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Inbox: Give yourself the opportunity, then seize it

That’s the challenge facing the Packers all month long

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Bobby from Green Bay, WI

With Bill Belichick's classic strategy being "take away your greatest weapon," what would you predict he does to take away Aaron Rodgers from the Packers?

No one can "take away" the QB. He's got the ball in his hands every play. I thought Rodgers' comments on Wednesday about Belichick's defense constantly adjusting in the '14 game were enlightening. I would imagine he'd focus initially on Adams, Graham and Jones, and if the Packers have success in other ways, the cat-and-mouse game begins.

Mark from Franklin, TN

How does the team practice outdoors during the season without giving away the strategy and schemes they are implementing for the week? I've been to training camp and anyone can walk up to the fence and watch. Just curious.

The Packers have tarps wrapped around the entire Hinkle Field fence during the regular season. Only a drone can see inside.

Bruce from New Canaan, CT

I have a general question about your particular role. Do you know any particulars (when it first happened, who, what team, etc.) with respect to a professional sports franchise employing a writer to cover the team?

I don't, but that's an outstanding question. I know I was the first full-timer hired by the Packers, who prior to 2006 had part-timers and interns write some as the website got off the ground. I certainly wasn't the first for an NFL team, but not every team had a writer when I arrived. Since then, my job has changed so much, the way I originally did things is like the dinosaur age.

Gary from Davenport, IA

I agree the uniforms worn by the Rams looked very sharp and I think the Patriots should also go back to their old uniforms. The powder blue uniforms worn by the Chargers are another favorite of mine. Do you have any favorite throwback uniforms?

I mentioned the Rams' uniforms in my chat earlier this week. I also think one of the more underrated throwback looks is the Falcons' red helmet with the black bird.

Nick from Chicago, IL

As Packers fans, who do we want to win: Vikings or Lions? Lions win, they improve to 2-0 in the division and Vikings to 0-2 in the division plus knocking them off near the top. Or Vikings win to keep the division records close but keep the Vikings on top. I need help, my brain hurts thinking about this one.

There's always the chance you'll regret a result later on, but for now, I look mostly at overall records, and if the Lions win and put both of those teams at .500, that's a good thing for the Packers.

Geoffrey from Rosemount, MN

In regards to the talk of corner being a position of strength now, would you say it's more about the new players vs. the old? Or the coaching changes? A combination of both? I weigh towards both in my opinion. Overall the Packers look better than in the Capers years as of late, but you gotta think having true corners and not a converted safety helps. Just curious on your take, thanks.

Joe Whitt Jr. is still the primary coach at the position, so no disrespect to Mike Pettine or Jason Simmons, but it's 99 and 44/100ths percent the players. Just two years ago, Dom Capers was trying to win an NFC title game with LaDarius Gunter lined up across from Julio Jones. Gunter gave the Packers everything he had, but at best, he'd be the No. 6 cornerback on the current roster. It's been a complete overhaul in personnel.

Sam from St. Louis, MO

I was kinda hoping Ty would get a jersey number in the 30s only to have Baltimore convert him to a wide receiver...

Not bad.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Are there any non-obvious players to watch for on Sunday who could have a big impact on the game? I think the game will mostly be about whichever otherworldly quarterback plays better and we want the defense to play as well as they did in LA, but is there anyone specific who could give good odds at a win with a big day?

Aside from a defensive player making a huge turnover play, it's MVS or Allison for me. One of them needs to be the Adams of the '14 game.

Braden from Aurora, CO

Mike, talk about a tough first test for whomever fills in for HHCD. I'd imagine they're gonna get tested frequently by Brady, Gronk, and Gordon.

The Packers' safety group in general, no matter which players compose it, will get tested for sure. If Brady doesn't try at least one deep shot in the first two possessions on Sunday night, I'll be stunned.

Bobby from Joplin, MO

Looking back over the box score from the 2014 game, the score was not indicative of how much Green Bay dominated that game in terms of total yardage and time of possession. It was a five-point game because we settled for five field goals near or in the red zone. I think the difference in this game will be finishing drives with touchdowns (something the Packers have struggled with this year). Is this the week we fix that?

If the Packers get more efficient on third downs, yes. Green Bay is ranked 20th in the league in both third-down conversions and red-zone TD percentage. I don't think that's a coincidence. Fix the former, and the latter will follow.

