretically) run-first offense, yet, the defense still looks soft, soft, soft. How can this still happen? What mysterious force can be bigger than players and plays and coaching?
If it stays this way through the remainder of the season, the answer to your question will be the Packers need more talent on defense.
Nick from Owego, NY
Do you think we'll start to see more trades for second-year players like Minkah Fitzpatrick?
Like Fitzpatrick? No, that was a fluke. The Steelers got lucky. We did see a distinct uptick in trades this year and I think that trend is going to continue because trading for a player can be better, if the price is right, than signing one in free agency. Why? Because his bonus amortization stays with the team that traded him. It's a great way for patching holes and you can wait until you're certain of where you need to patch.
Ben from Lansing, MI
Rodgers gives us hope, as you say, in a rematch with the 49ers. But what can be done about the pocket that collapsed around him and kept him from looking downfield? He could not step forward or slip out one of the sides. That is more than a problem with the tackles, and it directly affects "The Man."
The run fixes everything.
Enrique from Jacksonville, FL
"Pulled my Pittsburgh sign out from under my bed and went down to the turnpike." Does this mean you were hitchhiking home? What was hitchhiking like? As a young person, it just seems like a crazy idea to me.
Yeah, my sports car was in the shop. Hey, it was a different time. I remember getting picked up by a family with a kid who wouldn't let me alone. I said, "The next exit is my exit." I just wanted to get out of the car and start over. I never met anyone who wasn't a good person. Mostly, they wanted conversation. On May 4, 1970, they wanted to know what happened? Nobody should hitchhike today. I can't remember the last time I saw someone with a sign. Back then, it was common.
Geoff from Beaver Dam, WI
Chatty never bothered me until the Buffalo game. How can he be cheering for Hauschka to miss on a national broadcast?
Chatty, aka Tony Baloney, is out of control.
Scott from Little Rock, AR
I officially turned off football with 4:06 left in the second quarter of the Bears/Lions game. Officiating is ruining the game. I won't let it ruin my Thanksgiving.
Don't turn off the TV, yet. December is "Salute to Penalties" month. Players will be encouraged to wear yellow shoes and gloves.
Ben from Alameda, CA
What's your take on scheduling the same opponent 17 days apart? I don't think I can keep my eyeballs away from the Steelers/Browns rematch.
You want a human sacrifice, don't you?
"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Jesse from Bethlehem, PA
I sincerely appreciate a dose of optimism after the SF drubbing, but can you expand on where your confidence in GB stems from?
It stems from the Packers having Aaron Rodgers.
Mitch from Winston, GA
Did the Packers get blindsided by the 49ers' speed because speed didn't show up on the game films? Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Coach LaFleur played the martyr role, which is honorable and solid coaching technique for taking the heat off your players following a poor performance. LaFleur blamed himself for being outcoached. My opinion is teams usually need to experience speed to be able to respond and adjust to it. Often, that'll happen as the game progresses, but the Packers fell too far behind too early to be able to rally. I won't blame LaFleur for the Packers' seeming unpreparedness. Remember the thumping the Packers took in Arizona late in the 2015 season? The next time the Packers played there, in the playoffs, they took the game into overtime. I will blame LaFleur -- mostly his defensive coaching staff -- for not reacting to a scheme adjustment the 49ers made. I'm referring to the influence blocking the 49ers did to defeat the Packers' pass rush, which the 49ers couldn't block straight up. Slanting their linemen left or right got the Packers' pass rushers moving laterally instead of up the field, but the defensive fix is easy stuff: Rush off the back side; it should create a free runner. The 49ers' slant technique should've only worked once or twice, but the Packers never seemed to figure it out. If LaFleur is referring to that as being outcoached, I agree with him.
Tom from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Do you think Tony Boselli will make it into the Hall of Fame this year?
I do. I talked to Tony yesterday and congratulated him on making into the semifinals, again. Fred Taylor also has my congratulations for making it into the semifinals. I think Tony's time has come. I have reason to believe he just missed making it last year. Tony loves football. This matters to him, just as it does to Fred. Both of them are already in my Hall of Fame of memories.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
How would you stop Lamar Jackson?
Make him be a pocket passer.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, I've come to think of the 4-3 as a disciplined defense based on beating your man and closing on the ball. The 3-4, by contrast, increasingly seems to me to be a blitz-happy, feast or famine, turnovers or touchdowns defense. Am I not seeing this clearly, or is this how the two systems have evolved?
The 4-3 is a straight forward scheme based on having four guys up front who can stop the run and rush the passer. Finding those players is the challenge. The 3-4 is a light in the pants, scheme-heavy defense that relies on four linebackers who can stop the run and rush the passer. I prefer the 3-4 because I believe the linebacker pool is deeper and less expensive than the front four pool. I also like the scheme creativity the 3-4 promotes.
David from Seattle, WA
I saw the Cowboys game and saw two tripping penalties on the Cowboys that completely influenced the game. I heard Mike Pereira defend the penalty calls. I realized I was being gaslighted. Just like the current presidential administration, the NFL was telling me something that was blatantly false. Then Davante Adams gets an unsportsmanlike on the opening drive and I said enough; Vic is right. The penalties are ruining the game. I turned off the TV and went for a run. Heard the Packers lost; soooo what? The NFL is not entertaining anymore, just controversial.
They were showing replay of a pass interference penalty. Terry McAulay said, "There's the grab." I thought to myself, "I don't see a grab. Why are you telling me I'm seeing something I'm not seeing?" I continued watching the game. One day in this column, I'm going to proudly proclaim I turned the TV off.
Mike from Bridgeport, CT
Loved the counterpoint reply. I can't answer your question about Myles Jack's knee, but we all know why he slid to the second round. I'd love to hear your take. Either way, it will take a lot more than his speed and suddenness for that Swiss cheese defense to stop the run. Brutal.
When you think you're smarter than everyone else, you're likely to look pretty stupid.
Joe from St. Paul, MN
You've often referred to defenses, and the Packers in particular, as soft. What do you mean by this? How does a defense stop being soft?
It's about defeating blocks. Soft defenses lose on the blocks scoreboard.
Cliff from North Dakota
The Packers drafted defense in the first round in each of the last eight years and twice in this year's draft. Nine first-rounders and all we have to show for it is what was on the field Sunday night? Clark is the only first-rounder with Pro Bowl talent. How could our GMs have whiffed so badly evaluating defensive talent for so many years?
Kevin King is a second-round pick and I believe Jaire Alexander also has Pro Bowl-type talent, but your point is well taken. I'm a huge draft guy, but I've spent time recently studying the drafts of recent years leaguewide and I'm seeing a lot more misses than hits. The trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick alerted me to this situation. The Steelers just don't do things like that. What gives, I thought to myself? That's when I began my research. I haven't reached a conclusion, yet, but I'm beginning to think a team needs to do more than sit and pick.
