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Inbox: Neither team is going to blink

What’s most crucial is the collective

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Packers at 49ers Week 3 matchup

Jeremy from Evansville, IN

Can you recall a season with eight teams as strong as the eight we have remaining? I see eight legitimate contenders. Any one of them are more than capable of winning three more games. Best of the best.

No one's a Cinderella story this year … here nor at Augusta.

Steve from Wauwatosa, WI

Given how I am feeling, I imagine you and Mike are dealing with waves of trepidatious Packer fans with how the Niners looked vs. the Boyz. How are you both staying so positive?

Probably because I don't ever recall waiting through a playoff bye in this chair ('07, '14, '19, '20, '21), seeing whom the Packers will face and thinking, "Wow, they looked like crap winning that wild-card game. This oughta be a piece of cake." Regardless, not embracing the challenge is the first step toward failing to meet it.

Steve from Ankeny, IA

Could we please just drive the ball down the field for a touchdown on our first possession this weekend. Please!

My hope is with Rodgers now back in practice on a regular basis, the chances of the offense starting fast will go up.

Sal from Hailey, ID

My version of "Three Things" for Saturday: contain Deebo, pressure Jimmy G, and capitalize on those errant throws with some picks! If you had to pick three points of emphasis for the offense, what would they be?

Protect the ball, protect Aaron Rodgers, protect … um, I mean, stay balanced.

Ian from Sherman Oaks, CA

Let's take a different perspective on this and pretend you're writing for the Niners. What are the keys to victory for the Niners beating the Packers?

Protect the ball, pound the run, prevent explosive plays.

Peter from Chippewa Falls, WI

Joe Barry has to know that SF will want to run, run and run some more. Running the ball keeps the clock moving and out of the hands of Aaron Rodgers. Running also limits the mistakes of turnover prone Jimmy G. If Jimmy G has the game of his life and outduels Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau in a playoff game, so be it.

I expect the 49ers' persistence with the running game to be, well … persistent, even if the Packers get off to the fast start everyone's hoping for.

Landon from Coeur D'Alene, ID

Since not drafting Aaron Rodgers, SF has made four NFC title games and two Super Bowls while going undefeated against GB in the playoffs. Rodgers said he was going to make SF regret not drafting him but it seems SF has done just fine. Fair or unfair?

I take nothing away from their accomplishments, but if you'd asked that question a few years ago when the 49ers were in the midst of their fourth straight season with double-digit losses, the perspective shifts. Green Bay has had one season of double-digit losses since Rodgers took the reins, none since his first under center.

Patrick from Folly Beach, SC

Will Matt really test the readiness of Ja by making him run into a concrete wall?

Ha. That answer was an indication LaFleur is pretty loose this week, which is good to see.

John from New York, NY

I'm sure the Niners will blitz a lot and shade a safety over to double Davante Adams. Can we dink and dunk on them all night with short passes or passes to the flat in those scenarios? How would you attack those situations?

I don't see the 49ers blitzing much. That's what makes their front so good, because they don't have to. To your other point, how the 49ers decide to cover Adams will have a domino effect on how LaFleur and Rodgers attack that defense. In Week 3, Rodgers targeted 18 of his 33 passes for Adams, who caught 12 for 132 yards and a TD. I'm sure San Francisco will throw coverage change-ups, but by this point Rodgers and Adams have seen all the possibilities.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Any news on Marquez Valdes-Scantling's status yet?

He returned to practice Tuesday.

Rich from El Cerrito, CA

I think it is key for the Pack to get both MVS and Randall Cobb back for the playoffs – they both present very different challenges for a defense. Randall is the security blanket for Aaron Rodgers, and MVS provides a deep threat that other teams have to account for. I think MVS could have a huge game against the 49ers. The 49ers have a weak secondary and will have to double Davante. That creates a lot of opportunity for other receivers. Do you see MVS or Cobb as more crucial down the stretch?

I want to see Rodgers with all his options in front of him and let him go to work. Whether the No. 2 production-wise ends up being Allen Lazard, Cobb or MVS, what's most crucial is the collective.

Dave from Germantown, TN

What is your prediction, will Robbie Gould miss his first playoff field goal this Saturday? What is Mason Crosby's playoff record?

That's an underrated secondary storyline to this game – two of the best cold-weather kickers to ever do it. Crosby's playoff record is 56 yards, five years ago in Dallas. His playoff long at Lambeau is 47. Only one Packers kicker has ever made one from 50-plus in the playoffs at Lambeau – Chris Jacke from 51 in the '94 wild-card contest (the Barry Sanders shutdown game). Kickoff temp that day was 33.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Best moment from the Packers-Niners playoff rivalry?

San Francisco's first snap of the first game, right? Wayne Simmons with the hit, Craig Newsome with the scoop-and-score, and the mid-'90s Packers put the league on notice.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

I only have one good Packers vs. 49ers playoff memory: Desmond Howard running through the muck in a sparkling clean jersey being chased by white jerseys that were actually brown. The rest of my memories I would prefer not to dredge up.

For the record, that was the first Packers game I ever covered as a sports reporter.

Sal from Mullica Hill, NJ

Is there a great amount of worry in the Inbox about playing the Niners? They seem like a team with nine playoff lives, with close win at the Bengals, then an unlikely comeback at the Rams and a wild finish at Dallas.

I never know during hot streaks like these with down-to-the-wire finishes if a team just has it rolling, or if eventually its number will be up. What I do know is the 49ers have been tested in crunch time plenty, just like the Packers, and neither team is going to blink late in the fourth quarter Saturday night.

