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Inbox: No matter the QB, the Vikings have weapons

Get them to turn it over

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

Keith from Lincoln, IL

Could you write this on a sticky note and put it on the to-do board of the Packers media department? Assemble a greatest hit playlist of Wayne and the Rock's best calls of 2023. Those guys are terrific game in, game out! Thanks.

I'll post it here to get their attention.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Two teams go down a dark alley. One comes back out. How do we ensure it's the Vikings, and not us, who get (potentially) eliminated this weekend?

It does feel like a de facto elimination game for both teams. I say it all comes down to taking away the football. When the Vikings turn the ball over – 30 times this season, tied with the Jets for second most in the league – they lose. When they don't, they win. Get them to turn it over.

Jim from Mundelein, IL

The season is over if we lose next week to the Mullens-led offense. What are the top 2-3 offensive things you want to take away from the Vikings? GPG

With Hockenson out, Justin Jefferson is Job 1, but Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn are dangerous, too. Apparently Addison is day to day (aren't we all) with his ankle injury, but the Packers had a lot of trouble with both Addison and Osborn in the first meeting, without Jefferson on the field. No matter the QB, the Vikings have weapons who can do damage.

Mike from Lady Lake, FL

The Vikings/Packers game in October at Lambeau was the only game this season that the Vikings were not involved in a one-score game. So, at least the Packers have that going for them this week.

I saw a statistic that over the last three seasons, 39 of Minnesota's last 49 games have been decided by one score. Four of the 10 that weren't came against the Packers, two wins apiece. Make of that what you will.

Ron from Derby, KS

If we go 2-0 and Rams go 1-1, are we in the playoffs? I know it is just beat the Vikings, but it doesn't hurt to peek ahead for the following week. Thanks for all you do.

There are all sorts of scenarios out there, but the simplest way to understand the Packers' path is for Green Bay to win twice and then have two of the following three things occur: Rams lose one more, Seahawks lose one more, Falcons lose one more. Two wins for the Packers plus two of those three.

Nathan from Williamstown, MA

Let me take a stab at the lede for (hopefully) the return of Path to the Playoffs: Root against the Rams, Seahawks, and Falcons. If two of those three lose, by Sunday evening the Packers would control their own destiny and wouldn't be totally dead even with a loss. The murky one for me is Bucs/Saints. Will you sort that one out for us later in the week?

The Buccaneers winning the NFC South would be best for the Packers.

Randall from Clifton, CO

It's been 30 years since the Kitties won a division title. I guess they are the team to chase in the North.

Don't look now but the Lions are tied for the No. 1 seed with two games left. Here's something to ponder, though … if the Lions don't get the bye, their first home playoff game in 30 years might be against the Rams, and Detroit's old friend and former QB, Matthew Stafford.

Jim from Maple Grove, MN

Best case, the Pack sneaks into the playoffs; worst case, they finish last in the division. It's an intriguing spectrum of possibilities! As far as the help beyond the team's control is concerned, I'm looking at the Week 18 matchups between the Falcons and the Saints, and the Rams and the 49ers, as the most likely to produce the needed results. Was the Ravens MNF win an indirect help to the team's playoff chances?

Yes, because if the Niners are still fighting for the No. 1 seed in the final week, rather than having it wrapped up already, then they'll be playing to beat the Rams, which the Packers very well could need.

Chad from Hortonville, WI

Good morning Mike, did Brock Purdy get exposed last night, or just have a bad game?

He lost any chance of winning the MVP, which I wasn't inclined to endorse anyway when he's got the best trio of offensive weapons (Deebo, CMC, Kittle) of any QB in the league. But he's a very good QB who had a rough game against a dynamite defense. The Ravens rank second in yards allowed, first in points allowed, sixth in sacks per pass play, fourth in first downs allowed, fifth in third-down efficiency. They're a handful. Since a 3-2 start, that club has gone 9-1, with its only loss by two points to the Browns. In that stretch, they've beaten the Lions by 32, the Seahawks by 34, the Bengals by 14, the Jaguars by 16 and the Niners by 14. Their next challenge is Miami and all that speed.

Drew from Melrose, WI

How does playoff experience benefit a player? What's the difference from "normal" game experience?

Any player I've ever talked to has mentioned a different intensity to playoff football. You can feel it in the stadium. Win-or-go-home with the most coveted prize dangling out there just can't be replicated.

Chas from Modena, WI

The win on Sunday kept the Packers in the playoff hunt, but the game against the Vikings is even more important to get into the playoffs. Does it look like any of our offensive weapons will be returning from injury?

The extent of Dontayvion Wicks' injury hasn't been revealed, and neither Jayden Reed, Christian Watson nor Luke Musgrave practiced last week, so it's all very much wait and see.

Mark from Seattle, WA

Hi guys, Bo Melton had a productive game after being brought up from the practice squad. Kudos to him.

He certainly did. He's been elevated from the practice squad three times now, I believe, so he might've earned himself a spot on the 53. We shall see.

Monica from Blue Mounds, WI

So does Jaire Alexander get a "timeout" for his bonehead move? It should not go unpunished. He's an adult, should act like one. That could have been a costly game-changer.

Yes, it could've. We'll see what LaFleur says to follow up this week.

Paul from Northglenn, CO

Am I mistaken that Eric Stokes was inches away from breaking up two TD passes?

He was awfully close on both of them but by then Young was feeling it and throwing darts.

Spencer from Minneapolis, MN

Kenny Clark is not elite at his position. Prove me wrong. (I would categorize not producing because of being double teamed or schemed against as being average when you compare against Aaron Donald-esque players.)

