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It's still the best regular season in sports

Posted Oct 30, 2017

These next two games will tell us a lot about the Packers


Caleb from Shawano, WI

Wow, this weekend was full of close games. In my opinion, the Seattle-Houston game was the best. Just back and forth throughout and especially in the fourth quarter. What was your biggest takeaway from this weekend of non-Packers football?

Anyone in the NFL is beatable, and penalties play too big a role in the game these days.

Jocelyn from Dallas, TX

Hey Mike, it's halftime of the Lions-Steelers game so I thought I'd share my thoughts from this weekend. I didn't learn anything new from the previous few weeks. The cellar-dwellers are pretty well established, but there is yet to be much difference between the 18 teams or so that are playoff contenders. I'm looking forward to seeing which teams separate themselves in that group in the second half, whether the Packers are a part of that or not.

These next two games, against division opponents, will tell us whether the Packers will be a part of that or not.

Ruble from Sioux Falls, SD

On to the Lions. Can the Packers’ defense do the same as the Steelers did to the Lions at Ford Field? Who will be the Packers’ JuJu?

The Lions are going to spend all week working on their red-zone offense. I have a feeling we’ll see some more creativity from Detroit to try to finish drives.

Ken from Wolcott, CT

What are things to look for next Monday night for us to know things are going in the right direction for this team?

The ball coming out of Hundley’s hand on time and on target on play-action passes, and a couple of third-down sacks from the defense.

Aaron from Renton, WA

I keep waiting for head coaches to learn that when you play conservative against the Seattle Seahawks you lose games. I guess Bill O'Brien didn't get the memo. I know we did in 2014.

I realize Watson had thrown two interceptions by that point, but he had thrown for 400 yards and four TDs in a game that had 72 points on the board through 58-plus minutes. To run three straight handoffs and not really look to your quarterback to win the game there is mind-boggling to me.

Andrew from Huxley, IA

Mike, how in the world does the Zach (don't call me Heath) Miller TD get overturned?

We’re back to not knowing what a catch is again. I watched one replay and saw nothing to convince me it wasn’t a touchdown, but I couldn’t bear to watch any more replays of that horrific injury.

Greg from Ann Arbor, MI

For those wondering whether fines are effective deterrents, check out Alvin Kamara's first-quarter TD run in the Bears-Saints game. Leonard Floyd has a chance to stop Kamara short of the goal line, but only by making a horse-collar tackle. Floyd briefly grabs Kamara around the nameplate, then lets go, even though it means conceding a TD. That looks like deterrence in action to me.

Money talks, eventually.

Noah from Wausau, WI

Mike, do you think Carson Wentz is as good as I think he is? I've watched him the last few weeks and have been exceedingly impressed. There's something about quarterbacks like him who are tough, smart and have all the skills – and it bodes very well for an embattled franchise like the Eagles.

How can you not be impressed with Wentz? For an FCS QB to be playing like this in his second year in the NFL is nothing short of remarkable. I think his most underrated quality is he appears very difficult to sack. He uses his size to shed rushers, not necessarily run away from them, and then regains his bearings to make plays.

Gary from Belle Mead, NJ

Feel bad for the Browns. They played hard and almost penalty-free through three quarters, but it seemed like they just can't catch a break. Tough calls on some of the PI and on the roughing-the-passer penalty. The defensive holding call on third-and-goal is especially painful. Made me wonder, seems like that is an over-penalization. Would it make more sense in goal-to-go situations not to award the automatic first down? I mean, the defense played tough for two downs and then because of one grab on third down the offense gets first-and-goal again?

I’m not interested in rewriting penalty-application rules, but most games are grossly over-officiated, and it’s too bad. The league has spent years trying to make penalties as objective as possible for the officials – if you see it, flag it. Plenty of times the infractions create no advantage or disadvantage in the flow of the play, yet there’s really no judgment involved anymore. “See it, flag it” is damaging the product.

Chris from Tehachapi, CA

Between the 49ers and Browns, who gets the first win this season?

San Francisco.

Robert from Greendale, WI

One thing I noticed this weekend watching games is that generally, on the defensive side of the ball a MLB or ILB is responsible for defensive play-calling. Why is that? We all know that Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett are both playmakers, but I can't help wondering if absolving some of that play-calling and audible responsibility would help the secondary a bit. It has to be tough to move players around while also trying to defend a WR or TE running a 4.4 40-yard dash coming at you and you are not prepared. Where a LB seemingly has to defend the run or cover a short route near the line of scrimmage. Any insight?

The signal-caller and wearer of the communication helmet needs to be a defender who’s on the field every down. The Packers substitute their inside linebackers often, though they haven’t as much this year with the injuries to Thomas and Ryan, but that’s why Green Bay worked all along with the safeties as the primary communicators.

Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador

Insiders, for the most part, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable World Series so far. Understanding the need for ad revenue, yet trying to keep the action going, MLB has obviously embraced the framing ads that run five seconds or so. That's OK with me. Do you see the NFL going this way soon?

