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Inbox: It's a come-to-balance moment

This week will be all about starting fast


Heidi from La Crosse, WI

After watching Baltimore and San Francisco this week, I realized we have some work to do. I've decided to just sit back and enjoy the ride this year. We all know what a difference a Packers win makes to our week.

And there's a noon/1 ET road game for the first time all season! This traveling employee couldn't be happier.

Melissa from Germantown, WI

Hi fellas, how will the Packers bounce back this week do you think?

A good first quarter could do a lot of good. I know I said the other day the Packers have to find ways to win on the road when they don't start fast, but this week will be all about starting fast – the Giants have been outscored 81-27 in the first quarter this season.

Jeff from Victorville, CA

Now that we're on to New York, what strength do you feel the Giants have that could make them a tougher out than most fans are assuming? What weakness do they have that the Packers will try to exploit?

If Evan Engram is back from his foot injury, the Giants will build their passing game around the big tight end against a Green Bay defense that clearly struggles with those assignments. The Giants also have a number of explosive punt and kickoff returns this year and will look to win field position, another trouble spot for the Packers. On the flip side, Green Bay needs to take the ball away from New York. Rookie QB Daniel Jones has eight interceptions and 14 fumbles (10 lost) in 10 games. The Giants are third from the bottom in the league at minus-11 in turnover margin.

Tom from Eagan, MN

With the injury to Bulaga, do you think moving Turner or Jenkins to tackle may be a good option? Any chance Lane Taylor will be able to return from IR?

There's no indication Taylor is coming back. Jenkins isn't playing tackle. If Bulaga has to miss time, the Packers will either have Light take his place, or slide Turner out to right tackle and have Patrick play right guard. LaFleur suggested Monday he's considering options.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

I'll take a road win almost any way we can get it. The weather in NY looks dicey for Sunday, so I'm hoping the offensive line will be permitted many opportunities to redeem themselves by playing downhill for a strong running game rather than back on their heels for passes. Passing games may be negated by cold rain and temps in the 30s. This game will look to be won in the trenches and the better run game will probably win. NY is 22nd vs. the run. Running will be key outside in December.

The Packers have to find their ground game again. That's obvious. The offense functions better, Rodgers is protected better, third-down situations are better, it's all better when you can run the ball. The most amazing stat to me regarding the 1-for-15 effort on third down in San Francisco is 12 of the 15 attempts required seven yards or more, and two of the other three required six. That's insane. A running game changes those numbers.

Noel from Norwalk, CA

Good Morning II. No question just a comment. A game like that should test the character of the men. Having been outplayed, physically beaten, and humiliated on national TV should tear into the souls who played and lost. Should those feelings linger or get tossed aside as a new week approaches with another game? While it may be said to have a short memory because the next week brings another opponent to battlefield, the scars of such a humbling defeat cannot be wasted.

Though I think you're going a little overboard with your vocabulary choices, I agree with the sentiment for the most part. It's a come-to-balance moment. The best teams and athletes know how to balance learning and gaining motivation from the past without dwelling on or getting consumed by it. The right leadership gets the whole group to walk the line appropriately.

Rhys from Jackson, MI

49ers at Ravens Sunday should be very interesting.

Yes, and it's a shame that game is in the early TV window with somewhat limited exposure, especially with the ability for afternoon games to switch networks as part of flex scheduling (SF-BAL is on FOX but CBS has the doubleheader). Oakland at Kansas City got moved to the late-afternoon kickoff instead. Someone dropped the ball.

Ben from Jefferson, WI

Who is best suited to beat the Ravens? They look unstoppable.

The worst thing for the Ravens might have been playing the Patriots in the regular season. Belichick and that defense will know exactly what they're up against when they meet again in January. It's hard to see the AFC title game involving any other teams at this point.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

All the best in the world to LeRoy Butler. Hoping that the third time is the charm.

