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Inbox: It shows a team that could be on the verge

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Tristan from Durham, NC

Insiders, didn't you know we want to read what you write, as long as it sticks to specific topics, and only if you tell us exactly what we want to hear? What could be more reasonable than that?

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

Troy from Westminster, CO

To Peter in Milwaukee – Green Bay dominated Buffalo, Buffalo dominated Minnesota, Minnesota dominated the Jets, the Jets crushed Detroit, Detroit dominated New England, New England crushed the Dolphins, the Dolphins beat the Bears, the Bears throttled Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay beat the Saints and Philadelphia. It all makes sense to me.

Me, too. Anyone who tries to play the common-opponent game in the NFL is asking to go insane.

Elizabeth from Sylvania, OH

What typically is the explanation for a team whose statistics don't seem to match what you see with your eyes? After several games this season and for the season overall, I have felt what I was watching was much worse than what the statistics told me. Does that mean the Packers are just very often almost getting home in several phases of the game but not quite? Or I have a skewed expectation? Hopefully it’s the former and something will break free soon.

Fourth in yards per game on offense and eighth on defense shows a team that could be on the verge, but one that has rough edges it needs to smooth out in order to do what it takes to win consistently. Red-zone offense and big plays on defense are significant rough edges, among others, on both sides of the ball for the Packers right now.

Patrick from Paducah, KY

Reading responses about how our defense under Pettine shows a variety of packages/looks, it got me thinking. How does the communication work from play to play with multiple guys on the sideline when the defensive packages or scheme is changing from one down to the next? Obviously when it's just one guy running off for a breather, I am sure the next man up is looking for him and just goes. How do we go from say a short-yardage run stop unit to a nickel or dime package without confusion?

On offense and defense, personnel packages have names, such as “Jumbo” for short-yardage. When “Jumbo” is called out on the sideline, everyone involved in it needs to get on the field, and those who aren’t need to run off. If you’re someone’s backup for a particular package, you also have to be ready at any moment in case the regular player gets hurt or has an equipment problem. The actual play/scheme call comes into the player with the speaker helmet (QB or LB, generally) and then must get relayed to all personnel on the field.

Derek from Middleton, WI

A friendly reminder to the Chicken Littles that you can make the playoffs by winning the division, regardless of how many wins you have. The Packers are a half game back due to the bye.

I will continue to believe no one is running away with the NFC North.

Brett from Lakewood, CO

With the division race as tight as it is, I find it interesting that, this far into the season, the Packers have already played each team in the division once, while none of the other teams have played each other yet. They all still need to beat up on each other quite a bit.

I will continue to believe no one is running away with the NFC North.

Robert from Dresden, Germany

Currently, no team in the NFC North has a losing record. Has there ever been a division at the end of the regular season where no team was worse than .500?

It hasn’t happened for a decade. Since the current alignment was instituted in 2002, it’s happened six times, but strangely only three different years. The 2002 AFC East and AFC West, the 2007 NFC East and AFC South, and the 2008 NFC East and NFC South all had last-place teams with 8-8 records.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Regarding your response to Jake from Franklin, WI, it is also interesting to note that going into that game against 5-0 Houston AR12 was noticed as having great difficulty throwing against cover-two shells and zones. While the Texans’ defense was great, it played the opposite style using man coverage with blitzing which AR12 had played well against earlier that year. Houston stayed with its philosophy. The HC for Texans was Wade Phillips, now DC for Rams. Interested to see if he changes.

As Swami from Menomonee Falls, WI, pointed out, Phillips was also the DC for the Broncos in 2015 when the 6-0 Packers got stymied in Denver in prime time. For the most part, coaches are going to focus on what their players do best. For the Packers’ offense, this game is about Donald, Suh, Peters, Johnson, etc., not Phillips.

Bob from Sydney, Australia

To my untrained eye, distance to go on third down seems to be longer compared to recent years. Are there stats on distance on third down? How does this year compare to recent years?

I don’t have that list in front of me, but Rodgers mentioned on Tuesday the Packers have faced third-and-11-plus a total of 22 times so far, and half of those have been 15-plus. That’s an extraordinary number of third-and-longs through six games.

Jason from Austin, TX

I wonder if home games in the ’90s had more of an advantage than home games today. The Packers were dominant in the ’90s, but reselling your ticket was near impossible. You either went to the game or you ate the cost of the ticket. If you moved out of state, you would most likely stop being a season-ticket holder. Today, it's much easier to resell your ticket regardless of location. I've been seeing a lot of jerseys that aren't green and gold if you know what I mean.

The league wasn’t really the same, either. From 1995-97, of the 18 total playoff spots in the NFC, 14 were occupied by teams that made the playoffs more than once in that three-year stretch (Green Bay 3, San Francisco 3, Dallas 2, Philly 2, Minnesota 2, Detroit 2). In the last three years in the NFC, for comparison’s sake, it’s only 10 of the 18 spots, with no one making it all three years, and five teams going twice (Green Bay, Minnesota, Carolina, Atlanta, Seattle).

