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The formula is as clear as it’s ever been


Jeff from Cedar Rapids, IA


Is it me you're looking for?

Chris from Milwaukee, WI

Wes has now progressed in the "Unscripted" introductions from trusted colleague/partner in crime to "the one, the only" (which is apt, as there aren't a lot of guys named Weston around). At some point, does he advance to "the Man, the Myth, the Legend"?

All in due time.

Michael from Baraboo, WI

What are the keys to victory this weekend?

Protect the football and be the better team in the fourth quarter. To win this one, the formula is as clear as it's ever been.

Jonathan from Nashville, TN

Who is the team MVP so far this season?

John from Stevens Point, WI

Which of the Packers' young DBs has made the most progress in your opinion?

There's no denying Carrington Valentine's progress since arriving as a seventh-round draft pick this spring, but I think the most improved DB on the team has been Rudy Ford. He's not young (29) but he has come into his own as an NFL starter this season and I think he's still got more to show if he can stay healthy.

Scott from Noblesville, IN

I'm not certain which made/makes me more concerned – Larry's lauding our "no lost fumbles" a couple of weeks back or Wes's lauding our sudden run of good run defense.

I've tried to balance it out this week by bringing up, both in this column and on "Unscripted," Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell's outstanding season thus far, with just one missed kick (from 61 yards at that).

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Luke "Hollywood" Musgrave. Works for me. You?

I like it as the name of the play better, and it hit me the other day why they named it "Hollywood." Some guys are acting like it's a screen left, others are acting like it's a screen right, Luke Musgrave is acting like he's only going to block. Lots of acting, so the name makes sense.

Jerry from Rockford, IL

Good morning, Mike, and all the Insiders who have joined us today. Have you fixed the squeaky wheel on your walker? Pretty sure I saw a "get off my lawn" sign in the Inbox! Thanks for all everyone does here. Now just beat the Steelers. Only team to have a logo on only one side of the helmet. So I have been told.

The supposedly official story about the logo being on just one side of the helmet says the team was experimenting with the logo at first, wanting to see how it looked and how fans reacted to it, and the response was so positive they just left well enough alone. In the world according to our old friend and Pittsburgh scribe Vic, when Mr. Rooney was shown the logo as a prototype, he liked it and said something to the effect of, "Looks good. How many players on the roster? 36? OK, print me 36 of those." And then the backstory was changed to cover up for the owner's obvious oversight. What's the truth? Only the shadow knows.

David from Goldsboro, NC

Personally, I love watching a slugfest. Ground and pound and wear the defense down. But you also need a deep shot now and then, too. I know every play is different. Timing, pass rush, coverage, and routes all play their part. With regards to JL10's underthrown deep balls I was wondering if that's something you see in practice as well? If so, have you noticed any improvement?

We don't get to watch 11-on-11 reps during the regular season, so I can't speak to how Jordan Love's deep balls have looked in practice. I fully acknowledge it's an area in which Love needs to improve, but I wish people would realize how difficult those passes are to get right on target even for accomplished passers in this league. Did anyone else see Joe Burrow's underthrown deep ball last Sunday night on which Ja'Marr Chase hurt his back because he was forced to attempt an awkward catch on the underthrow and injured himself with a painful landing? It's not easy, folks. I can only imagine with this current obsession over the deep ball narrative what the reaction would be if something similar to last week's Bengals game were to occur here.

James from Appleton, WI

I hope Jaire Alexander can play Sunday, so the Packers' corners can make sure it's slim pickings for the Steelers receivers. Pittsburgh's running backs can catch the ball, too, and that's where I want the safeties to hang out.

Alexander's status for Sunday's game is incredibly significant following the Douglas trade. The Packers will have to really dig into their corner depth if he's not available, and I think it would change completely how the Packers match up with the Steelers' perimeter weapons.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Green Bay and Pittsburgh have both been better in the second half of games this year. Crunch time is critical, but does it seem more important than ever for the Packers to generate some points before halftime?

I fully expect this game to come down to crunch time, and that's where it'll be won or lost. But you don't want to fall behind these guys, either, because a turnover-generating defense can really thrive when playing with a lead.

Mark from Amarillo, TX

Regarding the "Brotherly Shove" play, seems like the simple solution would be to make it illegal for any eligible receiver to assist the runner. If a team can figure out how to pull a guard or tackle to assist, then more power to them. I do have question regarding the penalty. If the wrong number is called out by the referee for whom the penalty is assessed against, how is the "official" offender identified?

Your suggestion on the worst play in football might have some merit. I need to ponder that more. Regarding penalty offenders, if the official statisticians in the press box catch via replay or otherwise that the referee announced the wrong number, they'll correct it in the official play-by-play booklet. Last week's printout has the first offensive offside on Jon Runyan even though the referee announced Yosh Nijman's number.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

In WYMM, I'm curious if you see a lot of your breakdown in real time. Has the game slowed down for you over the years, like it does for a veteran player? I know for me, I still need slow-mo to see so much of it.

Watching games from the press box, it's difficult to pick up on a lot of detail, and I'm so zoned in on the live blog that I miss a lot of the TV replays. I'll make a mental note of wanting to take a close look at a certain play on film to see what exactly happened. Sometimes I have an idea, but I rarely know for sure until Monday morning.

