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Inbox: Bring the A game coming out of halftime

This game will test any team in endless ways

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Cincinnati Bengals take the field vs. Minnesota Vikings

Israel from West Allis, WI

Cheers to Wes for a well-curated snapshot of the madness that is II regarding potential free-agent pickups.

I said to him before we departed Wednesday night that I don't remember an in-season day like that on this beat in a long, long time.

Braden from Denver, CO

Sorry if this has been asked a bunch before, but what is the "Unscripted" podcast schedule nowadays? I feel like I'm seeing it less frequently recently. I know you all push out a ton of (great) content on top of it, I just enjoy the podcast for my commute.

It's twice a week, Tuesday-Thursday. This is our second year doing so. We had a scheduling snafu the week of the Monday night game, and we will make an adjustment for the Thursday game at the end of the month. But otherwise, we're trying to stick to Tuesday-Thursday as much as possible.

Patrick from Oregon, OH

If people don't believe in luck, please look no further than the health of last year's Packers squad versus this year. Almost no significant injuries last year (until David Bakhtiari in the playoffs), then this year it seems like every week someone else is sidelined! Weird how that can happen year-to-year. Sorry, more of an observation than an actual question.

It's a fact of life in the NFL. I would say the last two years the Packers were blessed with pretty good health, until losing Bakhtiari. This game will test any team in endless ways.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

In the spirit of Packers-Bengals, what's your favorite A.J. Hawk story?

Hawk's rookie year, the Jets were on the schedule, and another 2006 first-round draft pick was Jets center Nick Mangold. I had gotten word Hawk and Mangold were teammates not only at Ohio State, but also in pee-wee football back in Centerville, Ohio, so I got a sit-down with Hawk to talk about his youth football days (and then got Mangold on the phone). They both had some great stories.

Max from Ingolstadt, Germany

I liked a lot of what AJ Dillon did last Sunday, but what stood out the most was the sudden burst he developed at that quick pass for a 16-yard gain and first. There were easily 3-4 yards extra just because of his explosiveness. It really seems like he's gonna develop into a guy we can rely on, don't you think?

Indubitably.

Paul from Middleton, WI

Good morning Mike! How often did Stokes line up against Ja'Marr Chase during his career? Have you seen any film? How did he fare?

Stokes said he faced him in the 2019 SEC Championship and just called it "a good matchup" but didn't have specific recollections. The stats say Chase had three catches for 41 yards and a TD.

Jared from Blue Bell, PA

Lots of weapons on Cincinnati's offense. Anyone we should keep an eye on? If X player goes off, who do we not want that player to be?

Chase and Tyler Boyd have been highly productive so far, combining for more than 550 receiving yards through four games. But Chase is the big-play guy, with a 17.5-yard average per catch and four TDs.

Scot from West Palm Beach, FL

Good morning. Reports are saying the Packers couldn't sign Gilmore due to cap restrictions. What is the difference between the two contracts that allowed them to sign Smith?

Smith was released, so the Packers aren't absorbing a contract, they're creating a new one. The Packers potentially could have done a new deal with Gilmore to make it work cap-wise, if he had been released. But he wasn't. The Patriots found a trade partner and got something for him rather than nothing, so Gilmore's contract went with him to the Panthers.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

With Rivers now out too from an OLB perspective does the Jaylon Smith signing mean Oren Burks moves back outside? Or would they try Smith No. 3 outside? With way the injuries are piling up quickly…

I honestly don't know what the plans will be, and I'm very curious. I think the Packers are going to keep a lot of options on the table and see where this goes at both the inside and outside linebacker spots.

Tony from Bronxville, NY

Hey guys, I notice every so often (and getting more frequent) that one of your answers is not bold. There is an *asterisk* at the beginning and end. Is that because of simple editing or is there something implied? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks for all the content, you guys are great!

It's just a glitch in the matrix that we fix if we see it, but sometimes we're too busy to notice.

Terry from Onalaska, WI

Has there ever been a year the Packers, Bucks and Brewers all made their respective conference/league championship in the same year? Go Brewers!

The Brewers made the World Series in 1982, when the Bucks reached the Eastern Conference semis and the Packers qualified for the playoffs in a strike-shortened season and advanced to the second round. That was probably the best triumvirate of achievement until 2019, when the Bucks made the conference finals, the Brewers snagged a wild-card spot, and the Packers went to the NFC title game.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Mike and Wes, what in-season free-agent pickups from the past had the biggest positive impact in a Packers season? My pick is Howard Green helped the rotation and made some key plays at DT.

The obvious choices are Green and Andre Rison from the Super Bowl years. I'd throw in Erik Walden in '10, too. Otherwise, Jeremy Kapinos salvaged the utter disaster of a punting game in '08, DuJuan Harris became the playoff running back in '12, and Tyler Ervin provided a late-season return man two years ago. Jared Veldheer made a difference in '19, too.

Jack from Indianapolis, IN

With the signing of Jaylon Smith, does that mean we'll have a defender wearing single digits? I don't know what it is about that, but I am not a fan of it. Will I ever get used to this?

