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Inbox: Expect crunch time to matter for a third straight week

Four more quarters await in two days


Nate from Laramie, WY

News Flash: The Packers are in the lead for the division! Just win and we'll be fine. As mistakes, setbacks and untimely penalties are easier to weather earlier in a game, tough games are better to weather earlier in a season.

They help build resolve. It'll come in handy at some point.

Dave from Comer, GA

Browns-Steelers Week 1. Packers-Vikings Week 2. Which game is your candidate for a tie in Week 3?

Well, it would have to be a division game to continue the pattern, which leaves only two choices: Saints at Falcons or Titans at Jaguars. New Orleans has had the strangest first two weeks, so maybe that one.

Bob from New Britain, CT

Hi Spoff, how about a much different topic? I'd like to have your take on the actions of Bills CB Vontae Davis, who retired from football at halftime(!) of last Sunday's game. His explanation was a sudden conviction he "shouldn't be out there anymore" and was hurting the team (and potentially himself) by continuing to play. Many have condemned his actions, but others believe that took a lot of guts and applauded his decision. Courageous or cowardly? What do you think?

I believe a player owes his coaches and teammates everything he has that day, when healthy, once he puts the uniform on. Personal decisions should come before the first or after the last whistle. Just my take.

George from North Mankato, MN

Congratulations to the Cleveland Browns organization for their first win since 2016. I wish Dorsey, Wolf & Co. continued success. How quickly do you think the beer fridges got emptied?

I can't imagine it took long. It's a new era in Cleveland, and it's Baker Mayfield's time, front and center. Does Dorsey know QBs or what? Drafted Mahomes for KC too. Something tells me those two will meet in the playoffs sometime in the next few years.

Matt from Kula, HI

In my view NFL games would be more watchable if the rule of thumb were that the officials leave the flags in their pockets unless there is a clear-cut foul that significantly affects either the play result or player safety. I'd much prefer to have missed non-calls rather than bad calls. Let the players decide the game.

I was having this discussion with Wes the other day. All the rule changes and emphases, in my opinion, get the officials hyper-focused on finding reasons to throw flags, rather than looking for reasons not to throw them. It's as though the league wants to eliminate judgment calls and make everything black-and-white based on the presence or visibility of a certain action. I don't think that's the right approach. Let them make judgment calls, and because I believe many of those judgment calls are extremely difficult to discern when they involve some of the greatest athletes on the planet running, jumping and colliding at full speed, use modern-day technology to fix those that everyone sitting on their couch at home knows are wrong. I think this used to be the goal, but it doesn't feel like it anymore.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

In your mid-week chat there was talk of using replay officials for safety-related calls. This is what is done in Rugby Union where the replay ref watches for "foul play," which is what the QB roughing call would be.

You mean I'm not completely crazy? So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Lisa from Plymouth, MN

When watching "Packers Unscripted" and reading the Inbox info, I'm always amazed at the number of plays you and Wes can recall and how you remember which players were involved, where they were on the field, who was doing what, etc. Once you started covering professional football, how long did it take for the game to "slow down" for you?

It's just the way I'm wired, and I think I've been that way since I was a kid devouring anything and everything sports. I've been keeping my own scorecard at every Major League Baseball game I've been to for who-knows-how-long, so when I got into the newspaper business covering high school sports, keeping my own stats – whether at a football, basketball or volleyball game – was natural and further strengthened that wiring in my brain. At least that's all I can figure. Now, if I'd been smart enough to jot down the location and menu order of every date with my wife over the last two decades, I'd probably get fewer eye rolls at home. But I digress.

Jared from Ashwaubenon, WI

This weekend, I hope a defensive player reaches the quarterback and just hugs him until the whistle blows.

Wouldn't shock me in the slightest.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Stephen from Washington, D.C., probably has a better feel for the Washington team than I do, but I have a feeling Sunday will bring us a down-to-the-wire, low-scoring, defensive game. The tale of the tape maybe won't agree with Washington having the best defense through two weeks, but they certainly aren't a pushover. Take that with Rodgers' limited mobility, and it probably will be a tough game. Then there is Alex Smith and the legendary RPO, who I believe our D must have a good day against.

Or against whom you believe the D must have a good day, but I'm just having fun with you. The Jay Gruden era in Washington has been marked by inconsistency, and that has continued through two games in 2018. Looking back to Green Bay's last trip there, in mid-November 2016, Washington blew out the Packers with a big fourth quarter, only to drop two straight on the way to a 2-4 finish, missing the playoffs. Smith has been around the block, the defense is solid, and that team is looking to atone for a dud of a performance vs. Indy. Expect crunch time to matter for a third straight week.

Alexis from Bowie, MD

What's your favorite D.C. monument?

The Marine Corps War Memorial with the Iwo Jima depiction. For me, it's the most awe-inspiring to see up close.

Ken from Harker Heights, TX

With Kevin King most likely being ruled out for this week and with a banged up House, do we see Alexander move to the outside for the entire game? He looked good the last couple weeks showing he can run with and cover receivers downfield since he is quite a bit faster.

The matchup decisions with the cornerbacks might have more to do with the opponent than the alignment/location, given Alexander and Jackson have both played the boundary and the slot already as rookies.

Jeff from Washington, DC

Hey guys! My buddy and I will be going to the game this week. When we go to games, we usually end up competing with each other in an "Obscure Jersey Scavenger Hunt" to see who can grab a pic of the most random Packers jersey at the game. Past winners include a Clay Mathews USC jersey and a classic Bill Schroeder. I'm curious, what's the most obscure or random jersey you guys have seen fans wear at a game?

