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Inbox: Packers know what they're facing here

It’ll come down to making one or two key stops

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Titans RB Derrick Henry

Zak from Verona, WI

Do you think the Packers will try to extend drives to keep the Titans (read: Henry) off the field, limit his touches, and rest the defense? Or would they rather score fast and furious to turn the game in to a shootout and limit Henry's touches that way?

If I know LaFleur, he'll just want to score points no matter how long or short it takes. Score enough to win, period.

David from Aurora, CO

Have you noticed how similar are the points scored and the points allowed for the Packers and the Titans? They seem evenly matched.

Offensively, these teams constitute two of the league's top 10 in all of the following categories: Total yards per game (and per play), rushing yards per game (and per attempt), passing yards per attempt, interception percentage, sacks per pass play, third-down efficiency, and points scored. Defensively, the Packers rank significantly better in a number of categories. It'll come down to making one or two key stops.

LeeAnn from Carefree, IN

Good mourning Mike. What do you think goes through the Packer LBs' and DBs' minds when they watch the Monday highlights and see a Derrick Henry would-be tackler get destroyed by the stiff arm? Are they mostly thinking I don't want to be on one of those highlight reels next Monday mourning, or more yeah, that's not gonna happen to me?

Oh, it's mostly the latter. The true pros relish the challenge, no matter how daunting. If they do end up on such a highlight, they're measured by their teammates and coaches for how they pick themselves up and keep fighting after that, even if no one else will see those clips.

Bruce from New Canaan, CT

Have you seen this much anticipation, or angst, about facing a running back since the Packers had to go up against AP twice a year in his prime?

Dalvin Cook is no slouch, man. What he did in Week 8 is still fresh in my mind. With his yards per carry, if he had as many carries as Henry, he'd be only 75 yards shy of his rushing total. The Packers know what they're facing here.

A.J. from Brisbane, Australia

Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin: Is this the week we learn the true value of our young gems?

Perhaps.

Scott from De Pere, WI

A lot has been discussed on stopping Derrick Henry, and rightly so, but don't sleep on A.J. Brown and Corey Davis.

Both guys are likely to post 1,000-yard seasons, and they have 15 TD catches between them. A productive running game is a passing game's best friend, but the ball still has to be thrown and caught. Ryan Tannehill has 31 TDs vs. just five INTs for a 110.4 passer rating. That's better than Russell Wilson and Josh Allen, and a measly two-tenths of a rating point behind Patrick Mahomes. This Titans' offense can hurt you with way more than Henry.

Matt from Bloomington, IN

After seeing the ineffective quick passes to Davante Adams late in the game, do you think the soft coverage and crashing down on short routes is something that could be exploited? Like if Davante looked immediately to Aaron Rodgers and Aaron threw a pump fake, do you think the DB would fly down and be vulnerable to Davante quickly taking off deep? It would be about the strangest "double move" I've ever seen run, but I wonder if it would work or if the DBs only crash down once the ball is thrown.

They can take a chance and crash like that when they have deep safety help over the top. The counter is to run the football.

Craig from Suffern, NY

Good morning II. I noticed in the second half of the Carolina game, the offense barely used any pre-snap motion. Do you attribute it to LaFleur not showing his full hand and keeping things simple with a lead, or is it possible he's rattled and reverting to the basics in his play-calling?

Dave from Danville, KY, and others also asked about this. LaFleur has indicated before the pre-snap motion is a game-planning element based on the opponent. The Packers definitely didn't use much of it against the Panthers, though he did say after the game he should have been moving Adams around more. I suspect the Packers learned something from that performance.

Larry from Chubbuck, ID

When does the clock start on a kickoff? If it is when the returner catches the ball, could Malik Taylor have caught the kickoff and stayed in the end zone, killed four seconds and then taken a knee?

I don't believe the clock starts until the returner crosses the goal line into the field of play, because no time is supposed to run off on a touchback. That said, I took another look at that kickoff. The Packers actually had Tavon Austin back there, all by himself, with the hands team up front in case of an onside. Austin had to hang between the 10 and 15 to guard against a short pooch kick, and Slye banged it all the way to the back of the end zone. It would have taken a Herculean effort, with significant risk involved, to sprint back 20 yards, make that catch, get across the goal line and kill four seconds with no blockers in front of him.