George from Manassas, VA

Mike, do you think the difference in approach between Thompson and Gutekunst is due, in part, to Ted being a former player?

I honestly don't know. I do know Thompson's approach seemed different when he first got the job compared to later on. Back in '06 after a Week 4 loss at Philly on Monday Night Football, he cut Ahmad Carroll the next morning. Carroll was essentially a starter as the nickel corner and a first-round pick from two years prior.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

In "Unscripted" you said we cannot go with six DBs and not leave ourselves vulnerable against the run. We just played six DBs against the Rams, a team with a power back with a veteran line and TEs who were noted as blocking-first TEs. The logic does not match up then with what you are saying.

I believe I said using four corners would leave the defense vulnerable to the run. Against the Rams, the Packers' six-DB package was three corners and three safeties, with the third safety lining up like an inside LB, which is why Josh Jackson didn't play much (to answer a common question I've seen). We'll see what changes. I've gotten the impression from McCarthy's comments this week that all options are on the table as far as DB combinations.

Hubert from Green Bay, WI

The 2015 draft class should be a core part of this team. Not one of those players will contribute going forward. How long does it take to recover and rebuild from such a gut punch?

If Gutekunst has another draft in 2019 like the one he appears to have had in 2018, not as long as you think. His willingness to be more active in free agency can shorten the timeline, too, if the money is well-spent.

Dick from Four Oaks, NC

Since the trade deadline has passed and the mock drafts are starting to come out, would you please list the Packers' regular picks, as well as those obtained via trade (and whom they were for).

Mock drafts already? Yikes. As of this moment for 2019, the Packers have their standard pick in each round, plus an extra in the first round (from New Orleans for last April's draft-day trade), fourth round (from Washington for Clinton-Dix) and sixth round (from Seattle for Hundley). Compensatory picks will be announced after the season, but the Packers won't get any. Signing Williams while losing Burnett is essentially a wash, and the signing of Graham puts the Packers at a net gain in free agency.

George from North Mankato, MN

Just wanted to report on the state of things "behind enemy lines." Many fans here were relieved that we lost to the Rams due to the Vikes' loss to the Saints. It seems like a bit of worry has started to permeate the opposition after such a strong showing by the Pack. I think this week could be Jimmy Graham's breakout "on paper" performance. He brings so many intangibles to the field every week and has truly shown a team-first attitude. Any others you think are set to break through?

I already mentioned MVS or Allison, and maybe it'll be someone else. I do think someone has to have one of those "breakout" games for the Packers to win.

Eric from Santa Barbara, CA

"You've got to stick together" has to be the mantra of the season moving forward doesn't it? Rodgers always blurts out something profound around this time of year.

This has been a week unlike any other in my 13 seasons here. A heartbreaking loss to an undefeated team, the turmoil of how it ended, two established vets getting shipped out, and staring at an AFC dynasty next up. This game isn't even a must-win in the do-or-die sense of it, but if the Packers can conclude a rather tumultuous week with a big road victory, I think the entire perspective on the season changes.

The Packers continued practice Thursday ahead of Sunday's matchup with the Patriots.

Matt from Rockbridge, WI

What is the panic for? We are only a lineman returning a kickoff 70 yards on national TV from the Super Bowl. 1. Shut out an AFC East team? Check. 2. Lose a game we probably should have won to eventual No. 1 NFC seed? Check. 3. Bears a legit NFC North contender and in position to win it? Check. 4. Patriots lineman returns kick 70 yards in prime time? TBD. This is basically 2010 all over again. We got this, easy.

Wow. So you're saying after Sunday all that's left to see is Jimmy Johnson's big fork?

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

Re: Mike from Stevens Point and the ball crossing the plane on the punt. That's the college rule. In the NFL the ball can cross the plane and be knocked back out as long as no part of the defender has touched the end zone.

You are absolutely correct. My bad. I got the rules mixed up. In looking things up to confirm and refresh, I interestingly found a way the receiving team on a punt can actually lose possession of the ball even if the kicking team touches it first, which I thought was impossible. But it's not. It requires, after first touch by the kicking team, the receiving team trying to advance the ball, fumbling, the kicking team recovering the fumble, and the receiving team committing a penalty after the fumble. Then it's kicking team's ball. Got all that?

