Skip to main content
Powered by

Inbox: It's tough to beat them for 60 minutes

Wild-card weekend had all the drama, suspense, and spectacular finishes you ever could want

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Good morning, Wes. I swore I was done watching football after the latest Packer disappointment. I lied to myself. I watched this weekend anyway. I'm glad I did. It turns out that the Packers aren't the only team capable of dumbassery!

I'm with you, Margeaux. I, too, lied. After everything I said last week, I ended up watching more playoff football over the past three days than I did the last three years outside of the Packers games I was covering. If crow is to be served this week, I shall bring my fork and knife.

Jake from Decatur, GA

This weekend had a little bit of everything, didn't it? Dominance, division rivals, unexpectedly close games, a predictable nail-biter, a historic comeback, and more. Not bad! I'm sure the league is happy, although I could've gone for about five or six more touchdowns by the Giants.

This weekend was yet another reminder the NFL is king. Wild-card weekend had all the drama, suspense, and spectacular finishes you could ever want.

Laurie from Sheboygan, WI

Watching the wild-card games this weekend, I noticed a focus, intensity, and speed-to-the-ball I never saw with the Packers all season. I came away feeling as if we would not have beaten any of those teams. Is that just the playoff mentality, or were all those teams really that much better than us?

Those teams are playing for a reason. I think the Packers could play with most of them. Heck, they even beat some. But the six teams that won this weekend all played complementary, four-quarter football. Green Bay didn't do enough of that this season.

Keith from Fishers, IN

For me the three biggest "ups" of the season were the OT win over Dallas, the destruction of Minnesota, and the rise of Keisean Nixon. Any chance we could see a story about how Nixon got the "tryout" for the return job? Just next man up? Did someone look at his past and recommend him? Did he ask for a shot? Did someone ask him if he'd be interested? It could be a great offseason story to tell, and surely the details aren't a secret to be kept. After years of kick return mediocrity, inquiring minds want to know!

We'll see about a longer story, but really it came down to practice. Nixon had a returning background and just showed Rich Bisaccia he could do it during the workweek. The most fascinating part of the whole deal is how Nixon emerged as the Packers' punt returner. From the sound of it, Nixon pretty much went in cold against Dallas but owned that role and never looked back.

Craig from Laramie, WY

It seems like there have often been guys that either return punts or kickoffs but rarely one guy that does both consistently. Is that an accurate perception? What qualities have to be present in a guy that can do both at such a high level as Keisean Nixon?

It's funny you mention that because Nixon's achievements made me go back and look at Desmond Howard's 1996 season. As dynamic as Howard was as a punt returner, he was just OK on kickoffs. Howard averaged 20.9 yards per return on 22 kickoffs in Green Bay. For his career, Howard averaged 22.2 yards on 359 kickoff returns and didn't have a single TD. Meanwhile, Cordarrelle Patterson was an exceptional kickoff returner but handled only one punt in the NFL. It takes explosivity, vision and fearlessness to master both roles and Nixon possesses all three of those attributes.

Dave from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Gentlemen, do you think before the season started the Packers front office/coaching staff expected more production from the tight end position? If so, did they believe the talent in that room was better than it was? Or did members of that room just underperform?

I know you guys won't like this answer, but I truly believe the Packers got the production they wanted from their tight ends. There weren't a ton of explosive plays, but that's never really been the tight end's primary M.O. during the Aaron Rodgers era. The Packers ask their tight ends to block, make clutch catches and be versatile. I believe the "need" of that position is centered on whether Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis return. If they come back, I feel like Green Bay has larger fish to fry in the needs department this offseason. If they don't, then the Packers have some decision to make with what type of investment they're willing to make into the position.

Dennis from Kenosha, WI

Hey guys, a question about tight ends. For years, I have watched certain tight ends run wild in the NFL. Rob Gronkowski, George Kittle, Mark Andrews and now T.J. Hockenson. Are these guys really that much better than the rest, including ours? Is it talent or scheme? What say you?

I remarked to Spoff on Sunday there are just so few elite tight ends in this league. It is a tough position to master, leading to a dearth of five-tool tight ends. What's more, the best ones often weren't drafted until the third round or later. There's no proven blueprint for identifying those game-changing tight ends, either. We may be 100-plus years into this thing, but it's still a mystery that hasn't fully been revealed.

