Here are my Week 17 power rankings:
1. Eagles – Is Nick Foles Jeff Hostetler reincarnate?
2. Patriots – Al Riveron team MVP.
3. Rams – Jeff Fisher left them in good stead.
4. Steelers – Haden's return helps.
5. Saints – NFC South title on the line.
6. Panthers – Newton vs. Ryan.
7. Vikings – Keenum is not "The Man."
8. Jaguars – Clowney was right this past Sunday.
9. Chiefs – Getting hot at the right time.
10. Falcons – Clinging to life.
11. Ravens – Still don't have that Ravens look.
12. Bills – Riveron victim in New England.
13. Chargers – Loss in Jax is the killer.
14. Seahawks – Might squeak in.
15. Titans – Big questions about Mariota.
16. Lions – Choked at crunch time again.
17. Cowboys – Greatly underachieved.
18. 49ers – Making a statement for next year.
19. Dolphins – Never really threatened in 2017.
20. Packers – Shut out twice at home.
21. Cardinals – Fitzgerald era winding down?
22. Bengals – Will they play hard against Ravens?
23. Raiders – Most disappointing team in AFC.
24. Jets – Enough grit left to upset Patriots?
25. Redskins – Decisions upcoming.
26. Broncos – Little on which to build.
27. Bears – Next year could be their year.
28. Bucs – Winston is out of control.
29. Texans – Going through the motions.
30. Colts – Pagano didn't have a chance.
31. Giants – Blow it up.
32. Browns – What if the season was 32 games long?
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, at least we don't have to cut and gut. We still have a healthy cap.
The Packers have a healthy cap and the nucleus of what I consider to be support talent. By that I mean players who only need a star player to be added here and there to dramatically raise the overall performance. For example, a star pass rusher would make the secondary a significantly better unit. Find a star and add depth. In my opinion, that should be the goal in the next draft.
Corey from Las Vegas, NV
Do you think the Patriots should have kept Jimmy Garoppolo?
This is becoming an intriguing story. Is Garoppolo the real thing? That's the question that has to be answered and it's an intriguing question as it applies to two teams. For the 49ers to answer that question, they're going to have to make a major financial and salary cap commitment to Garoppolo. If the answer to the question is no, the 49ers will have suffered a major setback that could even result in change at the top. If the answer is yes, the 49ers will be set for the future and the Patriots could find themselves bemoaning theirs. Never trade "The Man," especially when your man is nearly 40 years old. Bill Belichick doesn't need to be told that, and that's why I'm still skeptical of Garoppolo. I'm not buying there was no way to get a deal done; there's always a way.
Hans from Manassas, VA
What current NFL team do you think exhibits the model the Packers should follow to try to regain and maintain their recent level of success? Or do they just need some good luck?
The Packers are the model. They just need to move up in the draft to where the talent is. The hit percentage is significantly higher when you move up.
Connor from Greenville, SC
It’s Gronkowski, not Brady.
Then it would also have to be Troy Brown, not Brady. David Givens, not Brady. Deion Branch, not Brady. Randy Moss (at the end of his career), not Brady. Reche Caldwell, not Brady. Wes Welker, not Brady. And a whole lot more, not Bradys. Connor, if Belichick had to pick between Brady and Gronkowski, he'd pick Brady. That's why there's been a revolving door of receivers in New England. It's Brady.
Dallas from St. Ignace, NB
I'm old enough to remember the win over the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl. I understand the disappointment we feel at missing the playoffs, but not the rage, anger and desire to make someone pay so evident among so many fans. I understand how a person could lose perspective in a real crisis (death of a loved one, serious illness, etc.), but this is football and, come what may, everyone gets another kick at the cat next year. Why do fans blow a gasket over what, in the final analysis, is only a game?
I worry about the fans. This has become too important. They've lost their sense of balance. What happened to the Packers this season is easily explained and nearly unavoidable. It was just a matter of when Aaron Rodgers would get hurt.
Jason from Menomonee Falls, WI
On a positive note, you’ve got to feel good about our defensive line group. Can you build a defensive identity around that?
In a 4-3, yeah: Fearsome Foursome, Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain. In a 3-4, no. Three-man fronts are two-gappers. They eat blocks and hold the point of attack instead of rushing the passer. In a 3-4, the linebackers are the identity. Blitzburgh is an example. The Packers need more impactful linebackers, if the team is going to continue to play a 3-4.
Beaux from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, I remember you writing many years ago that Keenan McCardell was going to make a great coach. Don’t look now but the Jaguars just keep plugging in new bodies at wide receiver, and they’ve all been producing. What was it that made you realize Keenan would become such a good NFL coach, and are there any other former players you’ve covered who we should keep an eye on?
Keenan can't live without football. It's his life. I easily saw that in him and that's how I knew he would be a good coach. It's what you do when you can't live without it. Keenan was always available for an interview. When players are that accessible, it means they want to talk about football. I wish there were more players like that. I was at the Hall of Fame to cover an induction ceremony a few years ago -- I think it was Dave Robinson's. In a terribly crowded room, I heard someone call out to me. I looked around but couldn't see who was doing it. I heard it again, and then I saw Keenan. He had a big smile on his face and we embraced. I love the old guys.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
What did you think of Gene Steratore pulling out a piece of paper to litmus test a first down? It was one of the most unique moments I ever saw in a NFL game.