Smith will be wearing the same No. 9 he wore in Dallas this season, and practice-squad kicker JJ Molson now has No. 11. But I'm not anticipating seeing No. 9 on the field this weekend.

Mark from Largo, FL

Hello II. About the "taunting" rule. I am at a loss as to why they have not done away with it. If an 11-man defensive team runs halfway (or more) to the end zone, then slides through it, then gets up and dances isn't taunting an offense, then I don't think anything else could possibility fit the definition of the word. Your thoughts?

This isn't rocket science, folks. I said this before the season started. The NFL will allow players to celebrate. They just can't celebrate in someone else's face. Love or hate the rule, it's pretty clear-cut to me.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Burrow represents the best QB we have faced so far this year and it stands to reason that he will test our secondary. What about the Bengals' OL? Teams that have beaten us over the last two years have been able to get run to the edges of our front seven. Do the Bengals have a strong OL?

It's a decent unit but it's not dominant. Mixon is averaging a solid 4.3 yards per carry with a long of just 27, so he can churn out the yards if healthy, but Burrow has been sacked 11 times.

Matt from Busan, Korea

What are the keys to a Packers victory on Sunday?

Playing efficiently on offense and limiting explosives on defense. The Packers need to help their depleted defense adjust to its new reality by staying balanced, controlling the clock, and putting up more points than anybody has scored on the Bengals so far this season (the Vikings got 24 in Week 1). Defensively, don't let Chase and Boyd hit those chunk plays. And bring the A game coming out of halftime. The Bengals have outscored opponents 34-7 in the third quarter thus far.

Jason from Portsmouth, UK

With the uncertainty of Jaire Alexander's shoulder injury, the Packers' depth at corner defending the Bengals WRs will be put to the test this Sunday. With that said is it a case of "bend but don't break" mentality trying not to give up the deep ball?

If they do give up a big one, don't let it go for a TD and give yourself a chance to get the stop in the red zone. The Packers have to start forcing some field goals when the other guys get close.

Ed from Minneapolis, MN

Hey fellas, as always thanks for the great content. I was watching WYMM, and I was awed by the speed. Even with it drawn out, and knowing what to expect, I have trouble following. Did you get proficient by just watching? Or did you have people show you how to break down plays?

I learned what to watch for on film just by doing it, a lot, but I still don't consider myself an expert by any means. There's plenty that slips past me if I don't take my time.

Douglas from Bemidji, MN

While Aaron Rodgers has beaten 31 teams, he hasn't won on the road against all 31 teams. He hasn't won in Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, New England, Pittsburgh, or Tennessee. He also doesn't have wins in Las Vegas or against either team in LA but does have victories in Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis. Here's hoping he makes this list smaller on Sunday.

Of those seven you initially listed, the only locations in which he's had more than one opportunity to win and failed are Indy and Tennessee.

Thomas from Madison, WI

Lots of discussion surrounding the last time GB won here or there got me thinking. Does the unfamiliarity of an AFC home stadium come into it at all? Or to put it another way, does the sense of the familiar at an NFC venue have a positive effect on mental preparedness? I'd think that having a better lay of the land would allow a player to have a more pointed focus on the task at hand, but maybe I'm reaching. Thanks for taking the time.

I don't think there's a major impact mentally unless it's a place a team has visited many times without success. Those ruts can have an effect. Otherwise, as far as preparedness, I've always remembered a comment Rodgers made once about how the first thing he does when he walks onto an unfamiliar stadium is find where the play clock is, so he's mentally locking into where to look every time he breaks the huddle.

Daniel from Waukesha, WI

Through four games, who is the Packers' defensive MVP?

At this point I'd probably give it to De'Vondre Campbell or Kenny Clark.

Eric from Mequon, WI

It's Friday morning and that can only mean one thing...We need to hear about another "Inbox Insider Hero" at Lambeau Field. Highlight a hero in the organization we know nothing about and let us meet them! Will it be a security guard protecting a car with a flat? Will it be someone in make-up making the team look pretty for videos? We don't know!

I'll give a shout-out to big, bad Brad Gustafson, known to everyone as Gus. I had to look up that his official title is manager of atrium operations, because I just know him as a super helpful dude. Last year when Wes and I got kicked out of our respective conference rooms where we'd been watching the road games on TV (because others moved into them permanently), Gus set us up in a suite upstairs where we had enough room to watch the game together, socially distanced, and not have to communicate electronically. It was a vast improvement and I was very grateful.

Russ from Henrico, VA

It seems no one is safe. So what's the plan if Spoff or Wes pull a carpel tunnel, get a hand caught in a lunchbox or activate a trigger finger? Can II go on IR? Are there jars on the shelf? We need to know it's going to be OK. Who are the key interns or free agents we should be watching? No way the cap can absorb Demovsky.

Thanks for the chuckle.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The recipe for high playoff seeding involves winning lots of home games and notching more wins than losses on the road. Knowing the Pack faces road challenges ahead at Arizona, KC and Baltimore (besides divisional games) it feels like this is a road W they need. Do you concur?

It sure wouldn't hurt.

Greg from Long Beach, CA

Just beat the Bengals.

Happy Friday.

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