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Inbox: He's both steady and superb

Their motivation for this game will be through the roof

DL Kenny Clark

Gary from Benevides, Brazil

A 12.75-win season? Is this a passive-aggressive way of hating a 17-game season? Or is this breaking the rule of no math in the II? I'm on the fence.

With Wes, I'm going with the former.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

I still remember the last time we played the Bengals in Ohio and they're not good memories. If memory services, a questionable low tackle on Randall Cobb resulted in a significant leg injury and on a key fourth down run by the Packers, our running back fumbled. That was a game the Packers should have won but didn't. I'm sure Aaron Rodgers also remembers that game very well, and I hope he uses that chip on his shoulder to deliver some payback.

Well, it was eight years ago, so I don't think payback really applies. For the record, the injury to Cobb in '13 occurred in Baltimore (two games later), but yes, the fumble by Johnathan Franklin that was run back for a TD cost the Packers a game they had no business losing. That was honestly one of the most bizarre games I've ever covered. Cincinnati scored the first 14 points, with the help of a Green Bay muffed punt near the goal line. The Packers scored the next 30 points, including a fumble-return TD, and then the Bengals scored the last 20 to steal it back, with a fumble-return TD the game-winner. Sanity in the 'Nati would be preferred this time.

Jake from Decatur, GA

What can the Packers learn from the Bengals' win over the Jaguars last week? Or is Jacksonville's team and situation so different from Green Bay's that the comparison isn't really instructive?

The only thing I take from it is the Bengals have now pulled out two down-to-the-wire games in four weeks. That says something about their team's abilities in the pressure-packed moments.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

I know it's never a good time to see key playmakers go down, but it if they do and you can sustain winning while they're out than there is hope for healthy players at the season's peak, yes? I mean 2010 was riddled with injuries and I remember that season coming together okay...

We shall see whom the Packers get back and when. As for 2010, while it can be reassuring to recall those trials, losing starters and losing stars is not the same thing. Back in '10, guys like Grant, Tauscher, Finley and Barnett were all solid, productive starters, but the non-QB Pro Bowlers from the previous year on that team were Collins, Matthews, and Woodson. The Packers didn't lose any of those guys, and five others who stayed healthy that year (Clifton, Driver, Hawk, Jennings, Williams) became Pro Bowlers as well. These current absences – David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Za'Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander – are larger hurdles to overcome.

Wayne from Stevens Point, WI

Good day to everyone. Opting not to receive the kickoff, a doubling up at the first half's end and second half's beginning must have some credence in numbers. How often does the team kicking to start the game have a meaningful amount of possession time at the end of the first half? I would guess the answer is half. The other half of the time you just gave the other team an extra possession. Wouldn't taking the opening KO give you a 50% chance of an extra possession?

We can debate the coin-toss decision until the cows come home, and there are worthwhile arguments on both sides. I'll just say if there's one overlooked aspect to deferring, it's the extended break the defense gets at halftime combined with the first possession of the second half. It's a huge opportunity to rest up for crunch time. And if you get the double-up on either side of intermission, all the better. Against Pittsburgh, the Packers killed the last 5½ minutes the second quarter and had the ball for the first 5½ of the third. That's an enormous breather for the defense, even if in this case the offense only produced six points.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

Hey guys, what do you think about starting a GoFundMe account to help pay for Joey Bosa's upcoming fines for his comments about the officiating in the NFL? Telling the truth about poor officiating can be costly.

Bosa's contract is for $135 million with $102 million guaranteed. I think he can cover it.

Keith from Bakersfield, CA

With injuries to Bak and Jenkins, we've seen several young players step up. We've also seen how scheme can help compensate for inexperience, as the Packers chipped and doubled up playmakers from SF and PIT. Now we're potentially dealing with the two starting CBs missing time. One play you highlighted in WYMM, where Isaac Yiadom blitzed from the corner and Darnell Savage came up from safety to cover, looks like one of those cases where scheme helped. What other ways will GB use scheme to help the CBs?

The easy answer is to say keep the safeties back to help and let the linebacker(s) assist on the underneath stuff, but that means the four-man rush has to get the job done. While I expect the Packers to rely on generating pressure with four, they'll still have to pick their spots with blitzes to keep the offense a tad off-balance. It's always about throwing change-ups so the offense can't assume you're running the same thing play after play.

Kelly from Stoughton, WI

Alright, I have heard some of the names, Yiadom, Chandon Sullivan, of course rookie Shemar Jean-Charles. Who do you think is our "breakout" player of the bunch to step up while we work through some injuries?

It's going to take a village to replace Alexander for however long he's out, but I think Eric Stokes is the key to mitigating his absence.

Brian from Sussex, WI

Assuming Jenkins is back before Bakhtiari, do the Packers look at performance of Yosh Nijman vs. Jon Runyan to determine which backup to replace, or go with more important position (LT)? And if it's close in performance, would they determine which position week-to-week based on what DL position is strongest that week?

LaFleur adheres to the "best five" mantra so it's mostly a matter of choosing whether they feel better about Nijman or Runyan. The one caveat I'd throw in is if, when Jenkins comes back, the timing is such that Bakhtiari's return is imminent. In that case, they might be inclined to insert Jenkins at left guard so he doesn't have to make another switch. But I'm going with "best five" until LaFleur operates otherwise.

