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Inbox: He's coming on

Brian Gutekunst wanted young, ascending players and that’s what he got

DL Kenny Clark
DL Kenny Clark

Scott from Milwaukee, WI

Is this year's team identity simply being the better team in the fourth quarter?

Start fast and finish strong. When the Packers do that, they win. Good morning!

Mark from Cedarburg, WI

Hello II, it's hard to believe that the season began three months ago in Soldier Field and here we are in December facing the Bears again. What are your most surprising things about the offense and defense so far this season? Mine are the commitment to and success of the running game on offense and the inability to contain the run on defense. Thanks for the response!

I don't think you can call the emergence of Aaron Jones a surprise because of his past success and Matt LaFleur's offseason comments about how the third-year back fit into his offense. At the same time, however, Jones' ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, stay healthy and become a three-down back have allowed him to fulfill his potential. Defensively, the Packers hit it out of the park with the Smith Bros. and Adrian Amos. Free agency doesn't always work like that. Brian Gutekunst wanted young, ascending players and that's what he got.

Julius from Providence, RI

In case people missed the reference by Brian from Two Rivers, WI, calling himself a lunatic: the word "lunatic" refers to someone driven crazy by the moon, but I do believe Aaron Rodgers will have a big day on Sunday, because it is the Bears. What are the odds Jones hits 1,000 rushing yards this season?

He has 779 rushing yards at the moment, putting him on pace for 958. Jones needs 221 rushing yards (or 74 per game) to cross that mark, which I believe is doable.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Who has a bigger game this week, Jamaal Williams or Jones?

I feel like this is the week Aaron Jones finally gets the better of Chicago.

Daniel from Catonsville, MD

I'm nearly 66 years old (living in Maryland), have always wanted to attend a game at Lambeau Field to watch and cheer for the Packers in a playoff-atmosphere type game. My family and I are coming to the game Sunday, certainly a dream come true for me. What are the two items the Packers must do on Sunday to win?

For everything that has changed, the blueprint is pretty much the same as the teams' first matchup – don't allow Mitchell Trubisky to beat you extending plays with his feet and protect the football. Chicago's defense is savvy, veteran and dangerous. This is no easy out, by any means.

Andy from Verona, WI

If we are looking to cut down the running lanes for Trubisky, doesn't that mean Kenny Clark needs to have a big game to help collapse the pocket?

He's tricky for edge rushers because of his elusiveness and ability to escape the pocket. The real key to neutralizing a QB like him is to get push inside. That's where Clark comes in. He had a big game in the opener against Chicago and that helped disrupt Trubisky. The best part is Clark is playing his best ball right now. He's coming on.

Robert from Salem, WI

What's your favorite memory of the Bears-Packers rivalry?

I'd say it's the 2010 NFC Championship Game and only because of the result. There was so much history involved in that game and it created several very memorable moments. And not to be a victim of recency bias but last year's opener was pretty incredible, as well, being the kickoff to the Packers' 100th season.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, do you ever want to revisit the games in which Jay Cutler was the Bears' QB and he threw one of his 22 picks to the Packers? Now, that was fun! Adrian Amos' interception in the last game brought back fond memories. Go Pack!

Those too.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, how about some jet sweeps against the Bears? Is their defense too fast?

The Bears are quick at the second level but they definitely lost some speed with the loss of Roquan Smith. The Packers have had some success with the sweeps this year. It could be a useful curveball Sunday.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The first time around, 10 points were enough to beat the Bears. (Actually, four would have done it.) Nobody believes 10 will get it done this time. Is that because the Bears' offense has improved, the Packers' defense has regressed, or both?

Probably the former. I just don't think you can put up 10 points and expect to win in 2019. The Packers need to hold Trubisky in check but a few more points would be helpful.

Matthew from Missoula, MO

Note to coaching staff: Be ready for a trick play on any and all special-teams plays. The Bears will try one.

You and Spoff are both convinced. We'll see how tricky the Bears get Sunday.




Steven from Silver Spring, MD

After using Jaire Alexander to shadow Terry McLaurin last week, the Bears seem to have a similar profile of WRs. Allen Robinson is hugely productive while the rest of the group is fairly pedestrian. Do you think we will see another match up play by Jaire again this week? Does Robinson profile similarly to McLaurin?

I'm not a coach and firmly recognize there are no simple answers to this very complicated game. However, I think Alexander is at the point where he can travel with any receiver the NFL has to offer and I feel good about it. Robinson is a much different receiver than McLaurin but he is the go-to guy for Trubisky right now. Depending on how things play out with Kevin King, I wouldn't have issue having Alexander trail Robinson Sunday.

Shaun from Sun Prairie, WI

When's the last time the Packers have finished with two road games to finish the regular season?

2004. Green Bay won both to win the NFC North but then lost to the 8-8 Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round. What a crazy year that was.

Kevin from Starr Pass, AZ

Last week's victory was not the performance many had hoped for. However, I can see how that game can provide countless lessons learned in preparation for Week 17 against the Lions. Until then, let's go 1-0 this week!

And remember the Packers beat Oakland by 30 the week before they lost to Kansas City in 2011. NFL coaches and players are asked to explain every loss, so why should they have to apologize for the wins?

Richard from Huntington, IN

Earlier in the year we picked up Ryan Grant, who works out with Davante Adams in the offseason. Why have we not seen him on the field at any moment yet?