Robert from Harris, MN

Shouldn't Deebo Samuel be wearing No. 88? I'll see myself out.

Please do. But no matter the jersey number, the reason the 49ers use Samuel in so many different ways is more the issue than the versatility itself. He's really hard to tackle.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

The 49ers led the league this season in red-zone TDs at 67%. The Packers started the season by giving up TDs 15 straight times in the red zone. Since that streak ended what are the numbers for the opponents in the red zone against the Packers' defense? One other thought for this game. Stop the run, total commitment. Agree?

Since that early red-zone streak, the Packers have allowed 18 touchdowns in 35 opponent trips inside the 20, just over 50%. They've also allowed 10 field goals and not allowed a score seven times.

Paul from LaPorte, IN

I thought I heard the NFL brought the highest-graded refs in to work the playoffs? If that's the best of the best, yikes.

The divisional round will have a different quartet of head referees from the six who worked the wild-card games. Ron Torbert has been assigned to Saturday night's game here. The Packers had Torbert twice this season, both at home, vs. Washington and Chicago. For what it's worth, Torbert's regular-season crew (playoff crews are assembled based on individual evaluations) called the second-fewest penalties of any crew in 2021. Only Bill Vinovich's crew called fewer.

Mike from Algoma, WI

I know it's too much to ask, but let me just say those wild-card games would've been a lot better to watch if you were doing your blog.

I appreciate the sentiment, but even the ManningCast struggled to make Monday night's game entertaining, so I don't think I'd have been much help.

Troy from Westminster, CO

I think the people harping on the poor 7 seed showings forget the final week of the regular season mattered more than it has in a long time because there was a 7 seed on the line.

But under the old system, two more first-round byes would have been on the line, too.

Cindy from Oshkosh, WI

Do you think the blowouts this weekend validates the opinion that expanding the playoffs will water down the product? At least on wild-card weekend...

It's all part of the unpredictability of the game. As much as I didn't want to see the playoff structure change, and still don't like it, one of these years we'll have a bunch of wild-card thrillers. It's bound to happen.

Don from Troy, MI

Given the way the Niners have been playing of late, I have a feeling the Lambeau crowd is going to need to be the difference-maker Saturday night.

Hopefully Packers fans selling their tickets sell them to the right people.

Dan from Edgerton, WI

Garoppolo looked sharp. Now we will see how the cold affects his finger. Could be the difference-maker.

The news on the sprained throwing shoulder to go with the hand injury certainly is interesting given the conditions pending Saturday night. As I said last week, if the weather affects just a play (or player) here or there, it could matter.

Connor from Minnetonka, MN

How much of an impact will Bosa and Warner have on the game compared to their usual selves?

No way to know. You prepare for their best.

Skyler from Green Bay, WI

Insiders, my friends and I are pumped up for the Packers Everywhere pep rally at the Johnsonville Tailgate Village and seeing both of you at your roundtable discussion. I told my dad maybe I can get a Wes/Spoff signed napkin and he told me don't be surprised it turns out to be a napkin with a mustard stain from a stolen sandwich. Now that would be cool, I thought. See you at the tailgate!

If there's a mustard stain on the napkin, I guarantee you that's not a sandwich I stole.

Jacob from Portage, WI

Aaron Donald's demeanor is a serious blot on the legacy his skill should warrant.

Couldn't agree more.

Brett from Steamboat Springs, CO

Something has really been driving me crazy this year. How do the review officials in New York decide which plays they are going to overturn without a review, and which ones they will make coaches throw a challenge flag for? I've seen multiple occasions this season where New York will overturn a call without a review, but then within a few plays the other coach was forced to use a challenge flag for an obvious error. Do you think we could see a day where video assistant takes over? I'm all for it!

I think it's only a matter of time. Just a matter of how much time. Your question about the parameters in New York is legitimate and the NFL's lack of transparency about the process will only lead to a larger controversy at some point.

Brian from Cranford, NJ

I don't know if this has been asked before, but three out of the four coaches are from the same tree: McVay, Shanahan and ML.

And it's the first time all three have made it this far in the same season, after two of the three did so the previous two years.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Is there any player on either team who could dictate the outcome with a dominating performance?

Aaron Rodgers.

Josh from Adams, WI

I thought you guys should know you have become the hot chicks in high school. You hook a guy with a little attention by answering a question and then months go by without so much as an acknowledgment of my existence. Just when I accept the first time must have been a fluke and move on, you go and throw a guy a "bravo" and I'm right back to feverishly trying to figure out how to get your attention next. I just hope you'll give me a slow song when we get to the big dance.

I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

A couple of thoughts based on what other readers are sending in: There is no redeeming previous losses. How many times have we beaten the Seahawks since the 2014 NFCCG? Four? Has it made up for that loss? No IMO. We could've won the next three SBs and still feel like 2014 got away. We can't redeem what happened in the 2019 or 2020 NFCCG either. Look to the future. The 2021 Packers are excellent. They feel special. Let's enjoy the fact we're favorites, have the MVP, and 80,000 on our side every game.

Call it redemption, reckoning, whatever. It's fun to talk about, and even more fun when couched in a great movie reference. But we all know it really doesn't matter. Every opportunity is a new one once the clock starts ticking. The rest is mental clutter, for those who can actually impact the outcome anyway.

Joey from Dothan, AL

Is it Saturday yet?

Not quite. Happy Wednesday.

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