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Inbox: He has broadened his game

When here and there becomes a habit, that’s when teams get on a run

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CB Jaire Alexander

Brian from Menominee, MI

My non-II reading wife bought my 5-year-old daughter a Christmas shirt reading, "And why is the carpet all wet Todd," and my 8-year-old son a shirt reading, "I don't know Margo!" I've rarely been more proud. Merry Christmas!

I couldn't resist starting the Christmas column with this. Merry Christmas everyone.

Kathleen from Fond du Lac, WI

Here's to a Merry Christmas to all you guys/gals @packers.com, and a special thank you to Insider! You've become an important morning habit regarding our beloved Pack! Keep up the great work and here's to a game-winning, last-second field goal this Sunday night by Mason Crosby and his veins of ice water!

Works for me.

Shin from Shimoda, Japan

I would think the Titans camp would be equally, if not more, interested in a controlling-the-clock strategy, given the RB they've got and the QB we've got. If that lures them into skewing their fine run/pass balance, couldn't it possibly help the Packers' D react better by a split second here and there?

Perhaps, but you still have to make the tackle. I think the ball-control factor only matters if someone goes up by more than one score in the second half. The Titans would rather avoid that because it might limit Henry's opportunities. The Packers don't want to go there because the Titans will use Henry to keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers.

Patrick from Gulf Breeze, FL

The weather in Nashville: high of 36 Thursday, high of 28 Friday, but back up to 48 Saturday when presumably they'd travel. Here's to hoping the Wisconsin cold hits different and can still be a shock to the Titans' system. I know they're professional football players and can adapt when necessary, but they're still human too.

If on Sunday night it's anything like it was when Wes and I went into the bowl to shoot Final Thoughts yesterday, everyone's gonna feel that.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

Merry Christmas Insiders! Does Derrick Henry remind you of Eddie George in any way? Both large backs with power and speed in space.

Jerry Gray was a defensive coach in Tennessee during the Eddie George years and made that comparison this week. Henry is actually a little bigger and faster than George, but the similarities are there, yeah.

Travis from Oshawa, Canada

Merry Christmas Mike. Thanks for the WYMM on Amos. How do you think he compares to Morgan Burnett in his prime? It feels like I read similar adjectives describing their games.

Another apt comparison. Versatile, dependable safeties who provide quiet, steady leadership.

Deb from Green Bay, WI

Is it just me or did other fans have trouble with WYMM this week? No video was there just the written explanations of the plays. Is this an app glitch?

Yes. Unfortunately, the videos didn't publish properly in the app and we're trying to get that resolved. Apologies for the trouble. The segment did publish properly on the desktop and mobile versions of the website.

Sam from Melbourne, IA

Wow, can you guys believe it's time for Corey Linsley come back if he's ready? The fact that the time flew by without notice speaks (unneeded) volumes about how well this line can adapt.

True statement. It's been the under-the-radar narrative of one of the best offenses in the league all year.

Frank from Naples, FL

Spoff, what would you say is the greatest difference in the coaching styles of former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur?

That's a great question and one I honestly struggle to answer, in part because we've been so much more removed from our usual observations of the team this year. From this chair right now, I see more similarities (importance of a training schedule that keeps players' bodies fresh, value of locker room chemistry and cohesiveness, intentional avoidance of controversy in public comments) than differences.

Sean from Boulder, CO

Just a comment. The Patriots are having a down year but the post yesterday isn't the whole picture. They had more players than anyone opt out, including their best edge defender, safety, RT (a cancer survivor), running back, oft-used fullback and blocking tight end. And their quarterback went to Tampa Bay. How do you think the Pack would perform without Za'Darius Smith, Aaron, Adrian Amos, Marcedes Lewis, Aaron Jones and Rick Wagner? Hats off to the run they had under the best coach since Vince but they knew harder times were ahead.

Aside from when they've had their playoff seed locked, the Patriots are about to play their first two "meaningless" games in two decades. Think about that.

Joshua from Riverside, CA

Coach Jerry Gray mentioned Jaire Alexander learning "off technique" this year and how to play it well. I noticed so often Jaire is lining up 10 yards deep, strolling with swag back there. Is this the "off technique"? Last year I felt he was playing up on guys most plays. What have you noticed with the change in alignment?

It's based on the play call defensively, and I think what Gray was getting at is Alexander has become more comfortable with playing off rather than right up at the line all the time, and he understands better what the defense is trying to accomplish by changing it up. The timing and spacing are different and it's natural for corners to just want to do what they do best all the time. Alexander has more tools now. He has broadened his game.

Tom from Yardley, PA

I find it very interesting that the Titans are such a prolific offensive team with an ex-linebacker as their head coach. Most teams tend to better on the side of the ball that their head coach is focused on. Vrabel strikes me as the type of guy players love to play for and someone who has total trust in his assistants. He's done a really solid job. Looking forward to a great battle Sunday night.

Vrabel took over a team that had hit rock bottom in 2014-15, started to climb back before he took over in '18, but was stuck in the middle of the pack. Almost fittingly, he was 13-12 in his first 25 games. Starting with a three-point win over the Chiefs last November, he's gone 17-7 in his last 24 games (including playoffs). You can't help but admire what he's done.

