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Inbox: It all starts Monday night

It’s valuable whenever a cornerback can take away a section of the field

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Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Eight games, one game at a time.

I see what you did there. Four or eight, the Packers keep that door open with one win on Monday night. Good morning!

James from Eagle, ID

How did the NFL decide to schedule a night game at Lambeau in late December?

Interest and eyeballs. I know it's rare for the Packers to play on Monday Night Football in December, but they have played quite a few primetime home games in the final month of the regular season. Green Bay played Minnesota in primetime last season in Week 17 and hosted Tennessee and Carolina in December night games the year before that. The Packers' win over Seattle in the 2019 NFC Divisional playoffs also was a 5:40 p.m. CT start.

Richard from Madison, WI

Mike wrote that Jaire Alexander would be his pick for the Packers' defensive player of the year. No kidding! But a little exercise in imagination, if you'd humor me, Wes. For the 2023 version of Jaire add 10% to the 2022 model. He goes the whole season with zero passes defensed, zero interceptions, and zero forced fumbles, because he's so good no opposing quarterbacks will even TRY to throw his way. With stats like that, could he be considered for NFL Defensive Player of the Year?

It's valuable whenever a cornerback can take away a section of the field. Shoot, Darrelle Revis is gonna wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for that very reason. I also think back to the 2014 opener in Seattle when the Packers kept Jordy Nelson on the left side of the defense and just let Richard Sherman shut down the opposing sideline.

Jacob from Menomonie, WI

If the Packers were to win out and make the playoffs, what area of the team would have to have improved the most to make it happen?

I think it's already happening on offense. Christian Watson has changed the complexion of the passing game and how defenses must defend the Packers. Defensively, it gets back to stopping the run and winning on third downs. The takeaways are finally starting to pile up, but the defense still needs to get off the field.

Ross from Summerville, SC

Gents, who would have thought we would be in Week 15 before we get to see both rookie WRs on the field together for some extended playing time. Regardless of the outcomes of these remaining games, it will be nice to see what the future of the receiving corps may have in store.

Romeo Doubs played well without Christian Watson. Christian Watson has been an impact player without Romeo Doubs. To see them together is to take a glimpse into the Packers' future. Green Bay has had some elite receivers over the years but very few arrived in the same rookie season. It's the tag team we've all wanted to watch since April. Fingers crossed, it would appear it's finally time to see that combination on the grass.

Mike from Orange City, IA

How is Aaron Rodgers' thumb doing?

Rodgers told Pat McAfee on Tuesday that the thumb is doing "a lot better." That falls in line with Rodgers not wearing any tape on his throwing hand during practice.

Rich from Manitou Springs, CO

Oh, how time changes things. I'm thinking Bart Starr's QB sneak for a TD in the Ice Bowl would've had a lot less drama had the rules of today been allowed. In reality Chuck Mercein had to raise his arms to signal to the refs he was not helping Bart score. Seems to me the rules of today have put a damper on the drama of the game. I liked the old days better. How do you guys feel about the rules of today vs. yesterday? Happy Holidays.

I'm all in favor of changes that have been made in the name of player safety. I'll never argue with anything that ensures a better quality of life for players well after their careers are over. My only fear is the egregious calls that have been ushered in over the last decade. For example, I don't believe Justin Herbert's long-term health was at risk on Jaelan Phillips' sack.

Adam from Great Meadows, NJ

I can't help it. I know it's looking ahead. But aside from rooting for SEA/NYG/WSH to lose down the stretch, I believe it's equally essential that DAL and MIN stay within striking distance of PHI for the division and/or No. 1 seed. Dallas (Week 18 vs. Washington) and PHI (Week 18 vs. New York Giants) might not have any motivation to win those games if they aren't "playing for something." So, in case anyone is following, we should also be rooting for Dallas and (gulp) Da Bears this week.

Get out your "Pack for Dak!" and "Lambeau for Fields!" bumper stickers. There's plenty of cheering to be done…however strange it might feel.

Tom from Douglassville, PA

I think the Rams is the easiest game we have left on the schedule, who do you see as the toughest?

Miami on Christmas. The Dolphins have their good days and their off days, but Tyreek Hill is usually dominant in either scenario. I had questions about whether Tua and Miami could feed both Hill and Jaylen Waddle…and I was very, very wrong.

George from North Mankato, MN

Good morning, why do you think Jack Heflin never got a shot to get in the field this season? I thought he stepped in as a rookie when called upon to help out.

Unfortunately, sometimes football is just a numbers crunch. For all the injuries the Packers suffered this year, they've remained healthy on the defensive line. In fact, the Packers' sixth D-lineman (Jonathan Ford) still has yet to be active in a game this year. I loved Heflin and his story. I wish the young man well with his next opportunity. I still believe he could be a Tyler Lancaster-type run defender in the NFL.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

OK, everyone is happy for Brock Purdy, and yeah, he played more than well enough to win, putting up points – but that SF defense, though. Tampa's defense was always on the field and got tired. That's not a recipe to beat very many teams, especially SF.

The 49ers defense has become the new Baltimore Ravens. The coordinators change, the personnel shuffle in and shuffle out, and San Francisco still remains one of the stingiest units in the NFL. From Vic Fangio to Robert Saleh to DeMeco Ryans, I've been blown away by the 49ers' consistency over the years. Ryans will be a head coach in the NFL in 2023 and deservedly so for the job he's done with that defense.

Tom from Woodbury, MN

With the Vikings' schedule I do not expect their negative point differential to continue. However, if it does, they would be only one of 13 division winners in the past 50 seasons with that dubious honor. Only one other division winner in those 50 seasons (Houston in 2019) had as many as 10 wins with a negative differential. The Packers won the division in 2013 with eight wins and a minus-11 differential.