Last year in Cleveland there was a guy visible from the press box wearing a Brian Sipe jersey. I thought that was pretty cool. I always look for those at road games, just to find the old-school fans. I love seeing Chuck Foreman jerseys in Minnesota and Neal Anderson jerseys in Chicago. Once in Detroit, I spotted a No. 20 that actually had "Sims" on the back rather than "Sanders." It made me smile.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers were famously selected in the same draft, with Smith being taken first overall and Rodgers inexplicably dropping to 24th. The Packers were certainly the winners in that draft. How often have the two quarterbacks faced each other as starters, and what is their record against each other? Which games were won by the home QB versus the QB playing on the road?

Rodgers and Smith have gone head-to-head three times, and Rodgers is 2-1. The Packers beat the 49ers in November 2009 at Lambeau Field, the 49ers won the 2012 opener out west, and Green Bay defeated Kansas City in Week 3 of 2015 at Lambeau. (Correction, the '12 opener was in Green Bay.) For the record, Smith also faced Favre in 2006 in San Francisco, and the Packers won. For those wondering, a different Smith (Troy) was the 49ers QB for their visit to Lambeau in 2010.

Tim from Rock Falls, WI

With Jones coming to the active roster, I understand someone needs to be released. How could they release Burton? I thought claimed players had to stay on the active roster for three weeks?

The three-week stipulation is only for players signed off of other teams' practice squads. A player who accepts that offer is guaranteed three active-roster game checks. The other "three-week" item has to do with the waiver claim order, which shifts from last year's draft order to current records after Week 3.

Darren from Kingston, Ontario

Mike, after reading your answer to JT from Whitewater, WI, I find myself wondering about other top moments so far in your career. Would you mind sharing one or two more of your "top 10" career highlights with us?

Covering Favre-Elway in Super Bowl XXXII for the Wausau Daily Herald was an unforgettable thrill as a 25-year-old barely getting started in this business. Watching Wisconsin-Penn State from the Camp Randall sidelines in 1998 was a kick, though I regret I never got the opportunity to cover the Badgers in a Rose Bowl in my newspaper days. The 2002 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game at Miller Park for the Press-Gazette, as well as the inaugural game at Miller Park the year before, rank up there, too. Super Bowl XLV is obviously second-to-none in my 13 seasons here. Those are the big ones that come to mind.

Shane from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Tom from Blaine, WA, posted a question the other day regarding hesitating to celebrate a big play occurring due to penalties potentially being called. Whenever a big play occurs I typically shift my eyes to that little box in the corner and count to three, hoping not to see the box turn yellow and the word FLAG appear. Three-second pause then celebrate. Just wondering if you Insiders, or anyone else, have a similar habit.

When watching on TV, my eyes are drawn in the same way. From the press box, I have a habit of scanning the field after a big play to see if I spot anything yellow. Many times, the flag is visible before the big moment happens.

John from Simi Valley, CA

Hi Insiders. When the Packers travel to an away game like Washington, where do they practice on Saturday? At the stadium or a local university?

They practice in Green Bay before heading to the airport.

PJ from Minneapolis, MN

Is the NFL going to draw undue resentment on the QB class because of these rules? The highest-paid position (by a wide margin) is now almost the guy you can't hit. They're turning the QB position into a white-collar role and the rest of the 21 players on the field are the expendables in the coal mines. It could get ugly for the NFL if that sentiment surfaces within the players' community.

Except the players know they need an elite, healthy QB in order to win, and they aren't easy to find.

Neal from Fort Worth, TX

How much of an impact do you feel Burks will be if he is active Sunday? I thought he showed promise in pass coverage in his limited appearances in preseason. I'm anxious to see how Pettine plans to stop Reed and Thompson in the passing game. In both SF and KC, Smith frequently targets those two positions with great success.

We'll have to see how much the Packers can use Burks right away. He's had no game action for over a month now, and the players practice in pads only once a week in the regular season, so he missed valuable prep for a rookie. For the most part, Pettine matched a corner on Cohen for the Bears (Alexander had the duty a fair amount), so he might take the same approach with Thompson. As I said the other day, I think Reed is the toughest matchup. I look for different combinations, brackets, etc., on him, so their offense has to regularly adjust.

Drew from Front Royal, VA

Is there any way that a Packer fan from VA could meet the famous Mike and Wes at the game this Sunday?

Game day would not be ideal, but as Wes noted, we'll be there with bells on (or something like that) at the **pep rally in Arlington** on Saturday night.

Lori from Heredia, Costa Rica

Mention the Fail Mary game and we immediately think of that horrible call in Seattle. We need an equally clever name for the tie game from Sunday. "Fluffing the Passer"?

I tried to end the week with limited references to the topic we're all tired of, but this was just too funny.

Dan from Wausau, WI

The first two weeks have reminded me more than ever that this truly is a game of inches and the margin between winning and losing is razor thin. While you can make a case the other way, we're a dropped pick and missed extra-point-distance field goal from being 0-2 with both losses being divisional games at home. I could only imagine what the Inbox would be then, but I suspect the words "fire McCarthy" would be plentiful. Take it easy, folks, we're right there.

There are never any apologies in the NFL. The good-luck/bad-luck moments are everywhere. Opportunities may be won and lost in September, but seasons are not. Four more quarters await in two days. Happy Friday, everyone.