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Determining factor for the season? Read Mike's chat

Senior writer Mike Spofford took questions in his weekly chat


*Hi everybody. Thanks for logging in today. Are we ready for the stretch run? Here we go. Ask away.    *

Comment From David

What will be the most difficult game down the stretch in your eyes?

The obvious answer is Arizona on the road, but the way this season has gone, there's no need to look ahead. Every one of these games is big and won't be easy.

Comment From Erik

Hello mike, any updates on Ty Montgomery? Can he be a playmaker down the stretch, or is that too much wishful thinking?

*No updates. The Packers hit the practice field at 3 p.m. today, so we'll see then if there's a change in his status. I think Montgomery can help, but missing so much time as a rookie, he's not going to be the savior. Another potential weapon won't hurt, though. *

Comment From KK 

Mike, I've read that some experts think our future success is pinned to our receivers, but I think it might depend more on the health of our O-line. Thoughts?

The guys up front need to get healthy, no doubt. The receivers have to do their job, too, but the Packers don't want to make a living with their main guys on the O-line sitting out.

Comment From Marc 

What is the going to be the determining factor for this season ?

If the passing offense can find some kind of rhythm and not have to resort to scramble/backyard football to move the chains consistently.

Comment From Peter 

Hi Mike, I am sure that we are all elated after the win on Thursday. I thought that the turning point was when we had a bit of good luck when Randall Cobb was able to dive on the ball that we had lost in the endzone. It was the first bit of good luck for the Pack for many games. What are your thoughts on this?

Have you been talking to my dad? He texted me that very thought as soon as Cobb fell on that fumble.

Comment From Linda P 

Mike, I think I speak for Packer Nation when I say I am concerned with this Eddie Lacy stuff. I always heard he was a great teammate? Don't you agree that we need him all in for the stretch?

I don't know the details of Eddie's situation. Perhaps he'll speak with reporters today after practice and shed some light. But I agree with you, I think this team needs a power back in the cold weather. Eddie is that guy.

Comment From Tony 

Hi Mike, thank you for making the WYMM video segment every week. I look forward to it and find it very enjoyable. It's also very well done in terms of production value. I wish the segment was longer with explanation of additional plays and player contribution. However, I am sure it is already time consuming. When do you start to think about what plays to put into the segment and how long does the process take from picking the plays, writing a script (or do you improv your comments) to shooting the piece?

*Thanks for your interest. It generally takes an hour or more to go through all the game video (the all-22) and then I try to gather some thoughts quickly. I don't script it. I think about what I want to say in each segment and go for it. I'm sure the guys have some pretty embarrassing outtakes when that telestrator thing messes me up.               *

Comment From Ron 

Do you think the coaches bare some responsibility for lack of focus and energy from so many players this year? I see a lot of comments that accountability is all on the players but I'd think when so many are under performing, it goes back to who is prepping you as well. The expectations were high yet we have a veteran team that is consistently playing below it's capability, or so it appears.

I think there's plenty of blame to go around. I don't think the coaches, certainly not McCarthy, have shirked any responsibility for the struggles. But it's ultimately a players' game, and it's their performance that carries or loses the day.

Comment From Garth 

Hey Mike, How high was that hail mary pass? Hard to judge it on tv.

*It was hard to judge from the press box as well, except it sure was way up there. When he let it go, I didn't think with that kind of height it could reach the end zone. Then I looked at the end zone and saw no one coming forward, everyone waiting for it to come down. It was unreal. I think I read an estimate that it was roughly between 45 and 50 yards high, based on what someone at Ford Field said about how high the lowest rafter is and how close the ball appeared to come to it.               *

Comment From Bongo 

Last 2 losses at home are blow-outs, Peterson complaining about "being out coached." Arizona on the horizon. Is this the beginning of the end for MN's season?

*They're in a tough spot, playing on the road on Thursday after such a thorough beatdown. But even if they lose to the Cards, they've got two homes games against the Bears and Giants. It's a week to week league. I'll never write anybody off that is good enough to go 8-4 through three months.          *

Comment From Nick 

How do you feel about jake Ryan

I like what I've seen, and if he's the presence against the run the Packers need down the stretch, maybe that means Matthews can move around even more.

Comment From Andrew 

How do you think the Packers will fair against the Cowboys? A team with a bad offense but now have something to play for with their Monday night win against the Redskins that puts them a game out of first in that terrible division. Possible outcome and why? Also will we see more Crockett or does Lacy make his comeback to the offense?