Kevin from Santa Rosa, CA

Hey, wait a minute! When did Drew Brees beat the Saints? Did Fran Tarkenton beat the Vikings?

Brees beat the Saints before he ever played for them, as Chargers QB in 2004. Tarkenton beat the Vikings as Giants QB in 1969.

Darren from Wakefield, MI

Just a follow up on Brady joining the "beat 'em all club," wonder if everyone realizes the only two teams Rodgers has yet to beat are Green Bay and yup, the Bengals?

Rodgers beat the Bengals in 2017, in OT. He has not won at Cincinnati, though.

Larry from Chubbuck, ID

We seem to have a history of recent success against certain teams in the AFC like the Raiders and Texans. Cincinnati is not one of them. I believe the last three times the Packers have played them, they lost two and won one in overtime. Of the Packers first five opponents I think the Bengals are the best team. Do you feel the team and staff are looking at it that way?

I don't think they're into comparing the opponents on the schedule. Whether the Bengals are better than the Saints or 49ers is irrelevant. The coaches will see a 3-1 team that beat the Steelers on the road as convincingly, if not more so, than the Packers did at home. They'll also see a team that comes out of halftime firing on all cylinders, with a 34-7 scoring advantage in the third quarter, and a defense that hasn't given up more than 24 points so far this season. A team like the Bengals that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2015 can announce itself to the football world by beating a team like the Packers. Their motivation for this game will be through the roof.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi II, on the sort-of blocked FG, is the OL blocker always supposed to choose to block the inside rusher? Will there always be an unblocked outside rusher, or were we misaligned? I see the phrase that "we need to clean that up," but I think "we need to disguise the snap better and block better" is more accurate.

LaFleur pretty much said that as well. Protection priority is inside-out, and it was the inside player, Minkah Fitzpatrick, who blocked it. The kicking team in effect has only eight guys to block 11 if the opposition wants to rush everyone (the long snapper is protected from contact), so there can always be unblocked players on the edges.

David from Janesville, WI

Insiders, after watching Kenny Clark powering offensive linemen backwards the last few weeks I think I know who you should call if you get your car stuck in the snow this winter. Goodness gracious.

The more film I watch of Clark, the more I appreciate what he does out there. He's both steady and superb.

Kurt from Waterloo, IA

I watch Rashan Gary non-stop. Question is, is he going to learn counter moves or do you feel he's purely a power rusher? From my vantage point he uses the same power/speed rush every single time. The Smith Bros. seem so much more versatile in their approach. Curious as to why he isn't displaying more?

He'll get there. I saw more variety this last game, particularly when his alignment roamed toward the middle on a couple of passing downs, a la Z. Barry is putting more on his plate.

Brandon from Orlando, FL

It seems pretty rare for a QB and WR to connect for touchdowns 10 years apart. Cobb's first TD from Rodgers was No. 90 and his last was No. 420. Brady and Gronk has that beat, but can you think of any others that might be longer? What we're witnessing is pretty special.

Antonio Gates' first TD catch from Philip Rivers was in 2006, and his last was in 2018. I don't know if there are any others that span more than 11 seasons. The Jim Kelly-Andre Reed and Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison combos each lasted 11.

Brad from Stevens Point, WI

What NFC North team scares you the most?

I know the Bears are in second place, but for me it's still the Vikings. Minnesota is the more complete team and more explosive on offense.

Kyle from Pittsburgh, PA

I have been impressed over the years by Oren Burks' play in the preseason, and so disappointed for him with his injury history when the regular season comes around. I know he's not out there for a ton of snaps, but it seems to me like he is playing fast and creating more opportunities for himself so far this season. Is it just me, because I'm excited and hopeful for realized potential? Or has he been recognized "in the building" for his play?

Burks played 25 snaps (out of 70) against the Niners, and that was upped to 36 (of 60) vs. the Steelers. Generally speaking, that doesn't happen if the coaches don't like what they see. It's worth watching when Barnes comes back what happens with Burks' nickel role.

Paul from St. Paul, MN

Hello Insiders, the defense has been holding its own after the game against the Saints. One area the D is failing at is TDs in the red zone. Opponents are 11-for-11 scoring TDs in the red zone. What changes need to be made to improve? Last year the D was at 59%.

If I knew the answer to that I wouldn't be sitting in this seat. The red-zone numbers are the biggest statistical outlier for a defense that ranks a strong sixth in yards allowed and a respectable tied for 19th in points allowed. Aside from the injuries, I'm sure this is the top item on Joe Barry's mind.

Shaun from Cottage Grove, WI

With five of the next seven on the road and key players injured, here's to hoping the team has a few players step up like no other! I'm worried this might be a rough stretch!

The Packers play four of their next five on the road and then have just three road trips the rest of the regular season after Nov. 7. It's a strange schedule but it can serve the Packers well if they chalk up enough early wins.

Aaron from Scottsdale, AZ

So now there are five teams in the NFL that lost in Week 1 only to win their next three to move to 3-1. Maybe, just maybe, losing in the first week isn't that big a deal.

Happy Wednesday.


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