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Inbox: He's the people's All-Pro

The Packers are who their record says they are

LB Za'Darius Smith
LB Za'Darius Smith

Allan from Austin, TX

Rooting for Seahawks one week, and the Vikings the next week. Funny, huh?

That's the telltale sign the playoffs are officially here. Good morning!

Corey from Bethlehem, PA

Is there any player on our team that you feel is primed for a breakout playoff performance?

Za'Darius Smith. He's been the Packers' best player all season and nobody outside of Green Bay seems to really care. That's fine. He's the people's All-Pro. My advice to the league – keep sleeping on him because I think Smith is primed to wake up the world this postseason. A hungry lion is not to be trifled with.

Tom from Onalaska, WI

So the All-Pro team comes out and the Packers, owners of a 13-3 record and a first-round bye, get one person on the team, a second-teamer no less. Bulaga got zero votes at right tackle and Brian O'Neill got one. Kenny Clark got zero votes. Jaire got one. The All-Pro team is just about as big of a sham as the Pro Bowl is.

I was disappointed with this year's All-Pro team on several levels, to be honest. Six different right tackles received All-Pro votes. How one of those names wasn't Bryan Bulaga is mind-boggling. I understood the rationale for exchanging the fullback spot for the flex, but the execution is flawed. Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry were both the first- and second-team running backs and flex players. What does that accomplish? It's an ambiguous designation and nobody seems to know whom to vote for. Maybe it would be better just to bring the fullback back, especially with how the position is regaining popularity. T.J. Watt also was voted first-team edge rusher and second-team linebacker. That's something, really something.

Patrick from Waxhax, NC

I asked a question a few weeks ago about Allen Lazard being considered a WR2, and I recently saw an article through Bleacher Report that mentioned Lazard as the Packers' WR2. What is your take on how Lazard has developed and stepped in front of MVS? Is MVS now a WR3 or is Geronimo Allison the legit WR3 now?

I don't get tied up on labeling WR2, WR3, WR38, etc., but Lazard's workload has grown steadily in the second half of the season for obvious reasons. He's producing and developed into a legitimate threat in the offense.

Nate from Pueblo, CO

Does having a bye in the playoffs give an advantage of being able to input some type of unscouted look? Is it something teams do more than wild-card teams? I'd think the wild-card teams spend their time on the game at hand and wouldn't have the time to input something new.

I'll always wonder whether Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco run wild on Green Bay if the Packers don't drop the 2012 regular-season finale in Minnesota. That loss forced Green Bay to play the Vikings again six days later, gave the 49ers a first-round bye, and the rest was history. I'm not saying either San Francisco or Green Bay will do a paradigm shift offensively this week like the 49ers did seven years ago, but this bye week is an opportunity to get a little tricky.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

Does inventing the Lambeau Leap improve LeRoy Butler's chances at being inducted into the HOF? I assume it's mostly a numbers game. But when it's time to promote one worthy player over another, do the less-tangible things – be it the now-iconic Lambeau Leap or, say, a player's sportsmanship – have an impact on the decision?

I think it all should be a part of the equation. He was a Hall of Fame player on the field and his 12 years in Green Bay left an indelible impact on the Packers' organization. As I've said since the beginning, I just wanted Butler's case to be heard. With Butler finally a finalist, I'm thrilled Pete Dougherty will now present Butler's case in Miami to the Hall of Fame voters.

Jay from Wilmington, NC

So there have only been 21 playoff games in the history of Lambeau Field. That actually surprised me. I thought there would have been more. I guess that makes each one very special. I still remember our first Lambeau loss to the Falcons; 5-5 since then. Well, Michael Vick sure messed up the Lambeau mystique! Time to get this thing back on the winning side. GO PACK GO!

The four-team tournament playoff format didn't begin until 1967 and it wasn't expanded to 10 until 1978. As you might know, the Packers had a pretty rough go of it during that 26-year span.

Andy from Verona, WI

I just read an article describing a variety of trends and potential outcomes for the Packers in the playoffs based on analytics and advanced metrics. Do the Packers have an analytics team who reports their findings to the coaching staff?

Green Bay has a six-person football technology department that assists Matt LaFleur and the coaching staff. Mike Eayrs was the Packers' director of research and development for many years before Mike McCarthy began expanding the analytics staff in 2015.

Howard from Appleton, WI

So it looks like the Cowboys may have finally said goodbye to Jason Garrett. My question is this: Who in the football world would want that job? Win a Super Bowl and it's all about Jones! But every loss will be your fault!

Coaching in the NFL is one of the most prestigious honors in all of sport. I promise you someone will want the job – and everything that comes with it.

Mark from Negaunee, MI

There have been several recent questions about the economic impact of a home game with a figure of $10-12 million noted. Any idea on how that compares with other teams? Is that more than other areas because Packer fans are more loyal? Or is it about the same but that amount has a bigger impact on a smaller city?

NFL playoff games have a significant economic impact on any city but they're like holidays in Green Bay. The town pretty much shuts down. For that reason, I think the impact on this community is probably higher than the average NFL city. That's just my hunch.

Curt from Westby, WI

You mentioned the huge dollar impact a playoff game has for the community, which got me thinking: Could a community like Green Bay offer extra incentives in order to attract some top players to come here? I am thinking of things like free housing for players and their families. Since this would be done by the community, it would not count in their contract or the salary cap. Would the NFL allow it?