Chris from Smyrna, DE

I find it amusing how our favorite vagabond changes the spelling of her name as she drifts from town to town.

She’s keeping us on our toes.

Giorgio from Atlanta, GA

Don’t call me Sergio.

You saved the Falcons’ season for the time being, old pal.

Dan from Toledo, OH

The Raiders may not be any good this year, but man oh man will they be good 2-3 years from now if they can hit on those three first-rounders. Have you ever seen a team in such blatant sell mode before?

I can’t recall one. They have five first-rounders now over the next two years, right? I can’t help wondering what Jordy Nelson thinks. With the clock ticking on his career, I’m sure a full-scale rebuild wasn’t what he had in mind when he signed there.

Howie from Saint Ignace, MI

Have any players earned an A grade for their cumulative performance on the field through the first seven games?

No, because the Packers have played only six games. But to answer your question anyway, even though Wes was the one who used to hand out grades at the Press-Gazette, I think Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari and Davante Adams would garner consideration for A grades thus far.

Gilbert from Galt, CA

Insiders, I have noticed that whenever it is third/fourth-and-1, a lot of offenses will have the QB stick his arm out then quickly pull it back (with the ball) getting enough to gain the first because of forward progression. We recently saw this in the Saints vs. Ravens game. How are defenses trying to stop this play? Is punching at the ball allowed and if so why haven't we seen many defenses try it? I don't see this play going away until a defense can prove they can stop it. How can they?

You can certainly try to punch the ball out. The QB is taking a risk exposing it in that way. The problem is in order to be in position to react to the exposed ball, defenders would need to attack high at the snap, which leaves them vulnerable to a regular QB sneak or rushing play. They’ll get knocked straight back and provide no resistance. It's a no-win situation for the defense. I personally think a ball-carrier who pulls the ball back voluntarily shouldn’t get the forward progress. On the goal line, yes, because once the plane is broken it’s a touchdown. But the first-down line shouldn’t be treated the same way, and in these cases it often is, which I think is misguided.

Steve from Broadstairs, England

Do you think the Rams have the best offense in the league right now?

I don’t think there’s much to distinguish right now amongst the Chiefs (37.1 ppg), Saints (34.0) and Rams (33.6). They can all score a bunch.

John from San Diego, CA

Good morning, gentlemen. Last week I noticed an error listed on the Dope Sheet. It stated this will be the first trip for the Packers to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum since 1978. They played the L.A. Raiders there in 1990. It was the first time I saw the Packers play in person. I was 28 years old then. I've seen them play in person 15 times all together and have never seen them lose. If only the oddsmakers in Vegas knew. So the Packers have that going for them.

Which is nice. This week’s Dope Sheet corrected the error to state the Packers haven’t played the Rams at the Coliseum since ’78. The team’s history in that venue is actually rather interesting. I’m going to look more into it later this week.

Nick from Chicago, IL

For the Packers to set the tone on Sunday will come on the first two defensive plays. The Rams will pound the ball with Gurley, then throw one downfield to test the Packers’ ability on big plays. If you can stuff those two plays to start the game, I'm all in for a win.

You make it sound so easy.

Aaron from Tomah, WI

Watching the Chiefs-Bengals game Sunday night, I heard Cris Collinsworth say Arrowhead and Lambeau were the two stadiums in the NFL that most resembled a college football atmosphere. Do you agree with this? I assume the bleacher seats and UW-Green Bay cheerleaders had something to do with that statement.

Arrowhead doesn’t have bleachers, and I certainly don’t think cheerleaders are a factor either way. I think a lot of it is the no-frills look of the stadiums from the inside once they’re full. The video boards don’t dominate the view, and there aren’t other electronic ribbons that distract the eye, or massive pyrotechnics and inflatable mascots during pregame introductions that create a spectacle. The focus is on the fans and the players, as it should be. The tailgating scene at both venues is also a factor. When we were in Kansas City for the preseason game this summer, there was talk of a new regulation preventing people from coming to tailgate at Arrowhead without tickets to the game, because the parking lots were getting unmanageable. I found that rather fascinating.

Al from Green Bay, WI

"Every team has weaknesses. That's the reality of the salary cap era." (That's what I recall reading from the Insiders earlier this year.) If this is still true, what are the weaknesses of this Rams team? What can McCarthy, Rodgers, and company do to exploit them?

Going through all the stats, Goff has thrown five picks, and the Rams’ defense is in the bottom third of the league on third downs and in yards allowed per rush. Those are the outliers for an undefeated team. Sounds like the Packers need to run the ball, stay in manageable down-and-distance, and force a mistake or two by Goff.

Joe from Asbury, IA

For once all the pressure is on the Packers’ opponent. Hopefully the Pack can just play loose and pull a rabbit out of their hat. The Packers win in LA if _?

I thought the new thing was Rodgers “pulling a rabbit out of his head.” C’mon, you know there are no spoilers for Final Thoughts. The daily rotation with Wes resumes tomorrow, so ease him back in, everybody.

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