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Inbox: He's still plenty fresh

Multiple Green Bay inductees is a distinct possibility

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

Scott from Little Rock, AR

Spoff, reading articles and listening to Packers fans this week you'd think we would need a Festivus miracle to pull off a win. Oh, wait...!

The feats of strength will take place Sunday night when I visit my cousin's house and his dog jumps all over me. With that, we're off, so we might as well get going.

Mike from Iola, WI

What are your thoughts on the finalists for the "Centennial Slate" for the Hall of Fame? To me, it's great to see so many of the Lambeau Packers get recognized (Lavvie Dilweg, Verne Lewellen, Bobby Dillon), and I know Wes has to be thrilled that Cecil Isbell is on there. All four to me are deserving, but do any have a realistic shot?

Wes is indeed thrilled for Isbell. I think there are legitimate cases to be made for all four, and this is a chance for the committee to really look hard at long-forgotten players and their impact on their era. I don't expect all four to make it, but with 10 of the 20 senior candidates getting enshrined, I think multiple Green Bay inductees is a distinct possibility. I'm also happy to see Holmgren is a finalist, though with only two of the eight coaches getting in, I don't like his chances in that group, unfortunately.

Al from Green Bay, WI

So, if the Packers manage to "win ugly" on Monday night, will the Inbox be OK with that?

Better be. But as I've already said, I think it's going to take the Packers' best game of the season to win. If they pull that off, there will be nothing ugly about it.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Looking ahead to the Vikings game I thought stopping Cook and the run had to be priority one. Now that Cook appears to be out, does priority one go to stopping Diggs and Thielen and the pass?

You still can't let that running game get going to set up all the play-action and bootleg stuff Cousins loves. But if Cook is out and Mattison is slowed by the ankle, you can start by trying to stop the run with less commitment in the box, and see how it goes.

Marc from Bloomsburg, PA

The news about Dalvin Cook's availability and the threat of Diggs and Thielen seems to have relegated Kyle Rudolph to obscurity, at least from the perspective of threat to the Packers. Quality tight ends have been a problem this season. Given that Cook is likely not going to play, how do you anticipate Rudolph being used and how do the Packers game plan for him?

I expect the Vikings to deploy both Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. in situations they've seen give the Packers trouble.

Jace from Eagle, ID

If I remember correctly, Kenny Clark dominated the Vikings rookie center Garrett Bradbury in the first match up (strip sack by Clark and multiple holding penalties on Bradbury). With the way Clark has been playing in December, this could be a key matchup to watch on Monday and one that could directly impact the outcome of the game.

That's the first one Wes mentioned on Thursday's "Unscripted" when we started bantering about key matchups.

Bill from Menominee, MI

How does Minnesota's defense match up against Aaron Jones? It seems that the Packers' game plan hinges heavily on that particular matchup.

This is one I mentioned on "Unscripted" – Jones vs. Eric Kendricks. The Vikings linebacker will be chasing Jones in the run game and covering him in the passing game. He's a dynamic defender whom Zimmer trusts implicitly.

John from Topeka, KS

The irritating thing about the Vikings stadium is that nothing really quiets it. Green Bay can take the crowd out of it, but we all know that blasted horn is going to be going off on the slightest provocation. Points? Horn. First down? Horn. Sale on peanuts in the nosebleed seats? Probably two toots for that one. If I could change one thing about the NFL, it wouldn't be playoff seeding or ugly wins – it would be to permanently crack that horn. I can't stand the 12th man as a machine.

My cousins are going to be sitting in the nosebleeds Monday night. I'll tell them to keep an ear out for that peanut sale.

Tim from Farmington, MN

Over the past few games, it seems many of our missed passing opportunities are off by a half step. Even with the challenge of playing at U.S. Bank Stadium, and Ford Field the next week, does the secure footing potentially bring the timing of these plays back into sync?

Sure, but pass rushers for the home team always have an advantage on a secure surface with the crowd noise and silent count. That alters the timing as well.