Ray from Clark, NJ
Why would you say there is a strong chance the Packers will have homefield advantage and be NFC favorites? Even if they win out (not likely), the 49ers will have to lose three out of five. Please explain.
At Ravens, at Saints, at Seahawks.
Aric from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, I was told that in the immediate aftermath of the shootings at Kent State, students had an hour to pack and get out. Were you there for this? Was the atmosphere one of confusion as people rushed to flee campus or did the student body know what had happened and what it meant?
We knew. The university dispatched a car with a loudspeaker to ride around campus and order students to leave. I went back to my room, packed a small bag, pulled my Pittsburgh sign out from under my bed and went down to the turnpike. A few weeks later we were permitted to return and retrieve our belongings.
Here are the Week 13 "Ask Vic" all-important power rankings:
1. Ravens -- Dominant!
2. 49ers -- Showdown in Baltimore.
3. Seahawks -- They're for real.
4. Patriots -- No. 2 on defense, No. 17 on offense.
5. Saints -- Not sure how good they are.
6. Vikings -- Big one in Seattle.
7. Packers -- Soft schedule after hard loss.
8. Bills -- On the rise.
9. Chiefs -- Still the best of the AFC West.
10. Texans -- Are they going to make a move?
11. Colts -- Fading?
12. Titans -- Running the ball.
13. Cowboys -- Lame duck coach.
14. Browns -- Big one at hand.
15. Steelers -- Quack, quack.
16. Rams -- Nobody wants the next Sean McVay anymore.
17. Panthers -- Losing the close ones.
18. Eagles -- Still in the hunt.
19. Raiders -- Must-win game in Kansas City.
20. Bears -- Have to win out.
21. Broncos -- Not a mile high.
22. Chargers -- No fans, no hope.
23. Jets -- Darnold turning the corner.
24. Jaguars -- Crossroads.
25. Bucs -- No. 4 on offense.
26. Cardinals -- Murray surging.
27. Falcons -- Future bleak.
28. Lions -- As expected.
29. Dolphins -- Settling into draft position.
30. Giants -- Shurmur is toast.
31. Washington -- Will Snyder make a run at Tomlin?
32. Bengals -- Peaking for Week 16 showdown in Miami.
"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Luke from Chippewa Falls, WI
Drop the Packers to 12, just under the real contenders. It’s symbolic of who this team is.
Doug from Union Grove, WI
The 49ers defensive front is reaping the benefits of those lowly years and high draft picks.
They did it right. They got the big guys.
Mike from Minneapolis, MN
Ugly game all around. Is it time to start looking for options other than King? He seems to be the primary coverage corner on almost all of these never-ending big plays.
I don't know what the coverage assignments were, but tight ends are usually a safety's responsibility. I saw Savage up near the line of scrimmage. Maybe that was the problem. That's just a guess.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, it seems the abundance of flags is supposedly related to player safety. What do you think?
That's the consensus opinion, but in some ways I think the game looks more dangerous than ever. I think it's because the players are so upright their vulnerability has been heightened. The penalties made last night's game difficult to watch. I just wanted it to end so I could go to bed.
Tyler from Pierre, SD
You saw this coming.
I suspected the Packers would be blindsided by the 49ers' speed. It's good for the Packers to have played this game. They'll know what to expect the next time they play the 49ers. The Packers will be better the next time.
Roger from Auburn, CA
I guess that answers the question of whether the Packers were just pretenders?
That's silly talk. The Packers have a cupcake finishing schedule, other than for the game in Minnesota. I think there's a strong chance the Packers will claim homefield advantage. If they do, they'll be the favorite to win the NFC.
Joe from Green Bay, WI
I can’t help but wonder what the offensive game plan was vs. the 49ers. Why didn’t we have plays where the ball comes out early? Too many plays where he is waiting for plays to develop against a very talented defensive line.
The plan was to mix run and pass. As for the getting the ball out early, at one point Rodgers had completed 18 passes for 98 yards. That's a little more than five yards per completion. The 49ers were flying up and dropping guys as they caught the ball. Plays weren't the problem, Joe.
Matt from Salt Lake City, UT
What concerns you most if you are the Packers after the 49ers game?
The tackles and the defense. Rodgers was sacked five times and the defense allowed 339 yards in a mere 45 plays. That's 7.5 yards per play to the Packers' 2.8. The league yardage rankings are not misleading. They tell an accurate story of a Packers defense that's soft.
Dustin from Wisconsin
Vic, you hit the nail on the head. Officiating is terrible most of the time, but the players need to be coached better. Their game plan is to cheat.
That's an interesting perspective.
Johnathan from Southern Pines, NC
I liked Tomlin's switch to Duck Hodges. I think he's a better option going forward. What say you? And can the Steelers actually make the playoffs like this?
Be thankful for what you have.
Bob from Mystic (wherever that is)
Williams would play hard down by 100 points. Who did you cover who was the best at giving all the effort in him, even in a hopeless cause?
After a loss to the Raiders in the 1976 AFC title game, Jack Lambert said, "Give me a six pack and 20 minutes and I'll go out and play them again."
Brad from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, it’s disheartening. I don’t quite know what to make of this team. They’re really not good at anything, yet, they have a number of very talented players. How do you press reset, or do you?
Pressing reset is easy to do. You fire everybody and start over. It makes the fans feel good and instantly there's new hope. How's that working for the Jets, Dolphins, Bengals, Bucs, Broncos and Cardinals?
Aiden from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, why are the Jags so bad and how can franchises be so bad for so long?
In the Jaguars' case, they passed on too many quarterbacks.
Mark from Laughlin, NV
Coughlin and the front office destroyed a great team without any sort of cap problems. No train needed for the Jaguars.
That's too harsh. They made one major mistake: not trying to upgrade at quarterback following 2017.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL
Is it time for regime change in Jacksonville?
The Jaguars are 4-7. They were 4-7 in 1996 when they went on a run to the AFC title game. Who knows? If they tank, change will likely happen.
Adam from Wausau, WI
Ratings can’t be good for college football with all these blowouts. Why aren’t low ratings driving college football to change?
It's because the five power conferences won't agree to one ruling body governing them, negotiating for them and requiring them to share the wealth evenly.
Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL
Journalism schools are supposed to emphasize unbiased reporting so the reader/viewer can make their own conclusions. That obviously doesn't exist in political reporting. Have you seen changes in sports journalism toward certain biases as your career progressed?
