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Inbox: A game to remember, for sure

You block out all the doubt and the noise


Brett from Onalaska, WI

The NFL is officially winning the parity race. No, not just with the NBA, MLB, or other sports leagues. Upon close examination, I discovered that there is currently a bit more parity in NFL records than would be expected if all the games were coin flips. What am I to make of this?

The NFL is built to keep us watching. Through seven of 17 weeks (41 percent of the season), 25 of 32 teams (78 percent of the participants) have three or more wins and are competing for 12 playoff spots. It's how a league maintains widespread interest.

Zach from Clarkfield, MN

How's our offensive line holding up? Do you think the RBs will be asked to do a lot more pass blocking (more than usual) against the Rams? I do think that if Cobb and Allison are back this week, Rodgers may not hold on to the ball as long as he has in some instances the past few weeks.

Against a defense with this kind of pass rush, Rodgers will have to pick his spots for when to hold the ball and take a shot. The Packers will have to make some big plays, but the rhythm and timing of the offense will have to precede them because you can't just max protect all game long.

Gavin from Albuquerque, NM

Being the bye week, I sat back and watched football for the sake of watching football. I noticed something. In recent years, just about every play there was a receiver or defensive lineman grabbing his hip and throwing an imaginary flag in the air while whining at a ref and looking for a flag. Did the league do something to stop this behavior? Is TV coverage avoiding showing it? What changed?

I honestly don't know, but I'd classify it as a welcome change.

Peter from Milwaukee, WI

A lot of questions yesterday on what it's going to take to beat the Rams, but not one honest answer. It's going to take a miracle. They just manhandled the 49ers in SF, the Packers needed to be gifted a first down from the refs to squeak by the 49ers at Lambeau. The Rams are the class of the NFC right now and the Packers are just bad. Personally I'm hoping the Packers miss the playoffs. Making it just means a worse draft pick since they won't come close to making the SB.

Enjoy the rest of the week and season.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Players are human, we hear that from the players themselves in their interviews. How does the coaching staff combat the doubt that has to creep in, especially after seeing the beatdown the Rams gave the 49ers on Sunday on the road? The 49ers being a team that the Packers struggled to beat at home.

You stick to the film, meaning you show the players their own plays against the 49ers that should have been executed better. You also show where the 49ers' breakdowns were against the Rams and how you're going to counter. You block out all the doubt and the noise by building a plan for success, and focusing on the level of execution needed to make that plan succeed.

Lee from Blue Mountain Beach, FL

Is this not a Green Bay Packer football website? I understand people from Wisconsin are excited about the Brewers, yet when I read the Inbox and it's half-filled with baseball questions and comments, and you're not a fan of baseball, it's very disappointing. I really enjoy reading articles and comments from both Mike and Wes when you talk Packer football. Just wish you would advise people go to the Brewers website and post there.

It was two questions out of 21, and less than 200 words out of approximately 2,000, in Monday's column. Remind me never to buy a half share of stock from broker Lee. Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm going to address non-Packer things that matter to me, and the most important game in 36 years of Brewers baseball qualified.

Josh from Pomona, CA

My biggest concern this week is Gurley. He's an absolute beast and our run defense has not looked so great. How do we slow him down?

Get off blocks and make tackles. Fans hate to hear about fundamentals. They want to know how to scheme to do something. The only way to scheme stopping the run is commit more bodies to the box, which any good passing offense will exploit. Get off blocks and make tackles.

Lazaro from Corpus Christi, TX

I don't know if this has been asked before but do you guys think the Packers have the intention of hardly playing Aaron Jones because they want to keep him healthy for this tough stretch of games? Or am I giving the Packers too much credit? Part of me wants to think that's what they're doing but at the same time I also know we have sometimes gotten into deficits that don't allow the running game as much. What do you think?

I'll go back to what I keep referencing about Jones' health history. He was the feature back for four games last year and started having knee trouble. He came back as a part-time player for four games and had an issue with his other knee. He's played four games since the suspension and now has gotten a week off. Let's see where it goes from here.

Anthony from Estero, FL

Presuming Jaire Alexander is the only one with the speed to travel with Brandin Cooks, the other wideouts like Kupp and Woods create huge matchup problems for guys like Jackson, King, and Williams. How do you see the Packers and Pettine approaching the defensive scheme this week to adjust to this?

I don't see the Packers picking individual matchups and lining up that way for four quarters. They almost never do, regardless of the opponent, and Pettine has shown an interest in varying personnel groups all the time. I anticipate he'll keep mixing up the calls and coverages, and then going to the ones he feels are being executed best as the game evolves.

Tom from Fairfield, CT

Looking forward to the Rams game and, unless I'm mistaken, a saving grace the Packers have had the past few years, though I'm not sure it has always been noticed and appreciated by the team leadership, is the short, rhythm passing game. In my view this was how they got out of their offensive funk a couple of years ago with running the table and when Rodgers came out to play the second half against the Bears this year. It has many benefits against a strong D. Am I mistaken?