Fred from La Crosse, WI

Not a criticism of 12, just a question from someone who cannot accurately throw a ball 50 yards. Do you feel the shot to MVS was a particularly well-thrown/targeted ball?

Indubitably.

Jim from Hudson, WI

I've read recently that Mike McCarthy has been preparing for a return to coaching and it seems there will be several open head coaching positions at season's end. My question is: Do you think the Packers' success this year will have a negative effect on MM being able to land a head coaching job? Does a hiring team pay attention to the performance of a given team after the coach they are considering left? Or do you think they focus solely on that coach's body of work?

I don't know how different teams will view it, and they won't all view it the same way. I would expect McCarthy to get multiple interviews, and he'll be asked to explain what went wrong in Green Bay at the end. The more important piece, though, will be how he lays out his plan and vision for the future of another franchise. That'll carry the most weight.

Billy from Kenosha, WI

With Kumerow to see more snaps, what are the chances of Tonyan and Sternberger seeing more action? Some youth and quickness to stress defenses or are they simply not ready yet?

They've been playing more lately, Sternberger in particular. I think that trend could continue.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

As a well-documented Aaron Jones supporter, I'm here to admit MLF's RB strategy could pay off big-time. That said, the Packers are 4-0 when Aaron Jones gets 20-plus touches. He averages 187.5 yards in said games. For those of us not into numbers, the tape is even more convincing. I applaud MLF for the patience required to keep a superstar like Jones fresh. Now he's electric as ever, and oh by the way...he's trucking defenders on the sidelines and into the end zone. Keys please.

When Jones ran over that Bears DB at the goal line last Sunday, my first thought was, "Yeah, he's still plenty fresh."

Kyle from Ledyard, CT

I think the Pack have clearly missed a lot of opportunities and left plays on the field. This probably plays a big part in the reason people have been less then satisfied with the way the victories have come. It has felt for most of the season that the pack has been sailing at half-mast. That's the thing. 11-3 at half-mast. Very excited to watch them go full sails ahead!

That's pretty much the point I've been making for a few weeks now.

Jason from Green Bay, WI

Who wins this weekend and why?

I don't see the Packers getting any help from the Rams or Cardinals. I think Saints at Titans could be interesting, but it'll have very little if any impact on the NFC playoff chase as far as the Packers are concerned because it's an AFC opponent. I think the Packers are going to have to win out to get that bye.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Vikings-Packers in two weeks?

Entirely possible. Another scenario that's firmly on the radar is if the Packers win the NFC North as the No. 3 seed, and if San Francisco loses at Seattle in Week 17 while the Vikings beat the Bears, the 49ers will be coming to Lambeau as the No. 6 seed.

Rick from Jackson, WI

If Kirk Cousins leaves the game due to injury, is his backup a Cousins sub? Hard to shake that nickname.

Please see yourself out.

Daniel from Delta, PA

Of the top five league leaders in passing yards, only one is on a team above .500 (Goff). To me that is more surprising than the Pack sitting at 11-3 with an outside chance at the No. 1 seed. But less surprising than Bakhtiari finally getting to the Pro Bowl (kidding obviously, he deserves it). What has been the biggest surprise around the league so far for you?

For me it's the Buffalo Bills at 10-4 with road wins at Tennessee, Dallas and Pittsburgh, and close losses to the Patriots and Ravens. That and the Rams being 8-6 despite selling out with player acquisition to make another Super Bowl run.

Theologos from Athens, Greece

Mike, since the networks have the ability to flex games in the penultimate week, how on earth are we watching the irrelevant Bears vs. Chiefs game on SNF instead of Eagles vs. Cowboys?

I'm assuming FOX protected the big NFC East matchup from getting stolen. I had heard the league was considering flexing Saints-Titans but decided against it. Bad call.

Chris from Springfield, IL

Does the Cowboys-Eagles game feel like the first playoff game of the year? What would Week 17 hold for either team, depending on either outcome?

