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Inbox: He's always a threat

That’s this league

Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen

Evan from Vancouver, WA

I must be living in a parallel universe if Wes is rooting for the Lions QB and throwing out Eminem lines in the Inbox. Next he'll be wearing a do-rag on Unscripted and Spoff might have to keep an eye on his own lunch, especially when he brings mom's spaghetti.

What a way to start the end of my week.

Joel from Green Bay, WI

It appears that the key with Cousins is to not let him get comfortable early. His passer rating this season declines each quarter, from white-hot 136 in the first to an impressive 108 in the second to a ho-hum 90 in both the third and fourth/OT. If the Packers defense can thwart MVP-level first-half Cousins, I like their chances of handling Roethlisbergeresque second-half Cousins.

I hadn't heard those numbers, but they probably help to explain perhaps the most interesting stat I've heard this week – that the Vikings have held a lead of at least seven points in every game this season.

Brian from Madison, WI

Do upcoming opponents still conduct conference calls with reporters? I haven't seen as many comments from opposing coaches or players worked into game preview stories this year, so I'm wondering if that changed due to the pandemic.

It did. They went away, and I guess we'll see if those media sessions return at some point down the road.

Dave from Sparta, WI

When do we get to hear OLB coach Mike Smith again? Is there a weekly media schedule published somewhere? You just never know what he's going to say, and it's refreshing. Also, it's crazy to see that he was drafted the same year as Aaron Rodgers.

The offensive and defensive position coaches have alternated weekly which group speaks with the media. Defense is up again next week, but I'm not sure if the schedule will be adjusted due to the holiday.

Randy from Westminster, CO

Cook and Jefferson are dangerous, but it always seems like Thielen has big games against the Packers. It seems we've not heard a lot about him this year. Is he having a down year or is he still quietly dangerous?

He isn't making as many big plays as perhaps some other years (career-low 10.8 yards per catch, long of 35), and he has just one 100-yard game this season. But he's got 50 catches and seven TDs in nine games. He's always a threat.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Which Vikings player not named Cousins, Jefferson or Cook should we be watching, and why?

Harrison Smith and Eric Kendricks. When the Vikings' defense is playing well, those two guys are everywhere.

Joel from Shawano, WI

Don't good teams win the close games?

Yes, they do, but Minnesota's three last-second losses are to the Bengals, Cardinals and Ravens. Not exactly slouches, and the Packers were just as close to losing to two of those three clubs. That's this league.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

Lots of talk about which Vikings we don't want to let beat us – Cook, Jefferson, etc. – but if you're the Vikings, which Packer (other than Rodgers) do you try to neutralize first and foremost?

With Aaron Jones out of the lineup, I'd have to say Davante Adams. That's no disrespect to AJ Dillon, who would be Job 1A, but Adams is Job 1 after he dominated the Week 1 game over there last year.

Jeff from Gladstone, MI

Wes stated that he believes Randall Cobb would win a game for the Packers yet this season. I agree and believe the next one would make it his third. The two-touchdown performances against Pittsburgh and Arizona already qualify as No. 1 and 2 in my book. The man just shows up when they call his number. We are fortunate to have him back. One more this week for old time sake against the purple?

It's odd that with the Packers, Cobb only has three career TD receptions and a game high of 62 receiving yards against the Vikings. Maybe that'll change.

Josh from Napoleon, OH

Morning II, as an Ohio State fan (hope I don't get banned for that) I notice on their kickoffs they line the whole team up on the middle to left side of the field, leaving no one outside the far right hashmarks and kick to the left. They seem to have very successful kickoff coverage each year and they have been doing this for years now. Why haven't we seen this in the NFL as it has had much success in college?

The NFL has alignment rules that require five players on either side of the kicker, with at least two players but no more than three outside the numbers on each end. But Josh, if things go as planned, we are not talking the week after Thanksgiving.

Monty from Hazen, ND

Hey Mike, with Mason Crosby and the field-goal unit struggling right now, how many current kickers would you trust in a big-game situation more than Mason? Only two come to mind for me, Justin Tucker and Matt Prater.

Tucker is the best kicker in the game right now, so he immediately comes to mind as well. But beyond him, I don't think I'd take anyone over Crosby.

Richard from Madison, WI

When the Packers huddle up on offense, everybody's facing the quarterback except the center, who's looking at the opposing defense. What's up with that?

I'm guessing he's taking a few seconds to get an early handle on the defensive personnel in the game while still being able to hear the play call.

Col form Ludlow, UK

Hi Insiders. With the Lions having finally whelmed an opponent, would you still like them to actually win a game before we meet in the last week of the season?

Nice Red Smith reference. I wouldn't be as excited as Wes, but I would still love to see Tim Boyle give Dan Campbell his first win as an NFL head coach.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

What it is about Joe Barry's defense that seemed to present such a learning curve for the whole unit in preseason (and the first couple "regular-season" games), yet midseason additions like Rasul Douglas and Whitney Mercilus can step right in and carry out their assignments?

Interesting question, but I think there's naturally a difference between a whole unit learning and adapting, compared to assimilating a new player into the mix here or there.

Jason from Blaine, MN

With our defense playing so well, even with inexperienced players filling in, my (not so) expert analysis is it's because 31, 59 and 97 have been there the entire time. Kenny Clark runs the line, De'Vondre Campbell is the QB of the defense and Adrian Amos handles assignments in the secondary. How much credit do you think goes to those veterans vs. the coaches for the consistency through adversity?

