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Inbox: He's a darn tough customer

That’ll capture a lot of attention

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Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

A beautiful mystery ahead and beautiful memories behind. What more could a fan ask for at the (almost) halfway point?

This week ends the road gauntlet of four games out of five away from Lambeau. Talking about the Packers having a chance to win all of them in this stretch seemed unthinkable when it started.

Steve from Kansas City, MO

Do you think GB is buying into the nonsense the media is spewing about KC's demise – and especially about Mahomes? I live in the KC area and really could use a GB win. KC is having issues to be sure, but don't for one second believe they are going to go down easy. The turnovers have killed KC and they appear out of sync, but they could get back in the groove with one good drive. The players are there to rebound in a big way, so GB needs to be too. Wouldn't GB look great winning eight?

As I said the other day, the Chiefs are going to get back to looking like the Chiefs at some point. I wholeheartedly believe that. The Packers have to delay their return to prominence for another week, and it won't be easy.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

Good morning! We all know Kansas City's offense can light it up, but who on the Chiefs defense should we keep an eye on this week?

You always have to know where Tyrann Mathieu is on the back end, and Chris Jones is a beast of a defensive lineman. He hasn't been fully healthy for a while, but it sounds like his injured wrist is coming around. Either way, he's a darn tough customer.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

The Chiefs have a lot of big-name stars. Who is one overlooked key player on their team?

Mecole Hardman. He's a less accomplished version of Tyreek Hill.

Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

The Chiefs (or Chefs as the old Snickers commercial put it) are .500 and struggled a bit against the Giants on Monday. This doesn't seem to be the same team from last year. I'm not implying this gives the Pack an easy game, especially after seeing the Jets beat the Bengals. Not that you guys have all the answers or you'd be paid a whole lot more and standing on the sidelines, but what do you see as the issue? It's like they've gone downhill from the Super Bowl game.

There is something to the hangover following a Super Bowl loss. It's happened to a lot of teams. But more specifically, their pass rush has struggled and it's hurt their pass defense overall. They're 31st in the league in sacks per pass play, 29th on third down. On offense, it's the turnovers – 19 giveaways in eight games. That combination will get you beat, a lot.

Randy from Sterling, IL

Team sport indeed. KC-NY. A perfect, beautiful, clutch, game-changing interception negated by a defensive flinch into the neutral zone. Everyone must do their job on every play. Did it pain you to see that as it did me, and I'm just a neutral observer.

The margins in this league are forever slim.

Brian from Trego, WI

It's no secret that Aaron Rodgers has little tolerance for other players' mistakes and isn't shy about railing on them during games. Lucas Patrick was asked how he handles that criticism and stated the deposits are greater than the withdrawals. Great attitude but just like kids, knowing different players deal with criticism in different ways, could Rodgers' harsh approach negatively affect young players' performance if they don't have thick skin?

First off, I loved Patrick's description of the emotional bank account. That was priceless, pun intended. But this is also professional football, and if a guy has made it this far without knowing how to handle getting chewed out by a coach or team leader, he's not going to last anyway. Putting on an NFL helmet is the only participation trophy you get around here. After that, it's about performance.

Chuck from Santa Ana, CA

Lucas Patrick was channeling Stephen Covey with the emotional bank account thing.

I wonder if the late, great author and educator ever imagined a Duke grad standing at a podium in front of a bunch of sports writers applying the concept to an NFL locker room.

Ryan from Sun Prairie, WI

It has been reported that the Packers moved on from Jaylon Smith. Is it just a case of kicking the tires and finding he didn't fit the scheme?

And/or he didn't have enough to offer, while roster room is needed for returning players.

Matt from Fort Worth, TX

I understand the Rams aren't afraid to trade draft capital for proven players, but how are they able to afford all of them?

Von Miller is owed $9.7 million for the remainder of this season, and the Rams are only paying the .7. They got the Broncos to absorb the 9 by offering multiple Day 2 draft picks.

Joseph from Salt Lake City, UT

I know you guys are probably happy, but I was just assuming Mahomes vs. Rodgers would be the SNF matchup for this week. It ruined my plans to have all day to prepare a game-time feast.

My suspicion is when the schedule was being put together, and the networks were fighting over who gets what, that FOX put this matchup very high on, if not at the top of, its priority list.

Ingrid from Superior, WI

Spoff, refresh my memory: How much notice does the NFL have to give teams and fans if a game time is flexed?

12 days' notice is required, except in the final week of the regular season, when it's only six days.

Mike from Cascade, ID

The players on this team that answered the call to "Next Man Up" has been extremely impressive. As the injured players filter back into the active list the brain trust has a lot of decisions at hand. The usual response has been, "That's a good problem to have," but still a problem, no?

For the most part, the players know who the better/best players are.

Danny from Logan, WV

Obviously we are Packer Nation, but objectively who are you feeling right now as the top team in the each conference (today anyway)?

