Here are my Week 14 power rankings:
1. Patriots – A cut above everyone.
2. Vikings – Old-fashioned muscle team.
3. Eagles – Momentum at stake vs. Rams.
4. Saints – Win in Atlanta would leave no doubt.
5. Rams – Arrow pointing straight up.
6. Steelers – Toughness is their trademark.
7. Falcons – Must beat Saints tonight.
8. Panthers – They don't get it done.
9. Seahawks – Here they come!
10. Chargers – Can they stay hot down the stretch?
11. Titans – Headed for showdown with Jaguars.
12. Jaguars – Will be tested by Seahawks.
13. Raiders – Chiefs' collapse has opened the door.
14. Bills – Gronk has given them a cause.
15. Ravens – Must win in Pittsburgh.
16. Lions – Fading in December, again.
17. Cowboys – Can they stay alive until Elliott returns?
18. Cardinals – Out of contention.
19. Jets – Gritty.
20. Chiefs – It wasn't the play-calling.
21. Packers – Beware of Browns.
22. Redskins – A play here and there made the difference.
23. Bengals – Lack discipline.
24. Texans – Watson gave them a glimpse.
25. Dolphins – Nothing accomplished in 2017.
26. 49ers – Big decision to make on Garropolo.
27. Bears – Is Trubisky the guy?
28. Bucs – Lots of yards but not enough points.
29. Broncos – Not accustomed to this position.
30. Colts – The end is near.
31. Giants – The gavel has fallen.
32. Browns – Did they tamper with McCarron?
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Why have dried grapes in a perfectly good oatmeal cookie when you could have chocolate?
Kevin from Omaha, NE
Vic, you should have caught some of the double OT UCF-Memphis game. I know, no defense, but non-stop action.
I watched some of it. Garbage football.
Steve from Phoenix, AZ
I assume I'm not alone in wanting to hear your perspective on the 60-minute slugfest that Ben referred to as "AFC North football." It looked to cross the line at times. I don't think football will last two more decades if this kind of display persists.
Bengals-Steelers games are the exception. They're two teams that hate each other intensely. Their game is a perfect example of what not to do. Seriously, though, Roethlisberger is right, that's AFC North football, and if the Vikings are the new power team in the NFC North, then everybody else in the NFC North better start learning how to play the AFC North way, because Mike Zimmer is a graduate of that division. That offside on the field goal try? Intentional; that's the kind of stuff they do in the AFC North. It almost worked; the kicker was limping. All I could do was watch and laugh. There's something wrong with the people in that division, and it's what's wrong in all of us. We're attracted to violence. That's why the ratings for that game were through the roof.
Donovan from Baldwin Park, CA
Is it wrong for me to have liked that Steelers-Bengals game on MNF? Part of me thinks the NFL knows the history and put the game on prime time intentionally.
You think? Really? The NFL would take advantage of our primal desires merely to improve their sagging TV ratings? In the player-safety era? Hmmm, I gotta think on that one.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Which teams in the league have "The Man?"
Having "The Man" is like pornography: You'll know it when you see it.
Josh from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, I am conflicted. I truly believe without improvement to player safety the league will die within a few decades. But I absolutely love watching AFC North football games for all of their grit and glory. Was Monday night's game what games looked like in the 1960s and 1970s?
Not one of those controversial plays in the Steelers-Bengals game would've been penalized, fined, criticized or even discussed by the broadcasters in the '70s. They all would've been regarded as examples of good, clean, hard-nosed football. Watch this clip from Super Bowl IX. No penalty, no fine, no criticism; good, clean, hard-nosed football. Don Meredith called it "a good pop." I thought John Gilliam's head came off.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
They're still leading with their heads, and someone is telling them it's OK to do it.
No one is telling them it's OK to do it. No one told them 40 years ago it was OK to do it. "Hit what you see; see what you hit." That was always the coaches' mantra, at all levels. What fans aren't understanding is the basic human instinct to protect yourself. Fans are constantly complaining about poor tackling, as though the players don't want to tackle correctly. That's not it. It's just not normal to confront a 230-pound running back at full speed and wrap your arms around him so he can drive his knees through your ribs and jam the top of his helmet into your face. It's just human nature to protect yourself. If you wanna single out a play in the Steelers-Bengals game, find the facemask-to-facemask train wreck between the Bengals' Vontaze Burfict and Steelers running back James Conner. That's how you do it. Now try finding guys who wanna do it like that.
Braden from Waukesha, WI
Josh Gordon returned on Sunday and had a pretty impressive game for a guy who hasn't played football in three years. He's on the last year of his contract and will become a free agent. Let's say in the next four games he puts up some good numbers. A guy with the raw talent is intriguing but the three years of suspensions make it hard to pay him well. What is the market value for a guy like that?
Not much. He's a wide receiver; dime a dozen. Now, if he was a left tackle, that would be different.