The collective bargaining agreement restricts "gifts" teams can give to players. The best thing Green Bay has going for it is the relatively low cost of living. It's pretty cheap to live here regardless of whether you're an NFL player.

Matt from Waukesha, WI

For both the AFC and NFC, who should we root for this weekend and why?

That's entirely up to you. The Packers and Saints would be an exciting matchup but I'm sure there are a lot of folks who would like a rematch with the Eagles at Lambeau Field, as well. The fact is Green Bay will need to beat two good football teams to reach the Super Bowl.

Rodney from Mt. Calvary, WI

I really think that the Packers would have more success if they play more hurry-up offense. I think you would see Rodgers be able to pull the defense offsides more often for free plays and do more things we are used to see him do. I agree that they are very close to exploding as an offense. Maybe this could help move them to that point.

Thank you for the suggestion.

Griffin from Belmont, NC

Cris Carter once said that he would call for a long ball at least once a game so he could put it on tape for other teams. It seems like the offense has taken more shots downfield the last couple games than they have all season. Do you think this was on purpose because defenses were starting to tighten up or was this just a result of the defenses leaving the top open, or both?

I think Rodgers sees opportunity and is trying to make a big play.

James from Asheville, NC

"New Orleans is the only other NFC playoff team the Packers have not faced in the postseason before. Green Bay has actually faced everyone else in this year's field in the playoffs in the past decade." That kind of shows how the more things do change there are some very real constants. There are teams that haven't seen the playoffs in over a decade and those that seem perennials. Packer fans should be grateful to be in that latter group!

When you look at what New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Green Bay have accomplished over the past decade, those four have set the standard in the NFC. There have been ups and downs for all four but the pursuit of excellence never stops and the cream has risen back to the top. May the best team win.

Dave from Phoenix, AZ

Good morning II, I had a vision last night. The Pack hosting the Saints at Lambeau, game coming down to the wire, the D digs in and makes an amazing fourth quarter, goal-line stand ala 2011! This scenario fits our 2019 mantra, close game, ugly win, nervous fans and the D brings it home! Toss in some frozen tundra just for sentiment! I can see it now, the D line diggin' into the frozen tundra to get their footing and making the big stop! I like it, what say you? I do not want to see the Vikes again.

Well, you won't see the Vikes again until at least the NFC title game. I can assure you that much. The Packers have played in a lot of tightly contested contests this year, so why should we expect the divisional round to be any different? The good news for Packers fans is this team is forged for that fire.

Jim from San Diego, CA

Hola II! First submission here. Watching other games (the SF-Seattle one comes to mind) it seems they move so much faster than GB games. The offense is snapping the ball and players seem to be moving more quickly overall. Is this more than AR taking time every down to scope the defense, or a mistaken impression?

Thanks for joining in but I have to disagree, specifically as it relates to Seattle's offense. The 49ers are a bit more up-tempo but frankly I see a lot of parallels between what Russell Wilson and Rodgers do before the snap. Both read the defense, make adjustments and have the ability to extend plays when things break down. They're both fantastic at making things happen.

The Packers practiced Friday afternoon preparing for the second round of the NFC Playoffs.

James from Sarasota, FL

Hey Mike, what do you think it'll take to beat a team like the Saints? They are so potent offensively with many weapons across the board. Any specific players you have in mind that will need to step up defensively in order to take down a high powered offense such as the Saints?

Getting them at Lambeau Field is a good start. I think the grass and cold play to the Packers' advantage. From there, you cannot let Drew Brees get into a rhythm. When Brees is rolling, the Saints are difficult to stop.

Steve from Lake Worth, FL

Hi Mike and Wes, looking to a possible Green Bay vs. New Orleans matchup, which position will have the most influence on the outcome of the game? Rodgers-Brees or Alexander-Thomas? I believe the latter.

Any team that plays Thomas better have a plan. If you don't, then you're going to have an entire offseason to think about it. To me, Alexander would be a big part of defending Thomas if that's how things shake out this weekend.

Robert from Verona, WI

Which is worse: Having to answer a million questions about how a 13-3 playoff team isn't as good as they look, or answering questions in the off-season about how the Packers should go out and sign "X" player?

Honestly, as much as I hate the "sign this guy" submissions, it's the former. The Packers are 13-3. That's not an opinion. That's a fact. They are who their record says they are.

Casey from Knoxville, TN

Hi guys! Happy playoffs! Who compiles all of the info for the Dope Sheets? I am amazed at the level of detail...right down to which players were college teammates or roommates. It's like the most intricate six degrees of separation. Fascinating to look at. No stat, aspect of the game, or affiliation is left unturned.

That is our very talented communications department. I'd put their Dope Sheets, stat packages and media guides up against any team in professional sports. There's impeccable attention to detail in all three.

Meagan from Mosinee, WI

Haters: This team isn't good enough.

Aaron Rodgers in 2014: R-E-L-A-X.

Aaron Rodgers in 2016: "We could run the table."

Aaron Rodgers in 2019, from John Kuhn's interview with Aaron about the doubters and naysayers: "I don' John!"

I gotta say that last one is my favorite!

Leave it to Kuhn to provide another iconic Packers moment. We'll see where this ride takes us. Enjoy the weekend off, folks. Next week, business is about to pick up.