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Inbox: It's going to be more difficult

The previous game doesn’t really exist anymore

Bears DT Akiem Hicks

Mario from Kettleman City, CA

Word on the street is that AJ Dillon is the official President of Thighland. Felicitations to him!

Please see yourself out.

Jeff from Eveleth, MN

The Inbox seems to really be living this Titans game up. Rightfully so, fans should enjoy it. But do the players do the same or do they just return to business the next day? I hope they move on to the next challenge because we have a Bears team that is going to give us everything they have and then some. Go Pack Go.

That's what leadership is for, and with this team it starts with LaFleur. He was talking Sunday night after the game about moving on to the Bears Monday. The players got the game plan for Chicago handed to them (or electronically transferred to their tablets for discussion in meetings) this morning when they arrived after their day off. From that point on, the true pros know the previous game doesn't really exist anymore.

Darren from Alice Springs, Australia

Is it Chicago's re-emergence of the running game that has propelled them to over 30 points the last four games or something else which Green Bay's defense will need to focus on stopping?

It's made the difference in their season. In David Montgomery's last five games, including the first matchup with the Packers, he has 103, 72, 113, 146 and 95 rushing yards, with six rushing TDs. In his first nine games (before missing one due to injury), he topped 65 yards just twice, with one rushing TD. Rocket science this is not.

Joe from Swansea, IL

Looks like weather (sunny, 34 degrees) won't be a factor at Soldier Field. What are the keys to a Packer victory? Pressure on Trubisky? Winning the trenches? Which running game is more productive? 12-17 lightning strikes? Is there a hidden element we're missing?

Defensively, key on Montgomery and keep Trubisky in the pocket. As Phil from Madison noted, set the edges like they did against Henry. That was the best the Packers had done all year, and it'll work against both the RB and a scrambling QB. Offensively, stay balanced and protect the ball. The hidden element is the return game. The Packers held the Bears, particularly Patterson, in check the first time. They have to do that again.

Tom from Green Lake, WI

Good morning! It's now been about a month ago since we last played the Bears. During that time, they have had some success to get where they are with a chance of a playoff spot. Where has their improvement been most notable, and how will our game plan change (if at all) since the last time we played against them?

Other than what's already been mentioned, the biggest difference in this game will be Akiem Hicks' presence in the middle of Chicago's defensive line. He missed the first meeting due to injury and the Packers exploited his absence right from the jump. I don't see Aaron Jones ripping off runs between the tackles of 14, 9 and 8 yards within his first four carries, like he did in Week 12, if Hicks is in there. It's going to be more difficult, and take a commitment, to get the running game going this time.

Will from Bristol, UK

Hey Insiders! Did you see Trubisky's red-zone interception versus the Jags? Real ugly. Montgomery and that Bears pass defense worry me more. A game to stop the run, build up an early lead and put the ball in Trubisky's hands I think. Then watch our offense grind that clock down with the run game. Your thoughts?

Sounds like a plan.

Wes from South St. Paul, MN

Mike and Wes, while the Bears don't have the running game the Titans have I would bet they will have Trubisky try the same move that Tannehill ran for the TD. Did the focus on Henry forgo the "spy"? Trubisky may be a bit faster that Tannehill.

Oh, they'll definitely try that. It wasn't about having a spy. Darnell Savage was the box safety on the play, to Tannehill's right, and he crashed hard on the fake to Henry, giving the QB the wide-open running lane he vacated. An easy first down turned into a long TD because Adrian Amos, the deep safety, also bit on the Henry fake, perhaps in part because Savage's plunge into the line convinced him Henry had the ball. That's what players and coaches call easily correctable.

Steve from Minocqua, WI

Not a question, but many Packers fans may want to know that Tom Gelb, the Harley-Davidson exec who presented Packers coach Mike Holmgren with a Harley during the "Return to Titletown" celebration at Lambeau Field following Green Bay's win in Super Bowl XXXI, died Christmas morning. He was a great guy and a good friend.

Sorry to hear. Thanks for sharing.

