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Inbox: It's back to the old pattern again

Good news and bad news for next weekend

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Josh from Milwaukee, WI

Guess this goes to show how huge a first-round bye is!

The current cycle continues. Back in the '90s, the teams with the byes almost never lost. Then at the turn of the century some wild-card teams started making it to the Super Bowl. Now it's back to the old pattern again. If there was only going to be one truly down-to-the-wire game on the weekend, at least it was the last one. I'll admit, when the Saints missed the kick, I thought the Nick Foles magic was going to continue.

Colton from Twin Falls, ID

I've noticed that many fellow Packers fans (including myself) were rooting for Philip Rivers and the Chargers. It's a shame to see them ousted in such dominant fashion, but what bums me out is that we won't get to see the Philip Rivers vs. Drew Brees storyline should both of those teams have gone all the way. Do you think this might be the last chance for that matchup to come up?

I'd never say never, but I really felt this was going to be Rivers' year to get to a Super Bowl. With Mahomes in the AFC West for a long time to come, it's not going to get any easier for the Chargers.

Kristen from Surprise, AZ

So the Chargers finish with a 12-4 season, but unfortunately end up just behind the Chiefs. Therefore, they're a wild card and have no home-field advantage. They need to travel back east to face two teams with worse records (a serious disadvantage). I understand the structure of four divisional winners and two wild cards, but wouldn't it make more sense to seed those six teams by record? Or to at least base home-field advantage off record? And the Pats with an 11-5 record get the bye.

I can appreciate the sentiment, and these ideas come up all the time. But absent a complete overhaul of the league's scheduling formula, I'm not in favor of messing with the postseason structure. The Chiefs and Chargers played 14 of the same 16 opponents. Teams from other divisions played other schedules. Division winners get the spoils. I don't have a problem with it.

Brian from Sussex, WI

Wild-card weekend with no byes, home teams 1-3. Division weekend home teams with byes 4-0 with two games unwatchable, another borderline. Home-field advantage is enough to play for, a bye is too much of an advantage. I understand not diluting the playoffs, but (that's) less of a concern than giving too much of an advantage to other teams. I'd rather playoffs be limited to division winners only while not creating the unfair advantage for what often comes down to tiebreakers.

C'mon, man. So now you don't want wild-card teams because the better teams won the games? The Chargers-Patriots thing this year, as noted above, was a bit of an outlier, but the winning Saints, Rams and Chiefs combined for 38 victories in the regular season, while the losing Eagles, Cowboys and Colts had 29. The byes were earned, and they're a just reward for being better over a long, grueling regular season.

Benjamin from Delray Beach, FL

Who said Brady was done?

He finds another level of execution in the playoffs, especially at home. Now, can he keep it going on the road? The Patriots have proven to be mortal in the playoffs away from Foxboro.

Matt from Bloomington, IN

Aggressive play-calling and bold fourth-down tries trended big-time this weekend. Do you think this is the future of the league, or is it just that the best teams are capable of pulling it off?

It's the postseason. Coaches always have gut feelings in the heat of the moment. They train themselves to not get too caught up in those feelings over a long regular season, at least not too often. In the playoffs, they go with their gut.

Tim from Reno, NV

It's the third quarter of the Patriots game as I write this. This weekend's games have been real snoozers, but that should bode well for next week's games when these dominant teams try to dominate each other.

Back in early November, asked to name this year's conference title game participants, most football fans would have chosen these four teams. This was one of those years none of the teams that got hot late (Chargers, Eagles, Cowboys, Ravens, Colts, Seahawks) had enough left when they really needed it. The bad news about Patriots-Chiefs and Rams-Saints is we saw these matchups in the regular season. The good news is they were both fantastic games.

Don from Troy, MI

Kind of disappointing, don't you think, that our history-rich Packers no longer are the ones setting the trend, but instead are the ones who appear to be bowing to other trendsetters? Not a good look, in my two-bit opinion. Only New England continues to rise above it all.

