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Inbox: Every team is aiming for that now

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Steve from Englewood, FL

Good morning II, I've never watched a game when I cared so much about the outcome but disliked both teams so much. After the game my first thought was, man I'm glad the Vikings lost. Then I shut the TV off and my next thought was, God I hate Seattle.

Since Wes filed Tuesday's column before the Monday night game ended, I had to start here today, because some version of this sentiment was bursting the Inbox at the seams. So much angst and anguish. Reading through it all was almost as entertaining as that game itself.

Larissa from Minnetonka, MN

Rodgers yells at his receivers he's a frustrated diva. Brady does it he's a fiery competitor. Russell Wilson shouts basic encouragement like "Let's score," "Be fearless," and "Good work baby" and he's delivering a leadership "masterclass" (per ESPN's broadcast). I'm not sure what my question is but perception sure is a funny thing...

After listening to Wilson mic'd up, I couldn't find my way out of the living room through all the clichés.

Ben from Jefferson, WI

So who takes over kick returning duties now?

Looks like it'll be the new guy, Tyler Ervin. Any spark in the return game could be significant.

Brian from Columbia, MD

NFL NextGEN clocked Allen Lazard at nearly 20 miles per hour. He weighs about 225 pounds. It would be revelatory to some to climb on a bicycle and crash into a "soft" wall at that speed, just to appreciate both the speed and what a head-on tackler might experience.

No thanks.

Pete from Hartford, WI

I believe Allen Lazard has become a fan favorite. Has earned Aaron Rodgers trust and performs. He is also a free agent after this year, correct?

Yes, but based on service time he'll be an exclusive-rights free agent. If the Packers want to keep him, they'll have no problem doing so.

Jason from Austin, TX

Here's something to ponder. If Equanimeous St. Brown didn't get injured, would Lazard be on the team? Even with EQ out for the year, Lazard wasn't on the initial 53 until after the Packers put No. 87 on IR. Talk about taking advantage of your opportunity.

Receivers are everywhere on the waiver wire at final roster cuts, but they aren't all 6-5, 227 from a major conference. I still think the Packers caught a break no one claimed him when he had some legitimately good preseason film.

Jim from Marengo, WI

Wes, it is never clumsy when spoken from the heart. I think Brittany and family would approve...

Wes lamented "rambling" as soon as we turned the camera off. My first comment to him was it was authentic, and that's what mattered. Unscripted through and through.

Patrick from Schofield, WI

With the Minnesota loss to Seattle, if the Packers beat Washington, Chicago and Detroit, and lose to Minnesota, would they still win the North because they'd be 5-1 in division and Vikings would be 4-2?

Correct, but don't tell Clark that's where your headspace is.

Clark from Green Bay, WI

II, I am fed up with all the "even if the Packers lose to the Vikings" talk. I'm not conceding to the Vikings, nor will the Packers. No, no. We're all in this together. It will be a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest holiday game since Leon Lett's blocked kick fumble in the snow. And when Mason Crosby squeezes that game-winner thru the uprights, II is gonna find the jolliest bunch of Packers fans this side of the nuthouse.

I was in Spain when the Leon Lett play happened. Just felt compelled to mention that for some reason. Carry on.

Harry from Kennewick, WA

I love my Packers as much as anybody, but I cannot get over the fact that all the TV talking heads are not giving us much love at all. They all want to talk about San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle, and Minnesota. Do you feel like since we are being overlooked by everyone does that put us in a place to come in and surprise teams, or are they aware of something that us rabid fans can't see?

Aaron Rodgers isn't sneaking up on anyone, if that's what you're asking. I get the national perception, though. The Packers have fallen flat, badly, twice in their last four games when very healthy. Meanwhile, San Francisco's win over Green Bay was impressive and the Niners just lost at the gun to the AFC's top team. Seattle had just beaten San Francisco and now beat Minnesota. Minnesota took Seattle to the wire on the road despite some key injuries. New Orleans has been as good as anyone in the NFC the last couple of years. Every team has its flaws, and I think the Packers are considered the most flawed team amongst the NFC contenders. The questions about the defense and the receiving corps beyond Davante Adams are understandable. So be it. No matter the perception, they have four more games to get better and then hopefully take their best shot. Three years ago the Packers were 6-6 at this point and no one was talking about them being amongst the last two standing in the conference. You want to be playing your best football in December and carry it into January. Every team is aiming for that now.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Who has the most complete team in the NFL?

Right now? The Ravens. They are the most difficult team to beat at the moment.

Christopher from Hagerstown, MD

It is no fluke that Washington's big win against Carolina came at the same time as Derrius Guices's return to play. Two-headed monster indeed, Peterson and Guice combined for a total of 228 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers rank 25th in rushing defense. The Redskins are currently 14-point road dogs. Do you think that's an accurate read?

As Han Solo used to say, never tell me the odds. Washington came back from down 14-0 on the road at Carolina with its defense and ground game. Those are elements that always travel. The Redskins are going to come into Lambeau Field and try to run the ball against the Packers. Then they're going to try to run it again. Then they're going to try to run it some more. They'll attempt to limit the responsibility that falls on rookie QB Dwayne Haskins.

Paul from Bay View, WI

II, we're in a great spot now that the Vikings lost but we can't overlook Washington. They are now looking like they could take that division with some luck and winning out the rest of their games. December football just got real interesting.

