Here are my Week 16 power rankings:
1. Eagles – Foles passes first test.
2. Patriots – Got lucky.
3. Rams – On the move up.
4. Panthers – Newton made the big plays.
5. Jaguars – New power in the AFC?
6. Steelers – Defense has become a problem.
7. Saints – Bulky looking against Jets.
8. Vikings – Best overall rankings in the league.
9. Falcons – Big one in New Orleans this week.
10. Ravens – Hanging around.
11. Bills – Have to win at New England.
12. Chiefs – Might be getting their second wind.
13. Lions – Still alive.
14. Chargers – Disappointing in Kansas City.
15. Cowboys – Likely lost season.
16. Seahawks – Where’s the beef?
17. Dolphins – Signature win but nothing else.
18. Packers – Nearing time for evaluation.
19. 49ers – Chance to score signature win against Jaguars.
20. Cardinals – One player would make the difference.
21. Titans – Fading fast.
22. Raiders – More was expected.
23, Jets – Should be high enough to draft “The Man.”
24. Redskins – Effort lacking.
25. Broncos – This is going to take time.
26. Bengals – Have they quit?
27. Bears – Could be a surprise team next year.
28. Bucs – Talent needs to be tamed.
29. Texans – Watson’s injury was the turning point.
30. Colts – Change begins with decision on Luck.
31. Giants – Reinstating Manning solved nothing.
32. Browns – It’s all about their picks.
Dan from Houston, TX
I’m getting the vibe the Seattle, Denver and now Minnesota defenses are the exception and not the rule. What does a team need out of their defense to be successful in today’s NFL?
If you can rush the passer, you can do enough on defense to win with offense. You can stop the run with scheme or tough guys, and you can get by with zone pass coverage, but pass rushers are special and they're difficult to find, pay and keep. That's why they're over-drafted. You must have the ability to affect the quarterback.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
What are your thoughts on the catch rule?
The catch rule, in my opinion, is one of the worst creations in NFL history and the frustration that's accompanying these types of shocking reversals might be costing the NFL customers. My inbox is full of people proclaiming, "I'm done; I'm not watching anymore,” and they’re not sour-grapes Steelers fans because this site is overwhelmingly populated by Packers and Jaguars fans. The catch rule is causing a bad kind of controversy because it’s creating angst. The fans hear over and over phrases such as break the plane, two feet down, possession and control, make a football move, the ground can’t cause a fumble, etc., and then they see Jesse James satisfy every one of those phrases, but that’s not good enough because he “didn’t survive the ground." The call was by the book; replay review worked, except the rule is insane. No person in his right mind would look at that play and say James didn’t catch the ball. It’s an insult to our intelligence it was ruled not a catch. If I was making a presentation to the league on this subject, I would tell them to stop giving the fans joy and then taking it back. That’s not good for business. My message to you, the fan, is don’t let them do it to you. If it bothers you, turn it off and go on with your life. It hurts me deeply to see fans suffer from the idiotic twists and turns of a game meant to provide entertainment.
Mike from Niagara Falls, Canada
I was watching Chuck Noll's episode of "A Football Life,” and Noll's biographer commented on how his best coaching job might have been in 1989. Do you agree with that assessment?
The Steelers began the '89 season with two losses by a combined score of 92-10, and they rallied to come within a dropped pass of the AFC title game. Yes, it was a good coaching job, but I think 1978 was Chuck’s best year. He saw rust beginning to form on his “Steel Curtain” and he shifted from run the ball and play defense to let it rip on offense. Chuck was the first to identify the impact of that year’s rules changes. In so doing, he proved his ability to adapt.
Kris from Rockledge, FL
Vic, I did a quick search on you to see how/what you were doing and found you still doing “Ask Vic.” Good to see you keep doing what you love, even in retirement. I remember looking forward to your columns growing up; your insight and knowledge enhanced my overall football experience tremendously. I used to get a real kick out of your Jaguars Thursday rants with the callers. What team do you think would provide the biggest challenge to the Jaguars in the postseason?
Whoa! The Jaguars have come a long way, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Yes, the Jaguars are a physically dominant team, but they’ll likely be overmatched at quarterback in most playoff games, and that’s a problem. The underdog role has gotten them to where they are. Don’t stop playing it.