I mentioned the other day the steady presence, leadership-wise, of Amos and Clark as captains, and I don't discount that at all, while Campbell is certainly an acting captain on the field based on his job description. Everything held together fine when Clark went out vs. Kansas City, too. But it's worth pointing out other than Slaton and Garvin, there aren't a lot of "inexperienced players" being forced into action. Eric Stokes has played so much it's almost like he's not a rookie anymore. This is a rather seasoned bunch, relative to other years.

Terry from Green Bay, WI

Good morning II. Flea-flickers can go a lot of ways but have you ever seen a completed pass for a loss? Great defense by all levels.

That play from last week that wasn't talked about much, but yeah, that was something. When I saw it live, I thought Wilson was just taking a check-down with nothing open deep. But on film, I noticed two offensive linemen leaking into the flat, as though it was designed as a flea-flicker screen. Too cute by half, as my grandmother used to say, but tremendous discipline by the Packers to cover every option.

Sreedharan from Pewaukee, WI

Hi Mike. What is the origin of "OG"? I've been idly wondering on this for a few weeks now. Maybe you can leave the research to Stokes, but you please share it with us?

I assumed it was shorthand for "Old Gray" as the elder statesman on the coaching staff, but I've since learned it stands for original gangster.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Dear Wes/Mike, with David Bakhtiari having been out for so long, how will he be used once he takes the field again? Is it a case of managing his defensive downs or just send him in there full-throttle and reduce the workload as he gets understandably fatigued?

Adam Stenavich suggested Wednesday that once Bakhtiari is in the lineup, it might not be for a full game right away. He could play part-time as he works his way back. But we're at least another week away on Bakhtiari I believe, with him not practicing yet this week.

Craig from Milwaukee, WI

What is the Rodgers toe injury? Turf toe?

He has declined to share any details.

Barton from Tulum, Mexico

Did you guys see that PFT's first edition of "After Further Review," which analyzes bad calls by officials each week, included four bad roughing-the-passer calls this past week? Since the NFL no longer has a head official to respond to obvious bad calls, like Al Riveron did, do you think this kind of pressure on the NFL is necessary to push it towards the solution: an extra replay official at each game who can correct obvious bad calls? Saludos to poor Clay Matthews!

The league is already headed that way with the replay assistant being in regular communication with the referee. I can see that individual's purview expanding over time. My favorite part of the PFT commentary was Chris Simms calling the bogus penalties "nothing the passer," because it reminded me of the Inbox coming up with "fluffing the passer" after the Matthews fiasco in 2018.

Bob from Sydney, Australia

Clay Matthews' 2014 move inside has been mentioned a few times the last few weeks. I suppose his final sack numbers didn't quite reach where we might have thought after the first few years of his career, but do you think he's got a chance at the HOF? He almost nabbed a defensive player of the year, he had the hair, he starred in a Super Bowl and that '14 season of selfless versatility feels like something that would put him ahead of rival contemporaries. What say you, gents?

With all due respect to Matthews, who was one of the most dynamic defenders and the most ferocious pass rusher I've covered, I don't see him getting into Canton. He has only two AP All-Pro selections (one first-team, one second-team) and there are a lot of guys with more All-Pro honors still waiting to be enshrined. His four double-digit sack seasons out of 11 also won't get him very far in the world of stat comparisons, even if what he did for the Packers' defense was invaluable much of his career.

Brian from Trego, WI

Since Adam Steno pretty much admitted Billy Turner may be jumping the snap early, can we expect the Vikings to ask the refs to key on that on Sunday?

Whether Steno said anything or not, the Vikings were going to put the officials on alert due to the frequency of it this past game.

Loughlin from Indiana, PA

Does the secondary's play without Jaire Alexander impact how we prioritize re-signing him? I know he is an outstanding talent, and we are definitely better with him playing, but he is also going to be asking for a lot. Would it be better to put that money towards re-signing Adams or Elgton Jenkins, as the defense has played better without Jaire than the offense without those two?

I expect the Packers to do everything in their power to keep all three of those guys in the building. They're all priorities for different reasons.

Tina from Rotunda West, FL

Will this defense keep snowballing or will the bubble burst down the line?

It's impossible to maintain this level of play indefinitely in this league. There's going to be a hiccup or a bump in the road or whatever you want to call it. The most important thing won't be that it occurs, but how the unit responds to it.

Mike from Westerly, RI

Great WYMM Mike. I am glad you play the video twice, because it's hard to follow all the moves watching it in full speed. Do you think the Packers will change the playbook a little given that Jones is out and we will have a rookie in pass blocking?

I assume you're referring to Patrick Taylor and his limited NFL experience. Dillon isn't as polished as Jones in blitz pick-up either, but who is? The full trust there will be difficult to replace. But you don't change the playbook, because you can't control when the defense will blitz. The players must know the protection calls, understand their assignments, and execute them.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Good morning. If a question is submitted to II, do both of you look at it? One may think it is not worth answering while the other one will? Also, is there ever a case of "Ooh, that's a good question for later on, I'll save that one"?

Once again, your monthly reminder: The first rule of Inbox is we don't talk about Inbox.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

Spoff, give me a quick prayer that I get my buck before noon Sunday. I gotta watch the game from the living room, not in a tree. Thanks.

Only if you share your venison.

Mike from Cascade, ID

Good day guys, I'm finding that I'm reading the Inbox more and more for the humor, and you never fail to deliver. "One word: trap game"... "Two words: Stop." Well done! Three words: Beat the Vikings!

You forgot the fourth word. Just. Happy Friday.