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Inbox: It's a challenging puzzle to solve

The Packers’ defense is establishing its identity


Tom from New York, NY

I'll be rooting for Seattle's legendary "12th Man" tonight. I hope he's on the field often. Aaron Rodgers will need as many free plays as possible.

Hey-oh! And what a way to start a Thursday Inbox. Good morning!

Rod from Chugiak, AK

We're 22nd against the run. Where's the main leakage? Inside, Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark regularly dominate, and I'm impressed that Blake Martinez meets the ball carrier sooner than Hawk used to. Are significant between-tackle gains resulting from emphases on interior pass rushers instantly pinning their ears back to penetrate before guarding against a run?

Generally speaking, I think the Packers have been fairly solid against the run. It's not like they've been just gashed for yards all year. Before giving up 114 yards to Todd Gurley, Green Bay actually did a decent job against him through the first three quarters. The two I'm sure the Packers would like to have back are the 174 yards they allowed to the 49ers and Cordarrelle Patterson's performance in New England. On Thursday, they face a stiff challenge with how mobile Russell Wilson is and the multitude of options the Seahawks possess in their backfield.

Jason from Austin, TX

So both Green Bay and Seattle run the ball well and both teams have trouble stopping the run? Sounds like a classic game where neither team can seem to run the ball and the game becomes a passing-attack shootout. I've seen this happen far too many times.

That's typically how it works. Guess the opposite.

Carl from Sussex, WI

Joining the discussion of Aaron Jones and his similarity to other Packer running backs, might I suggest Brandon Jackson. Like Jones, Jackson was shifty and was seldom tackled, or even touched, by the first defender, though I will admit he might not have been quite as fast as Jones. Imagine the possibilities if Jones could be as effective on screen passes and check-downs as Jackson was. McCarthy should call some wheel routes for him, too.

Jones has made significant improvements working with Ben Sirmans, but that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jones' overall talents. He's everything you could want as a pure runner – explosive, reads the line quickly, hits the hole decisively and has the second-level speed to take it to the end zone from anywhere on the field. The next frontier for Jones is pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. He's getting there.

Alan from Claremont, NH

Do you think the packers will go after Le'Veon Bell? THEY BETTER TRY! Rodgers and Bell together sick combo.

There's a 23-yard-old running back with game-breaking tendencies already in the Packers' backfield and we're still trying to get the Bell-to-Green Bay hype train going. OK.

Nolan from West Salem, WI

Crazy stat alert...Russell Wilson has thrown 18 percent of his career interceptions vs. the Packers (11 of 61). That's has to be one of the most disproportionate interception rates I've seen to a single team outside of one's division. In reality, a divisional opponent is seen 12.5 percent of the time during the regular season, so one would naturally assume they have the best chance at having the highest interception rate.

Whatever bad memories they may have about Seattle, the Packers have a good track record against Wilson. What I've learned from these five or six games is the path to containing Wilson is winning with four- or five-man pressure upfront. What I'm curious to see tonight is whether Mike Pettine tries to get home or rush to contain. It's a challenging puzzle to solve.

Ross from Hudson, WI

Seattle has struggled all season defending the jet sweep. Is this the week we see MVS "Dash" out of the backfield?

It could be. You guys keep reminding us the Packers are one of the only teams who haven't run one yet this season.

Randy from Stevens Point, WI

I see the NFL moved the game out of Mexico due to the field conditions. I can't help but compliment the crew at Lambeau for how good the field looked last Sunday! These are multimillion-dollar athletes and many of the playing surfaces in other cities are in horrible condition already. Why doesn't the league mandate that all NFL stadiums install the best artificial turf available? Playing surface would be safe and uniform, throughout the season.

Allen Johnson and his crew always do a wonderful job, but I made the comment to Spoff during our pregame Periscope last week about how nice the field looked considering how cold it's been in Green Bay the past few weeks. I wouldn't say unified artificial turf is the answer, though. Most players prefer to play on grass. Teams just need to make sure they have the right grass for their climate and maintain it properly. The league made the right call as it relates to Mexico City. You have two Super Bowl contenders playing each other. You can't have a key player go down as a result of a poor field.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, you recently referred to Raven Greene as a "personal protector." Please explain that role.

If you've ever watched a punt play, you'll notice one player about two or three yards behind the long snapper and blockers. That "upback" helps facilitate protections, calls for the snap, and also serves as a last-resort blocker for the punter. It's an important job.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Over the last few weeks as Rodgers has gotten healthier and shed the knee brace it feels like the Packers have run a lot more plays that originate with AR under center. That seems like it makes play-action much more effective and plays in the red zone seem to be more effective as well. Play-action and ball fakes from shotgun just don't seem to draw that much attention from the D IMHO. Do statistics bear this out?

I don't have any statistics at my fingertips to support your hypothesis, but my hunch is you're right based on what we've seen in recent weeks. The play-action historically has been a strength of Green Bay's offenses during its best years. I think it's even more potent with speedy downfield threats such as Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown in this offense.

Stephen from Washington, D.C.

Happy Gameday, Insiders! How do you think Mike Daniels has been playing? Going into the season, I was really excited about the prospect of him and Clark dominating teams inside, but Daniels doesn't seem to be as effective as he's been in previous seasons, only putting up 10 tackles in nine games. Do you see his production (or lack thereof) differently? With our secondary thinning out a little bit due to injuries, it would be great for the D-line to take over against Seattle!

