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Inbox: It'll start in the trenches

The play at crunch time has been invaluable


Steve from Plainfield, WI

Apparently, the Packers control their own destiny in terms of home field through the playoffs. I believe in taking one game at a time, but when can we start at least talking about running the table?

This is a new record, 11 days before the actual game: Just beat the 49ers.

Jason from Lake Geneva, WI

Hey guys, thanks for all you do. What would it take to be able to cast the locker room videos onto another device, specifically a TV? It sure would be a nice option to have.

Shameless plug: Download the Packers TV app on Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire and you're all set.

Paul from Hartland, WI

Aaron Jones  is having a great year and deserves all the credit he's starting to receive, but can we acknowledge that his counterpart in the RBs room has also been making the most of every touch he gets? YPC: Aaron Jones 4.4, Jamaal Williams 4.5. Ted hit on both in that draft!

The Packers have scored 30 touchdowns. Those two have 20 of them.

Bill from Menominee, MI

Based on a self-scout, is there really enough time to make significant schematic changes during a bye week? The players do not gain any additional one-on-one time with the coaches. They get the week off and when they return, it's back to the same normal week preparing for the game plan.

The defensive change the Packers made with Matthews in 2014 at the bye is more the exception than the rule. I suspect some schematic changes will be made, but they'll be too subtle for us common folk to notice.

Troy from Westminster, CO

I like the boldness and calm confidence LaFleur has shown in his team. Regardless of what side one falls on the argument, it's not surprising how quickly some fans forget how much McCarthy was massacred whenever he played it "safe" and kicked the FG. With some fans, it really is a no-win situation for a coach.

I give him a ton of credit for admitting publicly, both Sunday and Monday, he called a bad play, saying he hadn't prepared his players to execute it in that situation. I think that goes a long way with fans. Or at least it should. With players, too.

Hannes from Milwaukee, WI

With all those questions about the No. 1 seed and home playoff games I wonder if I missed the Packers clinching the NFC North already, or if this is the Inbox trying to order another serving of humble pie for after the bye?

How soon we forget, right?

Theologos from Athens, Greece

A team must be real good to beat quality opponents without your best player having to be a superman. I think it is a sign of progress when we win games even when Aaron Rodgers is not playing his "A" game.

This stat isn't everything, but the Packers had lost three of their last four games, dating back to 2015, when Rodgers did not throw a TD pass. They're 2-0 this year.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Mike, do you foresee pulling the ball carrier forward as a point of emphasis for officials next year?

Ha. I'm not holding my breath.

Janet from Brown Deer, WI

It is getting painful to watch NFL games with this awful officiating. We watch college football all day on Saturdays and the games seem to be taken over by players not refs. We watch NFL games and my husband and I just look at each other trying to figure out what is PI, holding, a catch, offsides, etc. We need to get the refs out of games more and let the players play. Do you find college football more soothing than NFL games like we do?

The college game is full of physical and athletic mismatches, and it's a much slower game (relatively speaking). That makes it easier to officiate, in my opinion, and the college game has a better replay system to boot. The NFL is much more competitively equal, position by position, is played much faster, and continues to add more rules and points of emphasis for the officials to monitor. It's not reasonable for the officials to be asked to do what they're doing without updating the replay rules and procedures to match the technological advancements that could help do the job best. Replay has been around a couple of decades now, yet the only substantive changes to the system in that time have been making scores and turnovers automatically reviewable, and now the latest pass interference fiasco. How much has technology – what the fans see at home, and what's available to help – changed in that time? Considerably more, so figure out how to use it effectively for all. Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Anthony from Estero, FL

Much has been made by fans about the play of Kevin King. Granted he's been dealing with an injury and has been up and down, but for a guy who a lot of people wanted cut for not being able to stay on the field, he's played at a good level for his first true season staying on the field.

Alexander is the more consistent and dangerous corner, so King is getting tested more. He's given up plays, he's made some. Nature of the beast. What I like most is he doesn't let a play getting made bother him. He lines up again and keeps after it. The bottom line is the defense is better with him than without him.

Tom from Woodbury, MN

Hi II, I've noticed some fans and national pundits commenting about the Packers defense. They rank low in yards per game and in the middle on scoring defense, but it helps to look a little deeper. I looked at the points scored by Packers opponents versus the average points scored by those offenses over the year. With two exceptions the Packers defense held opponents at or below the season average. The two exceptions were Philadelphia and the LA Chargers, coincidentally the two losses.

Or not so coincidentally. But I see your point. There are times the Packers' defense does not pass the eye test. I don't disagree with that. I've been talking about the explosive plays since Week 2. But the play at crunch time has been invaluable. Yes, the margin is small that way, but it cuts both directions. If Jaire Alexander hangs onto the pick that hit him in the hands with two minutes left, the narrative is the defense is back on track.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

What do you see as the biggest weakness on both sides of the ball for the Packers that need to be improved the last part of the season and into the playoffs (hopefully!)?

On offense, it's cutting down on the penalties and finding concepts on third down that can be executed in rhythm, so third downs don't become scramble-and-hope plays as often. On defense, it's finding the proper balance between having the personnel it takes to stop the run and cover tight ends who release over the middle from those run formations.