Josh from Pomona, CA

Everyone keeps saying we had a strong defensive performance on Sunday but I saw the same thing I've seen all year: We play well for one half. What's so great about giving up 416 total yards and 29 points? If Gurley took two more steps it's 36. What am I missing?

I saw a defense that held a team averaging 33.6 points to 24, not 29. Two for the safety, three after the bad punt, which put the Rams in position for a field goal even if they hadn't converted a first down. Two catches for 50-plus yards on the Rams' first TD drive were replay reversals with defenders in good position. To make that offense punt seven times should have been good enough to win the game.

Scott from Janesville, WI

Have you gotten any word/insight into who will be starting in place of Clinton-Dix?

He didn't say he was starting, and neither did Mike Pettine, but Tramon Williams told the media on Thursday that he's playing safety. So y'all can prepare a nice feast of crow for Wes to eat tomorrow morning, and I'll take a side dish because I half-heartedly backed him up (lesson learned). But circumstances obviously have changed since the initial discussion.

Matt from Dallas, TX

There is a lot of talk of this upcoming game being only the second meeting between Rodgers and Brady, but I seem to recall a game in Nov. 2006 between the Packers and the Patriots where Favre started but Rodgers saw the field for a good portion of the game. Is this correct and do you recall the specifics of why Rodgers saw time in that game? As I recall, the Packers may have even been shut out.

They were, 35-0. Favre got hurt on a sack late in the second quarter and Rodgers entered. Sometime in the third quarter, Rodgers broke his foot, and he toughed out the entire fourth quarter on that broken foot before going on IR two days later.

Bill from Menominee, MI

Barring some James Jones-like circumstances, my Jordy jersey is retired. I think it's safe to say which one will be in the wardrobe next. No. 23 doesn't appear to be going anywhere in the next 4 1/2 years.

No, no he doesn't.

Jake from Franklin, WI

Speaking of Cobb and third downs, didn't he have the game-clinching first-down catch against the Pats in 2014?

Yes, yes he did.

Ryan from Fort Worth, TX

Hey guys! I was watching highlights of the 2009 Packers vs. Cardinals playoff game and noticed how Rodgers was really stepping into throws. The throws were accurate and had a lot of "mustard" on them. Why do you think Rodgers has gotten away from that throwing form in recent years? He has immense arm talent, but many times he throws off his back foot causing him to miss targets he normally hits.

Rodgers has developed a much quicker release over the years, with more subtle footwork, which allows him to get the ball off in tighter quarters, as opposed to needing a full platform to step and fire. His bouts with inaccuracy this year I believe stem from his limited practice time due to the knee injury.

Fabian from Nuremburg, Germany

I thought L.A. was a well-played game. Yes, I'm disappointed, we all are. But the game was great. Not perfect, by any means. There's a second team playing football, too, you know? So I'm not sure what everybody seems to expect. Easy wins against a 7-0 team? Won't get that. Shut out a high-octane offense with Gurley? Won't happen. No sacks for Aaron Donald? Won't happen. I'm overall happy with the trajectory, over the course of the season and beyond. There's something in the making.

You have to make clutch plays at the end of games to beat good teams. That'll never change. Hoping and praying the game can be put away with 10 or 12 minutes left, and lamenting miscues here and there through the middle of the contest that might have made things easier, is a waste of energy. The best teams will make you beat them in the last few of those 60 minutes. Give yourself the opportunity, then seize it. That's the challenge facing the Packers all month long with this schedule.

Max from Milwaukee, WI

I think this game Sunday is going to come down to game management. The quarterback with the ball with a minute left at the end of the game will win.

That's an entirely likely narrative. The one being overlooked is on special teams. The Patriots scored a pair of special-teams TDs against the Bears (kickoff return, blocked punt) to win a game they easily could have lost. Green Bay's special teams must be up to the task Sunday night.

Kristen from Surprise, AZ

I hope the players get back to backing each other no matter what. I get that it's frustrating, but one of the hallmarks of this team is their unity and camaraderie and I hope this game pulls them tighter, rather than apart.

It has to. There's still a lot of season left and plenty to play for. A win in a game like this puts everything that led up to it well into the rear-view mirror.

James from Plano, TX

Is it Sunday night yet? I cannot take all this anticipation for Rodgers vs. Brady any longer.

Almost there. Happy Friday, everyone.

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