The Cowboys are coming in with everything to play for, and they finally got a win without Romo. That can do a lot. Their defense has been pretty stout all year. Packers have to get on them early and make Cassel beat them.

Comment From Jason 

I like the spark that Crockett brings to this team. What do you think his role will be moving forward?

I really don't know, to be honest. I don't see him taking over as a feature back. Starks has been so good in the screen game, but he had that terrible fumble. I already touched on Lacy. To add to the answer to Andrew above, I think Lacy will get his chance to regain top-dog status again. It's a matter of whether he seizes it. Then the rest will play out from there.

Comment From Don H 

Four division games November 15 - December 3. Two losses at home and two wins on the road. Can you name anyone who saw that coming ?? It's nuts, IMO.

Nothing has been normal about this season.

Comment From Michael Larsen 

Hey Mike. I'm only 16 and I'm the only one in the family that watched Packer games. I know I'm young and haven't watched many games but that Hail Mary catch made me shout. I was so excited, I woke up everyone in the house. What was your reaction after seeing this amazing catch?

I was in the press box next to Mark Murphy and Ted Thompson. There was a combination of joy, relief and disbelief all rolled together.

Comment From Derek 

How big of deal is the extra days rest coming off a Thursday game especially seeing that Dallas is coming off a Monday nighter?

I think the extra rest for the Packers is huge, especially with all the guys banged up on the O-line. The Packers have used this late break in the season to their advantage before, and they have to do so again.

Comment From KJ 

Hi Mike, Vic says that no cheering is allowed in the press box. Do you ever find that to be a difficult rule to maintain?

No, but the Hail Mary was a pretty crazy moment.

Comment From Brett 

Screen play craze seems to have had a small amount of legitimacy. The screen to James Starks, to me, has been the teams's biggest weapon by far. Should be interesting to see them against Sean Lee who seems to always sniff them out.

Lee was incredible last night, wasn't he? Wow, what a player. As I watched last night's game, I started to wonder if the Cowboys might not have gone to the Super Bowl if they'd had Lee last year.

Comment From Mike 

Can a single play such as the Hail Mary really change anything in the way of galvanizing a team? I love the drama, but when it is over they still have to play again next week. Any buzz going around? Have they really elevated their game?

We'll find out over the next few weeks. No way to know anything until then. As I said before, I think the break to recuperate health-wise is the biggest thing right now.

Comment From KJ 

Most importantly, I'd never write off Adrian Peterson.

Ain't that the truth.

Comment From Paul 

After a couple of weeks of success for Datone Jones, I don't recall noticing him much in the Detroit game. Any insights from the All-22

He made one really nice play in the backfield on a running play. But he's not going to surprise anybody anymore. He'll have to adjust as teams adjust to him and his role.

Comment From Riley 

Mike, let's talk playoffs. As of right now, which team do you have as the best in the NFC, Arizona or Carolina? On the AFC side, do you see team other than the Patriots capable of going deep into the playoffs and grabbing that No. 1 seed from NE?

I think Arizona is the best team in the NFC right now. AFC? I'll still take the Patriots as long as Gronk is back, but otherwise, it's hard not to like the Bengals. I know they haven't won a playoff game in forever, but they're pretty darn good.

Comment From Jon 

Hi Mike: I'm wondering about the amount of scrutiny for the team this year. I see there are problems but why has there been SO MUCH pessimism/scrutiny on how "bad" the team's been playing this year? I see them fighting their tails off in every game and coming one play away in so many of those losses, even when they're struggling. That's a sign of a pretty good ball club to me. What am I missing here? Is it just more of a culture of scrutiny and judgement than it used to be, or is it really all that bad? Thanks Mike - happy Tuesday!

The resiliency and fight in this team can't be questioned. But the Packers are accustomed to having a rhythm and flow on offense that just hasn't been there. There's no sugarcoating that. That said, everyone wants to make declarations of this or that based on the latest game, and it just doesn't work that way. That's why I always say it's a week to week league. Teams improve, teams get worse, and there's always a chance for either as long as there are games left on the schedule.

Comment From Ray 

Mike, any stats on the hang-time of Aaron's Hail Mary? Jim Nance was telling a story while the ball was in the air. Have you heard the CBS broadcast of the play?

I did hear/see the clip. I think I read somewhere it was around 4.3 seconds of hang time. I was going to time it on the All-22 but I forgot. I'll have to do that, just for kicks.

Comment From Pat 

Mike, this past week in Detroit, I noticed Mike McCarthy had a play sheet and was looking at it quite often in the second half. I did not notice this during other games this year, is this his way to lend opinions to the play calling during the upcoming games?