Brian from Washington
I realize every player/team situation is inherently different, but the success of Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward elsewhere would point to the defense’s problem being plays/coaching rather than players, doesn’t it?
No, it doesn’t. First of all, Hyde and Hayward were productive players in Green Bay. If you watched Saturday night’s game, you saw Hayward get beaten deep in man coverage for a touchdown. That's the reason he was allowed to leave in free agency. The knock on Hyde and Hayward was they lacked speed. I think they’re good players, but you don’t pay big bucks for slow. Brian, you’re looking for a way to fix what’s wrong with one move and, yeah, it’s a lot easier to fire the coach than it is to replace the players. Fire the coach and the team wins, right? It’s not that simple. When do you fire a defensive coordinator? When his defense is continually suffering from matchup problems that are the result of formation and personnel mistakes. I see no such problems. There’s nothing wrong with the Packers’ plays.
Elten from Pleasant Lake, IN
I see websites listing offensive line and wide receiver as the Packers’ biggest needs for next year. Would you put pass rusher ahead of those?
Yes, I would because I think linebacker is the Packers’ greatest need. If you’re going to run a 3-4, the linebackers have to be the stars of the show.
Justin from Titonka, IA
If the players are the problem, then isn't the solution to change the staff that picked those players?
OK, let’s do this one more time. The Packers’ problem is they’ve won too many games, which has caused them to draft near the bottom of the order for too long. I say it over and over but fans don’t want to believe it because it means accepting the inevitability of decline. Were the Panthers the more talented team last Sunday? How about this Saturday’s game against the Vikings? The Lions game? In how many games this year can you honestly say the Packers were the more talented team? It's going to take time to repair what time has caused.
Sam from Jacksonville, FL
Three keys for a Jaguars run in the playoffs?
Run the ball, rush the passer, remain humble.
Patrick from Raleigh, NC
What are your thoughts on Bortles long term?
The remainder of this season will determine his future with the Jaguars.
Patrick from Texas
Vic, is it time to move on from some of our veterans that are getting huge money and not getting it done?
It’s time to be new. Hey, the run is over.
Stephen from Jacksonville, FL
Is the success of the 2017 Jaguars sustainable? Can they become a yearly contender similar to how Pittsburgh and New England have been for the past 15 years?
Yeah, if they find “The Man.” That’s how Pittsburgh and New England have done it.
Matt from Verona, WI
You've done fans a service over the years by teaching us to not let hopes become expectations. Nonetheless, there is so much data available now that expectations seem inevitable. How should fans calibrate their expectations so as to not destroy their enjoyment of the game?
View the game as a GM or sportswriter would. Be objective. I think this is a good week to do that because the Vikings are the new power team in the NFC North. They’re the team to beat. They're the team against whom the other teams in the NFC North must measure themselves. So, as you watch the game, ask yourself, what’s it going to take to beat the Vikings in the near future? If you're honest with yourself, you'll come away with a good feel for where the Packers are and what they need to do, and that's how you create reasonable expectations.
Steve from Racine, WI
Where do we go from here? Is the process not working? Is the personnel not capable of doing what the process is demanding? Is the process not being articulated to the players in a way they understand?
Where to from here? To the draft. To the acquisition of talent. The Packers are going to be drafting higher than anyone expected. It’s not what they want but it’s what they need. The Vikings are going to the bottom of the order. The Packers will be drafting significantly higher than the Vikings, for a change. That's the process.
Conrad from Oklahoma
I never played football. If I had, though, I think I would have liked to play fullback. It seems like a lunch pail and hard hat position. Has there ever been a dominant fullback?
Jim Brown was a fullback. So were Jim Taylor, Franco Harris and Larry Csonka. Find out why. It’ll teach you something about plays.
Jerry from Kansas City, MO
Have you noticed the recent downturn in passing yards and touchdowns? Of the top 10 in passing yards, the only QB under the age of 29 is Jared Goff. Has the era of the 5,000-yard passer passed us by?
As I mentioned, the league will be facing a daunting challenge in the near future, when it'll have to replace Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers in a short span of time. We are in a golden age of quarterbacks.