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Inbox: It's going to feel like a never-ending battle

Don’t lose it, then go win it

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

Tim from Lino Lakes, MN

Two upsets. Two overtime games. Three road teams win. Wild-card weekend does not disappoint.

Are you not entertained?

Dennis from Rhinelander, WI

It's probably not a coincidence having the last four teams standing in the NFC playoffs are from the two toughest divisions.

Or it is because, well, it's the playoffs.

Donna from Darien, WI

How do you like our chances against Seattle?

I like the way this Packers team is built for cold weather, with a running game and a defense. It's Green Bay's best cold-weather team in five years. If the Seahawks are still struggling to find a running game, I like the Packers' chances.

Sal from Hailey, ID

I suppose the year wouldn't be complete without facing the Seahawks. At least we'll be at Lambeau! What matchups are you looking forward to seeing?

I think the game comes down to how the Packers contain Wilson, defend Metcalf and block Clowney. Those are my ABCs for this game, or my WMCs.

Matt from Roseville, MN

What do you think our plan will be to stop Metcalf? Do you think Kevin King's height would make him the best defender?

I'll leave that up to Mike Pettine. Does he match King on Metcalf and Jaire Alexander on Lockett, or mix it up and rotate safety help in different situations? Regardless, the Packers are at their best when they're pressing at the line and disrupting routes. But Wilson can make you defend plays forever. It's going to feel like a never-ending battle.

Derek from West Salem, WI

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Forecast is for mid to high 20s next Sunday, I believe.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Are you surprised that none of the eight teams this weekend could score more than 20 points in regulation?

Nothing surprises me in the playoffs. I repeat, nothing. I also agree with Kevin.

Kevin from Holmen, WI

Not a lot of offense this weekend in the playoffs. It should be no surprise that once again championship football will come down to controlling the football with the running game, limiting turnovers, pressuring the quarterback, and making big defensive stops on third and fourth down.

It's hard to win a playoff game in the first three quarters, but you sure can lose one. Don't lose it, then go win it.

Gary from Belle Mead, NJ

Did you think the hit on Wentz was incidental helmet contact?

Not really.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

Do you think Clowney will be suspended for that egregiously dirty hit?

Not a chance. He'll probably get a hefty fine, rendering his labor in Philly free, but that's about it.

Timmy from Chicago, IL

I don't want to beat a dead horse, but All-Pros Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis were contained by the same offensive line that had no answer for Za'Darius Smith.

Never underestimate the value of getting a chance for a breather to regroup and reset, especially after a tough loss. The Vikings got that in Week 17 and took full advantage. Further evidence it's a week-to-week league.

Jeff from Vandenberg AFB, CA

Mike, for only the second time since 2003, the AFC champion will be someone not named Ben, Peyton, or Brady. What was your biggest wild-card weekend takeaway?

In the AFC? A powerhouse running back is a great equalizer. In the NFC, you have to give it up for Josh McCown playing in his first playoff game at age 40 after having worn a dozen or so different helmets. I thought if the Eagles had kept kicking field goals, they might have pulled it off, 18-17.

Erick from Vancouver, BC

Wow. Week 1 of the playoffs took the advantage out of home-field advantage.

It mattered in the first game. In the other three it was countered by a beast of a back, a de facto bye week, and the loss of a starting QB.

Bob from Colby, KS

When the season is over and awards are handed out by the league, the Eagles should get the "Ace Band-Aid" award.

We've all seen the Packers endure some brutal years in the injury department, but what the Eagles went through this past season was astounding. Fighting all the way back to get in the playoffs only to have the QB go down just took the cake for them.

Mike from Park Ridge, NJ

Hello II, excited for the week ahead. I see the Vikings moving their edge rushers inside like the Packers have done. Does this technique offer a greater advantage over simply being a shorter distance to the QB?

It allows for more speed overall to be on the field to get after the quarterback in obvious passing situations. The interior guys can attack the outside shoulders of the guards to create one-on-ones and render useless any potential help from the center. It can be incredibly effective as long as the QB is not a running threat.

David from Osceola, WI

Watching the Eagles-Seahawks game, and seeing all the injuries, it dawned on me that I was missing the other benefit of the bye week. Not only can we get healthy, but we can't get injured.

Previously discussed, but worth mentioning again.