I don't remember my journalism school emphasizing that charge. "Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy," was the charge in my first news reporting class: One car doesn't hit another, two cars collide. Measured opinion, however, has always been part of good journalism. Some publications lean right, others lean left, but they have to be able to separate themselves from their interests in their news reporting. I think the changes you view as being radical and across the line of good journalism have been driven by cable TV news and the Internet. Cable TV news has taken opinion too far because it's allowed opinion to dominate its news reporting: One car, indeed, has struck another. The Internet is the big change in the "print" media. On the click-bait sites, "AP Stylebook" rules no longer exist. They've been replaced by SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Those sites are easily identified -- a rankings story that takes you to a new page for each place in the rankings is a dead giveaway -- and I steadfastly avoid them. The Internet is the greatest invention of my lifetime, and I think we're learning how to use it responsibly. My advice to you is to identify those sites that only want your click. In any good media, the message should be the priority.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
You often talk about change needed in college football. Give me two changes you would make.
I'd blow up college football's eligibility rules. Hey, making freshman eligible in 1973 is one of the best things to happen to college football in my lifetime. How about these two eligibility changes? 1) Seek an agreement with the NFL that would allow a player to be eligible for the NFL draft at any point in the player's college career; no more waiting three years. 2) A player is eligible to play college football for as long as he wishes, provided he's a full-time student in good academic standing. The first change would help college athletic programs deal with the recent court ruling on athletes selling their names. Jim Harbaugh spoke on the subject recently and I completely agree with his free-to-leave opinion. The second change would help second-tier programs build depth so they might become competitive with top-tier programs. Why should a player who's not NFL caliber, is enrolled in grad school or any additional studies and wants to continue playing college football be denied his wish? Why is it necessary to limit a player to four years of eligibility?
"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Tyler from Milwaukee, WI
Playing at San Francisco was way cooler when they were on the hillside at Candlestick. In your opinion, what gives a stadium a mystical essence?
Big games give a stadium its personality. What's Lambeau Field without the "Ice Bowl?" Three Rivers Stadium without the "Immaculate Reception?" Candlestick had no personality during the John Brodie years. It wasn't until "The Catch" Candlestick became a mystical place.
Jason from Green Bay, WI
"Panthers -- Arrow pointing down." Can Kyle Allen be "The Man?"
The answer to that question is the same for Allen, Minshew, Rudolph and any young quarterback whose draft-level entrance to the league didn't immediately make him "The Man." Kyler Murray, for example, immediately became "The Man" when he was selected with the first overall pick. Allen, Minshew and Rudolph have to play their way into the role, and that's going to take time. All three of those young quarterbacks have had high and low moments. I like what I see in Allen, but he and Rudolph each threw four interceptions in their most recent games, and that won't work. I'm not sure Minshew would've been benched in favor of Foles had Minshew not thrown two interceptions in the loss to the Texans. Interceptions are the bane of a young quarterback's existence. They're almost a rite of passage. Even Peyton Manning threw them in his rookie season. When the interceptions stop, growth begins.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
You stated Kirk Cousins is “The Man." He is playing incredible football in the last few weeks, but the knock on him (fair or unfair) continues to be his clutch play. Did the second half against Denver erase that for you?
Cousins has played at an elite level in recent games. Without him, the Vikings wouldn't be a playoff contender. This is crunch time. This is when quarterbacks define themselves. One game won't do it. What he does the rest of the season is how Cousins will be judged. That goes for all quarterbacks, including Rodgers.
Jason from Austin, TX
Vic, I'd love to hear what your assessment is on Oakland? They were the butt of a lot of jokes last season, but they drafted well and their arrow is pointing straight up again. Are they an example of why teams shouldn't overpay and should trade superstars when they can?
The Raiders are an example of what will eventually happen if you draft at the top of the order for a sustained period of time.
William from Savannah, GA
Vic, are the Patriots playing possum on offense with their play-calling to try and save it for the postseason?
Brady's old. He's lost his pocket mobility. He began sacking himself last season and now it's happening more often, and that's inviting the rush. Defenses aren't afraid to go after him. Gronk is gone and that's a big dent in the Patriots' passing game. Can the Patriots win it all on the strength of their defense? Well, the Ravens sure didn't have a problem scoring points on that defense. The Patriots play the Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs over the next three weeks. Those games might give us a better look at what's ahead.
John from Minnesota
Vic, it's sad to watch Philip Rivers' collapse across the finish line of his career rather than break the tape with confidence. Whose end-of-career decline was the toughest for you to watch?
Johnny Unitas. I covered his final game. Black high tops and lightning bolts made for a very sad look.
Allen from Birmingham, AL
I agree with you about the college football playoff rankings system. Do you think it might benefit if the top 32 college schedules were assigned by an independent entity? The NFL scheduler does very well with drama and balance.
So now we're going to rank which teams are deserving of assigned schedules? College football needs across-the-board standardization and in every way. Some conferences play eight conference games, others play nine. That's nuts! It's also nuts Alabama continues to be a playoffs contender despite having lost Tua. Without him, Alabama is a bad defense that nearly lost to Tennessee. I honestly believe if college football went to eight playoff teams, the SEC would find a way to get four teams in. I think it's time the Big 10 and the PAC 12 begin talking about having their own "national" championship. They have the TV sets. Alabama vs. Clemson sure isn't delivering the ratings.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, what do you make of Jimmy Garoppolo? Is he any kind of special?
What quarterbacks in the NFL have been special this season? Brady? Goff? Brees and Roethlisberger have been injured. Rivers is throwing interceptions. Ryan has been better than his team's record but not special. Stafford's out and his return is unknown. Dalton has been benched. Mayfield has been a major disappointment. Manning and Mariota were benched, Luck quit, Foles and Mahomes got, Flacco's gone for the year, Trubisky and Winston are on the way out, Newton's done, Wentz and Josh Allen have been average. Watson, Prescott, Cousins, Carr, Brissett and Garoppolo are having good years, but I don't think they qualify as being special. Rodgers, Jackson and Wilson are the only quarterbacks I consider to be playing at a truly special level. Rodgers vs. Garoppolo is a mismatch in the Packers' favor. In my mind, the focus is on the Packers defense. OK, guys, show us who you are.
Gavin from St. Paul, MN
Vic, can you explain the injury report and why teams are required to disclose the health of players throughout the week?
It's transparency with the intent to avoid accusations of impropriety as it might relate to the point spread.
Michael from Jacksonville, FL
Have you been watching the impeachment inquiries? Any thoughts?
It's the testimonies of people intent on telling the truth, being questioned by politicians attempting to shape the questions so the answers might serve their specific needs.
Randy from Medicine Hat, AB
Do you remember where you were when President Kennedy was assassinated?
I think everyone remembers where they were on that terrible afternoon in American history. I was sitting in Sister Rose Gertrude's seventh grade class.
