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Inbox: He remains one of the NFL's most underrated players

Maybe that’ll be enough to take this team all the way to Miami

T Bryan Bulaga
T Bryan Bulaga

Mike from St. Louis, MO

Shareholder (speaking to Wes and Mike): Yeah, I'm gonna need you to come in on Saturday. Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Oh, Oh, I almost forgot, I'm also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too. OK?

Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks. Good morning!

Paul from Oceanside, NY

How can an 11-3 team only have two Pro Bowlers? I know there's a bigger task at hand here but the Smiths, Jaire Alexander, Blake Martinez all had Pro Bowl-worthy seasons.

I don't get it, either. There's only one thing those players can do now – prove they belonged there and maybe that'll be enough to take this team all the way to Miami.

Thomas from Evansville, IN

Who is the biggest Pro Bowl snub for the Packers? I feel like it has to be Aaron Jones (no way has Zeke deserved a spot over him this year) or one of the Smith Bros.

Jones was deserving but there were a lot of big names and competition at running back in the NFC. To me, the Smiths were the biggest snubs – especially since Preston won the fan vote, which makes up a third of the voting. At least one – if not both – deserved the nod. As Spoff pointed out, it was disappointing Bryan Bulaga didn't even get a sniff as an alternate. Bulaga has had an amazing year facing several of the league's most accomplished pass rushers. I keep writing it year after year, but he remains one of the NFL's most underrated players.

Jake from East Farmington, WI

After listening to your guys' Pro Bowl discussion on Wednesday's "Unscripted," it got me thinking. Here's an idea to get more players involved. On Saturday have a doubleheader, two AFC teams face off against each other and two NFC teams. And Sunday is the championship where the best two teams face off.

I like the creativity but you can't ask players to play back-to-back days. My proposal is eliminate first alternates and just invite those players, as well. Every year, the NFL has to dip into the "other alternates" anyway, so why not just name the "first alternates" Pro Bowlers, too. Jordy Nelson was a first alternate during his 1,500-yard season in 2016 and wasn't able to play in the game because he had the rib injury. Does that make him any less worthy of being called a "Pro Bowler"? Weak sauce.

Lane from Louisville, KY

Longtime reader here, first time submitting a question. I'm not gonna go on some long rant about how "Z" and Preston were snubbed in the Pro Bowl selection for the likes of Khalil Mack. Instead, I'll ask what you think the Smith Bros.' individual chances are of making the AP All-Pro team. Seems like they are both deserving of serious accolades this season.

Much better. Personally, I believe the argument could be made for Za'Darius Smith being a defensive player of the year candidate given all the ways the Packers utilized him this season.

Rob from Circle Pines, MN

A friend and I think the key to the Monday night game is the team with the defense that best pressures the quarterback, along with containing a quarterback run. Is there something else more critical for success (both teams are outstanding)?

Turnover margin is critical to any game but even more so with this one. Green Bay is second in the NFL in net difference (14). Minnesota is tied for fourth with 11. One other thing to consider – if you go by Pro Football Focus' metrics, Kirk Cousins has been less than exceptional when pressured. For a QB with 70-percent accuracy this year, Cousins has completed only 68-of-131 passes (51.9%) when facing even pressure with four rushers.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, how formidable are the Vikings on special teams?

They don't have Cordarrelle Patterson anymore but Dan Bailey has solved a lot of problems for them on field goals. One might consider that an even trade given how that position has haunted Minnesota.

Matt from Twin Falls, ID

Out of the other three 11-3 teams which do you see as the most formidable?

All four have their strengths but I would argue playing the Packers at Lambeau Field right now is as difficult as playing the Seahawks in CenturyLink and the Saints in the Superdome.

Nicholas from Superior, WI

There is enough in the game of football that really needs to be fixed. Can we please stop trying to fix the playoff seeding system? The division/conference system is so integral to the league schedule that de-emphasizing it would be terrible. The teams in your division have more to say about your record than anyone else in the league. If you didn't win enough to win your division but were lucky enough to get a wild-card berth, then be grateful. Don't throw a tantrum over someone else's record.

Thank you. I've said for a long time the NFL has the best playoff system of any professional sport. It means something to be one of the 12 teams playing postseason football. There's no need to water that down or retool it.

