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Inbox: It'll take 180 more minutes

Kevin King is peaking at the right time

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Jeff from Greenville, SC

What a wild ride! Mr. Toad has nothing on these guys!

Buckle up. We still got a long way to go. Good morning!

Johnny from Grand Chute, WI

Football is entertainment. For 15 of 16 games, I have been entertained well and received 13 wins for my time. I happily take that. We now need 180 minutes more. I believe the Pack have plenty of gas in the tank. What is our biggest obstacle to those 180 minutes?

That's a good way to look at it, Johnny. It'll take 180 more minutes for this team to accomplish its goals. The Packers are talented, healthy and playing at home for at least the first third of the postseason. The biggest obstacle right now is consistency. This team can play with anyone but now is the time to put it all together.

Tim from Duluth, MN

The benefits of securing the first-round bye are that players get an additional week to rest and those who are injured get an extra week to heal. There's also extra time for self-scouting and preparing for the team GB will play in the second round. One that doesn't get mentioned is the bye week eliminates the possibility of injury to GBP players. I wonder what key players will sustain injuries this weekend.

That's a pretty blunt way to put it but there's no question a few guys on advancing teams will get banged up this week. Aaron Jones and several others spoke Sunday and Monday about how beneficial it is keeping hits off their bodies this week. Rest. Recover. Reload.

Steve from Niagara, WI

We're so blessed to be fans of a competitive, on-the-rise team that's healthy in January. Does anything in our head coach/offensive coordinator's history suggest the possible use of any wrinkle plays utilizing two speedy running backs? What could the Packers do on offense, in your opinion, with both Aaron Jones and Tyler Ervin in the backfield together, considering each of their styles and talents? Thanks.

You're already seeing it with the jet motions Ervin ran over the past two weeks. The Packers haven't been shy about having him run routes downfield, either. Ervin is an explosive guy. He's added another dimension to an already exciting backfield.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The Packers player who gets your "most improved" award from Game 1 to Game 16 is…

Since Week 1, the answer is probably Darnell Savage, but I also think Kevin King is playing some of his best ball in a Packers uniform right now. He's peaking at the right time.

Matt from Roseville, MN

I can't tell you how happy I am when Allen Lazard catches a third-down throw on a short slant. It seems a high-percentage play provided you have a receiver you trust and the rhythm. Aaron Rodgers seems to have found that where he didn't have that in the beginning of the season. Hoping for much more of that to come.

That's been an underrated part of the Packers' offensive success in the second half of the year. Lazard has the perfect "box-out" body type for those quick slants and he catches the ball with his hands, not his body. That's critical on slants.

David from Fishers, IN

Did I miss it? Have they provided any injury updates to Aaron Jones or Lazard? For Lazard, it looked like his ankle was deliberately twisted. Did you see it the same way?

The Packers don't have to submit an injury report during a bye, so don't expect any updates this week. I didn't feel like there was anything deliberate on the Lazard injury, though. He caught a 13-yard pass to convert on third-and-9 and the defender was just trying to get him down.

Rebecca from Madison, WI

It's been quite quiet on the negative comments towards Mark Murphy lately. I really believe he did his due diligence on the hires of Matt and Brian. I also believe his only motivation is for success of the Green Bay Packers in their entirety. Titletown is a major part of that. I'm glad the noise has mostly disappeared on that front. He has done a remarkable job.

Murphy hit a home run with both his hiring of Brian Gutekunst as GM and Matt LaFleur as head coach. At 13-3, I don't know how it could be argued otherwise. Hiring is not easy to do – not in the NFL or in everyday life. I felt it was unfair how Murphy had to defend his involvement with the coaching search. From Green Bay to Colgate, he has a strong track record when it comes to finding the right people for the right jobs. Murphy does deserve a lot of credit for the success this season because we'd be hearing about it right now if those two hires didn't work out.

Brad from Maple Grove, MN

So the Packers are seeming to embrace this "Cardiac Packers" mentality. Is this sustainable long term or do the Packers, especially the offense, need to start coming out of the gate quicker and set the tone?

I think it's sustainable – the Packers are two wins away from the Super Bowl, after all – but they need a faster start in the divisional round than they had in Minnesota and Detroit to stay afloat. Because it won't be easy to claw back from a slow start against the likes of the Saints and 49ers.

Rich from Manitou Springs, CO

It's been said that in the postseason, it's good to be healthy and get hot. In 2010, we were not healthy but got super-hot. This year, we are pretty healthy but seem to be "not so hot." Is there a possibility that we can get hot now? Does ML have some things that can really separate the team from the rest of the pack?

What constitutes "getting hot"? The 2010 team went 3-3 in its final six games of the regular season, whereas this year's squad enters the postseason on a five-game winning streak since the loss in San Francisco. What separates this team is week-to-week scheme variation and complexity (much like New England). That'll be a calling card for the Packers in the playoffs, I suspect.

Adam from Johnston, IA

Why do you think LaFleur changed James Looney to tight end?

We haven't had a chance to speak with Looney yet (practice-squad players are not available to the media during the regular season). I think both sides felt this was Looney's best shot at finding a role in the NFL. He's used two of his three years of practice-squad eligibility, so 2020 is a very important year for him.

Marc from Gainesville, FL

Daily reader, occasional questioner, love the column...in reading the transaction lists this morning, I see some non-playoff teams signing large numbers of players to reserve/futures contracts, and playoff teams engaging in the usual in-season roster tweaks. Are the non-playoff teams able to get a jump on the offseason because they are no longer bound by in-season roster restrictions, or are the playoff teams simply focused on this season, not next?