Tony from Seattle, WA

Hey gents, any chance we could please get an injury update on Rick Wagner? Google news is failing me. Thank you for all the work you do. Hope you're enjoying the ride this season as much as I am!

My apologies, I neglected to include any update on Wagner in my Monday story from LaFleur’s media session. He said the initial belief is it's nothing serious but they're still testing and evaluating.

Sreedharan from Pewaukee, WI

Regarding replays on Jumbotrons, in cricket it is the opposite strategy. Home teams try to show as rapidly as possible mistakes by the umpire (ref) against the visiting team. That's because once the replay is shown, challenges cannot be thrown. In cricket players on the field have to decide on challenging; "external" input disqualifies reviews.

Is it any wonder cricket isn't an American sport?

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Could you give the numbers on Packers quarterbacks/receivers combos? Wes said Aaron Rodgers-to-Davante Adams completions are now No. 1 in Packer history. How does that number compare to Rodgers-Nelson?

Rodgers-Adams 491, Favre-Driver 486, Rodgers-Nelson 469.

Eddie from La Crosse, WI

Happy Wednesday, Mike! Is it pure coincidence that the Packers, Saints and Seahawks all tip off at 3:25 p.m.? Could it be that someone, somewhere, wants to keep the drama at a maximum? As Leroy Jethro Gibbs says, "There is no such thing as a coincidence."

The NFL has been doing this in Week 17 since the advent of flex scheduling, for not only drama but equitable reasons, too. If the intertwined, playoff-scenario games are all going on at once, no one can know a result in advance and decide to rest players, etc. So Packers-Bears, Seahawks-49ers, Saints-Panthers and Cardinals-Rams are all late-afternoon kicks, while a bunch of games with AFC wild-card implications (Steelers-Browns, Ravens-Bengals, Dolphins-Bills) are all at noon. The league also put the two teams battling for the AFC South title, Titans (v. Texans) and Colts (v. Jaguars), in the late window together. Washington-Philly got the prime-time slot because it's the only game that has a 100% guarantee of season-on-the-line stakes no matter what happens earlier in the day – if Washington wins, it's in; if it doesn't, it's out.

Mike from Las Vegas, NV

Do you think they will show scores to other games at Soldier Field on Sunday? I know some teams turn them off in this sort of scenario. Just win.

That's up to the Bears, probably Nagy, as to whether he wants any other scores posted within the stadium. I'm guessing there will be periodic updates.

Kevin from Rockton, IL

This is the time of year for which we've been waiting – when we give thanks for Gutey drafting that big running back we didn't need in order to further inhibit Aaron's offensive weaponry. I'll liken AJ to having a fork on your Swiss Army knife – it's bulky in your pocket, but really nice to have on the occasion you need it.

I'm not going to discuss any bulges in any pockets here, but as Wes mentioned on "Unscripted," LaFleur said well before the draft he'd love to have a third option in the backfield for this offense. The pick also made loads of sense given the top two running backs were both entering the final season of their rookie contracts.

John from Juneau, WI

Wish I had thought of it, but I saw a headline about the Titans being "Tundrastruck"!

Now that's pretty good.

Adam from Madison, WI

How many times in Packers history have they had two former QBs from Indiana State playing TE at the same time?

That's also pretty good.

Avida from Vienna, VA

Hello Mike, can you elaborate on who make up the voters for MVP? I thought I saw a reference to 50 voters in one of your mid-week chats. Are these all members of the media? And if so, is there a Cliff Christl or similar WI representative? It seems the NFL has a different system for selecting Pro Bowlers, All-Pros, and MVP. Thank you.

The Pro Bowl does not involve media voting. That's fans, players and coaches voting (one-third each). The voting for All-Pro, MVP and other official NFL Associated Press awards is done by a panel of 50 media members, one in each market plus a collection of national correspondents. The individual market voters are usually the Pro Football Writers of America reps for that location. In Green Bay, that job (and that vote) currently belongs to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Ryan from London, England

We all agree that Aaron Rodgers is the rightful MVP but who do you believe should take second place? I believe the Titans would be picking very very early if he had got injured in Week 1.