That would really be something if Washington were to come all the way back and take the NFC East at 7-9. Regardless, the Redskins are not mailing it in. Not by a long shot. Their defense came into the game at Carolina ranked 28th in the league against the run and last on third down. Yet they held McCaffrey to 44 yards on 14 carries and at one point stopped 10 third downs in a row (allowing one conversion via penalty in that stretch). Their punter also blasted a 79-yarder. The film of that game alone will get the Packers' attention.

Emily from Madison, WI

With a little over two minutes to go in the first half, it looked like the offense was not playing with urgency. I was surprised since the score was close and Aaron has often said he likes to "double up" – score before and after the half – to shift the momentum of the game. What did it look like to you?

Knowing they were getting the ball to start the third quarter, it looked to me like the Packers were most concerned with killing the clock to limit any more work the defense might have to do before halftime. The unit had just been on the field for an 18-play, 9½-minute drive that included two fourth-down conversions. I thought the approach made a lot of sense.

As the Official Cheese of the Green Bay Packers, Sargento donates $500 to Paul's Pantry in Green Bay for every touchdown the Packers score during the regular season. Aaron Jones visited Paul's Pantry to present the donation.

Nick from Lancaster, PA

Almost exactly a year ago we lost to the Cardinals, fired McCarthy, and were 4-7-1. Now we're 9-3, No. 1 in NFC North, No. 3 seed in NFC, with a good chance still at a bye. How is LaFleur not being mentioned front and center in the coach of the year talk nationally?

Because he has Rodgers and has had him all season, to be blunt. I think LaFleur certainly deserves consideration, but there are several serious candidates. Sean Payton went 5-0 without Drew Brees, Mike Tomlin has the Steelers in the playoff hunt with an undrafted third-string rookie QB from Samford, and Sean McDermott can state a case with the Bills playing the Ravens, Steelers and Patriots the next three weeks. That's not a complete list, either.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

I believe the talking heads on MNF said that the Vikings have lost eight fumbles on special teams this year. Have the Packers lost any?

One. Darrius Shepherd muffed a punt vs. Detroit.

Patrick from Inver Grove Heights, MN

I'm not usually one of those people who like to bask in the misery of others, but watching Cousins go 0-8 on Monday night as the Vikings went down to the Hawks felt good. The office is mighty quiet today.

That Cousins MNF stat is going to get beaten to death two weeks from now. It's silly, really. He's beaten the Packers twice on Sunday Night Football in the last three years. The interception he threw against Seattle was just his second pick since the ill-advised end-zone heave at Lambeau back in Week 2.

Scott from Lake Geneva, WI

What's your opinion about the proliferation of stats in football now? There never used to be a "yards after catch" until John Madden came up with it because he liked saying "YAC." But now we have "hurries," "pressures," "yards of separation" and even speed of ball carriers. Which ones are actually useful? Most of these things seem to just be some failed attempt to quantify a skill with actual numbers. Did agents come up with this nonsense so they have something to use at contract time?

The more you can quantify, the more complete the analysis or evaluation. But I don't think any evaluation is worthwhile if it's boiled solely down to numbers. Maybe I'm getting too old, but I don't get too caught up in it. I don't need stats on hurries or pressures to know Za'Darius Smith had a significant impact in the win over the Giants when he was credited with just four tackles and no sacks. But I can appreciate those other numbers in the aggregate – over a full season or multiple seasons – give a more complete picture of a player's value than the traditional stats.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

AR12 mentioned that defenses have adjusted to Aaron Jones' production in the passing game by covering him with a CB. While that would explain Jones' lack of targets, that doesn't explain the other end of the bubble. Doesn't that mean that the LB who used to cover Jones is now matched up on a WR? Or are teams just going with a lighter defense when Jones plays? Either way it should mean an even greater opportunity is left elsewhere, be it a lighter box to run against or a bigger coverage mismatch.

Sometimes it's a safety on Jones, but in any event, it's either a lighter box or single-high coverage that should open some throwing lanes. Ultimately, I think it goes back to running the ball better because this offense is at its best and in rhythm off play-action. But LaFleur admitted to being a tad stubborn in that effort, saying the Giants frequently stayed in base personnel (four DBs) against the Packers' three-receiver sets, and he shouldn't have been trying to run so much against that.

Maria from Hellertown, PA

While watching a reply of Tramon Williams' interception, I noticed that as he cut back to the middle of the field with a defender in pursuit behind him, Jaire Alexander came back up the field right at the defender with an opportunity to light him up. Instead of hitting him, Jaire faked the block, causing the defender to slow up, giving Tramon space to gain more comfortable field position. I thought that was a real heads-up play. It was a tempting hit that could have been easily penalized.

It was a great example of how players are adjusting to the league's desire to eliminate blindside blocks from the game. They all cost 15 yards and a chunk of cash now. The minimum fine, first offense, for a blindside block is $28,075.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Carolina can do the Packers two favors when hosting the Seahawks in Week 15 and the Saints in Week 17.

We'll see if a new coach gives them any juice for a finishing kick. I know I've said a lot about Washington's effort in Carolina, but I also wonder how much that missed chip shot in the Superdome by Slye (not Frye, for "Unscripted" listeners) took the starch out of that team.

Derek from Maple Grove, MN

If I'm looking at this correctly. The No. 1 seed seems unlikely as Seattle and the 49ers would both have to drop two of their last four while we win out. That means our goal is probably the No. 2 seed. To that end, let's root for the 49ers this weekend against the Saints and for the Packers to go 1-0 this week.

Memo to the Inbox: Path to the Playoffs will make its return at the end of the week. Happy Wednesday.

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