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Inbox: Can they keep it up on the road the next two weeks?

It’s becoming more and more apparent every year

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Lions vs. Vikings - Week 14

John from Dakota Dunes, SD

Let me know if I have this correct. If the Packers and Lions win out, it could very well come down to a final season "Win you're in" game.

Just beat the Rams.

Bob from Port St. Lucie, FL

Mike, Lions look like they believe in themselves after years of underperforming. Stafford for Goff trade looks better than ever now.

Everyone assumed Goff was a bridge QB in Detroit to the next one. The Lions didn't get that memo, apparently.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Hi Mike, the Vikings will probably win the North, but may have peaked too early. The Bears think they have their QB of the future, I'm not convinced. The Packers are a beautiful mystery. There are more reasons to be optimistic in the Motor City than they've had in a long time.

The Lions got a meaningful December game at home for the first time in a while (Week 17 of 2016 vs. Packers?), their fans brought it, and they won. Now can they keep it up on the road the next two weeks?

Mike from Algoma, WI

At least I didn't say "Skol." How disappointing was that? I felt like a true Vikes fan – let down by your team when it mattered most. At least the stupid (going for two? are you kidding me?) play calling didn't bite them. Watching Minnesota's defense did give me new appreciation for ours.

The Vikings have allowed 400-plus yards in five straight games, a franchise-worst streak. They still have time to shore things up, but that doesn't look to me like a defense that can win in January.

Jeremy from West Allis, WI

Like numerous other similar instances, Jared Goff made a very late slide on third-and-13 well short of the sticks. A defender committed to the form tackle and was called for "unnecessary roughness" despite normal roughness with bang-bang timing. It's impossible to know whether the QB will slide, cut, spin, stiff arm or lower his shoulder for extra yards, and impossible to change one's momentum instantly. Can we add late slides with mild contact to the pile of unfair treatment toward NFL defenses?

The safety rules have created a monster the NFL struggles to manage. It's becoming more and more apparent every year.

Karen from South Beloit, IL

Who knew Amari Rodgers could receive?

Congrats to Amari on his first NFL touchdown. I hope the change of scenery is what his career needed.

Ron from Cherry Valley, IL

Wes points out the difficulty of the Packers' schedule because the Rams will be coming off a mini bye (Thursday) when we play them next week. Regarding the Packers, we played the Commanders after they got a mini bye, we played the Bills and the Cowboys after their bye weeks, we will get the Dolphins on eight days' rest (Sat) when we get six days' rest (Mon), and the Vikings will get an extra day of rest when we play them. Need I say more regarding scheduling difficulty?

No, you need say nothing more. Why? Because nobody cares. You think the Packers' opponents are strolling out of the tunnel with violins? Dem's da breaks.

George from North Mankato, MN

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the usage of the transfer portal in college football? Coach Prime agrees to coach Colorado and tells his players to enter the portal. Is there a limit to the number of players a team can sign in a given year?

I don't follow it closely, but it doesn't seem like there are any rules regarding the transfer portal, and that's one of the problems with it.

Trevor from Seattle, WA

Mike, being a man of predictions, what do you expect the future to look like for college bowl seasons with the growing impacts of the transfer portal, early NFL declarations, players opting out, etc.?

All the lower-tier bowl games have never been less relevant, but I expect we'll continue to see fewer tickets sold but the games continue to be played as long as the TV ratings justify them.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

Bye week question. With the amount of players in the NCAA transfer portal how close are universities to needing a scouting department and general manager role to acquire talent?

Every program has its own way of managing it all, but there has to be close to as much effort being put into recruiting the portal as recruiting high schools these days.

Elliott from Weldon, CA

Have the Packers ever used a first-round pick on a tight end? Do you see a quality tight end in the upcoming draft?

I won't be studying any draft prospects until the scouting combine in February. The Packers have used a first-round pick on a tight end twice – Bubba Franks in 2000 and Rich McGeorge in 1970.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

How about that Army-Navy football game? I always love watching that game, how about you guys?

I'm sorry I missed it this year. It sounds like it was a whale of a game.

Bill from Marion, MA

Hi all, just a little anecdote about players on their bye week. I happened to be at a large international conference at Marco Island, Fla., last week, was at a beachside tiki bar after the scheduled activity and chatting with a guy from Minnesota about how cheap Bud Grant is (garage sales and all). A young guy saunters up and asks which one of us was the Packers fan. It was none other than current Bear, former Lion and Packer Tim Boyle. He glowed when I called him TBLS. Just chillin'.

#TBLS forever.

Bil from Stateline, NV

I thought Yosh Nijman did an admirable job at LT last year in lieu of DB69's presence. Can you give us some insight into his being moved to the right side? He seemed much more comfortable on the left. Is Zach Tom perceived as better suited to the left? Was it an attempt to get Yosh more snaps, with DB's return?

Yes, the latter. Nijman was viewed as one of the Packers' top five linemen, so when David Bakhtiari was back in action full-time, getting Nijman on the field meant moving him to right tackle. I think it gives the Packers a lot of options moving forward.

Jim from Punta Gorda, FL

Who are the unrestricted and restricted free agents in 2023?

