"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F through the football season.
Here are my all-important Week 15 power rankings:
1. Chiefs -- Are they beginning to show some cracks?
2. Packers -- Making it look easy.
3. Rams -- If Goff gets hot, look out.
4. Bills -- Attacking defense.
5. Saints -- They need Brees.
6. Steelers -- Tank is empty.
7. Colts -- Staying within arm's reach.
8. Titans -- Henry must lead the way.
9. Seahawks -- Wilson's time of year.
10. Ravens -- Jackson is back!
11. Browns -- Defense collapses.
12. Bucs -- Winning unimpressively.
13. Dolphins -- Can they finish?
14. Cardinals -- Middle of the road.
15. Washington -- You don't wanna play them.
16. Patriots -- It won't be the same without you.
17. Vikings -- How's life? They can't kick.
18. Giants -- They miss Barkley badly.
19. Raiders -- Come on, Gruden.
20. Eagles -- Hurts gives them hope.
21. 49ers -- They need to address quarterback.
22. Broncos -- Lock has the look.
23. Bears -- They win the little ones.
24. Panthers -- Out of gas.
25. Chargers -- Next year could be good.
26. Cowboys -- Showing some grit.
27. Texans -- Stink!
28. Bengals -- Better than you think.
29. Falcons -- Light the fuse.
30. Lions -- A truly pathetic situation.
31. Jaguars -- Soon Minshew won't be "The Man."
32. Jets -- They're gonna do it.
Benjamin from Kershaw, SC
The Jaguars have two picks in each of the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL draft. Assuming Lawrence is gone and the next quarterback on your board isn't worth the second overall pick, would you rather try to trade back to get your QB or trade up from your second first-round pick and use the second overall to get the best defensive or offensive lineman in the class?
You target the quarterback you want and you move to where he fits. The difficult part is quarterback is a grossly overdrafted position and the Jaguars may have to use the second overall pick to get the guy they want. Unless somebody jumps up, using the second overall pick on a guy who doesn't belong there would bother me. Let's give it more time before we answer this question.
Daniel from Johnston, IA
What happened to Pittsburgh's run game? They started the season with five straight 100-yard games and now they've been under 50 in five of the last seven and under four yards per carry in each of the last nine.
They shrunk the field. They've been so determined to get the ball out quickly they're now playing on a 10-yard field. Defenses are able to load the box without intentionally trying to load the box. It's hurting the passing game now, too. I sense a lack of confidence the offensive line can protect Roethlisberger, thus the short passing game, but the Steelers' run game won't recover until Roethlisberger begins throwing the ball downfield, as he always had. The Steelers need to move the safeties away from the line of scrimmage and encourage linebackers to take deeper drops. Sean McDermott completely exposed the Steelers' problems as a result of too much emphasis on the short passing game. So did Washington.
Dan from Madison, WI
A lot gets made of football players who are tough or mean. Are there any nice guys who find success?
Larry Fitzgerald is the guy. He's the player the NFL would love for every player to be: a law-abiding, civic-minded, outgoing, distinguished, well mannered, well spoken and understated star.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
Are the Packers this good or are the teams they're beating that bad?
Media and fans have always been guilty of building teams up to tear them down, and it bothers me because it's unfair and it feels bad. It almost feels duplicitous. What I know to be true from my time in sports is teams on top are headed for a fall and teams at the bottom will one day rise. The only issue is when it will happen. A few weeks ago the Steelers were undefeated and everybody was singing their praise; now they're overrated. Well who overrated them? For the record, I never wanted to do power rankings but my readers begged for them and I relented. I tried my best to make light of their importance and treat them with comic relief, but that resulted in an asterisk that could've cost me my job. Not too long ago the Packers were trashed for a poor performance against the Bucs. Now, I sense chortling in my inbox. Please, folks, don't make that mistake. Remember "Shade Man?" The Steelers haven't been the same since. Are the Packers this good or are the teams they're beating that bad? Only the postseason can answer that question.
Matt from Houston, TX
Who was the best running back who never got to play with an elite quarterback?
Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson come to mind.
Eric from Colorado Springs, CO
They can't punish Dan Snyder without punishing Robert Kraft. How much power does Kraft have? All the cheating, the lies and now sex trafficking. What does that say about the integrity of the NFL? As you say, the NFL is America. It makes me sick and ashamed.
