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Inbox: Sharpen up and be ready to make a clutch play

Where is defense headed in the NFL?

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Gary from Davenport, IA

Spoff, are you old enough to remember the Packers-Redskins game from 1983 that used to be the highest-scoring MNF game? I remember watching that game on a 13-inch black-and-white TV in my UW-Platteville dorm room and everybody going nuts when Moseley missed the field goal at the end of the game. Monday's game brought back a lot of good memories.

I remember it, but I had to go to bed at halftime. Too bad I didn't live closer to campus or you might have woken me up. Speaking of waking up …

Tim from Farmington, MN

When my wife woke up Tuesday morning I told her the score of the Chiefs-Rams game. Without missing a beat, she promptly replied, "That's so dumb!" I wish I could disagree.

As bad as the defenses were, they scored three touchdowns and set up a fourth with a red-zone turnover. That's essentially 28 of the 105 points. A defense that occasionally slows an offense like that down won't really help unless your offense is just as good. If it's not, the defense needs to make high-impact plays. That might be where defense in the NFL is headed. Don't slow down the game, find a way to change it with a big play.

Ron from Waukesha, WI

Gentlemen, if Monday night's game was the future of the NFL I don't want any part of it. I'm not interested in going back to the old Packer-Bear 9-3 games, but arena-style football is not for me. Do you think the NFL is "high-fiving" after that game or will we see some changes next year to throttle the scoring back a bit?

No, I don't see changes. To me, the danger from the viewership standpoint is if the game is going to devolve into a bunch of shootouts, then there isn't much point in watching the first half. Turn the game on sometime during the third or even fourth quarter and you're good, much like the NBA. There won't be any pivotal moments in the first half when mistakes can be erased or big plays can be matched so quickly.

Zach from Delavan, WI

So sad to see what happened to Alex Smith. I feel for the 'Skins. It's a sobering reminder that every team is one bone-crunching hit from losing their version of "The Man." Puts in perspective what the league is trying to do with roughing-the-passer calls. We gripe when's it's our defender being called. But, having two seasons with the majority of the year without AR during his prime, is a greater shame. Our team, this league is so much more fun when starting QBs are healthy.

They are the straws that stir all the drinks.

Viktor from Erlangen, Germany

Look out, Aaron Rodgers' single-season QB rating record is at risk of being Breesed. Insiders, what do you make of the out-of-this-world QB statistics this year? Looks like the average completion rating is above 65 percent, and so many 100-plus QB ratings 11 games into the season. NFL must be happy.

No one should be surprised that the evolution of a safer game, which is necessary to save the sport, is leading to what we're seeing. Defenses used to be able to plant a little fear and intimidation, and it was an equalizer of sorts when athletically it was tougher to match up. Not anymore.

Erwin from Dallas, TX

I read the Insiders every day and enjoy all the great responses. Even when the questions seem to be redundant. It seems to me the NFL has lost its way. 54-51 is a bad college game and the NFL has turned its game into what resembles many college games. The defense is no longer allowed to play defense and have a fair chance due to all the rule changes. Maybe good for the 20-somethings but not true fans of the game. Vic's flip-flops are flying.

If you're suggesting he's throwing them at his TV, I appreciate the image.

Bill from Green Bay, WI

Is Aaron Rodgers above reproach? The play-calling and schemes never seem to change and that is on the head coach, but not throwing to safety valves and tight ends that are open and then taking a sack is on Rodgers. It seems like the Brett Favre era all over again. Let's not hurt our quarterback's feelings.

I think I've said many times in this space that Rodgers has not played consistently to his own standard this season. But he's also far from the only one who shoulders responsibility for the team's record. In this post-bye run of road losses, we've seen some tremendous throws from Rodgers, but also some missed opportunities. That's been the story of his season.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Mike, it feels like we're at a point where the outcomes of other games are significantly more important to the Packers' playoff hopes. Would you please begin providing a weekly segment of your take on who we should be rooting for? For instance, Cowboys or Redskins on Thanksgiving? While a Cowboys loss would provide an immediate move up one playoff spot, the Redskins have lost their starting QB and we only need to get ahead of one of those two teams for a wild-card spot.

The Packers need to start winning before I bring back "Path to the Playoffs." I'll make a deal with you. I'll resume the segment if the Packers win their next two games and get above .500. As for Thanksgiving Day, I just don't see the Cowboys losing at home to a backup QB on a short week, so I'm not going to hem and haw over whom to root for there. If I have to eat my words, I'll skip the extra dinner roll Thursday night. But not the pie.

Clyde from Iron Mountain, MI

It's getting tiresome hearing how the Packers are close to beating some of the better teams. Reminds me of the old saying close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and a miss is as good as a mile.

You're right, close doesn't count in the NFL. But close tells a locker room full of competitive players they're not so far away it's going to take some monumental shift to turn things around. Everybody just has to sharpen up and be ready to make a clutch play.

Cody from Madison, WI

Why do I get the feeling that this game should be played outside in the 25-degree weather?

I hear you. Those two years (2014-15) when the Packers traveled to Minnesota around Thanksgiving to play the Vikings in the outdoor college stadium were special.