Craig from Milwaukee, WI

Do you think Mason Crosby is back next year?

I don't know but I hope Packers fans appreciate what Crosby has done for this franchise. He's been a pillar of consistency for 16 years. That is not easy to do. You saw last night how quickly things can unravel for a kicker. Considering Crosby has never been voted to a Pro Bowl, I think an argument can be made for him being one of the most underrated kickers in NFL history. Stephen Gostkowski, who's the same age as Crosby, was a four-time All-Pro and hasn't kicked in two years.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Congratulations to Erin Roberge becoming the first female full-time athletic trainer for the Packers. It seems there could never be enough emphasis on injury prevention. Does each player pick their own training regimen or does the team assign their workouts? Is it mostly offseason conditioning, stretching, weights, yoga, diet or what? Thanks.

It's a constant conversation among the strength and conditioning staff, the medical team, and the player. There's obviously a baseline for how the player prepares his body. I'm reminded of all the work Tramon Williams did to preserve his body in his 30s. It seems like Jaire Alexander has developed a similar formula with yoga and meditation. When it comes to injuries, that's where the training staff is more involved in providing direction for the athlete and a plan for return to play.

Tom from Douglassville, PA

I don't see anyone stopping the 49ers from winning the Super Bowl. Your thoughts?

At this point, that's my pick. Kyle Shanahan has a brilliant scheme and Brock Purdy keeps playing like a first-round pick, but the defense makes the 49ers really dangerous. DeMeco Ryans has taken what Robert Saleh started and brought it to another level this year. That unit gives San Francisco a chance to beat anybody. It's tough to beat them for 60 minutes.

Dennis from Parrish, FL

To my eyes right now it looks like Montana Purdy and the 49ers are the leader in the clubhouse!

Which makes me wonder why I keep reading headlines about how the 49ers are expected to be interested in Tom Brady this offseason? Like, excuse me? John Lynch, are you not watching what's going on right now with your club?

Ben from Pensacola, FL

Sorry, Spoff, but I can't get behind you with the BUF/SF SB. I despise SF too much. But I don't really see the winner of DAL/TB being able to handle SF. Even if their defense can force Purdy into some mistakes, I just don't see either offense being able to do anything against SF's defense. I'm going with BUF/PHI, and as much as I have despised PHI in the past, I respect Hurts, their HC, and Kelce. Hoping for a BUF/PHI SB in which the Bills finally get their first Lombardi.

That Super Bowl is dependent on two variables – Jalen Hurts' shoulder and whether Josh Allen protects the football. I just think Cincinnati and Kansas City are too good for Buffalo to concede the turnover battle and still make it to Arizona.

John from Jupiter, FL

As far as the wild-card weekend. I think more attention needs to be paid to the New York Giants. This is a well-coached team that doesn't hurt themselves with a rising defense. Everything you need for a run. Thanks.

Congratulations to the Vikings on their 13 regular-season wins but the Giants were just better. I wouldn't even call that an upset. They had the better defense. They had the better pass rush. They had the better running back. They had the better offensive line. They just made more plays. Period. While Philadelphia swept the season series, the Giants are gonna be feeling themselves entering the third matchup.

Ken from Lebanon, TN

II friends, I watched the Vikings-Giants, giggle. Not chortling. Not prancing around the front room doing a happy dance. Just giggling. Every time I think about the game, I giggle. I know I should be more compassionate for a team that failed to advance in the first round, giggle. But I can't stop giggling. Does this make me a bad person, giggle? Can you help, giggle? Is there some therapy I can undertake, giggle? Giggle. Go Pack, giggle.

Giggle away. It's been a long year and you've earned that right.

Matt from Waterloo, IA

Greetings, growing up my family was always Packer fans first and foremost, but in the event the Packers either were eliminated from the playoffs are didn't make it, we oftentimes rooted for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as my dad always told us that Pittsburgh was the franchise most "like" the Packers, as they play in a smaller market, dedicated fans, and a lot of history. My question is, with the Packers not being in the playoffs, who should we root for?