Cassidy from Carlsbad, CA
What is the appropriate response to the Myles Garrett situation?
The league has acted correctly. The most important response, however, will be authored by the Steelers. Will they retaliate or will they reject Garrett's stain on the game by performing honorably and professionally in the rematch?
Mike from Bridgeport, CT
Myles Jack looked like he was destined to be a star his rookie season. Since moving inside, I've lost that feeling. Should he be playing middle linebacker? Is he the weak link on a declining defense?
Is the knee beginning to cost him speed and suddenness?
Ethan from Ontario, Canada
Are their any matchups you particularly like for Sunday? I like Aaron Jones on the Niners' linebackers.
The matchups that interest me are Richard Sherman vs. Davante Adams and the 49ers' pass rushers vs. the Packers tackles.
"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Nick from Milwaukee, WI
The flags, sloppy play and terrible, repetitive commercials in that Monday night game had me asking myself, “When will it end?” After considering turning the channel, I remembered the "Ketchman Theory of Maximum Pain" and forced myself to continue watching. Brutal.
The game produced 17 penalties assessed. Last year, the NFL set a record for penalties assessed, 3,472, which doesn't include penalties declined and penalties that offset; the grand total was 4,069 flagged plays. The NFL is on a similar penalty pace this season. I'm afraid to calculate how much time I've spent watching penalized plays and State Farm commercials. I've had people tell me they root against Aaron Rodgers because they hate the State Farm commercials.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, seems you decided to avoid the whole Kaepernick thing. Why’s that?
I'm not knowledgeable of what happened or what caused the site of the workout to be moved. A scout told me the whole thing was a botched event. He said there were scouts there who couldn't find the high school to which they relocated the workout. I'm not going to comment on something as sensitive as this without being knowledgeable of it. Here's what I can tell you: If a team has interest in signing Kaepernick, they'll find a way to work him out.
Eric from Eau Claire, WI
My parents got me a signed picture of Carroll Dale, a tight end from Super Bowls I and II. I had never heard of him but after seeing his career stats it looks like he was a very good player. Do you recall watching him play at all?
He was a wide receiver and he could run, which made him the deep threat in the Packers' offense.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, you keep saying Packers at Vikings is going to decide the division. If the Packers lose to the 49ers and the Vikings but take care of business with the other four inferior teams on the schedule, the Vikings would have to win out to top the Packers or the Packers would hold the division record tiebreaker. Are you predicting either the Lions or the Bears are going to upset the Packers, or maybe the Vikings are going to win out?
It's too early to make those kinds of predictions. I'm considering all reasonable possibilities and in my mind they include the Packers going into the postseason as the Nos. 1, 2, 3 or 5 seed.
Patrick from Alexandria, VA
Are two single-person kayaks a more wise purchase than a two-seater kayak? Have you any suggestions?
Two-seaters are cumbersome. They're especially difficult to transport. Two singles are better than one double. If you're planning on kayaking in calm water, get sit-in not sit-on kayaks. Sit-on kayaks are for riding waves in the ocean; they go nowhere in calm water.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, the 49ers on MNF showed an interesting punt formation with a gunner lined up evenly with the punter, allowing for a running head start. Do you know if that player would be considered an eligible receiver?
He would potentially be an eligible receiver, as would the player at the end of the formation on the gunner's side of the field.
Brad from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, this was just plain awful. Foles was flat and I don’t feel he brings anything to the game Minshew doesn’t. The defense playing this persistent soft zone got picked apart. I understand players, not plays, but Jacksonville just looked completely unprepared to play a football game.
That's why the game in Tennessee this Sunday is so important. If the Jaguars lay an egg against the Titans, they could be headed for another offseason of change.
Allen from Manitowoc, WI
"The Packers could beat the 49ers but still find themselves No. 5 in the postseason if they lose in Minnesota." Could you explain the tiebreaker scenario if both teams finished 13-3?
That's a somewhat misleading statement because it's only partially true. It would require the Packers to lose an additional NFC North game for the Vikings to potentially win the division based on a "common games" tiebreaker. If the Packers and Vikings each finish 13-3, the Packers would win the division because the tiebreaker wouldn't get to "common games." I believe that statement to be accurate but I won't guarantee it. Again, it's too early for this.
Here are the Week 12 "Ask Vic" all-important power rankings:
1. Ravens -- They're the best.
2. Packers -- Defining game at hand.
3. Seahawks -- Tough stretch of schedule.
4. Patriots -- Defense, not Brady, is their calling card.
5. Saints -- Brees back in the groove.
6. 49ers -- Not playing their best football.
7. Vikings -- Cousins is "The Man."
8. Cowboys -- Best 6-4 team in the league.
9. Rams -- Living off last year.
10. Bills -- Can they close?
11. Chiefs -- Time for the "Charmin Curtain" to rest.
12. Raiders -- Gaining momentum.
13. Eagles -- Wentz looked bad.
14. Colts -- Running the ball.
15. Panthers -- Arrow pointing down.
16. Titans -- Four of the last six within the division.
17. Texans -- Heartless!
18. Broncos -- Fangio doing a great job.
19. Browns -- Tough guys.
20. Steelers -- Can't run, can't pass bad combination.
21. Chargers -- Rivers era fading away.
22. Jaguars -- Gut check in Tennessee.
23. Cardinals -- Arrow pointing up.
24. Bears -- Worst performance in the league.
25. Lions -- Hands to the face ended their season.
26. Falcons -- Am I supposed to applaud?
27. Bucs -- New coach, same old story.
28. Jets -- I wanna see more.
29. Dolphins -- Not terrible.
30. Giants -- This isn't improvement.
31. Washington -- Nobody cares, Mr. Snyder.
32. Bengals -- They could beat the Steelers.
"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Brian from Ellicott City, MD
Vic, what are your thoughts on Jared Goff? Watching the game on Sunday night, he looks like any other guy and hasn't seemed to have progressed over the past few years.
The Rams appear to have the same problem the Bears have. I didn't like what I saw from Carson Wentz, either, and Baker Mayfield is also flashing warning signals. As I wrote a couple of years ago, replacing the great quarterbacks of a golden era -- Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Rivers, etc. -- isn't going to be as easy as picking new ones.
Alan from Nixon, Ontario
In your opinion, why does the NFL have a PI challenge rule? They are not overturning obvious and egregious calls. I can't imagine the rule was put in place just to appease Saints fans. Why not just let the whole thing slide instead of making another rule?
