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Inbox: Make it as uncomfortable as possible

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Erik from Omaha, NE

I know the cheese curd debate has probably run its course, but I think Wes really nailed the tipping point on Saturday. Fried curds have a much wider quality delta, in which the best ones you have are extremely good, and the bad ones are so bad they can ruin your ability to enjoy cheese for the better part of a decade. Fresh squeaky curds are pretty much always enjoyable, with a stable baseline of above-average quality. So if I'm going in blind, I'm going to take fresh every time.

That was a perfect response, Erik. Take a bow. Good morning!

Rusty from Eustace, TX

From the video that was posted, the "Smith Brothers" appreciate the defensive coaches’ approach to how the defense should work. What a refreshing look and result. These guys are professionals and know their art. The coaches obviously highlight what they need to focus on week to week; so what's their focus this week?

Make it as uncomfortable as possible for Matthew Stafford to do his job tonight and get some takeaways. The Packers haven’t done enough of generating pressure and turnovers from Stafford the past two years and he’s made them pay for it. Pass rushing is more than just sacks – it’s how frequently the front affects the quarterback. That’s where I feel the defense is vastly improved this season.

Rick from Racine, WI

What do you see will be the biggest challenge for the Packers’ defense when playing the Lions?

Keeping Detroit’s passing game in check. Kenny Golladay is a superstar-in-the-making. He’s a game-changer and Marvin Jones has had a lot of success against the Packers since signing with the Lions in 2016. Mike Pettine is going to have to be creative with how he uses his defensive backs without Darnell Savage.

James from Racine, WI

Will Jimmy Graham make it through the season?

Absolutely. Graham doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for his toughness. He’s played in all 16 regular-season games in five of his last six seasons. The Packers also have a solid practice plan to keep him fresh during the week.

Rachel from Chicago, IL

Assuming the Packers win on Monday night, do they pretty much have the season locked in the NFC North? I know anything can happen, but still, it seems pretty certain with a win on Monday, right?

Not at all, but 3-0 is a good start. The Packers take a two-month break from division games after tonight, making those three consecutive NFC North matchups to close the season essential to a successful regular season.

Drew from Rogers City, MI

You can't argue the fact that AR12 looked great against Dallas. He looked comfortable, his mobility was back and on display and he was throwing the ball with confidence. Is this attributed to his ever-growing comfort in Coach Matt's offense?

Sure, but I think it’s mostly settling into a new year. I thought David Bakhtiari made some smart and insightful comments this week about the offense, as a whole. Training camp and preseason are simulations. They’re not real snaps. You need real games to get back into a groove. I think that’s what Aaron Rodgers and the offense are doing right now.

Fred from La Crosse, WI

I’m partial to fresh cheese curds. I remember “squeaky cheese” from the factory that took our milk when growing up. I didn’t know what a curd was until older having some deep fried, which I found are usually cut pieces of cheese, not curds. The Lions play the Packers tough. What factors have led the Lions to their more recent success against the Packers?

I don’t want to diminish Detroit’s winning streak over the Packers, but I don’t think it reaches four straight if Rodgers plays in three of the four games rather than the other way around. It’s a new year and a new day.

Eric from Ft. Worth, TX

Did I read correctly that the Packers were not intentionally direct snapping the ball to Aaron Jones? Well, if that is not in the playbook I sure would like to see it added.

Good things happen when the Packers put the ball in Jones’ hands…even if it wasn’t supposed to happen that way.

Eric from Stevens Point, WI

I know there is no such thing as a bad win. But is there such thing as a good loss? I just feel as I said the Dallas game will be a turning point when we look back. The Philly game gave our defense the bloody lip it needed.

Great question. Absolutely. The loss in New Orleans back in 2014 changed the course of the season for the Packers. It led to Clay Matthews moving to inside linebacker and solidifying the defense. It was the wake-up call the team needed. I don’t put this year’s Eagles game in that same category but it showed the Packers’ defense it wasn’t invincible. There are benefits to having a reality check early in a season.