Curt from Algonquin, IL

Re: Statham from Pineview, GA. A pair of teammates have been the passing and receiving TD leader in the NFL in 21 seasons, with the Packers holding five of them in 1938, '41, '42, '56, and 2016 (Rodgers to Nelson!). The Johnny U Colts are next with three in a row (1957-59). The 49ers ('87 and '93), Dolphins ('77 and '84), Eagles ('53 and '61), Patriots ('79 and 2007), and Raiders ('74 and '76) have a pair each, and the Bears ('49), Chargers ('82) and Vikings (2000) round out the set.

Nothing like giving Foxboro's old Steve Grogan-to-Stanley Morgan connection from my youth some love. Those old Patriots helmets were truly one-of-a-kind.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

Not only was he very enjoyable to watch as a player, Kevin Greene was extremely great to see on the sidelines. He would get in players' faces in productive ways. He was always high-motor and it rubbed off on the guys he led. The world lost another great man. Do either of you guys have any stories you'd like to share about this legendary player and OLB coach?

As I said on "Unscripted," I have never seen a coach more passionate about his guys – whom he called his "kids" – during training camp practices, even when the third-stringers were taking reps. You could always hear Greene. He wore his heart on his sleeve. He'll be best remembered for his connection with Matthews, but what can't be overlooked is his work developing the lesser-known edge rushers before a first-round pick (Perry) and a Hall of Famer (Peppers) walked through the door. The Packers got meaningful contributions from guys like Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, Brad Jones (before he moved to ILB), Mike Neal (when he converted to OLB), Dezman Moses and Andy Mulumba, thanks to Greene.

Patrick from New Market, MD

Not a question, just a comment about Kevin Greene. Greene owned a condo in Destin, Fla., located in a building my sister manages. When she told him her brother is a huge Packers fan, he gave her his 2011 Packers division championship hat, and she gave it to me. I have Kevin Greene's hat, which I still have never worn, as it is kept safe in a place of honor. My sister – and everything I read – tells me he was a truly good man. RIP, Kevin.

I can only imagine, given everything he accomplished in his career but coming up short on his one Super Bowl team ('95 Steelers), how it felt for him to win a ring.

Michael from Berrien Springs, MI

On NFL.com Robert Tonyan has caught 49 of his 55 targets this season for 551 yards (11.2 yards per reception) and 10 touchdowns, while Engram has posted a line of 54 receptions (on 95 targets) for 572 yards (10.6 per reception) and one score. We don't need to spend more time on this one.

No, we don't. As my father often told me: "No one ever said life was fair."

Austin from Washington, DC

Apparently to merit a Pro Bowl nod Mason Crosby had to make 17 field goals on 16 attempts?

It's too bad one of his most difficult and important kicks of the season, which was in a nationally televised game, came after all the votes were in.

View some of the best photos from the Packers-Panthers matchup at Lambeau Field on Dec. 19, 2020.

Keith from Bakersfield, CA

You can safely change the name of the segment to "What You Missed" – there's no Might've about it! Watching the game and even the highlights, my eyes (and usually the camera) are on the ball. Only when I watch WYMM and the Rock Report do I see the real action. Krys Barnes closed nearly 10 yards on his TFL before Bridgewater released the ball. Same for Adrian Amos' end-zone breakup. Thanks for bringing us that vantage point.

Good defensive football is as much about recognition and anticipation, if not more so at times, than some of the physical tools.

Pete from Caledonia, MI

No question, just an observation. I'm sure no GB fan is thrilled with the level of all-around play the last three weeks, but the Pack are the only one of the seven current NFC playoff teams that won all 3 weeks. "Just win baby."

And who now has a chance to win a third straight with the season on the line? The Bears.

Steve from Alexandria, VA

What's the quickest a coach has gone from Super Bowl winner to being fired? After seeing Doug Pederson take an extra point off the board in the first half to chase the two-point conversion, and then having to go for a TD late when the Eagles were in position to get two FGs that at least could have gotten them to OT, I'm thinking he's on his way to earning that distinction.