Scott from Las Vegas, NV

Guys, earlier in the season it seems as though Josh Myers was getting a lot of criticism for his performance. In Spoff’s WYMM there was a lot of praise for his performance in the game against the Rams. Do you see a noticeable improvement is his ability and technique as the season has progressed?

To my untrained eye, I think Myers has been playing more consistently and reliably. His game is smoothing out, which has been the source of the praise we've heard from coaches lately.

Elliot from Newport, MN

Hey II, thanks for always keeping us fans levelheaded! My question is; how much notice needs to be given by the NFL to make a scheduling change? I have a hunch the Pack vs. Giants game may be flexed out. Thanks again!

Here are the procedures regarding flex scheduling this year, taken right from the league website:

  • For Sunday Night Football in Weeks 5-13 and for Monday Night Football in Weeks 12-17, the NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN) and announce no later than 12 days in advance of the game, which game will be played on Sunday night and which game will be played on Monday night.
  • For Sunday Night Football in Weeks 14-17, the flexible scheduling decision will generally be made no later than 6 days prior to the game.
  • For Thursday Night Football in Weeks 13-17, the flexible scheduling decision will be made no later than 28 days prior to the game.
  • For Week 18, the final weekend of the season, the scheduling of the Saturday, Sunday afternoon, and the Sunday night games is not assigned. The schedule for Week 18 will be announced no later than six days prior to that week's Saturday game (January 6, 2024).

Mike from Stevens Point, WI

Hello gentlemen, I'm curious as to when was the last time we had 10 players from the most recent draft play in a game? Is this as rare as it seems?

I don't have any lists in front of me, but it does seem rather rare, yes. Particularly having nine play from scrimmage on either offense or defense, and not just special teams.

Chris from South Bend, IN

I know this can be a complex game at times and things move much faster in the NFL than college, but the best players in the world shouldn't make pre-snap mistakes or be unclear about their assignments. I hate to be critical, but isn't this a reflection on the coaching?! Teach, drill, correct, drill again, review film, drill again, etc. A player can have all the talent in the world, but if they can't do what they're supposed to they are a liability. Those who don't get it need to sit.

Pre-snap penalties and assignment miscues are two different worlds in my view. The former is a focus and concentration issue, plain and simple. You can drill different snap counts and cadences all you want, but if in the moment the player loses focus, that's how those infractions occur. With assignments, though, what makes the NFL a much faster and more complicated game is that a player's assignment (whether it be for blocking, running a route, filling a gap on defense, executing a coverage, etc.) can change before and/or after the snap. The pro game features constant on-the-fly adjustments players must make based on the opposition's alignments and post-snap movements. It's never as simple as breaking the huddle and saying, "On this play call, this is what I do. OK, just go do it." That's not how the game is played at this level. That's why the only way to learn the pro game is to play in real live contests, because the speed of the action and mental adjustments can't fully be replicated in any other setting.

Zak from Huntington Beach, CA

Do the Stillers (I grew up in PA and that's the correct phonetic pronunciation) move Watt around on the defensive front very much? I haven't watched any of their games this year, but I seem to recall him always lining up on the defensive left side. Assuming Zach Tom gets the start at RT, how does he typically fare against the speed rush? Should we expect to see a lot of TE/HB help on that side during this game?

The Steelers will flip sides with Watt and Highsmith, but only occasionally. The Packers will have to pick their spots where and when to give help. The Steelers also like to dial up a blitz look that can occupy the potential help and leave their playmakers one-on-one on the outside. That's the cat-and-mouse game, and when the help can't be provided, Love and the receivers have to know the ball must come out.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Mike, Wednesdays must be interesting for you with II and then your chat. Do you feel as if you have a pretty good handle on the collective sentiment of fans at the end of the day? Has there been any fan feedback that has surprised you this season?

Nothing really surprises me anymore, but one thing I truly don't get is this segment of the fan base – and I stress segment – that insists on nitpicking every little thing about Love's performances that isn't perfect. The sentiment I sense is a desire for the Packers to decide he's not the guy already and move on, like, yesterday. Disappointment and frustration with the results so far, I understand. Even impatience to some degree. But I utterly fail to understand the rush to judgment.

Ryan from Carmel, IN

That Brett Hundley game brings back rich memories. My 5-year-old son did his best to stay awake. Had we pulled it off, I would have tossed him in the air mid-snooze! He was crushed we didn't pull it off the next morning. Worth staying up, though.

For all the Packers' lack of success in Pittsburgh, the games have been nothing short of wildly entertaining. I'm going to delve into more of the details in my One Last Look column on Saturday, for those who want to take the trip down memory lane with me.

Joseph from Sioux Falls, SD

Mike, do you watch "Suits," the TV show? They are always quoting movie lines and I never get the references, but I imagine you would get a kick out of it.

I watched "Suits" start to finish before it ever hit Netflix. Outstanding show, and yeah, all the movie lines are a real treat. I can't say I caught them all, either, but I knew my fair share.

Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

So, we're on a mission from God, and we need to stop sniffing the glue? GPG

Something like that. Happy Friday.

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