I don't discount the value of the short, rhythm passing game to get things going, but to say it made "run the table" happen is a bit misleading. In that eight-game winning streak, Rodgers threw for 2,394 yards on 195 completions, or 12.3 yards per reception. Yards after catch play into it sure, but you can't average a number like that with short throws for two whole months.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

What team strength we haven't really seen yet might emerge during the second half of the season that will turn us into the 2007 Giants or 2010 Packers? I remember the Giants lost to the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots during that season and then beat them all in the playoffs.

We've all seen what the Packers' offense looks like when it's humming, and it's obviously not there yet. Rodgers believes it's close and I believe him. The defense continues to strive for more consistency in both halves of a game. I continue to say this team has not played its best football. It will get there. When it does, the question is will it be enough and soon enough, if that makes sense. That's the answer we're waiting for.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

To the reader who wants to trade for a pass rusher, next spring's draft is loaded with pass rushers and defensive linemen. With two first-round picks, and all the other picks, it would be wise to wait.

That's why I say it comes down to price.

Aaron from Tomah, WI

I remember, as a kid growing up in the '90s, the Packers having a ridiculously long winning streak at home. My question is, what were the numbers on that winning streak and how does it compare to the longest home winning streaks in NFL history?

The Packers won 25 straight at home from Week 3 of 1995 through Week 2 of 1998. Including four postseason wins, the streak was 29. League records use only regular-season results, and Green Bay's streak is the second-longest all-time behind Miami's run of 27 in a row from 1971-74. Including playoffs, the Dolphins' streak was 31.

Jake from Franklin, WI

I'm kind of hoping for a repeat of Week 6 in the 2012 season. Anything is possible with Rodgers back there.

That Packers team had gotten whipped at home in Week 1, suffered through the Fail Mary and a second-half meltdown in Indy, and went on the road to face a 5-0 Houston team in prime time. A game to remember, for sure.

Guy from Hudson, WI

Since we are decided underdogs this week, will we see some unconventional offense from the Packers? We haven't shown any ability to vary the play-calling. No reverses, no halfback passes, no flea flickers, just the same run the ball and depend on our QB to make game-changing plays. Watching the good teams play this weekend, they seem to be able use schemes to augment their offense. The Pack has become too predictable. I'm still waiting for Cobb to throw a pass, as he was a QB at Kentucky.

I saw what appeared to be a couple of trick plays that never got off the ground against San Francisco. If there isn't confidence the plays can be executed, they won't get called. Cobb does have two career pass attempts, by the way.

Bill from Mediapolis, IA

Look how close this NFC North race is. One yard takes the Bears from first place to last place. Next weekend's games will be interesting.

The end of that Bears game showed why you practice Hail Marys. When Trubisky first stepped out of the pocket, one of his offensive linemen turned his body to shield anyone from coming Trubisky's way, assuming he'd sprint toward the sideline to buy extra time and step up closer to the line of scrimmage to release the ball. But Trubisky stopped moving and cocked his arm instead, so the pass rusher slid inside the turned lineman and got in Trubisky's face, which prevented the pass from getting to the end zone.

Freddie from West Valley City, UT

Some would call Green Bay's upcoming schedule bad luck, but do you think it's possibly advantageous? Yes it's difficult, but there's a benefit to playing a series of extremely tough contests in a row. Sink or swim, it forces a team to establish its identity, something the Pack hasn't accomplished quite yet.

There's no meaningful identity until you have a winning streak and know the foundation that produced it. The opponents don't define it for me. It's about how a team wins consistently, and the Packers haven't done that yet. The challenge to do so is more difficult given the upcoming schedule, but there's still time.

Bob from Racine, WI

This DB/head-turning question has had me stumped for a long time. If I'm the DB, I only care where my guy is until the ball is in the air. I don't look at him again unless I determine that I can't get to the ball. This removes all the guessing/reacting from the equation. Am I missing something basic here?

With your approach, if the ball isn't right on target, the receiver gains a huge advantage to maneuver to find it, or draw a flag, when you turn your head early. There's no way you can react quickly enough. That's why a DB tries to maintain "contact," in a manner of speaking, with the receiver until the last possible moment. You play the man as long as you can, then the ball.

Carl from Waterloo, IA

The new kickoff rules seem to be working but they have made successful onside kicks nearly impossible. Would the league ever consider allowing teams to have that running start again just for onside kicks only? It seems the new rules have really taken away an exciting play and the chance for teams to get the ball back when they need to.

I don't see the league going back on it now. I've said before, as soon as I studied the new kickoff rules, I knew onside-kick recoveries would diminish greatly. The league will take that trade for a safer game.

Tanner from Tulsa, OK

How much will Aaron Rodgers be practicing with the team this week? Yes, our defense needs some major improvement and consistency, but if we had back every drive that ended with a pass Rodgers typically makes in his sleep or a miscommunication with a WR, we win most of those games. I take Rodgers without a day of practice over any QB in the league, but you can't deny the lack of practice has had some effect on his play, and a greater effect on the cohesiveness of the offense.

I totally agree. McCarthy didn't provide any specific health updates Monday, but he did say he was hopeful Rodgers would be able to practice from the start of the week, which in this case is Tuesday. That would be a positive development.

Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador

So now that the Brewers are out of it, whom will you be pulling for in the World Series? And why?

I would absolutely root for the Dodgers if not for one guy on their team.