"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F through the football season.
Here are my all-important Week 9 power rankings:
1. Chiefs -- They're the champs.
2. Steelers -- Big Ben big at crunch time.
3. Seahawks -- Wilson MVP favorite.
4. Ravens -- Showdown of 5-2 teams in Indy.
5. Bucs -- Week 9 showdown with Saints.
6. Saints -- Know how to win.
7. Titans -- Defense needs attention.
8. Raiders -- Critical stretch of schedule.
9. Colts -- Can Rivers take down the Ravens?
10. Packers -- More than a game in San Francisco.
11. Bills -- Not winning impressively.
12. Cardinals -- In position to make a run.
13. 49ers -- Struggling.
14. Rams -- Remember when McVay was a genius?
15. Browns -- Is Mayfield "The Man?"
16. Bears -- They need a laxative.
17. Panthers -- They play hard for Rhule.
18. Eagles -- Wentz is holding them back.
19. Lions -- One step forward, two steps back.
20. Dolphins -- It wasn't Tua.
21. Vikings -- Can they make a run?
22. Broncos -- Lock comes to life.
23. Patriots -- Could they lose to the Jets?
24. Chargers -- Just can't figure it out.
25. Bengals -- More wins on the way.
26. Falcons -- Justin Fields would be a good pick.
27. Giants -- Best 1-7 team in the league.
28. Washington -- Wandering aimlessly.
29. Texans -- Poor J.J. Watt.
30. Cowboys -- Too late to tank for the top pick.
31. Jaguars -- Might be last chance to win.
32. Jets -- Gase vs. Belichick.
Richard from Boulder, CO
I noticed you did not include Tom Coughlin on your list of great talent evaluators. Would you include him on your list of good talent evaluators or somewhat farther down the scale?
I didn't include Bill Cowher, either, and Cowher was an outstanding evaluator of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. What I said is all coaches have to be good evaluators of talent because that's what's required to scheme personnel; create and avoid mismatches. Tom Coughlin was a one-voice coach/GM in Jacksonville. His draft picks included Tony Boselli, Tony Brackens, Fred Taylor, Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. He also traded for Mark Brunell and signed Jimmy Smith as a street free agent. Tom was an outstanding evaluator of talent. His blemishes as a GM were the result of his impatience and mania to address need. He once said to me, "The draft is all about need." He saw me wince. Tom needed a defensive tackle and a cornerback heading into the 1999 season, and he spent six of his eight picks in that draft on those two positions.
Mike from Indiana
Vic, you've criticized those who complain about Pettine, saying, in short, it comes down to players. How, then, should a defensive coordinator be judged? Does it take more football knowledge than I have to know whether or not a unit is under or over-performing, based on the talent they have?
If you can watch Za'Darius Smith run around blocks and not understand why the Packers can't stop the run, then the answer to your question is yes, it does. Be that as it may, Pettine is not without blame. He signed off on the acquisition of Za'Darius Smith. Pettine was all out to improve the pass rush and, in the process, he worsened an already bad run defense. I think Pettine is the victim of the belief he could draw it up; he could scheme to stop the run. He should've known better.
Pete from Los Angeles, CA
Am I incorrect that this is a rebuild, with the goal being a post-Rodgers team of a different character? The lack of moves and the draft seem to be yelling this, yet, the fan base acts like it's all supposed to happen now.
It's a rebuild and the quarterback is screwing it up because he's so good he's keeping the Packers at the bottom of the draft order.
Mark from Sturgeon Bay, WI
In a column about Herb Adderley passing, it was mentioned that in his book he said Tom Landry would rather play white players, even if the (black) player was better. Do you recall that dynamic and, if so, was it prevalent back in the late '60's early '70's?
The color line in college football in the South existed through the '60's. Landry might've faced pressure to favor white players. It all changed in the early '70's. It was a time of social unrest; I lived it at Kent State. Young people protested everything from the war to social injustice, and the walls came tumbling down. Adderley's career ended as equality was beginning.
Sam from Olathe, KS
Why can't Jim Harbaugh win rivalry games or bowl games that matter at Michigan?
He's being out-recruited.
Zahir from London, UK
Do you think the 49ers will throw it fewer than eight times on Thursday night?
These aren't the same 49ers the Packers faced twice last season. Garoppolo is injured, Kittle is out, Bosa is gone; I'm not sure what to expect.
Jonathan from Southern Pines, NC
I know your inbox is going to be full of crying Packers fans, but how about those Pittsburgh Steelers? All last year you seemed to throw nothing but shade at them. Even going 8-8 with an incredible defense and ducks and reindeers at quarterback. This year it's been, oh Tennessee, oh Baltimore, big boy football. Well the Steelers have whipped both of them in back-to-back weeks. Ready to stop throwing shade or is what they've done not good enough for you?
Throw shade? You are soft and whiny. The Steelers are not soft and whiny.
Brian from Neenah, WI
Thank you for allowing me to join your fraternity. Your column brings me great joy. Here is a quote I read I wanted to share with you. "The past may win for awhile, but the future always gets the last word." Change is good.
The future is for living. The past is for reliving.
Rob from Superior, CO
What's the most important thing you thought about when you woke up this morning?
I had a bad day at the range on Monday. I thought about it all night. Then it came to me in the wee hours: You're not setting your right shoulder low enough. After I voted, I went straight to the range. It was the right shoulder. If you don't set it low enough, you can't swing under your chin, only around it. I instantly felt better.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, it's not who you play but when you play them?
There's some truth to that.
Maxwell from Milwaukee, WI
What's your take on Belichick's "sell out for Super Bowls" comment? is it a fair assessment?
The Patriots made all of the right moves. They rode the train as long as they could. Rebuilding is inevitable. Did fans actually think the Patriots would continue to win without Brady?
Clay from Council Bluffs, IA
Why do you feel Green Bay got away from running the ball after the first half? Their pass-to-run ratio was pretty even and they were moving the ball.
It's not in the Packers' DNA to stick to the run.
Bill from Forest Park, OH
You gave us your suggestion for how the Packers can manage their defense for the rest of this season. What is the longer-term solution? Do they just need to draft guys who can tackle?
It's about more than tackling. It's about defeating or beating blocks. If you're playing a two-gapping front, your linemen are asked to hold the point of attack and eat blocks to keep blockers off the linebackers and allow them to run to the ball. If you're playing a gap-control scheme, your down linemen are attempting to penetrate the gaps and disrupt the flow of the play. Each member of the front seven is assigned a gap responsibility; they're called run fits. When I watch the Packers, I see a mix of the two schemes, but sometimes I'm not sure which one they're playing. I don't see a run-defense personality. Kenny Clark can play either scheme. I don't know what the rest of them are playing.