Ask Vic: Which AFC teams can compete with the NFC's best?

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Question: The NFC East is so strong this year (except for the Cowboys). What team in the AFC can compete with any of those teams? --Eric H.

How about the Titans? They have all of the ingredients to hold their own with any team in the NFC East, including the high-flying Giants, or any team in the league for that matter. I know that a compelling argument can be made for the Giants being the better team, and perhaps they are. I guess the only way we're going to find out is if they meet in the Super Bowl.

How about the Steelers? They, too, have all of the ingredients to hold their own with any team in the NFC East. Yes, they lost to the Giants in Week 8, but gave them all they could handle and ultimately lost because of an unlikely special-teams blunder. I also think we learned Monday night that the Steelers can be comfortable with Byron Leftwich taking over for Ben Roethlisberger when necessary. Something tells me we'll see more of Leftwich between now and the end of the season, and, if so, I don't think the Steelers will miss a beat.

I'm not sure what the AFC East has to offer at this point. It has some interesting teams, although I'm not sure if any of them is ready to deal with the heavyweight challengers in the NFC East.

I certainly have a hard time seeing the Cowboys battling their way back into contention, but I'm leaving open the possibility that they could very well become significantly better with Tony Romo back in the lineup.

Question: Would Carnell Williams have a significant impact if made active to Tampa's roster? Not just because the injuries the Bucs have at running back but because of them having a fresh back this far into the season. --Philip B.

He could. That's why Jon Gruden is giving serious thought to activating Williams after the Bucs' Week 10 bye.

It's hardly an easy or automatic decision, given that Williams is recovering from reconstructive surgery on his right knee and hasn't been involved in on-field contact in more than 13 months.

But there is no underestimating the desperation factor here due to the rash of injuries in the Bucs' offensive backfield. Last week, Earnest Graham, who has rushed for a team-leading 560 yards and four touchdowns, suffered a knee injury against Kansas City. Warrick Dunn has a pinched nerve in his back that caused him to miss the Chiefs game. Fullback B.J. Askew has a hamstring strain that has sidelined him for six games.

Gruden has sounded cautiously optimistic in talking with reporters about Williams' knee. The Bucs have been trying to get Williams as much meaningful contact as possible against practice-squad players in practice this week. They'll see how it goes and then decide by next week's deadline whether to activate the running game or place him on the injured-reserve list for the rest of the season.

Question: I would like to know from you what is the top priority for the Eagles to have a close game with the Giants and possibly beat them this week? --Astley P., Philadelphia

Keep Donovan McNabb upright.

The Eagles' offensive line demonstrated last year that it can struggle badly with all of the confusion the Giants' defense creates with its various blitz packages, including many that are designed to look like one thing when they are actually another. The scheming of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo went a long way toward the Giants sacking McNabb 15 times last season, including 12 in their first meeting.

The onus is on center Jamaal Jackson to know where Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka are lined up on every snap. Thanks to Spagnuolo, keeping track of them won't be easy.

Question: What was that stupid rule I experienced at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday when Rian Lindell kicked to the Jets' sideline, the ball stopped a yard from out of bounds, and return man Leon Washington put one foot out of bounds and touched the ball, and the refs ruled the kick out of bounds? How dumb of a rule is that? When a batter bunts the ball in baseball and it stops short of going foul, I don't think the third baseman can put his foot in foul territory and glove the ball to rule the bunt foul. That was big. Instead of the Jets getting the ball on their 11-yard line, they got it on the 40 because of the penalty on the Bills and went on to score. --Bob S., Wilkes-Barre, PA

I realize it's difficult to get your mind around that one. It feels more like a sneaky way to take advantage of a loophole rather than making a heads-up play, such as leaping in the air to knock a kick that bounces over the goal line back into play so it can be downed inside the 5-yard line rather than ending up at the 20 on a touchback.

But I contacted Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officiating, about this and he told me that it actually happens once or twice a year and is practiced by most teams.

"It is really pretty simple," Pereira said. "A player is out of bounds when any part of his body is out of bounds. A kick is out of bounds when it touches anything on or outside the boundary. When the kick touches a player who is standing out of bounds, it is a kick out of bounds and the ball goes to the 40."

I doubt that will make you or any Bills fan feel better, but give Washington credit for being alert enough to make a decisive play for the Jets.

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