I think he's been solid inside with Clark, especially considering how many snaps those two guys have had to take on after Muhammad Wilkerson's ankle injury. Larry McCarren recently did an informative piece on **the impact Daniels has made this season**. He's right where he needs to be in a defense that has been establishing its identity.

Mike from Mt. Prospect, IL

In the current pantheon of NFL quarterbacks, where would you rank Russell Wilson?

Comfortably in the top 10? I think Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees are permanently locked into my top five. I'd say Patrick Mahomes probably gets the nod for that final spot right now.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

The Rams largely ignored Wilson on the first eight or nine plays where he showed read-option. Then, on a key third down, Wilson kept it for a nice gain. Thursday's success on defense may hinge on (1) how often the Pack D can get away with ignoring Wilson on read-option plays and (2) how hard they can hit Wilson on the plays where he is not ignored, whether as a ball carrier or as a free target when he carries out a run fake. I would like to see Pettine mix it up some so Wilson guesses…and gets hit.

I think this Packers team is a lot different than the one that had problems with the read-option from 2012-14. First off, Green Bay is much faster at the second level. Secondly, the league, as a whole, is better prepared to defend against it. Wilson still presents a world of problems for defenses, but you're also allowed to hit him if he carries out the read-option.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Killer fumbles, we can overcome one playing at home but not on the road. No fumble equals a win. That's my prediction, simple and easy.

Protect the football, win in the trenches and take the crowd out of it. You don't need to be flashy. You need to be precise in your execution.

The Green Bay Packers held their final practice of the week in Seattle on Wednesday.

Brennan from Northridge, CA

I have noticed while watching the Packers play on television that Aaron Rodgers has a particular cadence he uses while at Lambeau. On the road, however, I only hear him say "Ready go" as the cadence. Is this simplified cadence a direct outcome of opposing team's stadium noise?

It's like bringing your rain jacket with rain in the forecast. Even if the crowd is quieter than expected, NFL teams still have to be ready to deal with noise to avoid communication issues. Valdes-Scantling talked this week about how important Rodgers' signals are to the operation on the road.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

Hoping to not find out but who would take over at running back if Jones and Williams get injured? Also, with this being a very short week it does give us a mini-bye before a solid Vikings team on the road. Not a desired schedule but we could use the extra time to get starters like Cobb, King, Perry and Brice back on the field.

The Packers have a third running back on the roster, Tra Carson, who's spent parts of past seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. The silver lining to Thursday night games – and I'm not saying it's a big one – is the fact teams typically give the players the weekend off. I'm sure everyone from Rodgers all the way down to the video department appreciates that.

Bjoern from Hamburg, Germany

Huge Packers fan from Germany here. Unfortunately the NFL is far away from Europe but we have the London games. Due to the fact that the Packers have a big fan base out here I am wondering if there is any chance that the Packers will play a London game next year? And generally who makes this decisions?

The NFL should be making an announcement about the 2019 international games in the next few weeks. The Packers want to be in London. I want to be in London. But you know the deal. The Packers aren't going to give up a home game and they're a popular opponent for other teams.

Grigoriy from Soap Lake, WA

What do you make of both the Rams and Patriots losing the following week after playing the Packers? Just a coincidence or do you think there is more to it?

The Packers played both teams tough, which could lead to some lag in a week-to-week league like the NFL. In the end, I think it's as simple as the Saints are legit, and Mike Vrabel had a tremendous game plan for Tom Brady and his old team.

Andy from West Allis, WI

Jermaine Whitehead slaps a player on the facemask in retaliation (obvious penalty), gets 15 yards and ejected. Aaron Donald goes after a player's neck/head from behind as a form of retaliation, but no ejection? Can someone explain to me why there wasn't an ejection? And any news on a fine for Donald or the player that hit him late out of bounds?

There's an element of luck and circumstance involved. What the officials see and when they see it. Fines are released every Friday afternoon.

Bob from Wayne, PA

As an onside kick attempt, why doesn't the kicker ever try a high punt and give the kicking team enough time to fight the receiving team for the catch/recovery? Also when the kickoff goes into the end zone and the receiver doesn't bother to touch or catch it, is it a touchdown if a kicking team player picks it up?

I witnessed an onside punt after a safety a few years ago in a Packers game. I can't remember which one. It unequivocally was the most violent and dangerous play I've ever witnessed covering the NFL. I hope to never see it again. Also, the ball is now dead as soon as it touches the end zone. I believe Spoff previously addressed this.

Adam from Rochester, NY

The real Rochester got the first and last question yesterday! In regards to the Vikings versus Bears game, shouldn't we in all seriousness root for a tie?

I always say root for anarchy when you're playing catch-up in the standings. A tie would certainly qualify.

Jim from Vienna, VA

We are 4-4-1. There are seven games left. Ten usually gets into the playoffs. We need to go 6-1. Beating the Vikings at home is probably more daunting this year than beating Seattle at Century Link. Does this make Seattle the proverbial must-win?

Not by my definition that there are no must-win games before Week 12. But yes, it definitely falls under the make-your-life-exponentially-easier-with-a-win game.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Best two-minute drill of the season, Wes!

Thanks Margeaux. Just trying to help the ball club.

Nick from Chicago, IL

Seems like the team was wearing the same NFL jumpsuits coming off the plane. New uniforms?

They're called travel suits. They're very fashionable. You should see the one Spoff has.

Jeremiah from Dallas, TX

What a few days we have coming up. Packers on Thursday and Wisconsin deer opener on Saturday. Good luck to everyone on Saturday and stay safe!

Best of luck to all the deer out there. Enjoy the game, everyone!