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Inbox: It’s always relative

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David from Baltimore, MD

I'd be very curious to know the Packers' record in relation to Aaron Rodgers' facial hair. More wins with the mustache or with the beard? Or does clean-shaven do the trick? I can only assume this is a stat you are tracking.

And we’re off, so we might as well get going.

John from Albuquerque, NM

13-10. Is defense back? Just kidding, but I enjoyed the game.

Give credit to the Dallas defense. It held the Saints to 59 yards in the first half. They usually have that on their first drive. I still think the Saints will be the toughest team to beat in the NFC playoffs if they’re playing at home, but now they’ve lost control of the No. 1 seed, for the moment. We’ll see.

Larry from Carney, MI

The Cowboys just put out the recipe to beat the best team in the league. Pressure the quarterback and cover the running back. Saints shouldn’t win another game with that information out! Easy peasy.

Ha, you’re funny.

Matthew from Laurel, MD

What are the chances Aaron Jones eclipses 1,000 rushing yards? 394 yards in five games with a suspect Cardinals run D coming up. If this season gives us anything it could be a Packers 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in four years.

It would be a nice milestone for Jones, but more importantly I want to see him handle his increased workload over these final five games and stay strong all the way through. That’ll be a great sign for his future and the future of this offense.

Jason from New Hampton, IA

Particularly during the season, how does the player personnel department keep track of the roster status of other players around the league? By that I mean, if say, the Vikings lost their minds and waived Thielen, how do the Packers know he's available? I'm assuming they aren't getting their news from ESPN or FOX Sports.

The NFL transaction wire is distributed league-wide at 4 p.m. ET every day. Any player waived, released, signed, placed on/activated from IR, etc., as well as any players brought in for workouts, it’s all on there. For waivers, the 24-hour claim period on an available player starts when the wire comes out.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

Wes, why did you have to mention the Cardinals have never won at Lambeau? Bad juju, man.

That’s what I thought when I first read that from him, too. And then I thought about all the good juju I’ve been trying to generate in my “One Last Look” column lately about how the Seahawks had lost six of their previous eight home games, and how recent history says getting turnovers is how you beat the Vikings at the big ATM, but nothing has worked. So maybe it’s time for reverse juju.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

"Rodgers also leads the league with throwaways in 46 pass attempts; no other QB has more than 27." A throwaway is better than an INT, but man that's a lot.

It’s better than a sack, too. But yeah, it is a lot, especially on top of the 34 sacks Rodgers has taken. Four throwaways per game speaks to the obvious lack of production in the scramble drill compared to prior years. The Packers have continued to rely on it, but without the results they’ve grown accustomed to.

Bill from Kronenwetter, WI

The Phillies in 1964 had John Boozer and Bobby Wine.

So they had that going for them, which is nice.

Paul from Monroe, MI

The Pack's second-half issues may have more to do with other teams' defensive adjustments than what the Pack is/is not doing. In other words, other teams have figured how to neutralize the Pack in the second half and negate the Pack's QB advantage. From your standpoint as someone close to the team and in attendance at every game, does this quick analysis hold water?

Sure, but this game is all about adjustments. If they adjust, you have to counter and still find a way.

John from Simi Valley, CA

"You can’t just play one way all the time. You have to be able to execute in a variety of ways to have any sustained success.” Tell that to Brady and the Patriots. Short pass, short pass, short run, first down. Rinse and repeat until the defense takes it away. Then hit them with a Gronk or Edelman up the middle, touchdown! Good enough for five Super Bowl rings. I'm just saying...

Um, did you actually watch how the Patriots beat the Packers? Four touchdown drives in the game. James White had 44 of the 59 yards from scrimmage on the first one. Cordarelle Patterson finished the second, a 69-yard drive, with four straight carries for 40 yards. Then the double-pass trick play with Edelman set up the third TD, and the deep seam route to Gordon went for a 55-yard score to wrap it up. Where exactly was the rinse and repeat? They scored all kinds of ways, and they didn’t even have Gronk that night. Those are facts, not a quippy theory. If you truly believe the Patriots beat people as simply as you say, you’re kidding yourself.

Brad from Eau Claire, WI

Your observation about the Cardinals’ run defense (or lack of one) is timely. When combined with their strength against the pass, it suggests that this is yet another opportunity for the Packers to make a genuine commitment to running the ball. It would allow them to control tempo, play to favorable down-and-distance, and limit Rodgers’ exposure behind a battered line. So I will be watching the number of running plays they call.

Everyone will, but the Cardinals can stop the run if they want to. Anyone can. It’s a numbers game based on personnel deployment. If the Packers are successful running the ball and the Cardinals adjust to clamp down on it, Green Bay will still have to execute in other ways. Or you pre-empt their adjustment by doing something else successfully, so you can go back to the run later. That’s the game.

