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Find the missing piece and they might get hot

It's December- do it now or forever hold your peace


Joe from Wichita, KS

You were asked in October who your Super Bowl favorites are. You replied "there are no favorites. It's not even Halloween. Ask me in December. That's when the real season begins. That's when we find out who's serious about winning a championship." What is your answer now? Or should we wait a little longer?

The Patriots, Bengals and Broncos are the clear-cut favorites in the AFC, but the Bengals have that playoff monkey on their back and it puts a lot of pressure on their quarterback. The NFC is wide open. Carolina is undefeated but I don't think they're unbeatable. I'd like the Packers' chances in a rematch with the Panthers. I think the Cardinals are playing the best football in the NFC right now, and I like the fact the Packers are going to play in Arizona in December; it'll give them a feel for playing there, should they have to do it in January. I think the Cardinals are the NFC favorite right now. We know what the Giants can do when they get hot late in the season; don't go to sleep on them. The Seahawks? Is there a more feared team in the league? I watched Adrian Peterson dominate on Sunday; he might be worthy of the league MVP. The Packers? In my mind, it's all about getting their passing game in a groove.

Daryl from Springfield, MO

When I'm playing Madden online against other players and it's getting down to the wire, I go to my most trusted plays. When I try to get creative or cute with the play-calling, it doesn't work. You've said it and I believe it to be true. Run the play and execute it.

Madden has taught you well. You understand, of course, it's not real, right?

Bill from Centennial, CO

In response to Jamie from Racine, you are using stats to support your case. That's not fully consistent.

Yes, it is, and here's why: I have written often in this column that I will use stats when I believe they tell an accurate story or confirm what I believe to be a fact. I believe the stats I used yesterday to support my beliefs tell an accurate story. My inbox spends too much time trying to prove me wrong. Why? I have an opinion, just as you have an opinion, and my opinion is worth no more or no less than any of the opinions in my inbox. Let's exchange opinions and move on.

Les from Las Vegas, NV

December has arrived. Lose the beards. Find the rhythm. Let's go.

Beards don't win football games. The men in the beards win football games.

Caleb from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, do you miss the days of the feature back, or does the running-back-by-committee approach give more talent an opportunity?

Adrian Peterson is a feature back, but even he has a complementary back. It's just the way it is nowadays; a complementary or change-of-pace back keeps the feature back fresh and makes the defense adjust to a different style of runner and a different tempo of pursuit. James Starks is a perfect complement to Eddie Lacy; it's the best 1-2 punch I've covered since Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. I covered Franco Harris when he ran 41 times in a game. Those days are long gone.

Ed from Henryville, IN

Do you think it's really as simple as preparation or is there a bigger monster in the room?

All teams have weaknesses. The Patriots are No. 29 in rushing. It's the monster in their room. The Broncos are without Peyton Manning. It's the monster in their room. The Panthers are No. 29 in passing. It's the monster in their room. The playoff monkey is the monster in the Bengals' room. The key to success is finding ways to overcome your weakness; I like to say it's finding a way to play around the club you can't hit. We know what the monster is in the Packers' room right now. In the offseason, every team will attempt to address the monster in their room, either through the draft or in free agency. For now, the answer is preparation; it's how you overcome your weakness.

Steven from Washington, DC

Vic, I get it's frustrating to get the same questions over and over, but I think the language you used in response to Bill from MN was pretty harsh, especially given it was a genuinely curious, respectfully worded question looking for more discourse on the subject of the role of coaching in the NFL. Thoughts?