I am not 100% certain on these lists, but glancing through the roster and not counting void years as being under contract, this is my best assessment right now. Unrestricted: Marcedes Lewis, Mason Crosby, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, Adrian Amos, Jarran Reed, Dean Lowry, Eric Wilson, Ford, Robert Tonyan, Keisean Nixon, Dallin Leavitt, Allen Lazard, Elgton Jenkins, Justin Hollins, Corey Ballentine. Restricted: Nijman, Tyler Davis, Krys Barnes.

Jeff from Champlin, MN

Paraphrasing Mike…offense as currently constructed needs Watson to be good…so since offensive scheme and structure is unlikely to change under ML, and early indications are that Watson MAY be susceptible to injuries, shouldn't the drafting of another WR with elite speed be at the very tippy top of Packer priorities in 2023?

Absolutely, but the Packers are going to have a lot of priorities whether they finish 9-8, 5-12, or anywhere in between.

Mark from Pewaukee, WI

Why do you think so little attention is paid to both offensive and defensive linemen? It is so obvious that it is where it all is decided. The successful teams have adequate protection for their quarterback as well as a defense that can put pressure on the opposing quarterback.

I'm not sure what you mean by so little attention paid. In terms of acquiring players? Good, reliable, success-altering linemen on both sides of the ball are the hardest commodity to find, develop, procure and keep on your team. That's why they're so valuable and decide games.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

What was your favorite pre-bye play of the season? What are your post-bye aspirations for the 2022 Packers?

AJ Dillon's 20-yard touchdown run up the gut in Philly might be my favorite play of the season. The Packers are going to need more of that kind of straight-ahead power football if they're going to make a run.

Brian from Moncks Corner, SC

Bye week is an opportunity to look back at the year to date without a looming game. Oh, how I wish we could change two red-zone throws in the Lions game. If you could change one or two things, what would it be?

Those two throws in Detroit rank up there. Watson not hurting his hamstring again in London might be my choice, though.

Jeff from Modoc, IN

That third-string quarterback for the 49ers is Purdy good, isn't he? I'll see myself out...

Please do. Deebo's injury could be more important than anything at the QB position in San Fran.

David from Madison, WI

In Madison, FOX switched their broadcast from the Tampa game to the Seahawks game and I believe it was before the fourth quarter even began. That must be a first in a game that Brady was playing.

I was tuned in to the Wisconsin-Iowa basketball game by then, but it's sure looking like a losing record will win the NFC South.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

We've seen backup quarterbacks step in and have success in the past because defenses aren't prepared for what to expect from that quarterback. Do the Packers have enough film and time to project what to expect from Mayfield in his second game with the Rams?

They'll have to prepare to handle the Rams' scheme and adjust to what Mayfield proves he can do best within that scheme. That's really the only approach the Packers can take.

Vic from Livingston, TX

In response to David from Cable, WI's complaint of late comebacks...in the case of the Raiders game, it simply comes down to being able to put your opponent away. The Raiders started strong and then stopped scoring touchdowns. That left the door open. You leave the door open in this league, in any game, and you may well pay the price.

Indubitably.

Mike from Ames, IA

On the topic of the NFC East sending four teams, am I right in remembering a year in the mid-'90s when the NFC Central sent four teams to the divisional round? There were a couple years there where every Central Division game was competitive.

In 1994, the NFC Wild Card round was Lions vs. Packers and Bears vs. Vikings, with the Packers and Bears advancing but losing in the divisional round to the Cowboys and 49ers, respectively. In 1997, the division also sent four teams to the playoffs, with the Packers getting a bye and the Buccaneers, Lions and Vikings all getting wild cards. Bucs beat Lions before losing to Packers, and Vikes knocked off Giants but lost to Niners.

Dave from Lakewood Ranch, FL

If there's any indication as to the unpredictability of the NFL, look at the AFC West. Supposed to be the best division in football. Look at them now.

Nothing's a given in this league. I saw a statistic that eight times this season, a team that's been ahead by double digits at halftime has lost the game. Four of those eight have been the Raiders.

Mark from Universal City, CA

More of an observation than a question. I know people say football is a game of inches, but lately, I've been seeing it as a game of mistakes. The team that makes less of them (or at least less costly ones) and who capitalizes more on the other team's mistakes tends to win. How do you see it?

I think that's the nature of professional sports when the talent is so evenly distributed. Sometimes the best just rise above. That's part of professional sports, too. But often it's exactly what you describe.

Joe from Fargo, ND

May I suggest a new rule for the Inbox? No more use of the term trap game. Why? Because the margin of error in the NFL is so narrow that there is no such thing as a trap game. They are all trap games.

That's what I've been trying to say for, like, years bro. Years. The game with the largest point spread in Vegas all season (Texans-Cowboys) required a last-minute TD by the home team to survive. It's like George Costanza's candy contest. They're all Twix! They're all Twix!

Rusty from Eustace, TX

Mainly, I just want to say thanks to y'all and all the folks that help us stay informed and grounded with the Packers. Hopefully, everyone has had an opportunity to recharge their batteries for the home stretch. Any chance we get to see a Lego game soon?

Thanks for the kind words from many who sent them in over the bye week. They were all read and appreciated. Since I know a certain someone in our department who reads the column daily, I'll make this the official request for Lego highlights if the Packers are 7-8 on Christmas night, OK?

Greg from Perkasie, PA

I'm excited for the playoffs to start next Monday night at Lambeau. We just get a few more playoff games this year than originally anticipated.

Only if the Packers win them. Happy Monday.

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