Unfortunately for Butler, I think fellow safeties John Lynch and Steve Atwater, who have been finalists in recent years, will have to get in before Butler moves up in the process. I've got nothing against Atwater, but I can't help but wonder if a big reason he has reached the finalist stage but Butler hasn't yet is simply the Super Bowl XXXII result. They're both on the 1990s All-Decade Team. Atwater had eight Pro Bowls to Butler's four, but Butler was a first-team All-Pro four times to Atwater's two (plus one second-team selection). Butler had 38 interceptions and 20½ sacks in 12 years to Atwater's 24 picks and five sacks in 11 seasons. What's the perception if the 2-1 in rings is flipped?

Steve from W. Terre Haute, IN

Do you think the ridiculous call against Adams was a result of the referees' "point of emphasis" following the Browns-Steelers WWE Smackdown?

You aren't the only reader to suggest the officials were on high alert, particularly in a prime-time game.

Alex from Columbia, MD

Wes and Kevin from Lake Forest, IL, it is fair to arbitrarily play the same interconference division because you should face a similar schedule to win your own division. You don't want the bottom team having a potentially much easier schedule by an additional four games. The 17th game should come from the interconference division same spot you played last year or next year's. Then we may have seen some more games with Rodgers vs. Brady than every four years (home every eight), for example.

I agree on all counts, as do a slew of other Inboxers.

Joe from Cocoa Beach, FL

Longtime reader, first time writing. This is in response to questions about a 17-game schedule. I read an article years ago (around the last CBA) that the NFL wants the Super Bowl on Presidents' weekend (no work Monday for the majority). The writer said that 17 games with two byes puts it there. Two bye weeks also eliminates the quick recoup time of the Thursdays games, as they would be sandwiched in between a bye week.

I know a lot of people, myself included, who don't get Presidents' Day off, but I hear what you're saying. If the preseason, and therefore training camp, is shortened by a week or more, I could see the players buying in. That would drive coaches crazy from a prep standpoint, but as with the offseason limits imposed in the last CBA, they've got no seat at the table.

Alan from Los Angeles, CA

The Packers continue to make the same mistakes and show no improvement in the same areas week after week. How can a team have negative yardage on punt returns for the season? This horrific statistic goes directly to coaching. How can a team with a great pass rush continue to blow coverages with tight ends running wide open in the middle of the field? It's fine to issue mea culpas and sing kumbaya from the podium but when does accountability and decisive action occur?

What exactly would you like done after 12 weeks? Bench players who screw up and replace them with less talented backups? Send assistant coaches packing and start over at certain position groups with five games to go? Get real. That's not how this works when you're 8-3 and you've played two bad games out of 11. You pick yourself up and get back to work. Coaches have to plan, teach and demand. Players have to prepare and perform. Never forget the other guys get paid, too.

Steve from Wellington, FL

Help us understand better – how are the Arizona Cardinals able to play against and almost beat the 49ers twice this season, yet the Packers looked like a high school JV team against them?

I've always believed division games are another animal. Those are the opponents that know each other best, so the games are different (except maybe in the AFC East). With the exception of one, all of the 49ers' close contests this year have been NFC West games. I don't think that's a coincidence.

Craig from Appleton, WI

With the Rams loss on Monday night do you feel the NFC playoff field is essentially set and the teams are now playing for seeding?

That's exactly what Wes and I discussed on Tuesday's "Unscripted." Other than the Philly-Dallas tussle in the NFC East, which is still very much up in the air, it looks clear who's getting in. Anything can happen, but it'll take a big collapse by one of the five teams with the top marks in the NFC for someone else to become a serious contender.

Mike from Marquette, MI

From Tuesday's II: "Green Bay needs to put its foot back on the gas and take care of business against New York, Washington and Chicago, who have as many combined wins (eight) as the Packers." The schedule just got even tougher – they have nine combined wins!

Wes (and his editor) stand corrected.