There's no such thing as "Aaron Donald-esque." Donald is a three-time Defensive POY, seven-time first-team All-Pro, and first-ballot HOFer. If that's your frame of reference for interior D-linemen, nobody is elite except him. After Donald, I'd put Chris Jones second. Personally, I believe Clark would get a lot more recognition if he didn't play on a unit that routinely falls short of expectations. In my opinion, Clark is the most consistent player, in terms of both availability and performance, on Green Bay's defense (with Preston Smithright behind) and the least of the unit's problems.

Jimmy from Plover, WI

Out of curiosity, is the game clock reviewable? So if for example, referees stopped the clock after a spike would they be able to go to the review to verify.

During the on-field discussion, the replay center in New York was looking at the game-ending spike and communicated to the referee the call was correct.

Lori from Broomfield, CO

I believe any uncertainty regarding JL10's ability has been removed from fans' perspective and substantiated in management's view. How does knowing we're QB secured affect the offseason direction the front office takes?

Exactly how you think it would. The Packers have their guy and a promising backup in development, so the position isn't on the acquisition radar. Cap-wise, we'll see what develops regarding QB1.

Nhoj from Windsor, WI

I'm surprised by all of the "it wouldn't have been that bad to lose" comments. Building a culture of winning matters, even if the playoffs are out of reach (which they aren't). Campbell worked to create that in Detroit and it has paid off. The Bears are working hard for that now. Building a culture of winning matters and many teams have kept that culture with "lower" draft picks over the years.

Couldn't agree more. Again, the Packers have their guy and have proven over the years they can win a lot of games that way, no matter where they're picking in the draft.

Al from Tulsa, OK

Who would have thought that after 15 games, Love would have a better QB rating, more touchdown passes and fewer interceptions than Mahomes?

Bueller … Bueller …

Kevin from Westminster, CO

I love Jones, player, person and empathetic leader consoling teammates on an inactive game day status. That said are we due for adding a younger version of 33. Dynamic RBs are in vogue again. Would we be well served to find a replacement sooner than later? I may be too old-school, but find no harm in allowing a premier back to be seasoned for a year while acclimating to NFL life. Fair thought or a waste of resources?

I'll just say I expect the running back position to garner significant attention in the offseason, which isn't here yet.

Tim from Kennewick, WA

In yesterday's Inbox it was stated that the offense had moved into the top 10 in least amount of giveaways. Where does this vaulted defense stand in takeaways and sacks?

I think the facetious word you're looking for there is "vaunted." But I digress. The Packers' 16 takeaways are tied, with five other clubs, for the fourth lowest total in the league. The 36 sacks are tied for 10th lowest.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

With the increased uncertainty in RTP penalties, might a better pass-rush strategy be to de-emphasize getting the QB on the ground and instead focus on disrupting his passing motion? Like by getting hands up to bat down the pass or grab the QB around the chest and shoulders. Maybe you wouldn't get as many sacks, but you'd force more incompletions, perhaps even a few more interceptions – and certainly less RTP calls.

Maybe, but if your hands are up to bat down a pass and come down on the QB's head, that's RTP. If you grab for the shoulders, you might grab the horse collar by accident, personal foul. You can't hit him late, high or low, and you can't land on him. It's shoulder to the midsection, or go for the ball. Those are the only supposedly safe options these days.

John from Byron, MN

Could you tell, during the fourth-quarter comeback, did our defensive approach change? They had performed decently up until then and I thought maybe our D had turned a corner, albeit against a struggling Panthers team. Were we sitting on two scores? I don't love the prevent D but it was a plan that might have worked had we mustered more than a couple three-and-outs. Happy holidays to all!

As I said Monday, I felt the Packers backed off pressuring Young because he was getting the ball out quickly, which made sense. But with more players in coverage, they should've been able to reduce the big plays. While holding a two-TD lead with 11 minutes left, making a team grind out a drive isn't the worst thing in the world, but the first of Carolina's two TD drives had gains of 15, 9, 13, 16 and 11 yards (plus a 15-yard personal foul, which was a terrible call), and the Panthers overcame a personal foul of their own, too. Chunks like that allow a team to score too quickly and get the QB confident in pushing the ball downfield. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times this season – schematically this defense is designed to limit big plays, yet the Packers give up way too many of them, among the league leaders. That's the big-picture problem.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

Thursday is the 20th anniversary of Nate Poole knocking the Vikings out of the playoffs, and the Packers in. Any unique memories of that day – or the longer ramifications of that play? (If the Vikings had won, the Cardinals would have had first overall pick in the subsequent draft, would likely have drafted Eli, the Chargers draft Rivers without needing to trade, and the Giants would instead have drafted Big Ben. Plus, there would have been no Al Harris OT pick-six the following week.)

No Harris pick-six, no fourth-and-26 the week after that. I don't go down draft rabbit holes. No way to know who thought what of whom. I think I've told this story before … for the Packers-Broncos game that day, I was working at the Press-Gazette but actually free-lancing to help the Denver Post's game coverage, sitting next to Woody Paige of all people in the press box. The most surreal thing was section after section of fans in the Lambeau bowl turning around to get a glimpse of a TV in a suite. Just a bizarre scene, followed by a wild celebration with nothing actually happening on the field.

Jeff from La Crosse, WI

Wouldn't it be awesome if Mason Crosby kicks the winning field goal against the Rams and the Pack win out! Mason kicks Pack into the playoffs!

Sign me up. Happy Wednesday.

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