I suspect you're referring to the flagrant pass interference committed in the end zone by the Ravens' Marlon Humphrey that wasn't flagged and the Texans' challenge didn't reverse. I agree, it was absurd and a very bad look for the league. The message would seem to be: Don't bother challenging pass interference calls or non-calls. If that's the case, the league is guilty of violating its own rules and should be flagged. This whole mess was created by one play and a gross overreaction to it by the league. It's how I'll remember this season.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
There are a lot of bad teams. Usually that translates into a lot of bad football on TV. What do you think? Not enough good quarterbacks? Not enough good coaches? Not enough good lineman? Most games on most weeks are unwatchable to a reasonable student of the game. I'm not seeing a very good product and, in the long run, that's got to hurt the league.
Too many penalties is the No. 1 problem. It's caused me to avert my eyes and my attention. As I've written, I'm not enjoying this season. In my opinion, the league either has to call fewer penalties or coaches have to do a better job of teaching their players not to commit violations. The latter is difficult to do when coaches are hamstrung by the practice rules. Be that as it may, how stupid does a player have to be to commit a hands-to-the-face penalty?
Dave from Savage, MN
I see the Bears are having kicking problems again. I'm not surprised, after the way Coach Nagy handled it, and not disappointed after the way he treated Parkey.
There's an old coach's saying: You get what you emphasize. Nagy emphasized better kicking, just as Mike McCarthy did when he put Mason Crosby into a training camp kicking competition with Giorgio "Don't Call Me Sergio" Tavecchio. It worked for the Packers, it didn't work for the Bears. Nothing has worked for the Bears this year. They're as terrible now as they were the night the season opened.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL
What do you make of the state of the Jaguars? How do you assess the remainder of 2019 and how to approach preparation for 2020?
I think the Jaguars should continue to play Nick Foles with the hope he might get hot and become tradeable. If he doesn't get hot, the Jaguars are stuck with him and the $20 million in guaranteed money they owe him, and the approach to 2020 will be a competition for the starting quarterback job between Foles and Minshew.
Eric from Lansing, MI
The 49ers are a dead man walking. I don’t mean to say the Packers will beat them next week, but their schedule is brutal and they will not walk into the playoffs with fewer than four losses. Am I wrong, Vic?
The 49ers have a demanding finishing schedule, but so do the Seahawks. With a win over the 49ers, the Packers will have the inside track to homefield advantage for the playoffs, but there's still the matter of that Week 16 game in Minnesota. As it stands now, that's the big one. The Packers could beat the 49ers but still find themselves No. 5 in the postseason if they lose in Minnesota. There's a lot of football left to be played and penalties to be called in this season.
Mark from Daphne, AL
With Foles looking that bad, where do the Jaguars go from here? That performance sure didn't raise any potential trade value and he sure didn't give much reason for the fan base to have faith in him going forward.
Let's start by acknowledging the real problem in Sunday's loss to the Colts, which was allowing two 100-yard rushers.
Adrian from Inglewood, CA
"Winning taught me restraint, losing taught me patience." As a Jaguars fan, patience has run thin.
What's your option? Be calm or be gone.
Ann from Mountain View, CA
I enjoy your work. Would you please elaborate on why Rodgers is playing some of the best football of his career? I enjoy watching football but I'm not sufficiently educated to see details.
I think he's playing better because he's more deeply invested. This is his offense. He was given the keys to it and with ownership comes responsibility and accountability. If you're looking for genius in what Coach LaFleur has done with this team, look no further than his handling of Rodgers. A lot of the great players I've covered are control freaks.
Jon from Omaha, NE
Move Kenny Clark outside? OK, let me grab my notepad. So, if you have a dominant defensive lineman that has the size to play all three positions on the line, you would prefer to utilize his skills at one of the ends? How do those positions maximize his talent?
Nose tackles are chopping blocks. They spend most of the game taking on double teams and holding the point of attack, which means they play in a phone booth. You can find those guys in the middle rounds. They're plugs. Clark can move. He can get out in space and disrupt. Those guys are high picks, which Clark is.
Eric from Appleton, WI
It looks like you have a game ball on your desk. If so, would you tell us what game it's from?
It was sent to me with a note from Mark Murphy, thanking me for my service to the Packers and as a souvenir of the years we sat next to each other in the press box and shared our thoughts on what we were seeing. Memories make us rich and memorabilia helps us enjoy our wealth.
Tim from Lancaster, PA
Thursday night doesn't happen if there's no facemask. Is this the rallying cry we need?
The interest and TV ratings for the Browns-Steelers rematch will be intense, which says everything about what the fans really want, but Thursday's game was a feel-bad event that will drive more mothers and their well-adjusted children to the soccer field. There is no rallying cry. The beat goes on.
Rob from New York, NY
Why did Mason Rudolph not get suspended? He was trying to be a big man, but unwilling to face the consequences.
David from Washington, DC
I remember what you said when the Browns drafted Mayfield: "In the AFC North, the quarterback goes down hard and sometimes late." You just got the quarterback wrong!
Wait for it.
Paul from San Antonio, TX
Now that Myles Garrett is suspended at least for the rest of the season, what happens to his impact on the Browns' salary cap?
If you don't pay it, you don't claim it.
Josh from Madison, WI
After Thursday night, I imagine Browns at Steelers will be even more of a physical affair than your typical AFC North bout, but I don't expect the Steelers to take any egregious liberties or cheap shots, as Tomlin seems like the kind of coach to keep his squad focused on their jobs. He kept a firm lid on Antonio Brown for ages, after all. How do you expect this one to pan out?
Coach Noll said the worst thing you can do to a team is beat them.
Scott from Sauk City, WI
Thanks for the new picture! Can you walk us through some of your memorabilia? It looks like quite the collection.
You're only seeing one corner of the room. I also have a game ball from Coach Coughlin, for a game in Houston in 2002. I had missed the game due to cancer surgery. What you're seeing high on the wall are a couple of Christmas gifts from the Packers Media Group division, a picture of Fred Taylor that commemorates his 10,000 yards rushing (Fred personalized it for me), a Steelers helmet my media friends presented me when I went to Jacksonville (the helmet sits on a swatch of artificial turf from Three Rivers Stadium), a picture of Forbes Field that bears Bill Mazeroski's signature near the leftfield wall his home run cleared, and directly in front of my laptop is a picture of Three Rivers Stadium from its final game. Tucked inside the framing is my press box seat placard number, 37. My media buddies scraped it off and sent it to me.
Elizabeth from Sylvania, OH
The Packers defense looked great the first couple of games. What happened?
Up front, I think they got sack fever. They started running around instead of holding their ground. I don't know what the problem is in the back. Maybe I overrated the talent in the secondary.
"Ask Vic will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Cassidy from Carlsbad, CA
The Packers at No. 1?