Dan from Sebastapol, CA
How would you fix the college playoff system? Do you think the five champions of the five power conferences and one at large for six total would work better? Or would you make it eight teams?
The number of teams isn't the issue; that'll just produce more subjectivity. I get a lot of email from people who tell me how to fix the college football playoffs, but what they don't understand is there isn't a single ruling body that can make all of that happen; the conferences won't agree to it. Here's my plan: Each of the five power conferences are to give the NCAA a champion, and a committee picks four to compete in the playoffs. No more Penn State wins the Big 10 but Ohio State goes to the playoffs, or Alabama doesn't win the SEC and goes to the playoffs and that means two teams from the same conference are going to the playoffs. My plan is real simple: To go to the playoffs, you must win your conference. Once the playoff teams are decided, then seed them. I think the five power conferences would agree to that. I hate the idea Alabama and Georgia could play for the national title. That's just another conference title game. College football is hopeless. Think about the NFL games you've seen recently: Packers-Steelers, Bucs-Packers, Steelers-Bengals. How many weeks of college football would it take to produce that kind of drama?
Brandon from Kimberly, WI
Vic, I’m watching the Steelers-Bengals game and the left guard of the Steelers keeps getting in his stance then out. I understand he is reading Ben and letting the center know he’s ready. What I don’t understand is why that’s legal.
An offensive lineman isn't considered to be set until he puts his hand on the ground.
Mike from Hampton, VA
I love reading your replies, especially since you retired. Hoping for an "Ask Vic" blog every day.
Here's what I'll do: If the Packers win the next two games, I'll do an "Ask Vic" every day the week of the Vikings game, in celebration of the arrival of my December friend.
Randy from Billings, MT
What will it take for the Packers defense to be good enough to get off the field regularly on third down?
Rush the passer!
Matthew from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, what's your honest opinion on Kevin King? Will he be the future shutdown corner the Packers are so desperately seeking, or was it a mistake to draft him? Can't help but think GB will shoot for another CB in the first round of the 2018 draft.
I see nothing in King's play that suggests he wasn't a quality pick and won't become a fixture at cornerback. The problem with the perception of King right now is he's been put on injured reserve at a time when T.J. Watt is hitting it out of the park. Draft-day trades do that. Watt will forever be attached to King. Watt will be an anchor King will have to drag his whole career.
Jeff from Alexandria, VA
How do the Packers improve their roster?
By losing games and getting higher draft picks.
Tim from Jacksonville, FL
Will Sunday's game versus the Seahawks be an indicator of whether the Jaguars will be a real contender this year?
The Jaguars are and will continue to be a real contender. What Sunday's game against the Seahawks will decide is the direction of the Jaguars' December arrow. The good news for the Jaguars is they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Ravens and Chargers.
Randall from Sun Prairie, WI
What's going on with Leonard Fournette? Are teams loading up against the run? Is he hobbled by injury? Does his offensive line stink? Is he not as good as we thought? Rookie wall? Any or all of the above?
The Jaguars are No. 1 in rushing and No. 21 in passing. They lack balance.
Adam from Chicago, IL
Which professional sport has the best postseason?
If you want a true champion, the NHL is the one. The endurance required to win the Stanley Cup is difficult to comprehend. For drama, give me the NFL.
Stephen from Jacksonville, FL
How many different NFL stadiums have you been to so far? Which stadiums no longer standing or used currently by the NFL do you most vividly remember? Which are your favorites?
At last count, I had covered NFL games in about 80 stadiums, including Neyland Stadium, Husky Stadium, the Liberty Bowl and Olympic Stadium in Barcelona. I've covered games in several college stadiums and stadiums that no longer exist. I covered the last football game ever played in Shea Stadium. Of the stadiums that no longer exist, Cleveland Stadium is by far my favorite because it was by far the worst and by far the one I remember most vividly. I'll never forget the press box jammed into the corner of the upper deck and its world's highest outhouse and greyhound hot dogs. I rarely covered a game there on a day it wasn't cold, gray and wet; it was all part of the experience. My favorites are Three Rivers, the one in Jacksonville of many names and, of course, Lambeau Field. It's for the obvious reason: They became my home in the fall. Memories? A water pipe bursting in the Riverfront press box on a three-degree day. Donuts and beer for a pregame meal at the Vet. Pizza being delivered for halftime at Jack Murphy. The condemned sign on the press box at the LA Coliseum and the stalls and doors in the visitors' locker room, behind which Joe Gilliam hid on a night when drug usage ruined his career. The sound of those pom-poms swishing and that wonderful song playing in the Astrodome. Memories? I have too many for one column.
Justin from Titonka, IA
Did you enjoy the Bengals-Steelers game?
I enjoyed it immensely. I acknowledge and support the player-safety movement, but I confess to a primal attraction to physical confrontation. My culture was determined a long time ago. Back then, what happened on Monday night was more than OK, it was the goal. I'm trying to change, but neither my love of football nor the game's popularity was built on safe.