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Inbox: And there's still plenty more out there

Christian McCaffrey is a playmaker in every sense of the word

LB De'Vondre Campbell, S Darnell Savage, CB Keisean Nixon
LB De'Vondre Campbell, S Darnell Savage, CB Keisean Nixon

Mark from Independence, IA

Hey Wes, no question but "If people wanna sleep on GB then tuck 'em in!" Instant classic. I changed my "motto" for 2024 and using this for personal motivation. Substitute GB for something personal. Inspiring words indeed! And an inspirational TEAM! Thank you for all you fellas do. GBG!

With those kinds of one-liners, I could motivate a middle-school football team to victory…maybe even two.

Jacob from Holmen, WI

Cheers to hoping the immovable object headed towards San Fran can cause another unstoppable collapse on Saturday.

Spoff was tossing me bouquets for the "tuck 'em in" quip when that wasn't even the best line uttered on this week.

Paul from Lexington, KY

Oh, the anticipation! I've never seen anything like it, such a young team, so much unknown, growth, and the turnaround in a season. This is no fluke, this Saturday will be so fun to watch, and next year, too!

This week has a different feel to it than any other postseason I've covered and it hit home for me in Jon Runyan's media scrum on Wednesday. Not only is this team getting better by the week, but the guys also are just having fun playing football. The stakes are high, but the Packers have perspective – on how far they've come…and there's still plenty more out there. I liken it to a runner with a strong kick, working to catch the leader before the finish line. Saturday is another opportunity for the Packers to showcase their progress.

TK from Grafton, WI

Expectations are a tricky lens: with a heavily favored team, winning can bring very little joy; just relief, whereas the fear of losing can be crippling. This year's Packers have brought much more joy than years past. Am I making sense here? GPG!

Yeah. At the end of the day, expectations are what you make them. Matt LaFleur has done a great job of reminding his team it deserves to be here. This isn't about doubters. It's about doers.

Ross from Hudson, WI

Does the run set up play-action or does play-action set up the run? This genius offensive scheme is so obfuscating – when now all the intended offensive weapons were assembled for the first game this season, it became glaringly apparent defenses, good defenses will struggle to predetermine its true intentions until it is too late.

It can work both ways, but last week was a prime example of how the run can set up big play-action plays. By the third quarter, the Cowboys were grasping at air trying to defend the Packers' offense. After two explosive runs by Aaron Jones, Dallas bit hard on the play-action pass that found a wide-open Luke Musgrave.

Jack from Moweaqua, IL

Not sure how many people caught it but on that TD to Dontayvion Wicks, Jordan Love still had No. 14 right in his face, then he made a slight clutch to get him up in the air to get his throw over the defender. That's a decision he has to make in about two seconds, then execute it. What other "little things" or intangibles have you seen from JL that make the future bright for this franchise? And do you think he must play to this level to win this Saturday?

His response to adversity. Love is human. He's gonna make mistakes but doesn't let one negative outcome manifest into a second. As LaFleur said on Monday, Love learns from everything, and it makes him a better quarterback every time he steps on the field. The guy's special.

Chase from Carmichael, CA

Regarding Grant from Janesville, I certainly think GB has set the standard, but only a few teams are capable of even attempting it, and fewer are going to succeed. Even if the stars align and you have a top-tier QB that plays long enough at a high level, and you have a relatively stable coaching staff, you still have to hit on the pick.

That's the tricky part, but fortunately the Packers appear to have hit home runs on the only two quarterbacks they've drafted in the first round over the past 30 years. I'm still surprised more teams don't try, though.

Ron from Spooner, WI

Lynn Dickey used to say he loved throwing to receivers on a wet or snowy field because they knew their routes while the defenders didn't, giving the receivers the edge in making their cuts. With this group of receivers, a wet field could turn into a huge advantage. The long-range forecast is calling for 60 degrees with rain showers for Saturday in San Francisco. Do the coaches look at weather forecasts and add or subtract plays based on potential for a wet, sloppy field?