Morgan from Little Chute, WI
How would the 49ers have been different this year had they picked Love instead of Ayuik?
This is the kind of question I like. It digs deeper than what's wrong with the Packers defense. It's the kind of question a true football fan, a student of the game asks. Were the 49ers drafting for need? Or by passing on Love were they telling us they didn't like him as a prospect? You've asked a question that begs more questions. Thanks for being a football person, not just a football fan.
Jack from Middleton, WI
Would your inbox prefer Rodgers retire a Packer instead of being traded for assets?
Of course! Go Pack Go!
Paul from Cumming, GA
A new picture in front of a scenic stream; where's Vic?
In Smoky Mountains National Park near Townsend, TN.
John from St. Augustine, FL
Is it too early for Tony Pauline to tell us what he thinks of Fields, Trask, Lance? I can appreciate a good GM might trade out of the Jaguars No. 2 spot and select a QB in his proper place, but you and I know that isn’t going to happen.
Tony loves Fields: "Athletic but a good passer and not just a good athlete playing quarterback in college. Smart and tough. He would be in the conversation as the No. 1 pick if it weren't for Lawrence."
Dave from Madison, WI
Vic, you said the Packers know what they have in Jordan Love. I'm guessing that's because they see him in practice every day. Do you remember any players that came in highly regarded and once they got to practice the coaches looked at each other and said uh-oh?
Franco Harris and Fred Taylor.
Jeremy from De Soto, KS
I think of you and laugh every time I hear "it's thiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrd down." The cardboard cutouts of people don't seem to get very hyped.
What happens if there's a hard rain? Does the ink begin to run like Giuliani's hair dye?
Robert from Amston, CT
Cris Collinsworth mentioned secondary players tackling with their shoulders and not wrapping up to prevent injuries. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on tackling.
I've explained this several times. Players don't wrap up because they're trying to avoid rib and other upper torso injuries that might result from exposing that part of their body to contact. The streamlining of equipment is the problem. The more protection is lessened, the more players are vulnerable to injury. It's speed/maneuverability vs. player protection -- you might even say player safety -- and speed/maneuverability is the overwhelming choice.
Roger from Chesterton, IN
Can the Steelers recover from their three-game stretch without a bye week? Could that have seriously impacted their ability to win in the playoffs?
They were forced to take their bye in Week 4 due to the Titans' reckless Covid behavior, and the Steelers have played a murderous schedule since then, including four road games in five weeks and a Wednesday afternoon game that had been moved four times from its scheduled Thanksgiving Day slot. They caught Washington just as it was getting hot, were the victims of an officiating gaffe that changed that game, and completely fell apart most recently on a snowy night in Buffalo with four starting linebackers and cornerback Joe Hayden sidelined. The football gods have not been kind to the Steelers, but Cleveland's loss on Monday night put the Steelers in position to clinch the AFC North title with a win this week. The Steelers need to clinch and then spend the next two weeks resting players.
Richard from Clearwater, MN
Aaron Jones has reportedly selected Drew Rosenhaus to be his new agent. Knowing Drew's penchant for getting top dollar for his clients, do you anticipate this year being it for Jones in Green Bay?
If the Packers want to keep Jones, they can create the cap room to do it by restructuring Rodgers. It's a matter of whether or not the Packers want to push more money out and commit more of their future to the present. All in, half in or all out? These are the kinds of delicate but dynamic decisions GMs face and they must be the product of careful long-range planning.
Wes from San Antonio, TX
Vic, a lot of people are high on the Browns this season but, at 9-4, they currently have a -20 point differential. They are obviously winning a lot of close games, but is there more to this? Does their record or their points differential say more about who the Browns really are?
The reason for the Browns' negative points differential is they've allowed 123 points in their three games against the Ravens and Steelers, which represent three of the Browns' four losses. That's not AFC North football. There are a lot of high picks on that defense, beginning with Myles Garrett, a first overall pick who's totaled just one sack in those three games. The Browns' arrow is pointing straight up. They have a star running back behind a road-grading offensive line, and quarterback Baker Mayfield is making a move on the top tier of NFL quarterbacks. The Browns are almost certain to make it into the playoffs and they still have a chance to win the division title. Their future is bright, but it must begin with playing better defense, especially against the Ravens and Steelers.