Non-playoff teams often sign their practice squad to future contracts as soon as the regular season ends and lockers are cleaned out. I'm pretty sure playoff teams are allowed to sign "street" free agents to futures deals right now but very few do. They like to leave their options open in case a practice-squad spot opens up.

Mutt from Blaine, MN

When a player gets signed off the practice squad for a playoff game do they only get the playoff game check? Seems like a bum deal.

The minimum weekly salary for a rookie is approximately four times that of a practice-squad player, so I think they're cool with it.

Jerry from Belmont, NC

This is a little down the road seeing as we're in the playoffs, but should the Packers work on building up our offense in free agency, or re-signing guys like Kenny Clark and solidifying our defense?

I think you can do both. The Packers picked up their fifth-year option on Clark last year, so they have this next calendar year to negotiate a long-term deal. If they do reach an agreement on an extension this offseason, the Packers can use that extra year to prorate out his signing bonus and reduce the cap number.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at player workouts from the 2019 season.

Gail from Frisco, TX

As a lifelong Packer fan and feeling the Packer offense has struggled a lot this season, why don't the Packers use any trick plays as so many other NFL teams do? The offense is boring! Go Packers!

Sorry.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Greatest leader you have observed during your time with the Packers? And why?

Marcedes Lewis is up there. As I wrote last month, he's not a guy who's going to get in your face and yell at you when you do something wrong. But with his personality, Lewis is a guy whose energy is infectious. His message resonates with those around him. It reminds me a lot of the voice Jordy Nelson had in past locker rooms.

Bill from Reedsville, WI

Good morning II. This week, whenever someone mentioned a coaching hire, they talked about the coach liking the GM, or picking his GM. I always thought it was the other way. I remember when TT hired MM, he asked Ron Wolf how he would know when it was the right guy. Which way do you think is more important, GM picking coach or the coach picking GM? Happy New Year to all involved with II.

That strategy seems to be picking up steam, at least when it comes to attracting an established coach. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer as long as those two people are on the same page. In Seattle, Pete Carroll technically has final say over the roster but he has a good working relationship with John Schneider.

Bob from Riverside, CA

I guess we witnessed an otherwise stronger team lose due to turnovers.

I'm sorry Badgers fans. I'm sure Spoff will have "takes" for you on Friday.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Good morning! Which upcoming playoff game excites you the most this weekend?

Tennessee and New England. I feel like everyone is sleeping on the Titans. Mike Vrabel has an excellent defensive scheme and Tennessee has been a different team since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback.

Brian from Cameron, WI

Insiders – thank you for all you do! If you had to pick one or two surprise victories in the wild-card round, who would you select? For the AFC, my gut says Buffalo over Houston. I'm also taking Philly over Seattle.

I like the Eagles. Both teams are banged up but I believe they have a legitimate shot with the game in Philly. My other pick is the Titans. Vrabel knows the Patriots and Tannehill has caught lightning in a bottle. Maybe both will be enough to topple New England, especially after the Miami loss.

Drew from Rogers City, MI

Why does Blake Martinez have 203 tackles according to the Packers but only 155 according to the NFL?

The former is the Green Bay coaches' statistics after reviewing the film. The latter is the NFL's official stat used to compare to the rest of the league.

Steve from Benson, AZ

I'm so happy the team made the playoffs and a first-round bye. My question is do the players still get paid the playoff bonus money even in a bye week? It would seem a sort of punishment if they don't.

From how I interpret the CBA, players are not paid for the bye week. Andrew Brandt said last year in a tweet that it's a quirk in the system.

Cedell from Savage, MI

It's too bad Hunter Bradley has been so reliable as a long snapper. Michigan's Camaron Cheeseman would sure look good in a Packer uniform.

The Packers Pro Shop wouldn't be able to keep those jerseys in stock.

Peggy from Bloomer, WI

Congratulations to you, Mike and Wes, on reaching an amazing milestone with "Packers Unscripted"! Love listening to your knowledgeable and down-to-earth conversations. I also enjoy seeing all your Packers "outfits." My questions is, are you the Pro Shop's best customers or do you receive a clothing allowance? Thanks. Go! Pack! Go!

Thank you. I cannot believe we're already at Episode 500. It's been a fun ride with Spoff. It's probably 50/50 between articles of clothing I've received from the organization and stuff I've purchased myself.

Tom from Douglassville, PA

Which team do you think Mike McCarthy will be coaching next year? Or do you think no one will hire him?

McCarthy would be a good fit for the Giants. I feel like he has the personality to handle the New York market and would be an ideal mentor for Daniel Jones. I see him coaching in the NFL next year, whether it's in New York, Cleveland or Carolina.

Patrick from St. Paul, MN

Mike and Wes, when you two play the intro theme song for "Packers Unscripted" which instrument do you each play? I haven't seen this query answered yet in this space and we the people must know. My money is on Mike "Mad Dog" Spofford on drums and Wes "Melted Cheese Supreme-O" Hod on the axe.

I'm more of a cowbell guy.

Ron from Cherry Valley, IL

Curious, do you Insider Inbox writers take the time to read the work product of your counterparts from other NFL teams? And if you do are there any team's writers that we should be reading?

Not really, though it does remind me of a conversation I had with another writer who works for an NFL team website. He asked how often we do our Insider Inbox Q&A. I said, "Six days a week." He replied in an exasperated tone: "We didn't do six all last season."

LeeAnn from Carefree, IN

Have you seen an early weather forecast for Jan. 12 for GB? I'm guessing it's going to be the Saints and I don't think they'd be thrilled with the prospect of frozen tundra. Wonder what the coldest game New Orleans has ever played in?

The Weather Channel says 23 degrees with a chance of snow showers. Mind you, a lot can change between this morning and 10 days from now.

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