It already is. I saw one of those during the Dallas-Washington game, too.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Hi Mike, it seems all big-league hitters are standing right on top of the plate and are dead-pull hitters in an effort to hit home runs. The defenses are playing wild shifts. Very few hitters hit to the opposite field or give themselves up. Is this good for the game?

I’ll ponder those types of valid questions over the winter. When the World Series is this good, I’m just going to enjoy it.

Idwin from Kearney, NE

In my last question I put Wisconsin as my state, but I’m really from Nebraska. “Go Big Red,” am I right? The Huskers, I mean. What are your predictions for the College Football Playoff?

When it was 35-17 in Columbus, I was convinced we were headed for an Alabama-Penn State title game. Now, I have no idea.

Matt from Hartford, WI

A team cannot have two men in motion, but I see multiple shifting all the time. Is that considered an audible?

Multiple players can shift pre-snap, but only one can actually be in motion at the snap. Everyone else must reset.

John from Dublin, Ireland

It seems like a bonus to get to the 25-yard line on kickoffs these days. Specialist kickoff returners may become obsolete. Where do you see the future of kickoffs?

They’ll never get rid of the play, as many suggest, because you can’t eliminate the possibility of an onside kick, otherwise the kicking team gets no opportunity to keep the ball. Touchbacks are up and returns are down, which was the safety-related goal of the 25-yard line change, so I don’t see the kickoff changing again for a while.

Steve from Lake Stevens, WA

The acquisitions of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks had a lot of Packer fans excited. So far, the excitement has not been warranted. Do you see the tight ends being targeted more the rest of the way?

The double-tight-end chess match I anticipated Rodgers orchestrating against certain defenses won’t be as effective with Hundley. I’d like to see Hundley make sure to get Nelson, Adams and Cobb involved, and go from there.

Ken from Long Beach, CA

Why aren’t NFL fines round numbers? How do they come up with a number like $18,231? Most learn how to round numbers in fourth-grade math.

The fine amounts are collectively bargained, and the minimum fines for all the various offenses increase by 5 percent per year through the duration of the CBA. I would imagine the original amount is mathematically some fraction of the league-minimum salary, depending on the violation.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Watching the NFL each week reminds me of the "box of chocolate" statement Forrest Gump made – “You never know what you’re going to get.”

That’s why the NFL still has the best regular season in sports, despite its flaws.

David from Milwaukee, WI

Hi Mike/Wes, I loved what the Bucks did last week by throwing back the clock and playing in the old Mecca. For the Packers' 100th anniversary, they should play in Miller Park for a preseason game. I was too young to remember them playing in old County Stadium, so this would be a great historical tidbit for us millennial Milwaukeeans.

I’d much prefer to see a preseason game played in old City Stadium next to East High, but I don’t know how you’d bring in enough temporary seating to re-create the capacity it used to hold.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Who is now the Packers’ most important player? The one guy we cannot lose to injury? What help is on the way?

I think Hundley is going to need both Bakhtiari and Bulaga on the edges for the duration. A young QB just getting started needs proven offensive tackles. Vince Biegel can help this defense, but to think he’s going to cure the pass rush by himself would be misguided.

Nikola from Maribor, Slovenia

Watson is my new favorite non-Packer. Man, he can play. Reminds me of Favre.

Houston’s long search has finally ended.

Tom from Dollar Bay, MI

Were the Lions confused about what day of the week it was? Those looked like color-rush uniforms.

They were, but New England did the same thing the previous Sunday night with the all-navy. To each his own, I guess.

David from Coeur d’Alene, ID

This season is definitely one where a good comedy movie can help one’s outlook. Watch “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” for a laugh. When Neal says, “You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle! Your stories have none of that. They’re not even amusing accidently!” Probably applies to some of your critics.

Selling shower-curtain rings is my fallback.

Patrick from Tampa, FL

It sure looks like the Vikings are suddenly destiny's darlings this season. Funny how just a little "extra" effort changed things, huh? On a side note, what in the world has happened to the Raiders?

The Vikings are certainly the team to beat in the North now, but haven’t won anything yet. After their bye, they had road games at Washington, Carolina and Atlanta, plus Detroit and Green Bay, in a span of seven weeks. Hang on. With the Raiders, when your quarterback is up and down, you will be up and down.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Guys, even if Rodgers does find a way to come back this season, wouldn't he have some trouble with the mechanics of his throwing motion due to the collarbone being part of that equation? Do you think having this procedure done, it could possibly hinder his accuracy quite a bit if he does indeed come back?

That’s what makes his return so uncertain. There’s a rehab component to this collarbone injury that wasn’t part of the process four years ago. Once he’s allowed to begin throwing, how long will it take for everything to feel healed and normal again? No way to know in advance.

T from Waterloo, IA

Forget the outcomes – both the Bears and Lions played tough this week. We are all fully aware of the Vikings, but Detroit and Chicago could be hard to beat come December and January. Do you feel the NFC North is more competitive than folks originally predicted?

Who said it was going to be easy for anybody?


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