I'm not feeling anything yet. To me, any games pitting the four one-loss teams in the NFC and/or the Bucs against one another would be total coin flips. Same in the AFC amongst the Bills, Ravens and Titans, though of all the injuries everyone is dealing with, Tennessee got the worst news. Austin from Woodstock, IL, pointed out Buffalo has the top scoring offense and top scoring defense in the league. That'll capture a lot of attention if the Bills hold those rankings for another month.

Joel from Green Bay, WI

Is this the earliest in the season you recall an NFC North team controlling its own destiny to this extent? If the Packers sweep their remaining divisional games, at worst they'd finish with 11 wins. In that same scenario, the best either the Bears or Vikings could finish is 11-6, with the Pack owning the tiebreaker. With at least a couple division titles likely to be wrapped up by early December in the NFC, will that carrot of the first-round bye be enough to keep teams from coasting?

Regarding the division race, only a couple years in recent memory resemble the current one through eight games. In 2002, the Packers were 7-1 and the Lions were in second place at 3-5. In 2006, the Bears were 7-1 and the Vikings were 4-4. That's about it. Even back in 2011, when the Packers were 8-0 at this stage, the Lions were 6-2. As for any team's approach should it clinch early, the lone first-round bye is a huge incentive. Huge. Especially after a regular season lasting one game longer now.

Rick from Lynchburg, VA

Will the NFL consider a change to its personal foul penalty on kickoffs? When Rodgers was flattened on his touchdown pass, the defensive player was charged with a personal foul. Big deal. That doesn't punish the other team at all. Mason Crosby can kick it out of the end zone easily and it's a touchback. I think the ball should be moved back 15 yards from wherever it's returned on the kickoff, or half the distance to the goal depending on where the runner was stopped. Gotta be a better way.

Another popular topic, but this oft-suggested solution, while attractive, isn't practical. What if the return team takes it the distance, or commits another penalty on the return? It would just make enforcement more convoluted, and that's the last thing the NFL needs.

Rebecca from Madison, WI

Greetings II. I have a question in regards to a muffed punt. What is the reasoning for not being able to advance the ball after the muff? It seems to me that if the player makes a mistake and muffs it, oh well, the other team can pounce and make the best of the situation, which can include advancing it, if possible. I'm sure there is a sound explanation for the rule, I'm just curious.

The rationale behind the rule is on a muff, the receiving team never actually gains possession of the ball, therefore it's not treated the same as a garden-variety fumble. If the punt returner fields the ball, runs 10 yards and then coughs it up, the opponent can scoop and score like any other time. To answer a follow-up from Jordan from Virginia Beach, if the kicking team recovers the muff in the end zone, it's a touchdown.

Jim from Cadott, WI

Following up Dan's comment on the helmet-to-helmet call in the Jets game, that issue could be solved by calling a foul on both teams, thus no penalty. Sure looked to me as if it was no single player's intention to go helmet-to-helmet.

I agree, but the league apparently would rather have the officials just guess as to intent and blame.

Paul from Los Angeles, CA

We have won seven games in a row but we have also scored the same or fewer points every week during that stretch (35, 30, 27, 25, 24, 24, 24). Sure, past performance doesn't guarantee future results, but trends cannot be ignored, right?

I don't look at it that way. The other trend has been constantly changing personnel on offense and the adjustments needed therein. The Packers might get some guys back this week but won't have Robert Tonyan now, so the modifications continue. Also, of the five games in the 20s, three were against defenses ranked in the top seven in the league in points allowed. Last week the Packers were a mere 4 yards away from scoring 10 more points. There are endless factors that come into play.

Jon from Salem, MA

Mike, I liked that you brought up the Packers' ability to pull wins out of these close games so far this year. Do you put any stock in the analytics portion of the world who tends to believe that records in one-score games are rather fluky, because the games could have gone either way? I understand analytics have a place in sports today, but sometimes it feels like they encroach on the human element. The winning team made the play(s) to win.

So many games come down to key plays at key times that winning one-score games isn't fluky. Performance in the clutch counts most, and the teams that find a way to deliver in those moments deserve plenty of credit. So I don't believe these games will just "even out over time," though as mentioned before I do expect the Packers to lose at least one somewhere along the way. They lost to the Eagles in '19 on an interception at the goal line in the final seconds, and they lost in OT at Indy last year. But the better teams win more than they lose at crunch time, and that has defined the Packers the last 2½ seasons.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Hi Mike, being from Platteville do you have any experiences with Paul Chryst or his father George?

On a personal level, no. I attended countless UW-Platteville football games when George Chryst was the Pioneers' head coach, and I watched Paul quarterback my high school to its first, and still only, state championship when I was in sixth grade.

Luc from St. Thomas, Canada

I have viewed multiple submissions talking about how lucky it was that Green didn't look for the ball. If we're talking about being lucky, then we should also talk about how lucky Arizona was to have Aaron Jones' TD reversed. I would say nine times out of 10, it's 31-21 and Arizona doesn't even have a chance in that game. Lucky goes both ways.

This line of inquiry has officially exhausted me. Happy Wednesday.

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