Why not? They're playing as well as anyone. I put them there to help stimulate analysis and conversation in "Ask Vic" during the bye week, but I probably wouldn't have put them at No. 1 if their next game wasn't against the 49ers. That game will define where the Packers belong. If they win, they're a true No. 1. If they lose, I'll drop them hard because that'll mean they will have lost two of their last three games. Also, the Seahawks are facing a daunting four-game stretch following their bye: at Eagles, Vikings, at Rams, at Panthers. It's that time of the season. Soon, the all-important power rankings won't be important at all. We'll know.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
Can we get a picture of the new rig (laptop) and your setup of where you enjoy writing the columns?
Mark from Wausau, WI
I know it's too early, but which of the AFC and NFC playoff contenders do you think are balanced and talented enough to win the Super Bowl?
I think being a hot team is better than being a balanced team, but being hot and balanced is the best. Go to the top of the power rankings: Packers, Seahawks, 49ers, Saints, Vikings. Those are the teams that can go the distance in the NFC. In the AFC, it's the Ravens and Patriots, but I can see several teams that could get hot at the right time and sweep through the AFC playoffs.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
What's the hardest part of life?
Josh from Athens, GA
Vic, you scared me for a second. I once asked if you would invite your readers to your funeral; your answer was you'd let me know when you died, so I'm glad to know you didn't break your promise. With that said, it seems Kenny Clark is just as important as our outside pass rush. Whether against the run or pass, it seems his penetration really hides the lack of explosiveness and strength of our inside linebackers. Martinez makes plenty of tackles, but without Clark, he looks mediocre.
What you're describing is the job of a nose tackle. Joel Steed is the best I covered and he labored in near anonymity. Clark has talent beyond absorbing double teams and keeping the blockers off the inside linebackers. I can see the Packers moving him outside.
Joe from DeForest, WI
Maybe I'm spoiled from teams of the past, but to me this Packers team still doesn't pass the eye test. The offense is still a work in progress and to me the "bend but don't break" defensive philosophy means the team got lucky with a turnover. What happens when the luck runs out?
This is my bye-week evaluation of the Packers: The offense is top notch. It can beat you with the pass or the run. The defense is allowing too many yards; No. 28 in total defense raises major alarm bells in me. Yards are time and Aaron Rodgers needs to have the ball in his hands longer. I still believe the defense is destined to play at a higher level, but as it stands right now, the only thing it does well is rush the passer. In my opinion, ignoring the yards being allowed on defense by focusing on the points being denied is whistling past the graveyard.
Shawn from Kissimmee, FL
How do you see the NFC playoff picture folding out this year?
The Packers and Vikings will play for the NFC North title on Dec. 23; the winner will claim the No. 2 spot in the NFC playoffs. The Saints have a favorable closing schedule and will claim the No. 1 spot. The 49ers will be No. 3, the Eagles No. 4, the Packers-Vikings loser No. 5 and the Seahawks No. 6.
Wendell from Porto Alegre, Brazil
How do you compare Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy?
Payton has more influence and decision-making power in personnel matters than McCarthy did. That's the difference.
Derek from Eau Claire, WI
This 2019 version of the Packers has new players, new plays, new coaches, new schedule, new luck (injuries, turnovers, etc.). How important are each of those categories to the 8-2 record?
When does new become old? When losing begins. I remember the feeling of newness when Bill Cowher replaced Chuck Noll. Cowher Power! Everybody was gaga, until the Steelers started losing home playoff games. "Chuck wouldn't have lost those games," fans and media began muttering. Here's why the Packers are winning: Rodgers is the quarterback of old. He's never played better.
Billy from Farmingdale, NY
Why is Fred Taylor not being seriously considered for the Hall of Fame? Additionally, why does It seem like the Jacksonville media only caters toward Boselli's candidacy (also deserving of that honor)? If neither of those two can get in, it begs the question: What does a Jaguars player have to do to be enshrined in Canton?
Let's do this again: Tony had a short career at a position defined by longevity and Fred has a lot of guys in front of him and they have better numbers than he does. In my mind, it's one or the other, not both. When I talk to my friends on the Hall of Fame selection committee, I try to get a feel for who they favor and I play to that guy. If I sense they're leaning toward Tony, I pitch the concept Tony was the best at his position for multiple years in his career. If I sense they favor Fred, I tell them he's the most talented running back I ever covered, and they know I covered Franco Harris. It's going to be a tough sell getting one of these guys in, but the Jaguars franchise needs representation in the Hall of Fame and that might be the best sales pitch of all.
Jon from Bloomfield, NJ
Vic, I'm not telling you anything new, but replay is being used more than ever before and all it appears to have done is make everybody more upset about the things that can't be reviewed. What will be the ultimate conclusion of this negative feedback loop, in your mind?
Football has always been a great teacher for me. Winning taught me restraint, losing taught me patience. Coaches such as Lombardi and Noll were the professors. They neither walked too tall nor bent in despair. The frustration I feel in today's game is teaching me to dismiss football's importance in my life. That might be a good thing, but it doesn't feel that way. I don't like this new game. I don't like replay review and I don't like the barrage of penalties that constantly nullify what I've just seen. It's become a terrible bait and switch that's toying with people's emotions. I won't permit it to toy with mine.
Tim from Normal, IL
Vic, QB Ken Anderson is up for the Hall of Fame via the seniors committee. Stat lovers point to his high completion percentage relative to his peers, being a pioneer of the West Coast offense and a Super Bowl appearance, yet, I don’t recall him ever achieving greatness and his one Super Bowl appearance was a loss to Joe Montana. Is that one loss the difference for him or is there just not enough there for him to get in?
Had Pete Johnson gained one more yard, Kenny would've beaten Montana and Kenny would already be in the Hall of Fame. He is the first "West Coast offense" quarterback and was as good as any quarterback in his era. He played in the same division with the Steelers and in the AFC when the AFC dominated the league. There is no quarterback in the time I covered the NFL for whom I have more regard for his talent and performance than I do for Ken. He absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame.
Curt from York, PA
Vic, I realize your power rankings are only semi-serious but I was surprised to see the Steelers only at 16 after beating the Rams. Is that because you think the Steelers are not for real or the Rams are not for real so beating them is no big deal?
It's because I think the Steelers are the 16th-best team in the NFL. It's illogical to expect to continue returning interceptions and fumble recoveries for touchdowns. The Steelers need to run the ball. That's what stands between them and their true identity.
Tim from Kennewick, WA
Now that we are a tad over halfway through the season, what appears to be the Packers' biggest needs? My take: 1) receiver, 2) inside linebacker, 3) defensive line.
1) Offensive tackle, 2) inside linebacker, 3) defensive end.
Brett from Jacksonville Beach, FL
Vic, what's your opinion on the college rankings the last two weeks?
