Shaun from Cottage Grove, WI
Aaron Rodgers' advice for the team Sunday was "don't get COVID." What extra precautions do the players take during the bye week? Do any leave town, etc.?
Nothing drastic. The Packers aren't making the guys live in a hotel room like "Old Boy" or anything. The team also is practicing on Thursday and Friday, so that should help shield against idle hands. And when players are away from the facility, it just comes down to making good choices like they have for the last five months. The Packers have earned this opportunity. It's paid in full. Now protect it.
Allen from Birmingham, AL
II: I enjoy reading the live blog during the huddles while I'm watching the game – thanks! Which Packers are likely to appreciate the bye most? Put another way, which injuries will respond best to a week "off," and which of our missing players do we have the best chance of seeing back in two weeks?
It sure will help Rick Wagner out. He's been battling a knee injury for some time and took another tough shot Sunday. Krys Barnes was a little banged up, as well, during a 14-tackle night. I'm not sure if any of the players currently on IR (Tyler Ervin, Raven Greene or Billy Winn) have a chance of returning for the postseason, though.
Warren from Lutz, FL
Good morning, if Aaron Rodgers can win the MVP his totals for those seasons will be 131 TDs against 16 interceptions. Has anyone ever done anything close to that during three MVP seasons?
It depends on how you look at it. From a passer rating standpoint? Not even close. Manning had more touchdowns (137) in his three best MVP seasons (2004, '09 and '13) but he also threw 36 interceptions during those three seasons. Favre had 121 TDs and 42 INTs from 1995-97. Brady had 118 TDs and 20 INTs during his three MVP years (2007, '10 and '17).
Jennifer from Middleton, WI
Aaron is going to win the MVP and meanwhile off the field he's been just as stellar: funny, accessible, candid and exuding positivity and perspective. The visibility to him has been so much fun! I feel like a sports psychologist would give anything to study him because it appears the mental aspect of his game (and I don't just mean dissecting defenses) is a key factor in his greatness. Whatever he read/studied/did this offseason has been gold.
Rodgers has always been thoughtful when responding to questions during my time on the beat, but he's taken that up a notch this year on Zoom. He's in a good place mentally. While obviously that's translated to success on the field, he also seems at peace.
Nathan from Lino Lakes, MN
Can you describe exactly what Jaire Alexander does so well that prevents throws his way? In a season of constant adjustments and unlimited film, you would think a team could expose him for something.
Did you ever have that annoying sibling or relative who would be like, "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!" while being all up in your business? That's Jaire Alexander on the football field. And during the rare instance that a receiver gets separation, Alexander has the awareness, reaction and acceleration to recover. He's the total package.
Subhadeep from Middletown, CT
If teams genuinely have a lack of interest in throwing at Jaire how does he keep sharp on every play during a real game? I remember Richard Sherman kinda poking Rodgers for not throwing in his direction during their matchups for a similar comparison.
The Packers play Alexander on the defensive left perimeter and that usually means road closed for that side of the field. I'm definitely starting to get some Sherman/Darrelle Revis vibes from Alexander with his shutdown ability.
Vinny from Arlington, VA
Interesting that Adrian Amos was known as a steady and consistent player but not as a player that generates any big-play turnovers. Yet, in four games against Chicago, he has two INTs and almost a forced fumble and fumble recovery (negated by penalty). In fact, I believe all of his turnovers against the Bears have come in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. And on to my question, I've heard rumblings that Derrick Henry should get co-MVP honors. What are your thoughts on this?
Adrian Amos has taken his game to another level in the second half of the season. He's a sure tackler and an assignment-sound player, but he's trusting his instincts this year and making a lot more big plays. He's a big reason for the defensive uptick the last two months. I think the MVP is down to Rodgers and Mahomes. Those are the top players on the best two teams in each conference. Period. In my mind, it's a two-man race…and Rodgers is not two.
Tom from Cambridge, MA
Davante Adams: 18 TD for 108 points. Mason Crosby: 16-of-16 on FGs (48 points), 59-of-63 on PATs (59 points): 107 points. How long has it been since the kicker wasn't the team's top scorer (esp after making 100% of his FGA)?
One year. That's it. How crazy is that? Aaron Jones outscored Crosby 114-106 last year. This marks this the first time two skill-position players have led the Packers in scoring over their kicker in back-to-back seasons since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
Tyler from Kenosha, WI
With the addition of Damon Harrison and a week off, do you see the Packers resting Kenny Clark more on early downs for him to be a more effective pass rusher?