Michael from Morrison, IL

When the schedule was released back in April, the Packers-Jets game was listed as a FOX broadcast. However, it has recently been changed to TBD along with the Giants-Colts contest without any league announcement. Is the NFL experimenting with something here or is there something else going on (i.e. network carriage disputes)?

No disputes. The league has been moving games around to different networks as part of flex scheduling, to try to maximize the audience for certain matchups, particularly late in the season.

Don from Grayslake, IL

To me, A-Rod's 280-plus pass attempts without an interception are a problem. He seems so averse to throwing picks that he is unwilling to throw into tight pockets. On top of all his throwaways, an article today said 58 percent of his throws (league high) have been to the perimeter compared to a 30 percent league average. Are our receivers that much worse at getting open in the middle of the field or in initial pass routes? I say he should trust his arm and take some chances (aka Brett Favre). Am I crazy?

I would never classify a QB’s lack of interceptions as a problem, because with the Packers’ defense not taking the ball away, if the offense starts giving it away, the plays that may happen by taking risks aren’t going to outweigh the negatives. Rodgers did suggest on Wednesday he might start taking more chances, but I don’t think he’s going to just start winging it, nor should he when his own defense has just two takeaways on the road all season, which is where the offensive problems generally have resided. Your stat about throws to the perimeter vs. the middle is interesting, and it jibes with what my eyes have seen and what many readers are asking about. I don’t have an answer for the Packers’ tendency to not attack the middle as much as other teams, except to say when the first pressure a QB faces is from the interior, the throws to the middle are the first to be taken away. But that’s admittedly not a satisfying explanation.

Larry from Hudson, WI

Capri Sun? Is someone itching to get duct-taped to the goal post?

Hazing is illegal in the Inbox, and I want my orange slice.

Ben from Polk City, IA

Mike, I agree the defense appears to have turned a corner based on the eye test but here are some funny stats. 2018 vs 2017: Yards allowed rank, 12th vs. 22nd. Points allowed rank, 16th vs. 26th. Pretty good improvement, eh? Yards per play allowed, 5.5 vs. 5.5. Points per game allowed, 24.3 vs 24.0. There are still five games left, but it's funny the yards and points allowed are basically the same as last year yet rank better against the league.

But where you rank in the league is far more important. This is a year of offensive explosion in the NFL. The Rams and Chiefs are a combined 19-3, yet we’ve seen those defenses struggle considerably at times, and not just against one another. Every season is its own animal and how you’re doing compared to others in the moment is what counts. Just like a lot of times 10-6 makes the playoffs, but sometimes it doesn’t. How good you are, it’s always relative.

Jason from Austin, TX

Here's an easier solution to the onside kick. Move the kickoff from the 35-yard line to the 38-yard line (or move it back to the 33-yard line, but I don't see them moving it back). Then, instead of requiring 10 yards until the kicking team can touch the ball, make it seven. The kickoff line gets moved so that the spot where you can touch the ball is a solid line on the field making it easier for the players to know when they can touch it.

Interesting thought. Phil from Madison suggested giving each team one kickoff per game with the old running start. Also worth a thought. I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t know if the league cares about the greatly reduced chance at recovering an onside kick, but I’ve enjoyed reading all your ideas.

Mark from Amarillo, TX

So Rodgers has more completions greater than 40 yards than anyone else. Proof that he's not taking the quick easy completion that keeps the drive going and wears down opponents’ defenses? Certainly looks that way from my recliner.

I won’t argue, and this is another issue many are writing in about, particularly as it relates to the third-down woes. Rodgers’ comments Wednesday indicated they have pushed for plays down the field, which is in tune with many of McCarthy’s repeated statements about big-play production. The problem is the Packers’ advantage over their opponents in total plays of 40-plus yards (15 to 7 thus far) hasn’t translated to more wins. I think it’s also worth noting the offense’s biggest play of the season, Cobb’s 75-yard game-winning TD vs. the Bears in Week 1, was a third-and-10 scramble pass to the sticks that surprisingly became a big play.

Trevor from Montclair, NJ

Instant replay is frustrating. Fans get the slo-mo replays but no access to how officials interpret them. However, I was watching rugby recently, and even though I don't know the rules, I was impressed with how they treat the replay process. The TV viewer can HEAR the officials talk about what they're seeing, live, as well as the commentators’ interpretation. It's pleasantly transparent, but also makes IR suspenseful, and an oddly entertaining part of the show. Would the NFL ever consider that?

I can’t imagine, but I agree it would be entertaining as well as enlightening. I’d bet Pereira, Blandino, Steratore, etc., would lobby against it, though I’d love to see those guys back involved in the conversations rather than analyzing the decisions from the outside.

Craig from Castle Pines, CO

Is Wes hungrily searching the work fridge for food because you keep stealing his lunches, Spoff? Let the man eat!

I’m going to have to videotape his next fridge hunt.

Josh from Sherman Oaks, CA

I like must-win games. I hope I get to watch five of them this season, at least.

Can’t win ’em all unless you win the first one. Happy Friday.

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