Gary from Wrightwood, CA

As much as I love Aaron Jones and his superior running skills, I would still like to see fans recognize, and give credit to ML, his staff and the Packers’ offensive line for their ever-evolving blocking schemes and execution. It is really exciting to see the development each week. But alas, the dirty work in the trenches seems to always go unnoticed.

Absolutely. The Packers have a good thing going right now with their starting five if they can keep that unit healthy.

Miranda from Rochester, NY

Would you rather see a win ending with another crazy Hail Mary or a blowout win? As exhilarating as a close win in the final seconds is, I think this team finally needs to handout a beat down. I miss those 50 point games of old.

Blowout, but I’m the bird-in-the-hand type. I get why fans love the Hail Mary…if their teams win. Selfishly, it’s also easier from a coverage standpoint to have a blowout.

Richard from Menasha, WI

One of the keys to victory against Detroit will be the defense keeping its foot on the gas late in the game. Do you think we will see more snaps from Rashan Gary and Kyler Fackrell to keep the Smiths fresh?

Fackrell (111 snaps) and Gary (89 snaps) have been fairly even in terms of snaps. Both guys rotated in quite a bit in Dallas (Fackrell 28, Gary 22).

Jon from West Des Moines, IA

So what is it like for a player like Tim Williams coming to the team at this point of the season? Has he been participating in practice, or just watching and learning the system and playbook? Do you expect Williams to contribute to the defense or mainly special teams? Also when can we expect to see him in live action? Thanks!

I view Williams like a Rule 5 pick in baseball. I don’t know how much of an impact he’ll make in 2019 (at least on defense) but Williams is a legitimate prospect worth investing in. Mike Smith said he’s very raw. Williams’ job right now is to catch up as quickly as he can on the playbook, listen in the meetings and keep practicing what he’s learned.

The Green Bay Packers held practice outside on Clarke Hinkle Field on Saturday in preparation for their Monday night matchup with the Detroit Lions.

Matthias from Colgate, WI

The Patriots have had a knack over the years to use players both ways, Mike Vrabel and a wide receiver/cornerback that escapes me at the moment. The last Packers to have played snaps on both sides of the ball for planned snaps are Spencer Havner and T.J. Lang. Among the roster today, who is more likely to play both ways?

The Patriot you couldn’t think of was Troy Brown. I would say Tremon Smith has the best skill set to be a good two-way player. He’s listed as a cornerback but Kansas City toyed with the idea of having him play receiver earlier this summer.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

How much game-planning do assistance coaches do, or is that left mostly to the coordinators and LaFleur?

All the coaches are involved in it. LaFleur obviously has final say but every assistant coach’s voice is heard. Each coach has an area of expertise he specializes in. LaFleur and Mike Pettine weigh it all to make their decisions.

Tom from Douglassville, PA

Besides Kansas City which game left on the schedule are you worried about the most?

That San Francisco game is looking tougher and tougher by the week.

Murphy from Salt Lake City, UT

Glad Oren Burks is back. Any update on Equanimeous St. Brown?

St. Brown’s 2019 season is over. He’s not eligible to return because the Packers didn’t carry him on the initial 53-man roster. E.Q. is still around the building, though. It looks like his rehab is going well.

Travis from Bruce, SD

I just watched a fair-catch/free-kick try with no rush in this crazy overseas game in London. I’ve never seen it or heard of it. Man and I thought I was a hardcore NFL fan. Please explain.

If a player successfully makes a fair catch on a punt, the team can attempt a kick from the spot of the catch. Mason Crosby came close in 2008 but just missed the crossbar from 69 yards. Former Chargers kicker Ray Wersching was the last to successfully convert a free kick on a 45-yard field goal on Nov. 21, 1976.

Jack from Indianapolis, IN

I hope you can clarify some confusion for me. What’s the difference between Aaron Jones’ wave to the defender and Tyreek Hill “chucking up the deuces”? As far as I know Hill has never been fined for his signature pre-score celebration.