I've talked a lot about Clark's playing time but now is go-time. He played 63 of 75 defensive snaps against Chicago, including one series alongside Harrison. Snacks is going to help the rotation but the playoffs are when your best players need to perform. So I think you're going to see Clark on the field for north of 80% playing time from here on out.
Paul from Oceanside, NY
It seems like the way to beat us or to have an opportunity to beat us is by creating long possessions on the ground and keeping Rodgers off the field. The Colts, Vikings and Bears went into games or the second half against us doing that. What can we do to get our defense off the field and prevent that?
It starts with getting that initial first down on offense and allowing the defense to rest. When it is on the field, the Packers' defense has to keep winning on first and second down. This defense is different when it's third-and-6-plus. The Packers have held opponents to 16 points or less in three straight games…and some of those points weren't even the defense's fault.
Dennis from Beavercreek, OH
Mike, on Monday you mentioned the coaches would be game-planning for all four possible teams with an emphasis on the Bucs during the bye week. Wouldn't it be more productive for them to look back over the season and see what the team did well and what did not work and build a plan with the strengths and shelve the things that did not work? Once our opponent is determined they can use the plan and tailor it to the opponent. Along with doing that they would be conducting some self-scouting.
That goes without saying. It's like dusting the top of your refrigerator or changing the filter in your furnace. You might not tell your buddy about it at the neighborhood barbeque but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Steve from New Market, IN
Thoughts about the play at the left tackle position? Are they going to need to give some more help on that side of the line?
The Packers just need to be creative with what they do, like they have all season. Marcedes Lewis seemed to take on more one-on-one blocking responsibilities in Chicago, while the Packers used their other tight ends and running backs to chip edge rushers. And when the Packers went empty on Sunday, Billy Turner and Wagner won their one-on-ones.
Chun from El Monte, CA
This Super Bowl run will be won in the trenches from both the D-line getting pressure and stopping the run to the O-line protecting A-Rod. The skill-position players may get the glory but those guys in the trenches will make the ultimate sacrifice to get us a Lombardi. Kudos to the whole O-line for stepping up Sunday. Hopefully this continues the rest of the way. This is truly the ultimate team sport.
If the Packers win it all this year – and that's a big if with 13 other teams vying for one trophy – perhaps the most underrated story of their season is how well the offensive line performed against meat-grinding competition and with frequent shifts in the starting lineup. One 2020-21 game without David Bakhtiari down, three more to go.
Jack from Mukwonago, WI
To date, there's been little comment or question by the media of how having AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones together in the backfield opened up the short passing game for Jones with the defense having to be concerned with the possible handoff to Dillon. They were well-designed plays with good success in the fourth quarter. I think we will be seeing more of it, at times handing off to Dillon.
To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time we've seen Jones and Dillon stationed in the backfield together. That's one more wrinkle for LaFleur and the offense to play with down the stretch.
David from Florence, AR
I heard a pre-game announcer on Sunday going on about how Sean Payton should be NFL Coach of the Year because he has done so much with so many players out. You could do this better than me so fill in the blanks. I think we had several O-linemen out, four running backs, top two receivers, at least two inside linebackers, at least two tight ends, three defensive linemen, and an injured kicker. Still went 13-3. If ML doesn't get Coach of the Year something is wrong.
LaFleur is more than deserving, but you never know what the voters are going to prioritize, especially in that eye-of-the-beholder category. But to anyone who says LaFleur can't win Coach of the Year if Rodgers is the MVP, look no further than what Baltimore did last year. This team was too good, and too successful, for Green Bay to be shut out this time around.
Ben from Goodyear, AZ
Mike/Wes, longtime reader, first time writing in. You've both been clear on ML's deserving of Coach of the Year, but a little research helps. Best winning percentage in the first two years as an NFL head coach – ML comes in at 26-6; 81.25%. That's fourth all-time. Only three others have a higher win percentage – Guy Chamberlin, Paul Brown, and George Seifert (all at 87.5%). George Halas is fifth in line at 79.17%; Chuck Knox and Red Miller at 78.57%; Steve Mariucci at 78.125%. Three at 75%. Awesome.
Like I said, LaFleur is worthy.
Kirsten from Madison, WI
What is the statistical correlation between TOP and wins? I understand that controlling the clock often means controlling the game. But as we saw Sunday, it's far more valuable to a have QB-WR combo who can execute a 72-yard TD and take 1:37 off the clock than to be an offense that burns off 8:04 and comes away with nothing to show for it.