I think Patrick Mahomes, Derrick Henry and Josh Allen have all had MVP-caliber seasons. But I don't think they have put together the year, and had the overall impact on their teams, Rodgers has.

Cassy from Urbandale, IA

Why is there not more talk of Matt LaFleur as coach of the year? I know we have great playmakers but he has done a crazy awesome job at pulling the team together and utilizing each player's strengths. And he has been able to still create a strong team each week even with key injuries.

Preaching to the choir, Cassy. I think Wes and I have stated our cases here, on "Unscripted," and in other stories plenty.

Dave from Huntsville, AL

In Tuesday's Inbox, Wes stated "I know Kenny Clark was disappointed missing the first month of the season..." With Clark usually playing his best in December, does this mean he is set to go off in January this year? I hope so.

No complaints here. You and Ari from Chicago were mind-melding. Clark has been a different player since that groin injury healed. You could tell when he first returned he still wasn't himself. Not anymore.

Estillac from Belem, Brazil

Mike and Wes, 2020 is almost gone. First, thanks for the II, it's a wonderful job and a very pleasant daily reading. Second, I wanna wish everyone here a much better 2021. At last, I'd like to know what's your favorite football memory of the year.

If you want me to narrow it down to a particular moment, I'll go with Za'Darius Smith forcing the Taysom Hill fumble in the fourth quarter at New Orleans. That's when I first thought the possibilities we're talking about now – getting the road to the Super Bowl to go through Lambeau – might actually come to fruition.

Ben from Winston, OR

I know you have answered that Seattle would get the bye if they tie with the Packers, but I cannot figure the reason since both would be 9 -3 in the NFC. Would you clarify it for me/us please?

Seattle wins a two-way tie with Green Bay due to a better record in common games (Atlanta, Minnesota, San Francisco, Philadelphia). If the Seahawks beat the 49ers Sunday, their record against those opponents will be 5-0 to the Packers' 4-1. That's also why the Packers would get the No. 3 seed in a three-way tie, with the Saints getting the top spot thanks to conference record.

View some of the best photos from the Packers-Titans matchup at Lambeau Field on Dec. 27, 2020.

Eric from Erie, PA

Not to be a Debbie downer, but if we lose on Sunday what is the chance we have to play the Bears again next week? That is not something I want to happen even if it is in Green Bay. This is a must-win playoff game, no other mentality needed.

If the Packers don't get the top seed, they could get the 2 or the 3, and the Bears could get the 6 or the 7. So yes, the repeat matchup (2 v. 7, 3 v. 6 are two of the wild-card pairings) is possible.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

Is there some mystical undrafted free agent from Indiana State TE pipeline we didn't know about? That was a heck of a block Dominique Dafney threw on WYMM.

Marin from West Lawn, PA

During Coach LaFleur's press conference Monday, he mentioned how the players have bought into the team concept. Is there a kind of chemistry on this year's team similar to what existed with last season's roster?

It would appear so. We can't see it as much because we're not in the locker room ourselves this year, but it was noticeable last year, and by all accounts if it's changed it's only grown stronger. What Rodgers has said repeatedly about specific roles "empowering" players seems even more true this year.

Doug from Ames, IA

Do the Packers have an identity now, or is it to be determined?

Does it matter? The game and what it takes to win isn't the same as it was 25 years ago, or even 10 years ago. If there's an identity to this team, it's that it always believes its best game is still out there.

James from Waynesboro, VA

Good morning, Spoff. I'm a little confused. On Monday, you responded to Jenn from Peoria that you didn't know about the Pack having no penalties or punts until it was mentioned in the Inbox, but you wrote about it in your postgame wrap-up Sunday night. I imagine some of those late games have you writing on auto pilot. Have you forgotten more writing than the rest of us will ever read? Keep up the great work!

Ha. You caught me. As I answered Jenn's question in the wee hours of Monday morning, I went back into my game recap and added the stat line. The benefits of the online vs. print world. We're a team here, right? Happy Wednesday.


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