Much like Aaron Jones’ wave, I’m guessing the refs didn’t see it. We’ll see what the league says later this week.

Dave from Bentonville, AR

Insiders, do you know how the term “play-action” came to be used in describing what is essentially a fake handoff?

I believe the phrase grew in popularity in the 1960s. It’s derived from the idea of “run-play” action. Every sport is based on forms of misdirection and feints. Play-action serves that purpose in the game of football.

Jeanne from Holliston, MA

I'm surprised by Wes's response to Daniel from Johnston, IA. Whatever you want to call it, waving at the defender is not something I want to see from a team I've always considered a "class act." Next, we will see high school football players emulating these "role models." And pro players will feel free to push the envelope and try something a bit more unsportsmanlike. Where is the line? My feeling: Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile. No thanks. Kudos to the NFL for getting it right.

If you heard the things the Cowboys players were saying to Jones throughout the game, then maybe you’d feel differently. Or maybe you wouldn’t. Or maybe I don’t care.

Brian from Rochester, MN

I’ve always felt two things were unfair about fines. 1) Defensive players are far more likely to incur them and 2) Charging a flat amount seems outrageous when you consider the huge disparity in pay between, say, AR12 and an undrafted rookie. One consideration to fix this might be to charge the team and let them regulate it. Would coach’s pressure help minimize situations like Vontaze Burfict? Maybe violent and unsportsmanlike fines could count against the cap? How would you fix it?

It’s time the NFL and NFLPA revisit the fine process, for many of the reasons you already outlined. I also want to mention Derek Barnett was only fined $5,000 more for his hellacious hit on Jamaal Williams than what Kenny Clark was fined for bumping into Carson Wentz. That’s ridiculous.

Rich from Duluth, MN

When a player gets fined by the NFL, where does the money go? If it goes to charity, do the players get to choose which one?

The money goes to benefit programs for former players through the NFL Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw Players Association's Players Assistance Trust.

John from Yorba Linda, CA

Would Mike McCarthy be a good fit in Atlanta? Looks inevitable Quinn won't last much longer. Do you think McCarthy would be interested in going to Atlanta?

I’m not sure what McCarthy is looking for in his next NFL job, but there are quite a few teams out there that could use a coach like him. McCarthy has been successful in this league, he’s organized and knows how to build a team.

Dick from Albany, NY

Kickoff idea: Only at the start of each half, and it has to land in front of the goal line. No touchbacks. Move the kicking team back a bit as well. After touchdowns and field goals just start at the 20 (or 25). This way we get rid of boring touchbacks and ensure two exciting returns. Thoughts?

No. The NFL isn’t concerned about how exciting kickoffs are. The game, itself, is exciting. It doesn’t need a dangerous play to sell tickets. I take issue with a lot of things the league does – the changes it’s made to kickoffs aren’t on the list.

Joe from Las Vegas, NV

Hi, why do people think college players play for free? How much did your college education cost? Do you think California's new rule will undermine the NCAA and cause a larger than normal amount of athletes to go to California's colleges?

I think it’s starting a conversation that’s long overdue. 

Jeff from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Responding to Wes: I have never seen “Hunger Games,” for the same reason I have never read “1984.” We have had between 40-60 centimeters of snow over the past three days and have a football game this afternoon. I find snow games beautiful and the flag from the sky could add to it.

You’re missing out. The books are excellent. Good luck with the snow. Do me a favor and hold onto it for a couple more months before shipping this way, all right?

Lori from Heredia, Costa Rica

Wes, cold cheese curds right out of the fridge hardly squeak. Even older cheese curds will get their squeak back if you leave them on the counter to come to room temperature.

Not the same. I can tell.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

A chilly October night at Lambeau Field with the smell of brats in the air!

Ah, yes. A warm pumpkin spice brat resting in a freshly made bun. It doesn’t get better than that. Enjoy the ball game, folks.

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