I thought it was fine. I thought it was an example of a common sense ruling and we need more of it. I think Steratore is the best referee in the game. I think he should replace Al "Replay" Riveron as the review boss.
Josh from Tucson, AZ
"You find football players where you find football players," and "wide receivers are a dime a dozen." Two quotes that have never been more accurate than after watching the Jags' two undrafted WRs and a fourth-round pick light up the Texans.
You don't draft the school, you draft the player, and get the big guys early.
Morgan from Kaukauna, WI
Who are some junkyard dogs at LB coming out of college? We need a guy who likes to smack a QB when he runs the option.
Jason Cabinda of Penn State.
Brady from Milwaukee, WI
You’ve mentioned in the past receivers are a dime a dozen, but do you see any exceptions who are truly special players?
Antonio Brown is special, but he was the 195th pick of his draft. What does that say?
Bill from Forest Park, OH
Vic, regarding the many (seemingly ever-increasing) complaints over replay review, I'd like to see the system changed to having to review the play utilizing only game-speed video; no more super slo-mo, freeze-frame, high-def technological enhancements. If you can't definitively overturn a call on this basis, then the call stands.
On game day, I'd like to see Al Riveron locked in a room without a TV. What he did to the Bills might be the worst example of replay officiating I've ever seen. As Mike Pereira said, the officials on the field made a great call, and then Riveron canceled it. He took the heart out of the Bills. He needs to go.
Amanda from Villa Rica, GA
What are your predictions for the upcoming College Football Playoffs?
Alabama over Oklahoma in the title game.
Eric from Washington
There isn't a single team in the league that doesn't buy into the draft and develop philosophy. Hard headedness is what leads a team to have a guy like Kyler Fackrell still on the squad. "No one beats the inverse order of the draft," yet, Bill Belichick and the Patriots have secured themselves another first-round bye even while having lost a first-round pick due to infractions. "It's players, not plays." I think Sean McVay and Rams nation might disagree.
That team was built on high picks. It was success waiting to happen. McVay just came along at the right time. Noll, Walsh and Johnson weren't as fortunate. They were a collective 4-42 in their first season as coach. They had to build their teams and, most importantly, beat the fire buzzer. Jeff Fisher didn't beat the buzzer.
Randy from Medicine Hat, AB
You have stated how difficult it is for a college player, even a really talented one, to transition to the NFL. Is it the same for a coach moving up from the college ranks?
It was for Lou Holtz. He didn't even know how the waiver process worked.
Robert from Roscoe, IL
Vic, looking to next season, which direction is the Packers' arrow pointing?
It's pointing down right now. If they draft well, it'll immediately turn upward. You are what you draft.
Brooks from Oklahoma City, OK
Vic, Is the main difference between the 2014 roster and the 2017 roster a healthy Aaron Rodgers and Julius Peppers?
Three years is a long time in the NFL. You're talking about three more years at the bottom of the draft order, and three more years the Vikings were closer to the top of it. It's the old saying: If you're not getting better you're getting worse because your competition is getting better. Three years ago Eddie Lacy was a star and teams were playing single-high safety to get that eighth defender down in the box to stop him, which helped open the passing lanes for Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, who wasn't coming off an ACL injury. Three years ago, the Packers had Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde on their roster; they hadn't lost those two players and T.J. Lang to free agency. When you win, you draft lower and your players' successes cost you more, which forces you to let them leave in free agency. The inevitability of the system can only be defeated by "The Man," which Rodgers had done until he was injured this season. I don't know why so many fans are struggling to understand what happened. Time and winning happened.
Bill from Menominee, WI
"When performance is not the equal of the talent available to the coach, it's time to find a new coach." I always defended Dom Capers, saying he would be hired immediately elsewhere if he were let go because he was too good to go unemployed at the NFL level. But after looking at players like Walden, Hyde, Hayward and Williams being released to become difference-makers elsewhere after being average or slightly above in Green Bay, it's getting harder to defend Capers with such a disconnect between drafted talent and scheme. It just seems like the same deficiencies are exposed year after year.
Forgive me, Bill, but you have lit a fuse in me. Casey Hayward was the Packers' rookie of the year in 2012 with six interceptions and 21 passes defensed. A crippling hamstring injury limited him to only three games played in '13 and then dogged him through his final two seasons with the Packers. That's Coach Capers' fault? Micah Hyde was an ultra-productive player for the Packers. He intercepted eight passes and defensed 22 passes as a part-time starter in his final three years in Green Bay. The Packers allowed him to leave in free agency because they had drafted HaHa and Randall in the first round and Rollins in the second round in consecutive drafts and couldn't find a place to play Hyde that would justify the money they'd have to pay him. That's Coach Capers' fault? Tramon Williams came to the Packers after being cut by the Texans and he became a fixture at cornerback in Green Bay. I don't recall him becoming a difference-maker in Cleveland or Arizona, but who would forget what he did for the Packers in the 2010 season? He was allowed to leave in free agency because the Packers needed to get younger in the secondary. That's Coach Capers' fault? Erik Walden came to the Packers after being cut by the Cowboys, Chiefs and Dolphins. An off-the-field event did much to seal Walden's fate in Green Bay. That's Coach Capers' fault? How about Datone Jones, Jerrell Worthy, Josh Boyd, Khyri Thornton and Christian Ringo? Have any of them become difference-makers somewhere else? I think you all might get your cup of blood this year, because I don't know how Mike McCarthy can withstand another year of the howl, but this problem is not Coach Capers' fault.