Two bits is about right. The sooner Packers fans accept the following facts – the Patriots are a once-in-a-generation dynasty, and the Packers (regardless of their history, tradition, and expansive fan base) are no different than any other team trying to win games in this ultra-competitive league – they might sleep a little better. Trends are set by teams that bottom out, reinvent the wheel out of necessity, and find success. More power to them, and it makes the league better. But I'm not sure how you expect the Packers to qualify for the playoffs 19 times in 25 years and still set new trends.

Dan from Twin Lakes, WI

I'm glad Vic Fangio got the Denver job but only because he seems deserving. I want the Packers to retake the NFCN but I want them to do it by getting better, not by the Bears getting worse. Am I the only one?

Do you think the Vikings and Bears feel any remorse about their division titles the past two years because the Packers got worse? I don't. Again, this quest for everything about your team to feel perfect is nauseating.

David from Lake Mills, WI

The Packers supposedly were denied interviews with 49ers offensive assistants. If the position they'd be offered were a promotion, how can they be blocked? Is it only if they're a HC candidate that they can't be blocked?

Correct. There's no "promotion" language in the coaching rules anymore. Your title as an assistant coach doesn't matter. A team does not have to grant permission for an interview for any other job as an assistant, period.

John from Portage, MI

As I watched the Dallas-Rams game, I found myself watching the offensive sets of the Rams more closely. There's lots of misdirection, load up to the left, then a soft swing pass to the right, for a big gain on first down, opening up the options run or pass for the next two downs, keeping the Dallas defense more honest. Was fun to watch and dissect what the play-selection patterns that had been set up. Do you expect similar from our new coach?

I would think so, but don't lose sight of the fact that the Rams' ability to run the ball at will against the Cowboys made everything else look awfully easy, and that was a run defense that shut down the No. 1 rushing offense in the league the previous week.

Ryan from Hartland, WI

What are your Super Bowl predictions?

Nothing bold here. I'm going with the home teams next week. Saints and Chiefs.

Mark from Appleton, WI

I'm truly sorry for the Packers that James Campen is moving on to the Browns. But, congratulations and best wishes to him. He seemed to be an inspiring teacher to the many offensive linemen he coached, making many truly successful players. Can you recall any other assistant or position coaches who, having left the Packers, went on to a more successful career than with the Packers?

Andy Reid, Jon Gruden, Dick Jauron just to name a few. I'm sorry to see Campen go, both personally and for the players in his room. Those guys really appreciated him, and we in the media did, too.

Paula from De Pere, WI

Everyday reader, first-time questioner. My husband and I are starting a tradition next year of visiting a different stadium for a Packers game. Of the away games next year, which stadium would you recommend?

I'm with Wes on Arrowhead being a pretty neat place, and its tailgate scene is legit. Otherwise, I'd say Jerry's World is a one-of-a-kind venue that's been awfully kind to the Packers over the years.

Monica from Blue Mounds, WI

Did I read wrong? Friday II written by Mike, said HIS daughter would babysit Baby Hod, not that Wes had a teenage daughter. Just to check my sanity.

You and me both.

Jenn from Peoria, IL

Do you think LaFleur's past experience with Cousins will be beneficial next season? Am I kidding myself thinking that we may be able to rattle the Vikings QB because of the new coach's inside perspective? Or was that simply too long ago to matter?

I think you're reaching a bit.

Stephen from Berryville, VA

Does the head coach calling the plays limit or expand the candidates for offensive coordinator? I could see it eliminating candidates who want to be a head coach, but maybe helping some inexperienced candidates get a chance.

It's a stepping-stone position for any coach who hasn't been a coordinator before. It doesn't eliminate candidates who want to be a head coach. It's the same job LeFleur took with the Rams and he became a head coach in two years.

Chris from Horicon, WI

As soon as I heard Coach Matt's philosophy for offense I had a strong sense that he would be keeping Coach Pettine on the staff. The descriptions were nearly word-for-word.

You weren't alone in that thought.

Daniel from Los Angeles, CA

One thing that stood out to me is LaFleur mentioning his scheme being "illusionary" and different plays looking the same. This reminded me a lot of how Pettine described his scheme just a year ago and that worked out well. Should be interesting to watch on both sides of the ball.