Coaches will look at it, but you can't center your preparation on percentages unless the elements are truly extraordinary (e.g. Kansas City last week, New England and Buffalo a couple years ago). The Packers and 49ers are both athletic, fast teams so the field conditions are a wash (no pun intended). If it does rain, the Packers just have to own it, maintain their concentration, and protect the football.

Brian from Ontario, NY

Matt LaFleur has been on a heater calling plays. That momentum along with J-Love gives me confidence against anyone. Do you think early on in the season when ML stated the game plans were thrown out in some games due to poor starts and execution, that these ideas and concepts are being used now unscouted? Maybe, just maybe, ML has a full menu and is taking advantage of it.

LaFleur, Adam Stenavich and the offensive coaches have devised some excellent plans during the second half of the year. Obviously, this is a player game. The guys wearing the jerseys have to go out there and execute, but there's confidence and rhythm flowing between the sideline and what's happening on the field.

James from Appleton, WI

All of the elite parts of the Niners' offense connect to one player, and the Packers have to go through five guys to get to him. How does the SF offensive line stack up?

Formidable, though it was a little banged up near the end of the regular season. In my opinion, left tackle Trent Williams has completed a Hall of Fame resume by making three straight All-Pro teams in San Francisco. There aren't many household names on the 49ers' line but it's an almost entirely homegrown offensive line outside of Williams. The 49ers tied for sixth in fewest sacks allowed (34) and that's partly due to Sam Darnold being sacked four times in the final six quarters of the season.

Tim from Amery, WI

With Romeo Doubs' lack of celebration, which I think is great and fresh, you have Aaron Jones' first-down celebration. What is he doing? My son does it all the time now, swipe, swipe, point.

Jones has a good routine going, but my personal favorite is Preston Smith's sack celebration – consistent, emphatic, and timeless.

Mike from Aurora, IL

Isn't if funny how our hopes can change in one game? I, like most probably, went from "just happy to be here" to "is there a path to the Super Bowl?!" I'm trying to temper my dreams a bit as it remains a monumental task to win in San Francisco Saturday night (and it just really feels like at least a year too early). But it wouldn't be called a crapshoot if crazy stuff didn't happen from time to time, right? With all the weapons, limiting CMC seems most important – do you agree and is it possible?

Whether you're a member of the team or just a fan, you can't take your eye off the 49ers. Because there's no tomorrow without today. To get past San Fran, limiting McCaffrey will be paramount. During the 49ers' three-game midseason losing streak, McCaffrey was held to 142 rushing yards on 38 carries. Since then, he hasn't been held under 100 total yards in any game in which he's played all four quarters. He's a playmaker in every sense of the word.

Barry from Green Bay, WI

We scraped by in beating the Bears to get into the playoffs. We pretty much whooped up on Dallas the next week. Is the Bears' defense that much better than Dallas' or do you think they took us too lightly?

Chicago's defense was legit after acquiring Montez Sweat, who gave the Bears really all they were lacking. I think the key to the win over Dallas was how the Packers took it to the Cowboys in the trenches. They have to keep that going against San Francisco while also limiting turnovers. Coincidentally, Chicago and San Fran tied for the most interceptions (22) in the NFL this season.

Steve from Flagstaff, AZ

With the game getting closer to Saturday night and the late unfortunate injury to Kingsley Enagbare this past week, are there any other injuries to either offense or defense that happened that we as fans are forgetting? Anyone closer to coming back from injury getting better besides Jaire Alexander and Christian Watson? We hope to see a full healthy unit or as much as possible going in. Can we please call up former Packer Tony Bennett and tell the players to leave their heart in San Francisco?

First off, wishing Enagbare a smooth recovery. Just listening to LaFleur and others talk this week, you can tell how much the second-year linebacker means to that locker room. The good news for Green Bay is Watson seems to have gotten through the game fine with his hamstring. Isaiah McDuffie also practiced Wednesday after getting a stinger Sunday. Besides Enagbare, the only other non-participants were running back AJ Dillon (neck) and Alexander, though defensive coordinator Joe Barry told reporters Wednesday evening the All-Pro cornerback is "a little bit further ahead" than last week.

