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Inbox: He just has a presence about him

Make them react on the fly

Tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Jimmy Graham
Tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Jimmy Graham

Matt from Manhattan, KS

On Sept. 5, we beat the Bears 10-3. We enter this game with a record of 10-3. At kickoff, the number of days since the last Bears game will be... 102. Eh, I say close enough.

Cue the Twilight Zone music?

John from Madison, AL

A very interesting thing to note about the Packers-Bears rivalry is that the Bears led this rivalry by as many as 24 games back in 1992 but the Packers now lead it by three games. I never thought I'd see that in my lifetime! It should be of no coincidence that the Packers' starting quarterback since 1992 has mainly been either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers while the Bears had many.

Sunday will be the 56th time in the last 57 Packers-Bears games that either Favre or Rodgers has started at QB for Green Bay. The only exception was Brett Hundley on Nov. 12, 2017. If my research is accurate, Trubisky is the 19th different Bears QB to start against the Packers in that time.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

Looking big picture, GB is well situated. Especially compared to the competition. In division, Bears lack draft picks, Minnesota already is over next year's cap, and Detroit cannot get out of its own way. Rest of NFC? SF has a first-rounder, then nothing until the fifth. NO likely has one pick in first 90. Seattle has 16 UFAs this offseason, including eight starters. Rams without first-rounders next two drafts. GB has its own to re-sign before 2021 season, but the future looks bright.

Let's file this away for March. Opportunity is knocking right now.

Dale from Prescott, WI

What's the difference between a slot nickel back and a dime cornerback and what scheme they play in?

The nickel is the fifth defensive back, or third cornerback, and he usually plays in the slot on a third receiver because your top two corners are on the boundaries. The dime is the sixth defensive back, usually a fourth corner, and he's in the slot plenty also, but he might have greater variety to his alignments based on personnel matchups and assignments.

Tim from Reno, NV

At what point is a delay-of-game penalty supposed to be called? My wife keeps noticing the play clock hitting :00 and staying there for what feels like a full second before the snap with no penalty. She hopes it's that the play clock isn't perfectly synced with the TV display, but that seems easy enough to do. Any insight so I can continue to amaze with my NFL acumen?

The officiating mechanics that are taught, to my knowledge, are for the official watching the play clock (usually the back judge) to see it hit zero and then turn his gaze back toward the ball. If it hasn't been snapped yet, blow the whistle and throw the flag. If it's being snapped, play on. So there is a beat between the play clock running out and stopping the play.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

I hear it over and over again and again, talent and players win football games. I think I'm being fair when I say the Cowboys have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Maybe even more talented than Green Bay's. If that's true, why are the Packers 10-3 and the Cowboys are 6-7?

Because you still have to play the games. More talent and better players give you a better chance to win games, but you still have to do it, and talent in the league is spread more equally than the disparate records would suggest.

Lucas from La Crosse, WI

Without the Rodgers and LaFleur rift narrative, the media is now asking the next important question that II must weigh in on: Is fan enthusiasm dwindling at Lambeau Field?

I don't think so. Last Sunday's game was rather blasé after the first quarter. I don't expect this Sunday's to be.

Derek from Norton, KS

Do you think the possibility of the Packers utilizing a spy on Trubisky and the preponderance of time that we struggle to cover the middle of the field could lead to a break out for the Chicago TEs?

The Bears are reaching deep into the position these days due to injuries, but no matter who it is, they're going to try some of the same concepts the Packers have struggled against throughout the season. They'd be fools not to. As for spying Trubisky, I think it's a good idea, but like any defensive concept, you can't just live in it and let the offense know what you're doing on any given snap. Mix it up, keep them uncertain, and make them react on the fly.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Hi guys, I just saw Fangio's proposal to do away with divisions. Instead play everyone in your conference once and then one or two games (if they go to 17 games per year) against the other conference. The old division rivalries would still be there, making the one time you see them all that more important. Your thoughts?

No thanks. Awful idea.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

I was at the game against the New York Giants that in many ways sparked the XLV Super Bowl run. It was a banner day for John Kuhn. Maybe Sunday will be Danny Vitale's coming-out party.