The playoff system hasn't changed anything. The road to the national championship still runs through a subjective rankings that employs no system other than opinion. College football is a bad product.
John from Indianapolis, IN
You've taught us help is not on the way. That said, have you ever seen a team improve its run defense midseason, whether it be from coaching, scheming personnel or individual improvement in execution?
Why do I have the feeling you know the answer to this question and you're testing me. Yes, I saw the Colts go from a defense that allowed 375 yards rushing to the Jaguars late in the season to a defense that out-played Peyton Manning in the team's run to the Super Bowl title. What was the catalyst to that improvement? The return of safety Bob Sanders. Scheme? In the 1974 postseason, defensive line coach George Perles cocked Joe Greene at an angle over the guard and center in a defense Perles would dub the "Stunt 4-3." It turned a great defense into possibly the greatest defense of all time. Those examples are proof change can happen, but they are the exception, not the rule.
Maria from Jacksonville, FL
Who does Joe Burrow remind you of?
He's got some Bradshaw in him.
Roger from Auburn, CA
So how about the ending of that Browns/Steelers game? Do you think that ultimately happened because of a lack of leadership from the coaching staff? To his credit, Baker Mayfield blasted his teammate after the game.
I look forward to the rematch.
"Ask Vic will publish on M-W-F during the football season.
Yeah, "Ask Vic" is back. The column left the island this morning to purchase a new laptop. Thanks, folks, for your concern. After preparing the new laptop for publishing, I put together an all-important power rankings for your enjoyment. Regular publishing will begin on Friday.
Here are the Week 11 "Ask Vic" all-important power rankings:
1. Packers -- Thanks for being patient.
2. Seahawks -- They win the big ones.
3. 49ers -- Riding too high in the saddle.
4. Ravens -- Feeling real good about themselves.
5. Patriots -- Eagles will be a tough out.
6. Saints -- What's with Brees?
7. Vikings -- They could get on a roll, too.
8. Rams -- Bring back Jeff Fisher.
9. Eagles -- Patriots, Seahawks back to back.
10. Texans -- Will they "arrive" in Baltimore?
11. Bills -- They let one get away.
12. Chiefs -- "Charmin Curtain" falls again.
13. Cowboys -- Not who we thought they were; they never are.
14. Panthers -- Establishing a future.
15. Titans -- Time to make a run.
16. Steelers -- Above .500.
17. Raiders -- They're in the hunt.
18. Chargers -- Can they take down the Chiefs?
19. Colts -- Just another team.
20. Jaguars -- Must-win game in Indianapolis.
21. Bears -- Trubisky comes to life.
22. Broncos -- Better than I expected.
23. Browns -- Late-season rally.
24. Lions -- It's over.
25. Falcons -- Where was that?
26. Bucs -- On the rise.
27. Cardinals -- They'll get hammered in San Francisco.
28. Dolphins -- Tank this!
29. Jets -- No, Sam, not a playoff contender.
30. Giants -- Arrow pointing sideways.
31. Washington -- The end is in sight.
32. Bengals -- Tanking for Joe Burrow.
"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F through the football season.
John from Jacksonville Beach, FL
Do you really think Marrone is on the hot seat and could be fired at the end of the season? He has guided the team through an injury to Foles, Ramsey quitting on the team and then being traded, and they're still in the hunt. Marrone manages the game well, is excellent using his challenges, and always seems to have all his times out at his disposal. Gus Bradley was the opposite of Marrone and he got plenty of time. What is your opinion?
You are the first reader in "Ask Vic" history to use the plural of time out correctly. If you did it to make me feel good, thanks. As for Doug Marrone, I agree with everything you say. I like him as a coach and I hope his team responds for him in what's left of this season because I have to believe that's what it's going to take to save his job. You know how these things go. Today's sports culture doesn't allow for justifying defeat.
Richard from Clearwater, MN
What has you so sure the Packers will be able to pull off the victory against the Panthers? McCaffrey is their biggest play-making threat, and that would go against the Packers' biggest weakness.
Being in the Charleston TV market, I see a lot of Panthers games. They just don't impress me other than for being a survivor. They've beaten the Bucs, the Cardinals and a couple of other teams struggling to find an identity. The Panthers were embarrassed by the 49ers. I think the game at Green Bay is just too big of a challenge for the Panthers.
Zach from Butte, MT
Vic, I was wondering what your thoughts on the MLB umpire situation are. People calling for automated strike zones and now they're trying it in the minor leagues. I'm getting fed up with all this nonsense in sports further removing the human element.
I was never a big fan of the "you didn't play the game" comment. I always thought it was a smug way for people who've played a sport to separate themselves from those who didn't play but still love that sport. I'm sorry to say I'm beginning to believe there's some truth in that separation. I've come to believe those who've played the game have a better feel for athletic competition, a greater regard for the integrity of the game and the feeling that goes with knowing you did your best and, therefore, are able to accept defeat gracefully. I wish all fans were of that mind. The crybabies are ruining sports.
Stephan from Vienna, Austria
Vic, what is a game plan? May you describe it for us readers who never played football?
I would be happy to explain it for you. In a normal work week, Tuesday is the players' off day. As soon as the coaches do the review work with the players on Monday and get them out of the building, the coaching staff goes to work on preparing a game plan for the next opponent. The process begins by evaluating tape of the opponent's last three games; the pro personnel department's advance scout, who has scouted the opponent in person, goes back even farther. The process is highlighted by determining where your team will enjoy scheme and personnel advantages, and then fitting the scheme to the personnel to create a design for the defense and a play-call sheet for the offense. The same is done for special teams. Tuesday is a long day for the coaches; it can stretch into the late hours. The following morning, the coach presents the game plan to the team. Figuratively and maybe even literally, he tells the team, "This is what we're going to do and this is how we're going to do it." That's what players want to hear, not a pep talk but a plan that makes it crystal clear what the expectation is for every player on the roster. That thing the coach uses to cover his mouth on game day is his play-call sheet. It includes the plays he and his staff have picked to be used in the game, and they are the plays that were practiced during the week.
Mike from Charlotte, NC
Vic, it was definitely not Capers and it definitely is not Pettine. The Packers are stocked but they still stink. Pettine doesn't play soft zone, so who is telling him he has to play soft zone? Who's the meddler in the team affairs that is not a coach? I know that sounds like a conspiracy, and I don't think it is direct meddling, but we've gone through multiple coaches and the problem is still the same.
I don't see soft zones. I see press man to man. That's what Coach Capers played and that's what Jaire Alexander was playing when he was beaten over the middle in Dallas but intercepted the pass because it was thrown behind the intended receiver. Was Kevin King playing a soft zone when he broke up that pass near the end zone this past Sunday? Please, everyone, believe me when I say scheme isn't the problem. It wasn't the problem when Capers was the Packers' defensive coordinator and it's not the problem now that Mike Pettine is the defensive coordinator.