If that's your family's mantra, then I'd be pulling for the Buffalo Bills if I were you. The Bills reflect those ideals the most and they also have been through the ringer since their 0-4 Super Bowl run 30 years ago. Buffalo is a small-market team with a devout fanbase. While Bills fans might be a little rowdier than Packers fans, their heart is in the same place.

Jocelyn from Oconomowoc, WI

With inconsistent and questionable officiating the last several seasons, will the NFL consider ways to improve the situation? Like make it a full-time gig, instead of a side hustle and include weekly performance reviews with meetings to review game film and have frank discussions about what they saw and why they called it? Getting the refs all on the same page, rules-wise, every week seems like a no-brainer. Do refs meet up between games for reviews? Does anything like this exist? Thanks!

I think the NFL is perfectly content with officiating being what it is. That's been my position since the aftermath of the 2018 NFC Championship Game between New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams. The league just wants/needs a winner and loser to move on to the next game. The rest is irrelevant.

Steve from Rockford, IL

Watched the 'Phins v. Buff game very closely, and was pleasantly surprised by how much the refs were letting go in regards to OL holding and DPI. My question is do the players talk during the game early to compare notes on where the line is being drawn for calls? Kinda like baseball hitters comparing notes on the opposing pitcher's stuff.

Players absolutely do that. I think back to the Miami game. It was pretty clear in the first half the officials were allowing the DBs to play physically against receivers and the Packers turned it up a notch in the second half. That's all part of the game. But when in doubt, just let them play. That's why I've always been a fan of Bill Vinovich and his crew.

Dylan from Quad Cities, WI

Is Dave Gettleman sleeping well these days, you think?

Gettleman made a lot of mistakes, too, but his 2019 NFL Draft helped set the Giants up for this playoff run. Whatever you think of Daniel Jones, he's clearly the best quarterback New York could've drafted that year and Dexter Lawrence is an absolute monster. In my opinion, Lawrence was the best player on the field Sunday afternoon. Darius Slayton and Julian Love have developed into good pros, as well.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

Saturday night, after Trevor Lawrence reached the ball across for the two-point conversion, I was wondering why every team doesn't run that play on the goal line. Sunday night, we saw what can happen if the defense sees it coming.

It also helps when your quarterback is 6-foot-6 with 10-inch hands.

Dave from Germantown, TN

Congrats to ex-Packer Doug Pederson on the Jaguars' big win. The Jags scored in the fourth quarter to make the score 30-26. Would you have gone for two in that situation like Pederson did? It turned out to be the game-winning move.

In all seriousness, Lawrence's size is useful in that situation. However, I was more impressed by how Pederson managed the end of that game. He was poised and attentive to his offense's needs. When it looked like LA was gonna sell out to stop the sneak, Pederson called timeout and dialed up a brilliant play call. For anyone who says coaches don't matter, just look at the turnaround in Jacksonville this year.

Mike from Hastings, MN

Did you happen to see Stephen A. Smith's comments about Rodgers' pre-Detroit game melancholy comments? Your thoughts?

Guys, believe me when I say this – I do not hear a single word any talking head says on TV. I'm way too busy to pay attention to anything these pundits "think."

Mike from New Orleans, LA

Do you ever foresee a team doing a fake PAT for the two-point conversion? It seems crazy, but the way the rules are now set, I'd imagine the defense is going into those scenarios with nothing but "block it" in their minds. If it fails everyone calls for the coach to be fired; if it works, they're the next coaching genius.

Never say never but that seems unlikely. The defense doesn't have much area to defend, allowing tacklers to stay close to the ball. I don't know if it's worth it to have Pat O'Donnell running a draw or trying to throw a pass when you have Aaron Rodgers or Aaron Jones available. Also further complicating matters is the fact the defense can run back a takeaway for two points now. It's just not worth the risk.

Graydon from Menomonie, WI

Is it strange not covering a playoff game(s) this season?

It is and it isn't. As much as I enjoy covering postseason football, I gotta admit that it was cool going to my son's little sports class on Saturday night. During a season in which I missed some seminal moments and holidays, it's cool to be a dad again on the weekends.

Insider Inbox

Insider Inbox

Join writers as they answer the fans' questions in Insider Inbox