It's definitely like a playoff game for the Eagles, who have to win or they're eliminated. If the Cowboys win, they win the NFC East regardless of what happens in Week 17 because they'd have a head-to-head sweep. If the Eagles win, Philly would also need to win in Week 17 to be division champs.

Forrest from Suamico, WI

Mike, any idea what would happen if the Cowboys and the Eagles tie in their matchup? I know it's very unlikely but as we have seen in the NFL this year, nothing is guaranteed!

A tie would keep the Cowboys in control due to the Dallas victory in the first meeting. The Cowboys would just have to win in Week 17 to take the division, in that scenario.

Joel from Mosinee, WI

Just an observation, I feel the Packers defense has played much better lately since Ibraheim Campbell returned to the lineup, much like Raven Greene did at the beginning. Your thoughts?

I think moving Za'Darius Smith around the defensive front, floating here and there pre-snap, has created problems for offensive fronts and more one-on-one matchups for Kenny Clark. That's the biggest change I've seen in the defense, along with Chandon Sullivan settling in nicely as the dime DB.

Bob from Cortez, CO

We focus on the players' recovery with an extra week off if we win out the NFC North. Let's not forget the narrowing of the field and the extra game-planning time for the coaching staff.

I keep it pretty simple. To me, getting the playoff bye is all about having to win two games to get to the Super Bowl instead of three, and a maximum of one on the road. The rest is just a bonus.

Nic from London, UK

You alluded to the fact that you guys each address different topics. Is this based on expertise or interest, or just who has the stronger stomach? Is that why Mike answers me with some regularity but Wes is always big-timing me? Also why take a 30-second timeout rather than the full minute if it costs you the same? Cheers!

This crowd spends way too much time thinking about all this stuff, which just makes us laugh. To your football question, the length of the timeout is determined by the TV broadcast, not by the team taking the timeout.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

What are your thoughts long-term on Lamar Jackson, our February opponent, regarding MVP and elite QB status? I'm just thinking it seems most every year a guy (or two) emerges with super high praise, but given a few seasons, they just turn out to be worthy starters but not much more; Newton, Prescott, Mahomes, Goff, Wentz, et al. I don't see a clear-cut new tier ala Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers and Roethlisberger, do you?

Well, Jackson's winning the MVP, and he and Mahomes are at the top of the new class right now. I think Garoppolo is very close, as is Deshaun Watson, and then Josh Allen and Kyler Murray are well worth watching. Wentz's struggles have been the most baffling to me. I know the Eagles have had gobs of injuries, and he's still young. I think it's just too early to tell on a lot of guys.

Cameron from Wayland, MI

I like the "Player on the Rise" articles and the choices of Savage and Gary at this stage of the season. I am excited about what our team can do with the progression of these two. What level do you think can rise to this season?

Who knows? Gary got his second sack last week and Savage should have had a pick. They're capable of impact plays.

Steve from Benson, AZ

We've all seen the question, "What must the Pack do to win Monday?" But what must the Packers NOT do to win?

Turn the ball over.

Mike from Milwaukee, WI

"The cleanest playoff scenarios aren't always the most fun. Sometimes you gotta get sloppy." My best friend has convinced me that the sloppiest meals are typically the tastiest. So in theory, the sloppiest playoffs will likely be the most entertaining.

I can get on board with that.

Jonnie from Garden City, MI

I love the many and varied mantras that we have been given here. Everything from "Just win" to the team's "December friend" to "It's a week-to-week league." If there was one mantra you would like every reader of the Inbox to take to heart, what would it be?

The other guys get paid, too.

Dave from Phoenix, AZ

Good morning II. Everything this team has worked for up to this point is well within their reach. Last month, last week, yesterday, it doesn't matter now. This is what they've been playing for, the brass ring is right there and I sure hope this team is up for the challenge and I believe they are! I know many feel angst for this game but man, I'm really psyched to be in this position. Division champs, possible first-round bye, a No. 2 or even a No. 1 seed, it's all on the line Monday night.

Happy Friday.

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