Steve from Montclair, NJ
What kind of feelings do fans in your neck of the woods have on the current state of the Panthers and the game this weekend?
There's not a lot of interest in the Panthers where I live. This is college football country. Edisto Beach is the official beach of the Clemson Tigers. Their fans come here on weekends to gather and watch the Tigers on TV. They bring a five-dollar bill and a pair of underwear and they don't change either.
Ben from Albuquerque, NM
I was wondering how much coaching does a head coach actually do? I'm talking actual coaching, fundamentals and the like, not delegating responsibilities down the line, which I'm certain has to be most of the job.
Coach Noll was deeply involved in coaching the offensive line. He loved teaching pad level, hand placement, etc. Nobody could teach a trap play like Coach Noll did. Bill Cowher was hands-on when it came to defense and special teams play. Tom Coughlin was all about the passing game. In skeleton and two-minute drill, his voice could be heard above everyone's. Jack Del Rio was about defense, especially the front seven. Mike McCarthy was similar to Coughlin, without the booming voice.
Jeffeory from Bloomington, IL
With chatter of the NFL moving a team to London, how would home vs. away games work? Flying for eight games to the U.S. would surely be a huge disadvantage?
We've discussed this previously. A London team would be based in Florida, where it would have its headquarters and training facility. It would fly to London to play and then return to Florida to live and practice. In a two-home, two-away routine, a full-time London team would only have to make four trips overseas. Scheduling could be accomplished that would address and defeat distance and time zone issues. I don't think the NFL is ready to put a full-time team in London, but I expect the league to expand its presence and begin to establish a rooting interest in London. A full-time team in London is going to happen. It's just a matter of when.
Josh from Wilmington, DE
What happens if Foles doesn’t play well?
In that case, the Jaguars would be unlikely to trade him and competition at quarterback between Foles and Minshew would begin.
Scott from Hamlin, NY
Why aren't the Browns living up to expectations?
Look at their opening schedule: Rams, Ravens (Browns beat them), 49ers, Seahawks and Patriots. I get the sense they weren't ready for that challenge. The Browns have talent. I expect them to win the next three.
Mike from Berlin, WI
Vic, everyone seems to be blaming the Packers defense for the debacle in Los Angeles. It seems to me in today's NFL holding the opposition to field goals until late in the game is a win our future Hall of Fame quarterback needs to take advantage of. What am I missing?
You're missing time of possession, but I would also agree the quarterback didn't play well. Hey, yards translate to time. The notion only points matter is baloney.
David from Jerusalem, Israel
Is this the beginning of a slump or a bump in the road?
The Packers will recover from this defeat. I'm not as concerned about a slump as much as I'm concerned about the Packers' identity. Are they going back to what they were?
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
I was just flipping through the channels when I saw the last 50 seconds of the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma game. That was my first Game of the Century and I wasn't able to watch it at the time because we didn't have ABC. I have never seen the game and I am shaking my head now, thinking how close I was to finally witnessing history (50 years late). Dan Jenkins wrote about TCU-SMU from the '30's. I read a book about Carlisle-Army (Jim Thorpe-Dwight Eisenhower). I've read about the controversial MSU-ND tie. Do you have a personal GOTC?
I've heard tales of the Pitt-Fordham scoreless ties, three of the most brutally physical games in college football history, during which Vince Lombardi (Seven Blocks of Granite) lost his front teeth and then made the game-saving tackle on the goal line. Every era and region of the country has its game of the century. How about O.J. vs. Gary Beban in 1967? Texas vs. Arkansas in 1969? Nobody told that story better than Beano Cook, who arranged the game to be moved or it never would've been more than just another big game early in the season. For me, Notre Dame at Michigan State in 1966 will forever be my game of the century. No game ever enjoyed more hype. It began in the offseason. I waited a year with excitement for that game to be played.
Jimmy from Chicago, IL
Vic, give it to us straight. Do you feel this Packers team is soft, or does it have the grit to make a run?
It has the passing game and the pass rush to make a run. Everything else needs to improve.
K.C. from Miami, FL
Before it was the Jaguars who were moving to London, and maybe that might still be the case, but now it's the Chargers in talks of moving to London. Do you see the NFL eventually having a permanent team in London in the foreseeable future, perhaps within the next decade?
The Chargers are not moving anywhere in the foreseeable future. Down the road, maybe, but not for the next several years. Stan Kroenke isn't going to allow the Chargers to break their lease for the new stadium in Los Angeles. Kroenke absolutely must have a second tenant. That Chargers to London story, which was refuted in no uncertain terms by Chargers owner Dean Spanos, might've been planted by the Rams. The battle for LA is on!
Saif from Washington, DC
How would you rate Jacksonville's front office personnel in terms of drafting, free-agent acquisitions and letting players go? I'm specifically wondering about Caldwell and Coughlin.
They drafted Minshew in the sixth round and they traded Ramsey for two ones. I'd say they had a pretty good year.
Robert from Plymouth, WI
I bet a lot of questions are coming in about the Packers losing the game on Friday. I bet you have stories to share about players letting loose the weekend of the game. Any that you would like to share?
If I was a head coach, I would never fly to the West Coast on Friday for a game on Sunday. That extra day can be a killer. Friday is party night for the players. I remember a Jaguars trip to Seattle on a Friday for a Sunday game. One guy never made it back to the hotel on Friday night. He was suspended for the game, which immediately caused a distraction. I think Coach Cowher had a great idea. One year, the Steelers didn't leave for San Diego until it was late enough on Saturday that when they arrived in California it was nearly bedtime in Pittsburgh. They landed, they went to bed, they got up and beat the Chargers 23-6. That circadian rhythm stuff is baloney.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, how do you expect the Packers to rebound against Carolina?
Stern from Cedar Rapids, IA
Vic, I'm willing to hear your point, if you disagree. Please allow me to respond to your global warming question with this: If Al Gore and other leaders really considered this a danger …
It was a joke, Stern.
Jackson from Wauwatosa, WI
The Packers played their worst game of the season on a day everyone else in the NFC North lost. Is the lucky streak still alive? The breaks keep falling Green Bay’s way, even after a game like that.
They have certainly been living a charmed life.
Paul Frase is a former Packers and Jaguars player whose son, Joshua, was born with a debilitating disease that cost him his life and committed Paul to the pursuit of finding a cure. I know Paul from our days in Jacksonville and Paul reached out to me this week and asked me to invite my readers to watch "Something's Killing Me" on CNN HLN this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.