Jeremiah from Denver, CO

If this were, what are you telling the fans right now?

If the Hall of Fame quarterback doesn't fumble at the 20-yard line in the fourth quarter, your team in all likelihood is still alive. There's nothing harder to overcome than a turnover at the wrong time.

Mike from Duluth, MN

The Saints seem to have paralleled the Packers over the past decade. They both feature future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, many exciting regular-season results, and yet both seem to suffer way too many unexpected playoff heartbreaks. Here's hoping Green Bay can reverse that trend starting Sunday.

The Packers were eliminated from the postseason on the game's final play three straight years from 2013-15. The Saints just pulled off the same trifecta from 2017-19.

Jake from Eden Prairie, MN

What was your biggest takeaway from the wild-card round? Upsets? Brady's potential last game? Cousins rising to the occasion?

It doesn't sound like Brady is retiring, but if his last pass as a Patriot is a pick-six, that's just strange. Cousins' last two throws in overtime were absolutely clutch. Josh Allen will learn a lot from that game and have the Bills back there again soon, with a coach in Sean McDermott who's going to be around for a while. I think for next weekend the home teams are much stronger favorites in the AFC than the NFC. The NFC feels so much more wide open to me.

Ron from Broken Arrow, OK

Can we agree that the Vikings with Dalvin Cook are a much different team? For all the "style points" the announcers want to give Sean Payton for his use of Taysom Hill, I appreciate Mike Zimmer's "old black and blue, Central Division" philosophy; especially this time of year. I have no idea what will happen next weekend; and I'm certainly not a Vikings fan, but I do respect what they accomplished in New Orleans.

Without a doubt. I also think the Vikings are a much different team with a healthy Adam Thielen, whose recovery from the opening-drive fumble to make key play after key play should not get lost in everything else surrounding that game.

Larry from Belgrade, MT

There you have it, PI review is officially a joke. Rudolph clearly extends the arm, which causes the defender to clearly bend backwards, and the gods of NY won't even take a look. I honestly feel bad for the Saints now.

They did take a look, and the key to my two-bit analysis is this – the defender is not going to get the benefit of the doubt when he is not playing the ball and has his back to it. Just as he's almost always going to get flagged for his own restrictive contact in that position, he's not going to get bailed out by offensive contact when not playing the ball. If he turns his head and Rudolph shoves him in the back, I think they'd call OPI there. But not the way he tried to defend the play.

David from Fairmont, WV

Let them play.

That's the other factor in the equation. According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, whose ongoing coverage of officiating issues has been outstanding, the league dropped three OPI flags from New York via review in the first two weeks of the season (including the one in Week 2 at Lambeau that wiped out a Minnesota TD). After Week 2, only one OPI flag came from New York. The odds weren't good anyway, and they got considerably worse when the defender never knew where the ball was, even if the league's explanation didn't mention that.

Matthew from Glasgow, Scotland

Last year I asked if the Saints had missed their turn, and Mike said we would have to wait and see. Have the Saints missed their turn?

That's one heck of a three-year run to not get a single Super Bowl appearance. They don't have an inordinate number of pending free agents, so I don't think the window has slammed shut yet.

Mike from Ames, IA

Nationally it seems like Brees' tenure in New Orleans has been lauded while Rodgers' tenure in Green Bay is often presented with an asterisk for not winning more than one title. On paper it looks like the Packers were actually more successful during these eras (more wins, more MVPs, no major scandal/suspension). Why do you think perception skews so far in Brees' and the Saints' favor?

Because each franchise has its own story, which is inevitably woven into their narratives. The Saints were a laughingstock of a franchise for a long, long time. Then when they were starting to make their way back, Hurricane Katrina upended everything before Brees took them to the NFC title game a year later and to a Super Bowl championship three years after that – the lone title in franchise history. The Packers had a very dark quarter century post-Lombardi but still had 11 championships prior to then. Favre won No. 12, Aaron Rodgers No. 13. Fair or unfair, the expectation is the iconic franchises will continue winning titles when they have the most important piece. I don't think either franchise or quarterback has anything to apologize for, frankly. Winning in the NFL is hard, no matter your franchise's history.

Allen from Austin, TX

Still rooting for the Vikings! Just for one more week.

