Mailbag: Wrestling your tough questions

John Lloyd from Yulee, Fla., writes: I count 24 players on jag IR. How did you get 27?

Paul Kuharsky: They placed a couple on IR that they eventually reached a settlement with. That means they can release those players while they're still injured. So they disappeared from the roster. But their seasons ended when they were put on IR.

Jason from Philadelphia writes: You get 10 Colts players to keep next year, who are they? Top 5 in order, 6-10 doesn't have to be. Manning doesn't count. Freeney Mathis Castonzo Bethea Nevis Angerer Ijalana Wayne Clark Collie. Picked the tackles and Nevis because they are new draft picks and have shown promise when healthy. I've always stayed positive but that list was harder than I thought it would be. The talent level has really dropped off. I almost put McAfee in there.

Paul Kuharsky: OK, Manning doesn’t count and I am really concentrating on having the best team I can next year. I’ve changed this a bit from when I emailed you back.

I’d go: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pat Angerer, Anthony Castonzo, Ben Ijalana, Drake Nevis and Jerraud Powers. Donald Brown just missed. I think he can actually run and will get out of the doghouse if there is a new regime. I think Dallas Clark's injuries are starting to mount and I don’t know if you can expect anything close to a full season from him.

Jimmy Bagley from Philly, Pa., writes: Looking at your rankings, I am trying to figure out why you have Houston so low.... Why wouldn't they be at the number 4 spot? Green Bay, obviously number one with a bullet. Baltimore, number two ok. N.O. should be 3 and the Texans at 4... At this point in the season, why aren't the tie breakers used to figure these in.... Houston holds the tie breaker over both Pit and NE.... They were the first team in the AFC to clinch, and have the best divisional record of all the teams.... Not to mention the number 2 defense in the league and a top 3 running game.... They have managed to win in all types of circumstances.... After last week’s come from behind win I thought for sure it would win over critics waiting for them to choke... What else is going to take for the respect to come in.

Paul Kuharsky: What you are looking for, apparently, is the official playoff order for the league right now. (If we do that, what’s the point?) What the power rankings are looking for is my opinion on where teams stand. The official playoff rankings of the moment don’t take into account a third-string quarterback as the starter. No matter how impressive T.J. Yates has been, we have a very small sample size so far. And I have a tough time ranking a team he’s leading ahead of one led by Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger, who’ve won Super Bowls. The one case you can make is that the Texans should be ahead of Pittsburgh based on having beaten them. But the Steelers are a much better team now than they were then.

Also you suggest I should rank the Texans higher because they clinched earlier and have a better division record. So they get a reward for the Colts and Jaguars stinking and the Titans being average?

I have Houston sixth. I think we differ on whether that’s good or bad. I think it’s quite good.

I am continually amazed by how people regard the issue of respect. I think, universally, analysts are impressed by what the Texans have done and think they are a very good team. Apparently some of you think we should be holding parades for them and telecasting half-hour specials about their greatness.

Scott Freistat from Hermitage, Tenn., writes: ESPN's latest ranking poll states that if the playoffs were to start today (12/13) the Texans would have the No. 1 seed. How is that possible considering they have the same records as the Ravens (10-3) and the Ravens own the head-to-head matchup? Please explain.

Paul Kuharsky: In a three-way tie, head-to-head results aren’t the top tiebreaker because it does nothing to factor in the third team. The Ravens win a tiebreaker over the Steelers being from same division. Then it’s Texans-Ravens-Patriots. If one team has swept the other two, it wins a tiebreaker. If not, then it’s conference record. The Texans win that right now.

Brian Vining from Douglas, Ga., writes: Who is Matt Williamson? So I guess this so called expert wants to give up on a first round QB who has no weapons except for Maurice jones-Drew. Gabbert was not even going to be the starter this year. He is a young QB who needs time to develop. With a good coach and a couple of WR who can catch the ball Gabbert will be great. I'm not saying the Jags is the best out of the three but if I were a coach and could go to a team with a young up and coming QB. A great RB in MJD and a much improved defense I would jump on it. That's not even to mention Gene Smith who has the right philosophy to build a team who can contend for years. National media at it again. Gabbert sucks, the Jags can't fill the stadium, Jags are moving to LA. Maybe if some of them would actually do a little homework they would know none of this is true.

Paul Kuharsky: Williamson is a former NFL scout who knows as much about current personnel as anyone in my business.

Your logic falls apart here: “Gabbert was not even going to be the starter this year.” Then why is he the starter this year? Nothing catostrophic happened. The team chose to cut David Garrard and it chose to bench Luke McCown. Those moves made Gabbert the starter. If you don’t want him starting, arrange for him not to start. I don’t know how we can say he was not supposed to start and offer amnesty based on that. They are starting him. As promising as Gabbert may be, it’s not at all inaccurate to say he’s been horrible this season.

I like Smith, but the rebuild is not moving at a fast enough pace. His philosophy starts with foundation-building and two good lines. Three years in, I don’t see two good lines, do you? And where is anything close to a late-round home run?

Mike M. from Houston writes: The next man up approach only works if the next man up has talent. The Texans have shown that they have talent beyond the 22 starters on the roster. Most have been draft picks, UDFA's, or were low level free agents when acquired (like Kevin Walter or Jason Allen). Does this make Rick Smith the front runner for executive of the year???

Paul Kuharsky: That’s an excellent point, that the next man up has to be equipped to do the job. Lots of teams without good depth get hurt and fall apart.

But let’s not make it like Rick Smith is at the powerful end of the spectrum of GMs in terms of decision-making. It’s a joint operation and he’s not bringing in anyone Gary Kubiak doesn’t sign off on. Wade Phillips had great influence on what they did in the draft and then free agency as well.