Well, the Vikings have their chance to add to their point totals these next two weeks. Certainly, Packers fans will be cheering for Minnesota to score as many points as possible on Christmas Eve vs. New York Giants.

Mary Ann from Black Mountain, NC

I have a friend who observes that most stadiums start to empty in the fourth quarter when the home team is behind. But not so for Lambeau and the Packers. What is it about Packers fans' culture that keeps them loyal through good times and bad?

Win or lose, these fans love their football team…but I'd also be remiss not to acknowledge last call at the end of the third quarter.

Richard from Farmington Hills, MI

I agree wholeheartedly with Mike's position on not allowing "pushing the ball carrier," but that would just add yet another judgment call for the officials who already have too much on their plate as evidenced by the other questions/answers in Wednesday's (and other days') Inbox.

That's a fair point. While I agree with Mike's argument, particularly when it comes to QB sneaks, I wonder if there's any player-safety risks with a ball carrier getting tackled to the ground by multiple defenders without any offensive players assisting him. To the best of my knowledge, I can't recall a situation where a running back was injured in the latter. I don't have an answer to that. Just something I was thinking about.

Samuel from Skokie, IL

The correct rugby term for pushing the quarterback forward would be a "maul." If the ball was on the ground while pushing the pile it would be a "ruck." A scrum is a set piece where the teams form a tunnel to put the ball in play after a minor infraction of the rules. Just say'n. I am a former player for the Chicago Griffins and an RFC teammate of Bob Skoronski Jr., father of All-American LT Peter Skoronski and son of Packers Hall of Famer Bob Skoronski Sr.

I've learned more about rugby in the past six sentences than I've known in my previous 34 years.

Dylan from Luxemburg, WI

Good morning fellas, I know keeping the flow of the game moving is important to the NFL, but do you think at some point all plays could be reviewed from upstairs? Couldn't this eliminate the need for challenges and ensure that the correct call was enforced on every play? With how fast instant replays are shown and from multiple different angles, could it be probable? That might help the continuous inconsistent calls on the field. Thank you for the work you guys put in!

Why must all officiating take place on the field? Why are only reviews subject to outside rulings? Why do we continually push back against sky judges/consultants? Why don't we have an official in the press box who can make determinations on play calls? Why are we still officiating games like it's 1960?

Tom from Columbus, NJ

Call me crazy, but I think the Packers rally to make the playoffs. With the Dolphins struggling, and them being the toughest game left on the schedule, and the tough remaining schedules for NYG, Washington, and Seattle, I think the chips fall into place. I think the offense has yet to fire on all cylinders as well. If the defense can just make a couple stops a game, I like our chances in the playoffs as well. What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are beat the Rams. Contemplate any other possibility and you risk beating yourself. It all starts Monday night.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Playoffs! Playoffs? In order for that to happen, the Packers need to win out and they need to pass three of the four teams directly ahead of them in the NFC standings. For now, I suggest we hold off on the hundred or so possibilities that could happen in the next four weeks. Let's just focus on winning the next two. If the Packers can get that done, then those possibilities get real. R E L A X and serenity now.

Just. Listen. To. Dean.

Joe from Liberty Township, OH

It seems the Packers planned for Rodgers to play in 2023 based on terms of his contract extension. They also knew they had a fifth-year option for Jordan Love. I know Love would like to start somewhere next season but barring him forcing a trade he's going to be a Packers next year and in 2024. Had he been forced to start as a rookie would he even still be in the NFL? Spending the past three years developing will likely extend his career/earnings, not "cheat" him out of a big payday.

Ifs and buts. All I know is Love has been nothing but a professional in his three seasons with the Packers. He's done all the right things and said all the right things. Does Love want to be a starting NFL quarterback? Absolutely. Who wouldn't in his position? Is he throwing a fit over not being one right now? Absolutely not. He's a competitor. He's doing the job the Packers are paying him to do.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

In regard to flipping the team's MO of requiring a fourth-quarter comeback to win the last two victories, would you defer or take the ball to start Monday night if given the choice?

Like many millennials, I was deferring with the best of 'em in "Madden" years ago. I'm not going against that strategy now, especially at home.

Babe from New South Wales, Australia

Good morning, Wes. Packer fans and their "Go Pack Go" cheers should be well rested for MNF after the bye week. With the chilly forecast for Lambeau Field, do you expect many LA fans to show up with their "Baa Ram Ewe" chants?

I say this with no disrespect, but the 2018 game at the LA Coliseum was dominated with Packers fans. I don't think I've ever seen more green-and-gold jerseys in a United States road stadium over the past 12 years. So, I'm fully expecting a very pro-Packers crowd on Monday night.

Bruce from Washburn, WI

I was hoping for snow for Monday's game, but we'll have the second-best thing – temperatures around 10 degrees. Must be December football! Can't wait!

Bring your armpit warmers.

Robert from Vesper, WI

Loved the statement about Christian "Field-Tilter" Watson's value "worth his weight in gold" comment. Being a recently retired teacher, I unfortunately went down the math rabbit hole (sorry) and figured out that it would be just shy of $6 million. Amazing the accuracy of your simple comments! All the best!

Hey, we aren't writing just to write, Robert. We count every nickel and dime in these Inbox woods.

Shilo from Murrieta, CA

Happy birthday, Wes! I hope you have a blessed day with your family. What's your go-to birthday dessert? My b-day is in October, so I always lean to pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake.

It's a tie between my grandmother's crust-less pumpkin pie and marble cake with whipped frosting.

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