Jeff from Coventry, RI

It's asked every week what the Packers have to do to beat "Team X." So let's go the other way. What are the Vikings thinking they have to do to beat the Packers? What matchups are they focusing on?

Every team has looked to contain Jones and Davante Adams. The Vikings also need to give Cousins the necessary time to work in the pocket. The biggest matchup, and it applies to both teams, is Stefon Diggs – where he's lining up? Who's covering him? How frequently? One way or another, Jaire Alexander is going to earn those paychecks the rest of the way, especially with Kenny Golladay coming in Week 17.

Darrell from San Antonio, TX

II, don't you have the feeling that Monday night's game is the most important one we've played all season? Going into a hostile environment, against a good football team, with a playoff atmosphere. I feel a win in Minnesota will give this team the confidence they need going into the playoffs. Especially if they have to go on the road to get to the Super Bowl.

Without question. And if the Packers win Monday, I can think of no better way to springboard into a meaningful playoff run – should you take care of business against Detroit in the finale.

Brock from West Lafayette, IN

Do you feel having less snaps earlier in the season has allowed Rashan Gary to have fresher legs this late in the season? It was great seeing him get another sack last Sunday and I'm hoping to see him cause even more havoc against the Vikings this Monday.

As I wrote in our "Player on the Rise" piece on Gary, I think things are beginning to click for the Packers' rookie first-round pick. The Smiths are still Green Bay's one-two punch at outside rusher but it can only help the defense if Gary makes a sizeable contribution down the stretch. He's strong, athletic and explosive – and catching up to the speed of the NFL game.

Mick from Madison, WI

Granted, the Packers control their own destiny. However, what happens if we lose on Monday to the Vikings and end up tied at the end of the year, presuming we win in Detroit and Minnesota wins out? Tiebreaker goes to the NFC division then to like opponents' records?

The Packers would still win the NFC North if the Vikings win out because Green Bay would be 5-1 in the division, which bests Minnesota's 4-2. The Vikings' Week 4 loss to Chicago looms large.

Aaron from Maryville, MO

If the Packers beat the Vikings, will that clinch at least the second seed and get the first-round bye?

No. They would still need to beat the Lions to hold off the Saints. Green Bay needs that last NFC win to win the conference tiebreaker.

James from Easton, PA

Mike, reports today indicate Gute brought in five players for tryouts. It's encouraging to see a GM constantly on the lookout for superior talent and upgrades to the roster. Case in point Tyler Ervin, who has rehabilitated the ST group by dramatically improving kick and punt returns. How does Gute's activity in scouring the market for talent compare to predecessors? Thank you.

NFL teams bring in players for tryouts every week to update their free-agent rolodex in case a spot opens up on the practice squad. As far as Brian Gutekunst's ability to unearth diamonds in the rough, I think he's off to a fantastic start. Ibraheim Campbell, Allen Lazard, Chandon Sullivan, Danny Vitale and Ervin have been brilliant "street" free-agent signings.

Sal from Hailey, ID

I can't think of anything I'd like more for Christmas than a Dec. 23 win in Minnesota. What do you hope the Packers will do differently in this game than in their last contest with the Vikings?

The start was perfect. The Packers' first three drives in Week 2 produced touchdowns, but they also fumbled twice and punted on their last five possessions. You need a 60-minute performance to beat Minnesota on its own turf. Green Bay needs another fast start but needs to keep its foot on the gas and finish strong. Cousins only completing 14-of-32 passes again would also help the cause.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

For all the brouhaha about the offense and winning ugly, have people paid any attention to the defense? It has given 16 or fewer points in four of the last five games. A period in which it has forced eight fumbles, seven interceptions, and 13 sacks. Can we get some love for this December defense?

The Packers are 23rd in "total defense" but rank third in interception rate, fifth in red-zone defense and ninth in points. Green Bay pressures, takes the ball away and keeps teams out of the end zone. That's how you win in this league.

Ed from Menomonie, WI

What does a player think is more of an honor, elected to the Pro Bowl or elected All-Pro? Do they get a bonus written in their contract for these awards? In my opinion, All-Pro would be a higher honor because it is by your peers and not a popularity contest.

