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Inbox: AJ Dillon is in a league of his own

Every game is meaningful. That’s what makes this game beautiful

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RB AJ Dillon

Allan from Støvring, Denmark

No. 1 seed secured! 13-3 again. Now what is going to give? Can GB reach 14 wins or can they lose four?

I snickered while walking to my car on Sunday night, er, Monday morning. All these Dean poems over the past month talking about the path to No. 14. It turns out all the Packers needed to do was secure 13 for the third year in a row.

Kevin from New Milford, CT

Looking at the readily available stats... on offense, it appears only AJ Dillon, Marcedes Lewis, and Royce Newman have played in every game. On defense/ST it's De'Vondre Campbell, Darnell Savage, Dean Lowry, T.J. Slaton, Oren Burks, Adrian Amos, Chandon Sullivan, Henry Black, Corey Bojorquez and Mason Crosby. A total of 13 players for the entire season. That's a TON of lost playing time. It certainly makes ML and BG look like strong candidates for Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year for the work they've done coaching and managing the roster.

Give them all the awards. Aaron Rodgers, too.

Cristian from Santiago, Chile

Why so little love for Matt LaFleur as Coach of the Year? The numbers are right there, the records too. I know it's a yearly award (as opposed to a trajectory or a career award), but what he's done with one of the most storied teams in any sport should account for something, right?

LaFleur's Packers have won more than any other team in NFL history in a head coach's first three seasons. He should be the NFL Coach of the Year. Will he? That's up to the Associated Press voters to decide. But they better remember LaFleur ain't no Johnny Come Lately. He's been doing this for three years and he's going to keep doing it today, tomorrow and the next year. He's the real deal as an NFL head coach, play-caller and offensive mind. Acknowledge him.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

Did the absence of Adam Thielen and Kirk Cousins allow the Packers to play more base defense Sunday or where they in their nickel package most of the game?

The Packers played mostly their same packages. Base and nickel linebacker Krys Barnes played 42 of 54 snaps, while dime cornerback Kevin King saw 11 snaps. I just think the difference was the Packers didn't fear the Vikings' downfield passing game, allowing them to batten down the hatches vs. Dalvin Cook.

Bill from Sheboygan, WI

A couple observations from the Minnesota game. I think Minnesota gave up on the run too early and every time they showed Dalvin Cook on the sidelines he really didn't seem into the game. Do you think that was due to the cold?

It's kind of hard to get "into the game" when you're not a part of the game, no? The Vikings seemed to abandon the run early. I was surprised Cook didn't touch the ball more when the Vikings were still within striking distance.

Mike from Hastings, MN

I noticed "28" and "33" together in the backfield Sunday night. Was that the first time all year?

The Packers have used their two-RB "Pony" package this year but that probably was the most they've deployed it in a single game, motioning Aaron Jones quite a bit out of the formation. What I like the most was how well the offense ran the ball regardless of whether it was Jones or AJ Dillon in the backfield. It was a fitting night for those two to become the fourth backfield duo in team history to eclipse 1,000 total yards in the same season, individually.

Daniel from Allen, TX

Can you think of anyone who has embraced the Packers, their culture and their fans as quickly as AJ Dillon?

No. AJ Dillon is in a league of his own in that regard. As I remarked on Twitter Monday, I don't know if any Packers draft pick in the modern era has connected with Wisconsinites quite like Dillon. And when I say that, I'm including guys who were even born in this state.

Dan from Lewisburg, PA

We all know that giving the ball to AJ Dillon in the second half of a cold-weather game is the winning formula, but is it also the quad-ratic formula? Even when defenders square up, he uproots them invariably. What was your favorite Dillon moment from this game?

The one where Dillon moved the pile. Wait, that was like 10 of them. That 7-yard touchdown was something, though. Give him an inch and he'll take several yards. Once Dillon slips into the second level, it's game over.

Connor from Minnetonka, MN

Who's tackling AJ Dillon in the cold?

Not this guy.

Jim from St Pete Beach, FL

Happy New Year, Wes! With special teams smoothing things out, do you agree that turning the red zone back into the gold zone is the biggest improvement needed to get us over the NFC Championship hump?