Eric from Denver, CO

Happy Holidays! Besides Pro Bowl snubs Robert Tonyan and Corey Linsley, who would you say is the most underappreciated member of the Packers' roster?

Ben from Green Bay asked almost exactly the same question. My mind immediately goes to guys like Adrian Amos and Kenny Clark, but if having a big contract doesn't qualify a player to be underappreciated, then I'll say Jamaal Williams.

Avida from Vienna, VA

A Pro Bowl question with a cap twist: Do any of the Packer players named to the Pro Bowl have bonuses tied to being named to the Pro Bowl? Every dollar is going to be needed for next year's cap.

You and Michael from Burnsville, MN, were on the same wavelength here. Players on first contracts generally don't have Pro Bowl bonuses. Those on second contracts often do, and the Packers did lose some cap space as a result of a few selections. Chalk it up to the price of success.

Bob from Springfield, MA

Hi II, I'd love to see Rodgers get his third MVP, and the only knock on him this year is that he's feasted on weak teams. Do you think MVP voters are placing a lot of weight on how he performs against Tennessee on Sunday night? They are definitely not a weak team!

I think this game will factor significantly in the MVP race, yes.

Mike from Mebane, NC

I understand your statements about the game of football being offensive-minded, with the rules designed for scoring, and that a defense needs just a key stop here and there, but what gives you guys the confidence in this year's team that they can get said stop?

Because they've done it a number of times over the last two years as this unit has played together. Not every time, mind you, and probably last season more so than this one, so I make no guarantees. But there were game-on-the-line instances this year against New Orleans, Philly and Carolina where this defense needed to come through late in games and did. When here and there becomes a habit, that's when teams get on a run.

The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.

Micah from Appleton, WI

Hi, how's it going? With all the talk about being the No. 1 seed, I'm curious how low the Packers could conceivably fall if everything goes wrong. Not to be a Debbie-downer. I know they've locked up the North, meaning they'll be in the top four. I also assume they've got nothing to worry about from the East, meaning top three. Is that the answer? They could be 1, 2 or 3, at worst?

Correctamundo.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

There currently are two notable streaks in the NFL: KC's nine-game winning streak, and Jax's 13-game losing streak. Both GB and Buffalo have won four in a row. Among the 28 other teams, no team in the league has a winning streak or losing streak more than 3 games. Total consistency seems to be an elusive goal for all NFL teams. Week-to-week league indeed.

I mentioned on "Unscripted" that the outside perception/hype for either the Packers or Titans will take off based on the result of Sunday night's game, with the opposite likely happening to the other team. I think both of these teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders regardless of who wins, but that's not going to stop the over-analysis.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Has a team ever lost six games in a row and still made the playoffs? The Bears are still alive for a wild-card game.

Indeed they are. I double-checked some unofficial research I found online to confirm two examples. In a 14-game season, the 1970 Bengals won their opener, lost six straight to fall to 1-6, and then won seven in a row to take the AFC Central with an 8-6 record. They were promptly shut out in the playoffs by Baltimore. Also, the 2014 Panthers were 3-2-1, lost six straight, and then finished with four consecutive wins to emerge atop an ugly NFC South race at 7-8-1. They won a playoff game before falling in the divisional round.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Mike, when the tiebreaker comes down to a coin flip, how is it determined who gets to make the call of heads or tails?

Quick game of rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock.

Wes from South St. Paul, MN

Mike, what do you think the chances are for the NFL to move the Packers-Bears game to be opposite the Vikings or to a national channel given the importance of the game and its impact on the No. 1 seed?

Kickoff times for Week 17 will be determined by what's on the line in the playoff picture. Week 16 has to get sorted out first.

Clint from Chicago, IL

Hey Mike, you've brought up the Chicago Bears a couple times, their hot streak, and their playoff potential. It seems their path goes through (and potentially comes back to) the Packers. Would that be, ugh, crazy? If we saw them in the divisional round?

Again, we aren't even though Week 16 yet, folks.

Justin from Ivins, UT

I know you guys hate hypotheticals so I apologize in advance. But if the stars did align this week and we locked up the No. 1 seed, what would you do if you were Coach? Give a second week of rest to your starters? Or make sure the Bears don't see a playoff berth?

There's no hate on Christmas, but, please, everybody with me now…just beat the Titans.

Lori from Heredia, Costa Rica

Hey Spoff, what is the favorite gift you gave to your son and daughter when they were little? Happy Christmas everyone!

Way too hard to pick a favorite, and they probably liked the gifts they got from their grandparents better anyway. Funny story, though. (Not to be read by anyone under the age of 9.) Long while back, I decided to make the plunge and buy a big, flat-screen, smart TV for the first time as a gift to the whole family. My daughter then was right on the edge of whether or not she believed in Santa Claus. So, with the help of her older brother, we hid the TV under his bed and then set it up Christmas eve right where the old TV was (which happened to be right next to the Christmas tree) and slapped a huge red bow on it. Christmas morning she got up, saw the TV and told her brother, "Santa must be real. Dad would never buy a big TV like that!"

Ethan from Germantown, IL

Good morning Mike and Wes and happy holidays! All I want for Christmas is to make the cut to the II.

Merry Christmas to all.

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