Grant is a good insurance policy to have in case injuries should strike late in the season. As I continue to write, the problem is the Packers have been fairly healthy at receiver the past two months. Green Bay is still committed to Grant, though. If the team wasn't, it wouldn't have moved on from Adam Pankey to activate Jared Veldheer on Monday.

Dano from Seal Beach, CA

Now that Jared Veldheer is activated, do you think he will or should play against the Bears? It seems a smart move to rotate him in and give our tackles a little rest, while giving Veldheer some current game experience. We may need him fully ready sooner than later for the Vikings or hopefully, the playoffs.

See answer above, rinse and repeat.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, at this time of year, when a team loses a player for the rest of the season where can they go for replacements: their own practice squad, any other team's practice squad, free agents?

It really depends on the team. A team that's been eliminated from the playoff picture is more likely to snipe a player off another team's practice squad like the Packers did last year with Allen Lazard and Natrell Jamerson. Contenders usually sign guys off their practice squad or bring in an established veteran like Veldheer.

Ed from Henryville, IN

I know that we have an extremely high standard for A-Rod and rightfully so but maybe it's a little skewed. If I'm right he has 3,300-plus pass yards with 23 TDs and only two interceptions. Is that right? Almost any other QB in the league would be getting praised. We've actually had a run game for a change so Aaron hasn't had to be the "Superman" this season. Are "we" just making too much out of his numbers not being what we are used to?

That's the microscope quarterbacks play under – they're either incredible or overrated. Just look at how Tom Brady is being covered right now. There's very little nuance these days. Rodgers is on pace for 4,000 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and a 102.0 passer rating. Oh, and the Packers have 10 wins before Christmas. Not too shabby.

Tom from Yardley, PA

While I believe the rules to protect the quarterbacks have gone too far, players continue to get bigger and faster and it remains a violent game. Based on this, I'm amazed by the number of quarterbacks playing at such a high level in their late 30s into their 40s. I realize athletes today take better care of themselves in general but what today's QBs are doing is impressive. I was curious if Rodgers has ever discussed training regimens, diets, etc., with any of his peers around the league.

He hasn't really gone into great detail about it but Rodgers has been very forward-thinking with how he trains and takes care of his body. I know he sought the opinion of many players and nutritionists when he put his plan together.

Chris from Green Bay, WI

I remember a week or two ago a question about stats being answered pertaining to career touchdown passes. Did "QB1" pass Big Ben yet, and just a couple behind Eli? Cool to see another Packer climb this ladder, we are blessed. Thanks for all you guys do!

Manning returning for the Giants last week threw a wrench into that whole discussion. Eli (364) actually surpassed Roethlisberger (363) for seventh place on Sunday. Rodgers (361) still sits at No. 9.

Nate from Plymouth, MN

I was listening to "Packers Unscripted" yesterday and hearing about the Bears struggles at tight end got me thinking: Maybe we could trade them James Looney for Khalil Mack?

Good luck with that. It is something, though. Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen are both on injured reserve. Meanwhile, the Bears are still carrying five other tight ends who have combined for 17 catches, 196 yards and two touchdowns.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts on the timing of selecting and grooming the next HOF QB (a little sarcasm there). There's no way of anticipating the pace of an inevitable Rodgers decline, and it does seem that the idea of "grooming" may be a thing of the past. Today's hot QBs are run-pass threats straight out of – or maybe a year removed from – college. How can Gutey weigh all of this to avoid another messy face-of-the-franchise divorce and spoil the fans with a fourth QB stud?

I think you have to put all your draft picks and support behind Rodgers until the wheels come off because he's a once-in-a-generation talent. There are so few of those QBs out there. Imagine where the Saints would be right now if they invested a high first-rounder into replacing Drew Brees during their 7-9 struggles four years ago? Now, if there's a QB available in the middle rounds Gutekunst likes, I'm all for it because there's a potential return on investment with a trade if Rodgers keeps this up into his 40s.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Have you had any contact with B.J. Raji since he retired? Once you see that he retired to be with family and that his desire to play had waned, I respect his decision because he could have gotten another contract. I saw you with Ryan Wood visiting about his retirement. Has he been back for alumni reunions or player visits?

Raji has yet to return to Green Bay for any alumni appearances or even a signing. He's not on social media and pretty much has fallen off the map since Ryan broke that story in March 2016. I didn't talk to Ryan that day before his story broke. I remember thinking, "Man, did his account get hacked?" after first seeing the tweet. It just came so far out of left field, but it was all true. Raji had stepped away from the game, and by all accounts, has never looked back.

Will from Nottingham, UK

I'm seeing a lot of NFL critics forecasting Green Bay to be in a wild-card spot and Vikings winning the division come the close of the season. I personally can't see it given they need a better record and we need to lose two of our next three. Do you think critics even realize if we lose to the Vikings and we win the rest, we still win the division?

Maybe not but I couldn't care less about the critics. The 46 Packers players on the field will determine whether Green Bay wins the division the next three weeks – not the hundreds of irrelevant pundit opinions.

Ralph from Mönchengladbach, Germany

Dear Wes, after watching yesterday's and today's "Unscripted" in a row: Has Mike, after years of pilfering your lunch, now started on pilfering your clothes?

This is hilarious. Spoff literally said that before we started shooting the show Wednesday. I said to him, "Nobody is gonna notice." People always comment on our appearance, my hair, glasses, etc., but very rarely does anyone say anything about the clothes. Well, I've been proven wrong.

Chase from Ft. Wood, MO

How awesome will it be for all four of our free-agent signings to beat their previous teams in their first year in Green Bay?

I see what you did there.