They've got a whale of a turnaround – flying to the West Coast on a short week to play the first game Saturday in the divisional round. The Packers pulled it off in '10, going from the late Sunday game in Philly to Saturday night in Atlanta. But it's not easy.

Jeffrey from Plainsboro, NJ

Taysom Hill looked like the best player on the field today. Credit Sean Payton and the Saints org for finding ways to maximize his skillsets. How come the other 31 teams couldn't see that?

Great question. Given his health history, I don't think anyone thought his body would hold up. Honestly.

James from Orlando, FL

Good morning II, could you provide some clarity on what was going on in the Patriots game with about six minutes left?

The Titans were taking advantage of a timing rule the Patriots exploited not long ago, whereby the game clock continues to run after a pre-snap penalty is enforced as long as more than five minutes remain in the fourth quarter (or more than two minutes in the second quarter). They burned 40 seconds down to 5:52, took a delay, got another 25 seconds on the play clock, and the game clock restarted. They committed a false start at 5:29, and got another 25 seconds on the play/game clock. Given it was just a one-point game, it's a move that easily could have backfired on Vrabel, because if the Patriots manage to get a field goal to re-take the lead, the Titans might have actually limited their opportunity to come back. When Belichick did it, he was up multiple scores and it made more sense. Anyway, the timing loophole almost certainly will be closed in the offseason.

Dick from Albany, NY

Why didn't the Bills get that touchdown on the kickoff to open the second half? The receiver did not kneel or signal fair catch. So it's a live ball. I don't care that he waved his return team off – that is irrelevant. I also don't care that he "meant" to kneel. Intentions don't matter in football, execution does. And he made a mistake that should've resulted in a Buffalo TD.

Actually, intentions do matter, and any player who gives himself up has declared a play dead. That's what the player did, so that's what they (eventually) correctly ruled.

Joff from Asheville, NC

Insiders, could you please explain the overtime blindside block penalty on Woods from the Bills? Seemed fine to me.

It was a league point of emphasis this year, to stop players from laying out opponents by throwing blocks when facing their own goal line. Except it's written in the rule it has to be forcible contact, by lowering the shoulder, etc. I'm not sure Woods was guilty of that, but it was close.

Chris from Frederick, MD

"The People's All-Pro." Amen! Take a bow for that one, sir!

Another classic from the Hodster.

Reid from Woodbury, MN

Mike, I can't believe you of all people forgot Nick Collins' pick-six in the Super Bowl! No taking anything away from Williams or Raji, as both were incredible and vital to our success, but Collins is your guy!

Mentally I was focused on the plays that got the Packers to the Super Bowl, not the ones in the big game itself. Sorry, that's just where my brain was.

Jared from Omaha, NE

Who, in your opinion, has the best chance of becoming this year's James Starks? As in, a player who explodes seemingly out of nowhere to help fuel a deep playoff run.

The only one who really qualifies is Tyler Ervin, but that works for me.

Bruce from Lakewood, CO

Can we put in a request for Bill Vinovich? Seriously, though, when do the Packers find out the referee and crew?

Probably today. The wild-card weekend assignments were made last Monday.

Dennis from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

In Saturday's II, Wes wrote that Pete Dougherty will present Butler's case in Miami to the Hall of Fame voters. I'm curious, how was Pete chosen for this honor? Is it LeRoy's choice or something else? Also, does Pete consult with his peers about presenting LeRoy's case? Thanks, keep up the great work!

Every NFL media market has a voter on the selection committee, and Dougherty is the Green Bay representative, so he'll present Butler's case. Our own Cliff Christl was this market's HOF voter for a long time, but he had to give up his post when he became an employee of the Packers as team historian. Pete will do his research and solicit relevant opinions. He'll do right by Butler, I have no doubt.

Bruce from Appleton, WI

What do you think LeRoy Butler's chances are of making it into the Hall of Fame?

For this year, I wish I felt better about them, but being one of four safeties in the finalist pool doesn't help. He needs that positional logjam to clear out a bit. Next year, it's practically a given Peyton Manning, Woodson and Megatron will take three of the five modern-era spots, so the 2021 class will be tough to crack. But Butler still has time and he's made it this far now. Patience and faith.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

So, to recap: Next weekend we have to play the Seahawks AND cheer for the Vikings? The football gods are cruel.

Or genius. Happy Monday.