The Packers have protected the ball well all season. If they turn up their conversion rate in the red, er, gold zone, I think they'll be tough to beat in January…and maybe February.

Dan from Edgerton, WI

The Packers are trending towards peaking. Do you sit the starters or maintain momentum by playing? I believe playing the starters. The Brewers season was lost when they took their foot off the gas pedal. What's your take?

If Rodgers and Davante Adams want to play, I let them play – at least for a bit. That's not because of the Brewers as much as it is the Packers' 2011 squad. After a humbling loss to Kansas City, I think back and wonder if that team could've benefitted from sparring against the Lions before receiving the first-round bye. But hindsight is always 20/20.

Salongo from Hailey, ID

Do you think there's a chance Rodgers sits against the Lions to rest his toe an additional week leading up to the playoffs? If he did, do you think that would affect his MVP prospects? Or would the MVP race not even enter the equation with a potential trip to LA on the horizon?

Spoff already covered this but it's worth mentioning Rodgers said he doesn't feel like he needs to play, but it is something he'd like to do to avoid being off for too long. He compared it to not practicing this past month due to the toe. If I'm the coach, I would treat Sunday's game like an old-school preseason game. Maybe play the starters for the first half, or until Adams sets the receiving record, and then turn the game over to Jordan Love and Co. But we'll see what cards LaFleur plays.

Mike from St Louis Park, MN

Love vs. Boyle? Sounds good? Because this game is in the division, coaches and players play to win and will do whatever it takes for the win. Even if it means playing with what got you here. I ask, is the outcome of this game really meaningless?

No game is meaningless, ever. I must admit, I would like to see a Love vs. Boyle showdown. I don't know if we'll get it but that would be special to watch – Rodgers' two most recent QB pupils.

Joe from Swansea, IL

If (I mean when) we get the likes of "69," "23" and "55" back, how long will it take to knock the rust off? Can that mostly happen in practice, or will it take game speed to do it? Would the Lions game be optimal for that, or are they further away than Game 17? Any thoughts, appreciated.

As LaFleur said on Monday, this would be an optimal game for David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander etc., to play but it's never that simple. You have to see how the week plays out (Alexander is still on the reserve/COVID-19 list, too) and make sure you're doing what's right for the player(s).

Dan from Eagan, MN

How much different will the playoffs in GB look than last year?

Well, there will be roughly 70,000 more fans and it'll probably be 20 degrees cooler than last year's NFC title game. Other than that? Virtually identical.

Nate from Hartford, WI

Wes, does the fanbase angst over winning close games confuse you? From my perspective, not only am I more entertained by a competitive game, but I'd rather have a team that has experience winning tight games in the clutch heading into the playoffs any day, than a team that doesn't know what to do if they find themselves down by a score or two.

Honestly, I'm indifferent about it. It's not like that segment of the fanbase is telling the Packers' coaches or players anything they don't already know. It's not like Green Bay threw itself bouquets after the close wins over Baltimore and Cleveland. Everyone said they needed to play better. Nobody is resting on their laurels right now.

Steve from Green Bay, WI

Good morning, II. So, how's the "beautiful mystery" working out thus far? I can't help but think if this team can remain "in the moment," they will be bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown. Thank you, Mike and Wes, for making this forum available to Packer Nation. GPG!

It's a brutal game, mentally and physically. Once the playoffs come, it's a best-of-one format to decide who's going to be playing for the game's richest prize. Every game, every pass and every run are meaningful. That's what makes this game beautiful. And the mystery? That's what keeps us all coming back year after year.

Mikah from Brooklyn , NY

Hey, Wes and Spoff, reading the Inbox is a highlight of my day. So, thank you for all the work you do. I have to say, David Moore looked really comfortable catching kicks and punts. He was bending his knees and looked unafraid of the gunners even after taking a hit. Where has he been the last couple years and what can Amari Rodgers learn from him?