I don't have a research department to give you the game-by-game breakdowns, but it does translate to wins and losses. The top five teams in time of possession this season are all playoff bound.
Brian from Sussex, WI
The Marquez Valdes-Scantling drop on the first possession of the second half was mentioned a lot as a shift of momentum, but I felt it started with the offside negating the turnover at the end of the first half. Without that penalty, the Bears don't get the three points and the Packers likely get three or seven points to finish the first half. Two little lapses of focus made the difference between Chicago coming back early in second half and the game being pretty much out of reach for the Bears early in the second.
There's no question a false-start call would've been huge considering the issues the Packers were having stopping the Bears on fourth-and-1, but that's football. You can't live and die on the whistle. As much as the MVS drop hurt, the Packers can't let a moment like that snowball.
Robert from Verona, WI
What a roller coaster of emotions we experience when watching MVS play. He clearly has game-changing abilities the Packers need to take advantage of, but there is also an inconsistency that is concerning. With a (typically) small margin for error in the playoffs, let's hope he comes through in the clutch – the team needs him at his best.
The regular season is behind the Packers at this point. It's a new season and Green Bay is going to need a couple big plays from MVS to get through January.
Carlos from Houston, TX
I have mixed feelings about the new playoff format. The Colts definitely belong but I feel the Bears don't. If the ratings for the Saints-Bears game are not good, do you see the league going back to the old format?
Ken from Racine, WI
The defensive unit has definitely become stronger over the last several games. Statistically, just how much have they improved in the last eight over the first eight? Breaking into the top 10 in that time is really a big deal. I would guess they were even top five over the last eight or they couldn't have climbed that far.
I'm planning to write something on this…in addition to that unsung heroes story I foreshadowed last week…this week.
Tom from Douglassville, PA
Great win, but I still don't understand the first play of the game. The Bears kick returner steps out of bounds and touches the ball (which is in bounds) and they get the ball placed on the 40 instead of the 1-yard line? Why were the Packers penalized? The ball never went out of bounds? If anything, the Bears should be penalized.
It's a quirk in the rulebook where a returner can step out of bounds and touch the ball, making himself an extension of the boundary that makes it a kickoff out of bounds. The Packers challenged because they felt Cordarrelle Patterson touched the ball before establishing himself out of bounds, which would've resulted in the ball being placed at the 1-yard line. LaFleur still felt that way on Monday but accepted the ruling regardless.
Richard from Caledonia, WI
Good morning and Happy New Year! Looks like the defense is really coming together. How do you see the playoff schedule favoring the Packers? The Buccaneers may be a real challenge as the potential first opponent the Pack may have to face.
I get why most of these questions have been skewed towards the Buccaneers, but I still say that would be a much different game at Lambeau Field. Having the NFC playoffs potentially run through Green Bay is a big deal…regardless of which lowest seed advances to the divisional round.
Estillac from Belém, Brazil
Good morning, Wes! I'm not the only one rooting for Bucs at Packers in the divisional round, am I? One more Rodgers vs. Brady (the first one in postseason) and an opportunity to give back the Week 6 defeat. I'm pretty sure we're ready! Playoffs are made of such big games!
I don't think there's a bad matchup in the bunch, whether it's a rematch of Packers-Bears or Packers-Bucs, one more game between Rodgers and "The Comeback Kid" Alex Smith, or LaFleur matching wits with his good friend Sean McVay.
Rafal from Zielona Gora, Poland
In this terrible year (I'm an emergency physician and the last few months wasn't easy!) every Sunday (mostly) the Packers game was a little joy in tough times. I'm proud of them. They accomplished something that seemed impossible 4-5 months ago. That's even more impressive when we look how small an impact this year's draft class has on this team. Do you remember any other year when the Packers got almost nothing from their entire draft class? And still they get the No. 1 seed!
I'm very sorry for your difficult year. I know the Packers' success this year has been a source of comfort for a lot of folks out there, particularly on the frontlines of this thing. This year's draft class reminds me a lot of 2014, when several young players contributed regardless of whether it's a second-round pick like AJ Dillon or an undrafted free agent like Krys Barnes who finished with the third-most tackles on the entire team.
Al from Green Bay, WI
If you could watch only one game this weekend, which would it be? Why is it intriguing?
Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh, one of the NFL's most storied rivalries revisited in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Browns are looking for their first playoff win since I was seven.
John from Rhinelander, WI
Is it true that Dean's poetry is the reason for the Packers' success?
We got another month to go before we know that for sure.