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America couldn't live happily without football

How big is tonight's game? The Vikings are 2-2, too


Steven from Milwaukee, WI

Based on records and appearances, there is quite a bit of parity in the league, however, there has been an extremely high percentage of lopsided scores. What to make of this?

It may be nothing, or it might be the result of teams struggling with a changing game. The league is asking its defensive players to re-learn how to tackle and cover. That's a big deal. Why would the league not think there'd be some fallout from something that dramatic?

Matt from Barronett, WI

What goes on at a sintering plant?

They make red dust.

Ken from Oceanport, NJ

How can Lacy find the lanes when there is always someone there? He has nowhere to run.

Part of the process of finding the lanes is creating them, and part of the process of creating lanes involves a coordinated lateral speed. Everybody has to be moving in unison and quickly enough to get the defenders turned sideways and running with the flow of the play toward the sideline, and then the back sticks his foot in the ground and cuts back against that flow and behind a defender that isn't able to stop quickly enough to tackle the back. That's what I mean by coordination of the back and his blockers in a zone-blocking scheme. I'm not seeing that flow right now, and on a couple of occasions when I have seen that flow, I haven't seen Lacy identify the lane and cut back into it. Maybe tonight's the night it happens consistently.

Dan from Waupun, WI

NASCAR put in rules to make everyone about the same. NASCAR racing has gone to follow the leader. The number of fans has declined. The NFL is trying to get parity. As the league becomes a bunch of average teams, the number of fans will drop. Your thoughts?

The NFL's pursuit of parity has existed for all of the years I've covered the league, and there has been no decline in the popularity of the game, only an explosion of it. I know nothing about NASCAR, but I know enough about football to be confident there will be no decline in its popularity. It's the fabric of our weekends for half the year. Football is so deeply woven into the fabric of American culture that I don't believe we could live happily without it.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, as an accountant, I got a good chuckle from your response to Brett from Green Bay's question on big linemen having to be very fiscal. Minnesota has a short week, too. Do you see it favoring either team, or is it a wash?

It's the same for both teams, but not the same for both quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater is trying to recover from an ankle injury on a short week. That's tough to do.

Ben from Hudson, WI

I asked almost all of my coworkers how they'd respond to pay-per-view NFL. All of the people who only watch for fantasy football said they'd happily keep their money in their pockets. The casual fan wouldn't pay for football. Take that to the bank.

Forget about it. I was covering the league during the strike years of 1982 and '87. People were lost without the NFL on Sundays, even back then. They didn't know what to do. It was as though a pointless extra day had been added to their lives each week, and they didn't know how to kill the time. We had difficulty making it through the spring without OTAs during the 2011 lockout. Take a look around at the impact of the NFL in our lives. The stores are full of jerseys with players names on them. Ray Nitschke went on "What's My Line?" in 1962 and they didn't know who he was. Now, we know who the backups are. Sports bars have become gathering places to watch multiple games. Football is us and we're football, and one can't be separated from the other.

Dan from New Albany, OH

Vic, with having to read all of our emails every day, when do you have time to relax? Do you get worn down by the end of the season?

I'm worn down by the end of the day. It feels great.

Bill from Janesville, WI

Why does McCarthy always defer?

I'm a defensive guy and I'd defer because I'd like to make a statement with my defense. Mike McCarthy is an offensive guy and he defers because he wants to score to end the first half and to begin the second half. It's all about the personality of the coach and the team, but I don't think it matters either way. Somebody has to receive and somebody has to defend. Just don't "kick to the clock."

Dale from Kettering, OH

So what's the key to doing well in Thursday games? Is it coaching, skill, youth or just having done it before?

I think the key is keeping it simple. I'd use a recycled game plan and rest my players as much as possible.

Jeff from Clarksville, TN

It's true, help isn't on the way, and it won't be unless we dig into free agency. This coming from a person who believes in the draft and develop model. But it's time. It's time Ted Thompson gets men. Proven men.

Who are the difference-makers in the free agency class of 2014? Darren Sproles? No, he was acquired by trade. Emmanuel Sanders? You couldn't find a small receiver in the draft? Jason Hatcher and Malcolm Jenkins? Julius Peppers might be a difference-maker. Name some others.

Sebastian from Berlin, Germany

Vic, how important for the rest of this whole season is the next game against the Vikings?

Winning division games is a big part of the formula for winning a division title. Let's not forget the Vikings are 2-2, too. With a win tonight, they would leave here a game ahead of the Packers and having broken home serve.

Patrick from Cavanaugh, MD

Thanks to Dick from St. Cloud for bringing up a bad memory – it's so hard to write sarcasm. I still remember going to Friendship Airport with my dad to greet the returning Colts. It may have been the first time I saw so many men with tears in their eyes, players and fans. I think my love of football may have begun that night. By the way, the kick was missed.

The most loyal fans are forged in defeat, not victory.

Brett from Green Bay, WI

Vic, what do you think will be the biggest challenge vs. the Vikings tonight?

Overcoming phytigue.

Dan from Novato, CA

Vic, Andy Mulumba went on injured reserve a few weeks ago and the Packers have not added another player to the active roster. Do you have any opinions as to why any team wouldn't keep 53 players on the active squad?

Maybe it's because they have a long-term strategy. Maybe they're waiting for something else to happen. Maybe they've got their eye on a particular guy but now isn't the right time to play the card. Maybe they're waiting for injuries to make the decision. Maybe they have a two-player scenario in mind. I can tell you this, it's not for lack of a plan. We obsess unnecessarily about roster size. The Packers have 10 practice-squad players being trained in the team's ways; they're ready to go in a pinch. Beyond that, every team has a data base of players on the street. They're players that have spent time in the league and are familiar with the pro football process. Playbooks are universal; only the terminology is different. You can pick up a guy off the street and plug him in without too much difficulty. That's especially true of guys on the street who had previously spent time on your roster. Matt Flynn is the perfect example. He stepped right in and rallied the Packers to a season-saving tie. Every team has a roster as big as all of football.

Mitch from Backus, MN

Vic, true fraternity of football tale: Decades ago, I enrolled in a University of Minnesota spring semester conditioning course. Class was during the Golden Gophers football team's weightlifting period. My misfit classmates had a side gym and two basketballs, adjacent to the scholarships. They enjoyed deluxe weightlifting equipment and two adjacent gyms. For the last 20 minutes of study period, both classes were usually playing pickup basketball in our respective territories. Within the first two semester weeks, the misfits were generally ignored and we rarely got a basketball returned when one would stray off our court, until one day the Gophers' star quarterback noticed one of our wayward basketballs and came over to return it. He introduced himself and asked if he could join our game. After that day, the rest of the football team began to acknowledge the misfit class and would return basketballs when they wandered. My classmates and I were awestruck when Tony Dungy showed us what great leaders and genuine people do.

Deeds, not words.

Carrie from San Jose, CA

Vic, I'm watching the Giants-Pirates game. Even though the Giants just won, 8-0, the Pirates fans are chanting and cheering for their team, showing their appreciation for the season their team has given them. Can we have a little more of that with Packers fans, please?

That's nice stuff, but it's not football. Football's harshness is its charm. I like it cold and a little mean. It gives me that warm, tingly feeling inside.

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