Bruce from Bloomington, IL

Interesting reading the II the last couple days. You did a good job of diffusing the theory that the poor officiating had an impact on the outcome. Niners have more talent. It would've taken much more than a few changes to the officials' calls to have kept us in that game. The league's draft order plan is getting the desired result. A team that's down multiple years in a row has a chance to build elite talent and rise. Niners used it, Browns haven't. GB staying near the top beats the odds.

Two down years still didn't produce a double-digit loss season, and I think there's something to be said for that. The Packers have had just two double-digit loss seasons since 1992 (2005, '08). I know some fans wanted to tank last year for a better draft pick rather than win two December games, but I'll never believe that approach should be anyone's intent.

Mike from Algoma, WI

Nice reminder about the 49ers' blueprint being one we don't want to follow. It seems to me that the difference in this game was defensive speed and sound tackling. Is it reasonable to expect GB to improve in these areas?

The Packers aren't going to get faster overnight, but the only other time this year the eye test told me they were at a decided speed disadvantage was against the Chiefs' perimeter players on offense, and the Packers showed the same edge when Aaron Jones ran away from the entire Kansas City defense for the game-winning TD. The Packers are much faster than they were just a few years ago, and they're right there with the rest of the league except for a couple of tough matchups. I thought the Packers' tackling was trending better on the whole until the second half Sunday night.

Dave from Bellingham, WA

I was supportive of GB not re-signing Clay Matthews after last year – looked like he lost a step. How do we explain him getting seven sacks in eight games this year? Being with Aaron Donald helps, but this year Kenny Clark is double-teamed more than any player in the league; probably a lot last year too which would have given CMIII a similar number of one-on-one opportunities.

I can't speak to Matthews' resurgence. Change of scene? Opportunity through scheme? Whatever the case, I'm happy for him. But I think it's indisputable the Packers did the right thing investing in two edge rushers drafted in 2015 rather than re-investing in one chosen six years prior. It's a young man's game. Matthews wouldn't have cost as much as either Smith, but you can't afford both Smiths if you keep Matthews.

Jeff from Eveleth, MN

Fellas, I'm not trying to be sarcastic, so please don't take it that way. But please try to explain something to me, how do you forget how to punt?

It's no different than hitters in baseball or shooters in basketball going into slumps. It's the human element. It looked like Scott had bounced back from his rough night in KC with four solid punts in LA through early in the third quarter, then he had that one blocked and it knocked him back into a rut.

Billy from Kenosha, WI

Elgton Jenkins was called for holding in the 49ers game and I can't recall any other penalties on him this year. True?

That was his fourth holding penalty, but his first since the Detroit game. He's also had three false starts, but only one since the Detroit game. I'm not trying to bash him, and I do think he should make the All-Rookie Team, but he hasn't been flawless by any means.

Ben from Menomonee Falls, WI

When was the last time the Packers have played on Thanksgiving? I really only remember maybe once in the last 15 years or so.

Are the holidays bringing on faulty memories or something? The Packers last played on Thanksgiving in 2015, at home vs. the Bears. Before that, they played on Thanksgiving at Detroit in '13, '11, '09, '07, '03 and '01. That's seven Thanksgiving games this century.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Mike, I still have my metal lunchbox with the NFL helmets on it from grade school. Make me a deal I can't refuse.

If it's from 1976 when expansion initially put Seattle in the NFC West and Tampa Bay in the AFC West, I'll be really tempted.

Theologos from Athens, Greece

Mike, a comment and a question. While we are all disappointed from the California debacle we have to acknowledge that this year the team has shown real progress and probably will make the playoffs. We must remember where we were last December or the previous one. My question is: If we beat Chicago and Detroit and assuming we take care of NY and Washington, don't we win the division even if we lose in Minnesota by virtue of better division record?

Yes, as long as the Vikings lose one other game. The way I look at it is this: If the Packers get to 12 wins, they're NFC North champs as long as the Vikings can't get to 13. Happy Wednesday.