I had to draw a line in the sand. I had to stop the play-calling stuff. It not only was dominating my inbox, it was giving the column and its comments section a terrible look. So, I used Bill's question to send a message to all of the play-calling people, that this is not the place to go for that whine. It's not just Packers fans; it's all fans. The constant scheme analysis on NFL Network has caused this. Frankly, I'm really disappointed in NFL Network for causing this mania. It's over the top. Every play can be analyzed with a they-should've-done-this mentality. What I want Packers fans to understand is they couldn't ask for a better collection of strategists than the men who coach this team. They have a reputation around the league for pencil-whipping their opponents. Bill Belichick made a point of congratulating Mike McCarthy following last year's game. Everyone is asking what's wrong with the Packers' passing game? If you pay attention, you'll hear the answers: they've missed some throws, run some bad routes and dropped some passes. Aaron Rodgers didn't see Randall Cobb open on the goal line in Carolina. It was a great play call. Cobb was isolated on a defender against Detroit and had achieved wide separation from the defender, and the pass was on the money; it might've gone for a touchdown, but the pass was dropped. It was a great play call. Davante Adams was isolated on a defender against Chicago and had separated so widely he probably would've scored, had he caught the ball. It was a great play call. Later in the game, a Rodgers interception was the result of a bad route. It was a simple slant, and my inbox begs for slants as much as it does for screens. Eliminate the missed throws, the bad routes and the dropped passes and everything will be fine. It's not the play-calling or the scheme.

Shane from Fresno, CA

Is it possible the Packers could be saving Janis for the home stretch, as they seemingly did with Starks and Adams? Think now would be a good time to quit with the child games and feed him the rock.

They're not saving him, but that doesn't mean the light won't all of a sudden go on and Janis will become the playmaker this team needs. It can happen.

Eric from Greenville, WI

If you could ask yourself a question, what would it be?

The big question will have to wait until the season is over: What's the final analysis? That's the question I would ask myself. When all of the information is in, it'll be time to tell the story of the 2015 Packers and how that relates to what has to be done in the offseason.

Jeff from Bloomington, IL

Vic, our December friend is upon us.

This is it. Do it now or forever hold your peace. Despite a 1-4 November, the Packers are nicely positioned for a playoff run. December will decide this team's fate. It's as it should be.

Levi from Los Angeles, CA

Vic, I have been a long-time reader of your column and being raised a Packers fan has given me the same live-for-the-game I get the sense you have. With that said, I am still willing and able to see the reality that Rodgers this season is not playing elite. My question to you is why you are so quick to defend him and although you do not like the blame game, who is really at fault with the team's offensive struggles?

Aaron Rodgers has been the heart and soul of this franchise for the past several years. He's carried this team on its back in years when the running game and the defense have lagged. He limped this team to within three minutes and 52 seconds of the Super Bowl last season. Now, because of a few losses you want me to point the finger of blame at the man who authored this run of success the Packers are on? You've got the wrong guy, Levi. That's not how I work. I have a love for this game that begins with the men who play it. At the heart of my love for those men is the human confrontation they face. The hard times currently confronting the Packers will only serve to make the story better. There will be a new chapter for me to write: Recovery! We're not the same, Levi.

Florent from Liege, WI

This defense is shining. Special teams are getting hot. Do you feel the team rising back up? I do.

You forgot the running game. If that one missing piece can be found and fit into the puzzle, the Packers could become that hot team in December.

Patrick from Minneapolis, MN

Are you surprised we don't see more plays designed to get Rodgers rolling out of the pocket? I revel at his ability to evade would-be tacklers in the shape-shifting pocket, but lately he seems too reluctant to flush out of it on his own. Might getting him out into open space and baiting coverage help open things up? I ask out of curiosity and not with any sense that I have anything remotely close to approaching the football expertise of an NFL coach.

Sprint right option? There's always room in the game plan for sprint right option. Here's a play I'd like to see the Packers run a little more often: Sprint right run it down their throats.

Terry from Harvester, MO

Vic, when the schedule came out, I had the Packers at 8-3 at this point. So being 7-4 isn't so bad. I believe the team needs to win three of the next five to be in the playoffs, with the final game being for the division. Your thoughts?

I'd prefer four out of five and one of those wins to be over the Vikings. I think that formula would put the Packers in very good position for a playoff run.

Beth from Elroy, WI

My husband and I think you should get real for a change and forget who is paying you. Now, with that in mind, don't you think there have been too many changes with the offensive coaching positions: wide receiver, quarterback and offensive coordinator, and this may have led to the poor coordination, miscommunication and confusion between players and coaches?

I don't think that's it, but how do you know that's not a lie?

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