It seems more common for Pro Bowl incentives to be worked into contracts, though most have the caveat of the player needing to be voted in on initial balloting. Personally, I consider AP All-Pro a bigger honor. You'll never be able to take popularity completely out of the equation with these things, but I feel the Associated Press voters do a great job of making sure the right guys get the credit.

Erik from Sisters, OR

What would quiet the crowd in Minnesota down faster: a long drive and score, or a dominant defensive three-and-out?

A 75-yard Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Spencer from Rockford, IL

Wes mentioned Tuesday the Bears need to retool their running game in support of Trubisky. Isn't that what they did with David Montgomery, and draft pundits were high on Montgomery as well? They thought he was a better fit for Nagy's O than Jordan Howard was. At any rate, too early to tell, but doesn't seem like their plan worked out just yet.

Yes. And I was completely against them trading away Howard from the beginning. Howard is 25 years old and a proven commodity in a division where you need to run the football. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

Rodney from Mt. Calvary, WI

A first-round bye sounds like a great thing. One less game to play and some time off. But I can't help worrying that it also could be a momentum breaker. You only have to look at their loss to the 49ers this year. Granted, the 49ers were playing hot at the time, but I thought the Packers were also, going into the bye. It just seems that the Packers come out of their byes a bit slower and out-of-sync in that first game back.

The last six Super Bowl champions would disagree with you. If you're a legitimate contender, the benefit of a full week of rest should heavily outweigh any side effects with momentum.

Michael from Portland, OR

So what's your favorite TD celebration by the Packers?

All-time? The "Cool Runnings" bobsled. This year? It's a draw between Za'Darius' Ray Lewis celebration and his "IT" routine.

Patrick from Austin, TX

What's the word on Dexter Williams? Will we see him get playing time soon? My thought has been they were saving his fresh legs for deep in the season. Now I'm wondering if he's not on the field due to not being prepared or ready to play. Your thoughts?

Barring injury, I don't see Dexter Williams being a factor down the stretch. You need Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams out there as much as possible.

Martin from Evansville, IL

We need to not take for granted any games, especially divisional ones. Yes, the Lions suck, but we could still fall to them if we get overconfident.

Sure but we're another week away from that game even being a thing. Right now, it's all Vikings.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Insiders, in a recent interview, Gronk expressed his thoughts that went into his retirement decision (physical toll) and stated that the league should institute a required-week-off rule for every player on every team (in addition to the bye week) to allow players' bodies additional recovery time. I don't think this will "fly" because of the of "consecutive starts" stats, but what about a second bye week for each team, where the first one will be in Week 6 or 7 and the second in Week 12 or 13?

I remain a big proponent of a second bye week. Whether the league ever adopts such a measure, that's up to people with many zeros on their paychecks. I don't see Gronk's idea ever working as the letter of the law (see the NBA's problems with "load management") but couldn't the Patriots have accommodated such a specialized request to keep him?

Aaron from Herndon, VA

With regard to dismissing the division configuration: The very drama that plays out in this league from preseason through the Super Bowl is largely due to the division format and all division winners hosting their first playoff game. Removing divisions would be a step in the direction of what the NBA does, in terms of ensuring "proper playoff outcomes." Is that what we want? I'm looking forward to seeing how the game Dallas/Philly hosts against the NFC West wild-card team impacts the field. Game On!

You might be onto something here, Aaron. I think there is a part of me that loves the occasional playoff oddity. It creates some chaos. The cleanest playoff scenarios aren't always the most fun. Sometimes you gotta get sloppy.

Tony from Vulcan, MI

Have you heard the reason why Tramon Williams was back to receive the punt instead of Tyler Ervin?

Ervin was getting his hand looked at in the locker room.

Steve from Virginia Beach, VA

Wes, did you see the great photo of you during the Smiths' postgame locker room interview. It's on Za'Darius' Twitter page. Is that Blue Steel?! Magnum perhaps?

Yeah, that was my "Oh God, Schneidman is shooting another locker-room video" face.

Rex from Eastbourne, England

Based on the comment regarding Lori, do you both have favorite submitters that you leave for the other to reply, too?

Brett from GB. I write him but he still ain't submittin'. Please call.

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