The last two weeks, we've seen a Packers player score his first touchdown of 2019 – first Marcedes Lewis at New York, then Robert Tonyan last week. Offensively, all that's left are Vitale and Jace Sternberger.

Bill from Menominee, MI

The Packers like to have a strong offensive rebound after a questionable one. I'll predict they start fast, control the clock, and get two extra possessions from the defense forcing turnovers. No matter what climate you hail from, that funny shaped ball bounces a little tougher in the cold.

I'll be interested to see if the cold affects Trubisky. As of now, the high will be in the teens Sunday in Green Bay. The coldest game Trubisky has played in the last two years was 29 degrees on a Sunday night in Chicago vs. the Rams last season. The playoff game vs. Philly in January was a few degrees warmer than that. He played in a 24-degree game as a rookie. We shall see.

Carla from Mosco Mills, MO

How do each of you get ready the day of the game?

Wes gives me some smelling salts during the coin toss and I respond by head-butting him. Or maybe we just put on our nice clothes and go to work.

Mark from Rock Vale Terrace, IL

Howdy, II! Is Hicks not on the injury report because there is no injury or because he has not been activated yet?

He has not yet been officially activated from injured reserve, though all signs are pointing toward the Bears doing that. They would have to make the roster move by Saturday afternoon.

Ron from Mesquite, NV

In years past, my biggest complaint with the Packers was the amount of injuries we've had to deal with. I know that they are a part of the game, but it's also easy to see that we've been healthier this year than any recent year I can remember. Is ML and the new staff doing anything differently with their training schedule/conditioning that can be attributed to this?

LaFleur has held a few no-helmets workouts on Wednesdays this year, which is definitely different from the past. I think a lot of the early-season padded practices were a tad shorter than I recall, though I don't have any data in front of me. Aside from that, a lot of it is just luck and players holding themselves accountable to take care of their bodies appropriately.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

If you had to pick one player from this 2019 team that you could see become a future Packers coach, who would it be and why?

Choosing only from the established veterans, I'd go with Marcedes Lewis. He's smart, articulate, accomplished, and he just has a presence about him.

Eric from Mandeville, LA

Driving up from Louisiana to go to the game on Sunday, original forecast high temp 30 degrees, current forecast high...16. Any ideas, besides more layers, I can share with my southern wife on how to keep warm? She is not happy with the forecast. Mike, if you are free Saturday or Sunday night and want to get a beer with a '98 Cuba City grad, let me know (Wes can come for a root beer, too, I guess).

Bring something to separate your rear from the metal bleacher, like a seat cushion or blanket, and also bring something to separate your feet from the cold concrete, like a piece of styrofoam. The latter sounds silly, but I've heard it helps. Are you trying to change my mind about Cuba City folks? During Packers-Bears week no less? Dude, rivalries are ingrained. Ha, no, just kidding, appreciate the thought. I am a bit jammed up, but I'll be giving a group from my daughter's school a stadium tour on Saturday afternoon, so if you see me around the building, don't hesitate to say hello.

The Green Bay Packers hit the practice field to prepare for Sunday's showdown against the Bears.

Stephen from Palos Park, IL

What do you think the Packers need to do better Sunday against the Bears than they did in their season-opening game against the Bears at Solider Field?

Offensively, it's all about third down. In the opener, the Packers were 2-for-12, and six of the 10 failures required 10 yards or more. That's no way to succeed. They had too many negative plays on first and second down. Get something on the ground and protect Rodgers so he has a reasonable chance on third down.

Jamie from Rhinelander, WI

Is the "100 Seasons" book going to be out in time for Christmas?

I spoke with Cliff the other day and it's sounding like next summer. He's just been behind on the writing and production.

Paul from De Pere, WI

If you had to select an individual offensive performance as a predictor of success for the Packers this weekend who would it be, and what would the stat line look like? For example, if Aaron Jones has 150 yards from scrimmage, do the Packers win?

I believe so.

Dave from Middletown, CT

To the uninitiated (yours truly), defensive line assignments seem to be "get to the QB or whoever has the ball." Obviously, the game is much more sophisticated than that. From a D-lineman's perspective, what is the difference in your job in pass defense vs. run defense?