I could be. It might be his way of seeing what else is in the game plan that they haven't gotten to yet, and if they need to go there. There also might be defensive or special teams calls on that sheet as well, I don't know.

Comment From Timmy D 

In your opinion, who is the best Packers rookie so far this season? I love Ty Montgomery personally but we haven't seen nearly enough of him to really know.

*Hard not to pick Damarious Randall.      *

Comment From Tom 

Was it a facemask?

If Rodgers said it was and that he wasn't acting, I'm taking his word for it.

Comment From Tony 

Mike, where were you on the final play of the Lions game and did you have to change your lede?

Vic was writing the bulletin story. I was up in the box trying to get a tweet out on the Packers account as fast as possible and then get downstairs for interviews.

Comment From Keith 

How do you propose the Packers defense Bryant this Sunday. He's like Magatron very difficult to defend.

If Randall is healthy, I'd like to see Shields and Randall mix it up on him. You're going to need a safety to pay attention to Witten, so it makes for an intriguing matchup.

Comment From Jumbo 

Is the Hail Mary the most popular play in history?

As far as we can tell, it's the most viewed video in the history of the site.

Comment From Ray 

I think Lacy's future is up to him. If he re-commits himself McCarthy won't be stubborn. They insisted his weight wasn't a problem, but gaining 20 lbs. since last season concerned me. When running backs in this league lose their edge, they drop off very quickly. It's up to him, we'll see.

Yes, we will.

Comment From Dan 

Hey, Mike. As a former play, current official, and huge Packer fan, I have to confess my passion for NFL football has taken a hit this year for one reason: the NFL rule book. I see a real problem in the years ahead unless drastic changes are made. Too many games are decided by the inconsistent application of safety rules discouraging good, old-fashioned, hard-hitting football. Do you see the same trouble ahead that I see?

That kind of trouble has been talked about for the last 4-5 years at least. I don't know what's going to come of it, but the safety rules aren't going away. I consider the transition in the officiating to remain an ongoing process.

Comment From Tim 

Terry Bradshaw said this weekend that the Packers "just aren't a good football team". I guess the expectations reach far beyond Packer nation when an 8-4 team is not good enough. Vic's mantra of just win doesn't carry over to some. I'll take 8-4 and the position we are in any season.

*All that matters now is what happens from here on out.             *

Comment From Tony 

You mentioned there is a practice this afternoon. Don't the players usually have Tuesdays off?

Usually, yes. Instead of practicing yesterday, though, McCarthy gave them another day away from the field so they'll start their practice week today.

Comment From Geoff 

You're not sold on the Panthers, Mike?

I think they're good. But if the Cardinals and Panthers were playing this week, I'd be picking the Cardinals, regardless of location.

Comment From Derek 

Are you like vic and want the Vikings to beat Arizona on Thursday?

*As long as the 2 seed and a bye is still in play, I think you have to root for Arizona to lose.          *

Comment From Lee 

Mike, Packers have some much talents to play like they did in the first half against Detroit. What happened in the first half vs. the second?

They stopped committing penalties in the second half that were creating horrible down-and-distance situations. They also were protecting Rodgers better, and R. Rodgers was getting open.

Comment From Adam 

Maybe Richard Rodgers can get open which will open up Cobb this opening up Adams and so forth. This offense seems so close to exploding

I don't know about exploding, but if what you mention can create a better level of efficiency, that'll help, because the defense is doing its job.

Comment From Matt 

Who has been your defensive MVP so far this season? Sam Shields has been great, Matthews is always great, Mike Daniels and B.J. Raji seem to be a force in the middle. Tough to find one guy on this defense to call the Packers MVP.

*Matthews and Daniels are the guys who have stood out the most to me. Raji's work definitely helps Daniels, and vice versa. Shields has played very solid, too.   *

Comment From Felipe 

Does this team have what it takes to win it all? or it'll be just another of year of possibly making the playoffs and that's it?

I've come to accept in this league that you just have to make the playoffs and roll the dice.

Comment From Tony 

Mike, do you ever wish those west coast games (Arizona and Oakland) would be flexed to an earlier time, so you can get home at a decent hour? With that said, do you think the last game of the season against the Vikings will be flexed to a 3:25 start time?

*I'd love every game to be at noon, but that's never going to happen on the West Coast because of the time difference. Work-wise, I'm just hoping Fox is protecting the Packers-Cardinals game so it doesn't get flexed to prime time. That'll mean getting home around 5 a.m. instead of 1-2 a.m. as it is.            *

Comment From Matt 

Lacy starts this weekend and plays well. Book it. That's the only way you put this mini-drama to rest.