I disagree with a lot of coaches, including Pederson, on two-point strategies. But he led the Eagles to the playoffs two straight years after the Super Bowl, and they've been crushed by injuries this year. If he gets fired, he won't be unemployed for long.

Seth from Chicago, IL

So if I'm reading this right, the Titans game means almost nothing to the Packers' hopes for a 1 seed and the Bears game means everything. So the Titans game can really be seen as a no-pressure measuring stick and dress rehearsal for having playoff teams play at Lambeau in the cold?

Not in my book. First, the top seed can be clinched if the Seahawks lose Sunday afternoon. But those saying a Seahawks win makes the Titans game meaningless are misguided. If the Seahawks win, the Saints win twice, and then next week the Packers and Seahawks both lose, Green Bay would need a win over the Titans to get the No. 1 seed. If you think that's too convoluted a scenario, ask the Rams' and Steelers' fans how they feel about a "that'll never happen" mindset.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

If the Packers and Seattle both end up 12-4 and have the same conference record (9-3), what's the next tiebreaker? Common opponents? I also see a scenario where the Rams could be the No. 1 seed: Packers and LA both 11-5 but the Rams would have the better conference record.

Correct. Common opponents is the tiebreaker after conference record, and with regard to the Seahawks, the Packers' loss to the Vikings is the difference-maker there. You're also correct about the Rams scenario. There's another possibility whereby the Packers and Buccaneers could finish tied for the top spot at 11-5, with Tampa Bay's head-to-head victory deciding it. A lot can still happen.

Shilo from Murrieta, CA

There is a lot of confusion on the internet about tiebreakers this year, and the reason is because the tiebreakers within the division put common games ahead of conference games, but seeding among division winners and wild cards have conference games ahead of common games. So Mike's answers about tiebreakers on Monday appear correct, but why in the world would the NFL switch those two tiebreakers for just division tiebreakers? Or does the NFL operations page have typos on it?

After division record, tiebreakers within a division go to common games because of the scheduling formula. Division foes play eight of 10 non-division games against the same opponents, so the tiebreaker is based on records in those games before conference record – which will include different opponents – is brought into it.

Dan from Chicago, IL

I know it is INCREDIBLY unlikely, but, if there is a draft position tie, what happens if the combined winning percentage of opponents is exactly the same? Is it just a coin flip? Spoff said, "That's it." But it can't just be "it" right? There needs to be some further tiebreaker contingency?

It happens more than you think, and it simply goes to a coin flip, with the tied teams alternating draft positions in the successive rounds.

Mike from Ames, IA

I have a question about playoff seeding I haven't seen mentioned yet: With the seventh team added, is the divisional round still set up that opponents vary by seed? For example, if the Packers get the No. 1 and the No. 7 wins, they would play that team?

Yes. Highest-remaining seed faces lowest-remaining seed, etc.

Neil from Tunbridge Wells, UK

Good morning, two games left so who gets your votes as most improved player and pleasant/unexpected surprise?

The young guys I've seen improve the most from a year ago would include Tonyan, Rashan Gary, Kingsley Keke and Darnell Savage. If I were to put a couple of veterans in the turn-it-up-a-notch category, I'd say Billy Turner and Amos. The pleasant surprises have been Barnes and, to also pick a veteran player, Wagner, given how he seemed to be written off by others in recent years.

Stan from Mosinee, WI

Muppet Night Football? OK Spoff, let's bamboozle these millennials. Declaring the best muppet without discussion would be preposterous. Let's start by identifying the top tier. Obviously Animal, The Chef, and Beaker belong. Who do you nominate?

There is no best muppet. But I'll give you my three favorites, so the psychoanalysis can begin: Gonzo, Animal and Oscar the Grouch.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Does Brett from Oshkosh not know John Lennon? One of my favorite Christmas songs right up there with "Please Come Home for Christmas" by The Eagles! What's your favorite Christmas song, Spoff?

Speaking of psychoanalysis, I'll give you two. Vocally? "The Little Drummer Boy." Instrumentally? "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24." Happy Wednesday.

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