Against the run, linemen are responsible for gaps, and depending on the call, their responsibility might be two gaps – to either side – or just one. If the back hits your gap, he can't get by you. With the pass rush, it's a "get to the QB" mentality, but with some exceptions. If the desire is to hem in a scrambling QB, rush lane integrity is paramount, so don't create escape lanes by doing something crazy. There's also the need to recognize screen passes when the offensive linemen release.

Jordan from Virginia Beach, VA

What is the deadline for the league to flex a game into a more desirable time slot?

It's supposed to be 12 days in advance, except for Week 17, which can be six days' notice. But there are reports the league is making an exception this year and still keeping options open for Week 16, depending on this weekend's results (which wouldn't affect the Packers, because Monday night games are not subject to flex).

Daniel from Liverpool, Merseyside

"The Packers have yet to win at U.S. Bank Stadium." I looked it up and the Vikings have only lost seven games since U.S. Bank Stadium opened. That's remarkable. It will not be easy, but is there such a thing in the NFL?

That's for next week, and you answered your own question anyway.

Kevin from Holmen, WI

I recently heard former Packer Will Blackmon tell a story regarding punt returns while filling in as co-host on a national sports radio show. He was struggling and Robert Brooks told him, "Just get the first 10 yards and everything else will take care of itself." Blackmon said on his next return he got the first 10 yards and noticed he was still running with nobody around him and ended up taking it to the house. Perhaps this simple approach is all our punt return unit needs to turn things around.

I've always been in favor of getting what's there first and foremost. Mennenga on Thursday described Tyler Ervin as "the definition of a north-south returner," and I would wholeheartedly agree.

Lisa from Plymouth, MN

Xmas in II. Wes "Rudolph" Hodkiewicz: Has a nose for a heart-warming story. Willing to challenge the abominables in the Inbox. Mike "Hermey" Spofford: Trusted, hardworking, humble, balanced. May not aspire to become a dentist, but definitely has a heart for baseball. John "Yukon Cornelius" Kuhn: Last to join the 2019 group, red beard and mustache, exuberant communicator. Larry "It's a Wonderful Life" McCarren: Genuine, always encouraging, seeker of gems for the good of the whole. Thanks!

I've got nothing after that.

Paul from Clintonville, WI

Under the current playoff system format, have the Packers been every seed in their playoff history? 1 thru 6?

Yes. In fact, during Mike Holmgren's six-year playoff streak (1992-98), the Packers were each of the six seeds once.

Caroline from La Crosse, WI

Thanks for Thursday's "Unscripted." Thanks for the memories. Love what you do.

Appreciate the audience. It was fun to go into the way-back machine for a few minutes.

Bob from Park City, UT

Hello Spoff, I have not seen any mention of the famous "after further review" game, which I can't believe was 30 years ago. I had some discussion with some younger Bears fans that had no knowledge of that game. I had fun telling them about Don Majkowski, the controversy and how Ditka was so angry the Bears put an asterisk next to that game for the next 10 years. I imagine Wes might be too young, but how about you Spoff, do you have any good memories of that game?

I remember watching it on TV, and that was the game I learned the full rule – the passer's entire body has to be beyond the line of scrimmage when the ball is released for it to be illegal.

Thomas from Milwaukee, WI

When was the last time the Packers played three division games in a row? This one feels especially important because it's the only one at home.

The Packers finished the 2016 regular season the same way, in the same order, except the Minnesota game in the middle was the only home one.

Stephie from Flowery Branch, GA

Mike and Wes, how are you both holding up on this long season? To the team's identity question, I suspect their chameleon ability to adapt and play to each opponent's weaknesses keeps them from settling into routine rut and on their toes. Eventually they'll have seen it all and be more prepared to anticipate, and build on their creative strength. Your thoughts?

A season like this one is not long at all compared to the previous two. As to your other point, read ahead.

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

The Packers may not have put it all together yet, but I view that as a chance to get hot at exactly the right time. Winning it all is as much about peaking at the right time as anything. If the Packers' best stretch is still ahead, you've gotta like their chances.

I don't believe this team has played its best yet. Whether it can get there will determine where this all goes. Happy Friday.