Marty from Grafton, WI

I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but watching the MNF game I saw how physical the 49ers' defense can be. I don't feel like we can match that for 60 minutes. Please, tell me something to make me feel better about my concerns.

It'll start in the trenches, and to me, the Packers' offensive line has been a major strength of the team and has played at a less-than-optimal level in only two games out of 10 (Chicago, LA). The Packers should be as rested and healthy as possible to take their best shot in a tough road game. That's all you can ask for. It's also a week-to-week league. Never forget that.

Andrew from Fullerton, CA

Hello, I feel like Blake Martinez unfairly gets a huge amount of blame for the run D issues. I understand coverage isn't his forte, and there are challenges shedding blockers at his weight, but it can't be all on him. Carolina has one of the best middle linebackers in the league, yet they still struggle mightily against the inside run. I just wanted to point this out as evidence that it's not all on Blake. Also, Kenny Clark had his best game Sunday and that helped minimize McCaffrey's damage.

I don't get the piling on Martinez either. No, he's not making a bunch of turnover plays or TFLs, and he has his limitations, but his brains have bailed out this defense plenty of times (the final play Sunday being the latest example). Moreover, the Packers have yet to pair him with someone inside who can help elevate the group's play in the middle. I'm interested to see how things progress defensively with Ibraheim Campbell in the hybrid role moving forward, and if Clark's game Sunday was the start of something.

Dan from Vadnais Heights, MN

I've been waiting for the bye week to ask... how is Matt LaFleur's Achilles' tendon doing? Any restrictions?

I think it'll still be awhile before he's playing basketball again, but I haven't seen any hitch in his giddy-up for several weeks.

Patrick from Inver Grove Heights, MN

Hey Insiders, isn't it great that we fired our whole strength and conditioning staff? I mean, look at the health of this team after 10 weeks. During the bye you should do some II self-review and see which big preseason story lines have materialized and which ones have some fans' incessant demands that the S&C staff be fired.

Everyone's always looking for someone to blame. I guess it makes them feel better.

Scott from Martinez, GA

It has been mentioned that one aspect of Pettine's defense is frequent rotations to keep players fresh, but this doesn't seem to be happening. Venture an explanation as to why?

It happens a fair amount through the middle portions of games, but the Packers have played a bunch of down-to-the-wire contests already, and the best guys are going to be on the field predominantly with the game on the line.

Wes from South St. Paul, MN

It would be great to see Aaron Jones in the NFL MVP conversation. He has earned at least that much. All the stats I have seen don't even have him in the top five RBs and some not in the top 10 in the NFL. I think one thing that impacts the outlook is that AJ shares the load with JW while most of the others are single backs and get virtually all the carries. How does AJ have a chance to offset that?

If he keeps doing what he's doing, and if the Packers keep winning, the attention will take care of itself. He's on pace for 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 22 touchdowns. The latter number would set a franchise record for a team that's been around 101 years. Let's see how it plays out.

Terry from Sun Prairie, WI

What is the biggest thing we need to clean up during the bye week?

LaFleur was pretty clear on Monday it’s communication – substitutions and play calls on offense, checks and adjustments on defense. There's a lot about both operations that can be smoothed out.

Charlie from Cameron, NC

Mike, Wes mentioned No. 87 was in for 14 plays and laid some pretty good blocks. I noticed him in the game because I own a Nelson jersey and am drawn to his number. Did JS run any routes on Sunday? If not was his blocking snaps to get his feet wet, or a set up to catch defenses off-guard in the future?

The former. The Packers want to work him in after all the time he's missed, and the best way to do that with a rookie is to give him a specific, limited role, and then build from there. I think his blocking skills will be challenged to a greater degree moving forward than they were by Carolina's edge players.

Joe from Hartford, CT

Gentlemen, something to kick around on the bye week. What are the five toughest home fields to play in and how do you rank them? I'm going with New England, New Orleans, Seattle, Green Bay and Minnesota in that order.

In my 14 seasons in this job, the toughest road venues for the Packers have been New Orleans and Seattle, hands down. Performance-wise, Buffalo has not been kind, either. And the newer building in Minneapolis is also looking like a nemesis already. Those are the ones that immediately come to mind.

James from Farmington Hills, MI

San Francisco just received its first loss of the season on MNF in draining and heartbreaking fashion, taking a full period of overtime to determine the result. How much of an impact do overtime games have on a team's stamina and performance in a game the following week, especially on a short week?

We'll find out. The Cardinals took the Niners to the wire just two weeks ago, and San Francisco remains banged up. Perfect time for Seattle's bye, though, eh?

Clint from Port Washington, WI

What a weekend of good, close football games. I don't usually get to sit and watch all weekend, but the stars and stomach bugs aligned to make it happen. The 'Bama-LSU game comes down to final possession on Saturday, then 10 games on Sunday decided by eight points or less! It seemed like every time a game ended, the bonus coverage was another game ending with a field-goal try to tie or win. Here's hoping you get to catch some of those games next weekend.

I certainly won't complain, though the entertainment value of that Monday night game in San Francisco was off the charts, so it's hard to imagine anything this weekend measuring up to that.

Mike from Madison, WI

With the bye week here, what games are you most excited for this weekend?

Just one, really. Bears at Rams. Two division champs from a year ago fighting just to get to Thanksgiving in the mix. Happy Wednesday.