We saw a huge decrease in communication issues on defense in 2018, despite numerous injuries, in part due to Pettine's approach of making different calls out of similar personnel groups and alignments. It's simplified for the players without being so for the opponent. I'm not sure exactly how that translates to the offensive side, but I'm curious to watch.

Lindsay from Manchester, PA

What player on offense/defense are you most excited to see play next year?

Aaron Rodgers and Jaire Alexander.

Sean from Phnom Penh, Cambodia

What is it like being with the team longer than the GM and the HC? Any advice for them as they go into Year 2 and 1, respectively?

If they're interested in any advice from me, the franchise's recent struggles are just the beginning. I don't believe that's the case on either count.

Charlie from Cameron, NC

I did a double take (I double took?) on Friday night as I lay in bed reading Saturday morning's II. Before I could search for winning lotto numbers the II was gone. Which brings me to my favorite II submission ever, "Is time real?" Duane's "." is a close second.

Man, you guys don't miss a thing. I was prepping Wes's Saturday column on Friday night and accidentally published it before quickly taking it down and scheduling it for the proper morning time. It couldn't have been up for more than 2½ minutes. My bad.

Augustus from Edwardsville, IL

What will be the most difficult thing moving forward for Matt LaFleur?

If there's one thing I've heard from new head coaches, it's dealing with all the things he's not anticipating, and still devoting the proper time to the things he was.

Paul from Kingston, PA

With the Packers hiring an offensive-minded coach do you think that was a best-case scenario for Mike Pettine to show more of what he can do on defense?

Indubitably.

Greg from Ann Arbor, WI

Another reason to love Mike Pettine: the Packers' social media staff seems extra careful to always use photographs of players and coaches smiling. But the Tweet that announced Pettine's retention? Only a scowl would do.

Like I said, you guys don't miss a thing.

Greg from Sydney, Australia

Hi guys. Apart from the obvious, what do playbooks consist of? Is it mostly just defining the terminology being used to name plays or does it contain more strategy-related info?

I've never actually seen one, but I've gleaned over the years that all those long play calls quarterbacks spit out in the huddle are actually several pieces of information strung together – personnel group, formation, motion, protection call, route combos, etc. I would imagine a playbook has all those pieces broken down individually, or in clusters, such as a menu of plays run out of certain personnel groups and/or formations. But I'm just guessing.

Andrew from Radisson, WI

What percent chance would you say there is that the Packers' regular season starts at Chicago to kick off their hundredth season?

Pretty high. The only caveat is the league might want to see a Bears-Eagles playoff rematch (in Philly this time) in Week 1. But Chicago's home opener, whichever week it is, being against Green Bay seems obvious.

Mitch from Sussex, WI

What position do you think we will most likely attack in free agency and which position would we focus more on developing through the draft?

I think we have to see what the free-agent market looks like first. We're a long way from knowing who might even be available.

Mike from Soedermone, Norway

Thinking about this strange, almost unnatural phenomenon where teams with a young, or late-blooming QB get a cap window of time during their first contract where they can "afford" to hire and pay better players other than the QB, star receiver, edge rusher and shutdown corner. What do you think about the NFL taking the starting QB salary out of the cap equation altogether, or some type of sliding scale to reduce the impact?

Nice try.

Scott from Milwaukee, WI

Do you think Aaron will play significantly better under Matt than he did last year?

No way to tell, but the Packers' season is going to hinge on it, and Rodgers knows it.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

How's Wes pulling up stats so fast on "Unscripted"?

The tablets are plugged in, you know.

Levi from Denver, CO

Does the money used to pay coaches count against the salary cap?

Nope.

Todd from New Ulm, MN

Longtime reader. First-ever submission. I find I'm so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a Packer fan can feel. A fan at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope Coach LaFluer can right the ship. I hope to see my quarterback restored to MVP form. I hope another Lombardi Trophy finds its way to Green Bay as it has in my dreams. I hope.

Wow. I hope your Christmases were everything you dreamed they'd be in April. Happy Monday.

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