Man, what I would do to get a peek at Brian Gutekunst's free-agent rolodex. What's crazy is Moore's 21-yard return wasn't just the Packers' season-high for the special-teams unit. It also was a career-high for Moore, who has only returned 25 punts in four NFL seasons. He looked natural back there, though. The Packers aren't asking their returners to be Devin Hester right now. They just want them to give the ball back to Aaron Rodgers. Moore did his job on Sunday night.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Tell us a bit about Tyler Davis? I've been seeing him catch passes in the past few games but must confess to not knowing much about him.

Speaking of Gutekunst in-season moves, the Packers seem to have found something in Davis, too. I don't know much about him but he's made some plays in recent weeks. As Spoff pointed out during the game, Davis gets from Point A to Point B quickly with how long his strides are.

Lloyd from Rancho Cordova, CA

Great tackling and energy all game long. The special teams played very well. Did the temperature affect the last couple of kickoffs?

There's no question the ball was traveling differently by the end of the fourth quarter but Mason Crosby did a great job adjusting to the conditions. All in all, I thought Crosby booted the ball well (five touchbacks, four extra points, three field goals, two on his jersey and a partridge in a Spoff tree).

Jack from Naperville, IL

Hello Insiders! Watching the broadcast, I noticed Cris Collinsworth spent a lot of time praising Kenny Clark for eating up the double-teams. How much do we attribute our inside linebackers' recent success to "97"? He seems like an indispensable piece to the puzzle.

There was one play early that stood out to me where Tyler Lancaster and Dean Lowry were credited with the stop on Cook but it was Clark just being an immovable object that allowed the front to engulf Cook. Clark is a special player. When he and Campbell are both available, the Packers' run defense is difficult to penetrate up the middle.

Lambeau Field hosted a Week 17 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022.

Dave from Brandon, SD

What is the message to the players regarding COVID? That is going to be so important in the remaining weeks, who will be on/off the COVID list!

Life happens. There will be more cases in the days and weeks to come, but you just gotta be smart, mitigate the risk and stay as safe as you can. That's all any of us can do.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Wes. Do you expect some atypical call-ups from the practice squad for Sunday? Thanks.

Not if the starters are going to play. I'm sure there will be a few guys called up but it's not like there's an unlimited number of spots available on the gameday roster. One way or another, the Packers can only dress 48 players.

Sreedharan from Pewaukee, WI

Hi Insiders. "We had him double-covered a couple of times, but he still caught the ball" – Zimmer's comment on why Adams was single-covered some of the time. And that was one of his better answers during his presser. I saw a man totally crushed, given up all hope. Would have been a pitiful sight but he's a Viking, and that warmed my heart. I cannot wonder but think about what Matt's response would be in a similar situation.

LaFleur handles losses better than most NFL head coaches handle wins. It's one of his greatest leadership traits. As far as Mike Zimmer is concerned, he's a great coach who has had a lot of success in Minnesota compared to many of his predecessors. I don't know what is going to happen in a couple weeks but Zimmer's tenure with the Vikings should be viewed favorably regardless of the outcome.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, one happy thought for the Vikings. Center Bradbury's career stats now include a 21-yard pass reception.

That's the other beautiful thing about the NFL. You could watch 1,000 games in your lifetime and still see something new at a moment's notice.

Roy from Eagle River, WI

Any news on what happened to the umpire and how he is doing?

Speaking of that…no, I haven't heard anything. Hopefully, Fred Bryan is doing OK. Credit to Clay Martin and his crew for getting through most of the game with just six officials.

Bruce from Las Vegas, NV

What are the chances the NFC North has three new head coaches next season? If so, has that happened before?

Minimal. Dan Campbell isn't going anywhere.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

On the team tab of the website, it appears the Packers have 87 players under their control on the respective rosters. Is that accurate? It would seem more is better, and the opportunity to keep developmental prospects in a structured system is better for the NFL. Do you see any expansion in that direction?

I prefer not to count on Tuesdays. Ask me on Thursday when I have to cover practice.

Vic from De Pere, WI

What is with everyone saying "the line to gain"? What happened to just saying "they're short of the first down"?

Back in my day, they used to say, "The runner finished short of the line to gain."

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