Jim from Columbus, IN

I see where the team signed three individuals to a futures/reserve contract, even though the season is still underway. How do these types of contracts work? And imagine this from those players' points of view: They didn't make it with any other team but here comes Green Bay wanting them. They have to be thrilled and humbled.

Once the regular season ends, NFL teams can sign available free agents to their 90-man offseason roster. They won't join the team until the start of the offseason program, but the Packers now hold their NFL rights. Brian Gutekunst will usually sign two or three guys to futures deals every January. That's actually how Innis Gaines got his start in Green Bay a few years ago. Once the season ends, the Packers will also bring back most of their practice squad to futures deals, as well.

The Green Bay Packers held practice inside the Don Hutson Center on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

The NFL playoffs seemingly have been littered with first-round bye losses. How many have there actually been?

Based on my research, which could be wrong, teams coming off a first-round bye are 63-27 since 1999-2000. No. 1 seeds are 4-2 since the switch to the 14-team format in 2020-21. Both the Packers and Titans lost in the 2021-22 divisional round.

Dave from Germantown, TN

In a late-season game Brock Purdy threw four interceptions. What must the Packers do to make him repeat that performance?

Baltimore applied pretty good pressure (nine quarterback hits) and got home twice, but the Ravens' defense also did a good job of securing the football when opportunities were presented for interceptions. The Packers have to be opportunistic.

Neil from Tunbridge Wells, UK

Who would be your rookie of the year? Tough choice I know!

Jayden Reed probably wins the pony but there's really no wrong answer. These last two draft classes could be something special – and if you've read this column regularly, you know my take on what a strong draft class can do for a team two or three years down the road.

Austin from Appleton, WI

What can you tell us about Brenton Cox Jr.? He had a strong camp to make the 53 and we haven't heard much since.

Cox is a solid undrafted prospect at what's been a stacked and relatively healthy position all season. Cox is a former five-star college recruit who admittedly made some mistakes, but he's been a total pro in Green Bay. He's had some great mentors in that room this year. If Cox's number is called Saturday, he'll be ready to answer.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, Coach LaFleur knows Kyle Shanahan well after working with him from 2008-2016. How does inside knowledge of the opposing head coach help game planning?

I look at these San Francisco games like another NFC North matchup with how often the Packers and 49ers have seen each other over the past five years. As far as the relationship between Shanahan and LaFleur goes, I don't think either side holds an advantage other than probably having a better understanding of the offensive framework. Building off what Shanahan said Tuesday, you can prepare, scheme and game plan until your heart's content but the only thing that matters is what happens during those 3½ hours on gameday.

Keith from Dodgeville, WI

Wes, I sure hope you do not have car trouble this Saturday night.

Hey…if it comes with a win, I'll take the minor inconvenience.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

Mike, you could see the delight with you and Wes on "Unscripted." From going over favorite plays in Dallas to flat tire stories you guys were fun to watch. I must say however, the one that got me laughing out loud at my desk was "I'm telling ya, I would have taken out a pregnant woman." I got the whole visual! Stopped typing just to laugh. I'm so glad there is no offseason with you two. We have so much to look forward to, even after Feb. 11 has passed.

There is absolutely no way I'd feel confident enough in my accuracy to throw a ball five rows into the stands.

Mike from Maple Grove, MN

A funny thing happened on the way to Cali. A friend of mine has season tickets to the Niners and will be in Austin for his son's volleyball tournament. I'm the beneficiary of three sweet seats in Santa Clara. When and where can two Mikes and one Wes get a photo? Win or lose, this experience will be epic. Thank you for helping me keep my head on straight when things go sideways. GPG!

I'm a tough find on gameday, but Spoff and I will be at the Packers Everywhere pep rally on Friday night. Safe travels and enjoy the game!

Jered from Denham Springs, LA

Seems just like yesterday we were talking about the Packers in position for like the fifth or sixth pick of the upcoming draft. Welcome home our January friend. It's great to see you!

And some of you wanted to throw in the towel after Tampa Bay. You gotta keep chopping. Make it a great Thursday.

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