Works for me.

Comment From Bill 

Speaking of player safety, I wonder if the league would ever take steps to do something about the rock-hard surface of artificial turf stadiums. I've seen more concussions from player banging their heads off those fields that actual player to player hits. Thoughts?

*Turf isn't what it used to be, but you make a good point. Though I don't know if banging the head on a FieldTurf field is any worse than a grass field on a cold, freezing day.       *

Comment From Guest 

Mike, Do you have any thoughts on the winner of the NFC East getting a home game at potentially 7-9?

I think I said last week I don't have a problem with it. I don't like messing with the structure because of the way the regular-season scheduling formula is aligned.

Comment From Matt 

If AZ loses Thursday then GB control their own destiny for the #2 seed. SKOL

Comment From Jeff 

Is it crazy to think losing the division and playing the NFC East winner in the first round would be better than winning the division?

Funny to see these back-to-back in my queue.

Comment From Michael 

mike why cant our D get off the field when the game is on the line?

*The third & 12 throw by Stafford was just a heckuva throw. No two ways about it. Sometimes that happens. For the defense to give up just six points over the final three quarters on the road was exceptional.    *

Comment From Josh 

Isn't this team one phase away from being a really good team? If the passing game gets going and O line stays healthy I see us being very competitive. With Aaron Rodgers isn't this something that cant be far away. Do you see Jared making the same impact down the stretch Davonte made last year?

Interesting thought on Abbrederis. That might be a bit much, but I'm curious to see how much Rodgers starts looking to him the more he practices, etc.

Comment From Andrew C. 

One step at a time, Mike. I want to win the NFC North. I do every year. That's why I rooted for the the Hawks at the weekend and want Arizona to beat the Vikes. Division matters, winning it is the easiest way into the play-offs.

*There's that school of thought, too.       *

Comment From Guest 

It's been a tale of two seasons

Only two?

Comment From Carlton 

How are home game weekends different for you in comparison to away games?

It's really whether I'm home spending time with my family on Saturday or at a hotel, hopefully in a town I have friends to visit.

Comment From Kevin 

Beer or bourbon?

Beer. Vic's the bourbon guy.

Comment From Tim 

Mike. What color should the Pack go with next year for their color block game? All green, all white or all gold? Personally, I don't like any of the options but all green seems to be the best of the worst.

I'm going to guess all white, but I really don't know. The green pants would just look really weird.

Comment From Dave 

How confident are you in saying "The Packers will win the Division"? Or are you not even looking that far and just going week by week?

*I just look at the big picture and say, if the Packers win their next two against sub-.500 teams, they should be in with 10 wins. But as far as the division, it's really hard to tell where both the Packers and Vikings are headed between now and Week 17.     *

Comment From Tim 

I noticed that Rollins backed off from hitting Stafford on the late first down run, allowing the Lions to pick up the first down. This is happening all over the league but my questions is this. Is it fair? Franchise player or not, a runner should be treated as a runner.

*I actually thought he got blocked in the back and that threw him off course on trying to cut Stafford off. OK, I've gone about an hour. I can take a few more. Thanks for all the questions.             *

Comment From Trevor 

Mike, I'm not going to jinx us and say we WILL, but I do think this team CAN catch fire here in the last part of the season. McCarthy's teams have a way of making a push down the stretch.

I agree. If the time off allowed some guys to heal up, I'm curious to see how they come out and play.

Comment From Sam 

With the two straight losses at home, I have had this sinking feeling that Lambeau is no longer the infamous, un-beatable fortress it once was, and that we have lost our massive home-field advantage. Is this worry warranted?

It's not about Lambeau. It's about playing well at Lambeau. The last time I remember the Packers playing "well" at Lambeau and losing was probably the '13 WC game vs. SF, when GB was so banged up. When this team plays well at home, like most teams, it doesn't often lose.

Comment From Andy 

Seeing Aaron run down the field after the Hail Mary reminded me Brett Favre in the Super Bowl with his pass to Rison. Seeing Aaron celebrate on the field like Brett used to do was a pretty cool thing to see. It seemed like a lot of weight was lifted off his shoulders with that stunning victory, hopefully that is something that can carry him and the team on the rest of the way!

A lot of comments like this, so I'll make this the last word for today. Thanks for all the participation, folks. Take care and we'll talk again next week. --Mike

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