Mike from Mt. Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, putting aside the teams they play, which task is more difficult: Green Bay traveling to Seattle after a late afternoon Sunday game or Chicago traveling to Detroit after playing Sunday night? Green Bay had more miles to go, but Chicago has fewer hours to recover. Both seem unfair, in my opinion.

Agreed, but as tough a task as the Packers had, the Bears' recovery time between games is 12 hours less than Green Bay's, with the early Thursday kickoff. That's insane.

Donny from Elkhorn, WI

How ironic if Kyler Fackrell should be defensive MVP this year. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. What's his matchup Sunday against the Vikings?

Pettine lines up his outside linebackers on either side, so he'll see plenty of both Riley Reiff and Rashod Hill. The Vikings' offensive line will be out for a little redemption after the way the Bears' defensive line controlled that game Sunday night.

Brandon from Omaha, NE

I feel good about this week. The Vikings are fresh off an ugly game in Chicago where their offense looked like garbage. Compared to their first matchup, Green Bay's pass defense has improved, Rodgers is healthier, Jones is active and making an impact, and the defense as a whole is getting after the QB. This is also the true revenge game being in the location of where last season effectively ended and the Packers are in do-or-die mode. Packers just need to not shoot themselves in the foot.

A clean game on special teams would certainly help field position, and if Green Bay can at least break even there, I think the game comes down to turnovers. I hope the Packers go in relaxed and play loose. As big as this game is for both teams, let the Vikings' crowd and its Super Bowl-or-bust mentality work against the home team. Give yourself a chance and let them get nervous.

Zach from Clarkfield, MN

At dinner the other night, my 18-month-old son pointed up at the TV at the restaurant and said "football" as clear as day. Made me feel proud. The recollections of playing catch with fathers during childhood brought up a lot of memories of playing catch with my father (I always pretended to be Antonio Freeman). I look forward to those memories with my son and daughter. What players (Packers or not) did you pretend to be when you were young?

If I was out in the backyard going deep, I was James Lofton. When I was piling up all the blankets and pillows in front of the basement couch and leaping over them to score, I was Billy Sims or Walter Payton.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Mike, the II emails are kind of ridiculous. We're 4-5-1 and people are saying, "If we win out then …" Figuring out how to beat the Vikings in that dome with that stupid horn sounds like a tall enough order for Sunday. It's been over two months since we've played them. What have the Vikings been doing well and not so well since then?

Packers cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson signed autographs for donations to the Salvation Army Monday night in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

They're playing better on defense compared to September and getting healthier now, with Griffen back and it sounds like Barr is coming back, too. Offensively, they missed Cook when he was out in my view. Murray filled in fine, but Cook is a more dynamic player. He went nowhere against the Bears' front, but if their offensive line can re-establish the ground game, life gets easier for Cousins, so the Packers can't let Cook get going.

Bob from Melbourne, Australia

I guess coming within a whisker of losing to the Browns (at the Superdome, no less) qualifies as being tantamount to touching a sidewalk crack.

True enough. How soon I forget. And then an OT win at Atlanta in Week 3. Crazy to think how close this New Orleans team was to being 0-3.

Doug from Eugene, OR

Perhaps that fella who hasn't slept more than two hours a night since Eisenhower can share what a game-changer Tony Canadeo was...

Nicely done.

Michael from Dover, PA

Something that has been raising my hackles is the perception that Coach McCarthy lacks "passion." Ugh. Two things that will always stand out about MM are 1) when he dropped to his knees in the OT loss to Arizona in the playoffs which he later said he regretted doing and 2) his composure under incredible duress after the Fail Mary debacle. The rah-rah types are mostly white noise. MM's class and dignity speak volumes. In both cases his lack of giving in to base emotions was extraordinary.

I've never considered passion with perspective, which includes the perspective that he's a leader and primary representative of something greater than himself, to be a bad thing.

Brandon from River Falls, WI

Brady was the new Montana, Rodgers was the new Brady, and Mahomes is the new Rodgers. Am I right or am I right?

Throwing for 478 and six, Rodgers wouldn't have the three picks.

Brett from Oshkosh, WI

Andy Reid challenged a DPI call against the Rams, stating it shouldn't have been penalized due to one of his defenders tipping the ball at the line of scrimmage. I didn't think penalties could be challenged or reviewed, so could you explain how that works? Also, why would it being a tipped ball negate the penalty?

A deflected pass has always negated PI, and it's the one aspect of a PI call that can be reviewed.

Andy from Cadillac, MI

I know people have mentioned it before, but could someone there look into opposing kicker percentages at Detroit this year? It seems to be a big factor for their home games (Packers, Bears, at least one or two others).

Well, Parkey's four misses in the first Lions-Bears game were in Chicago, but if he starts clanking uprights again on Thursday at Ford Field, after what happened to Crosby and Gano, then someone's going to investigate.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

What's the difference between last year's team that was 4-1 and mentioned as a Super Bowl favorite and this year's team?

The final drive that got last year's team to 4-1 – nine plays, 75 yards, 62 seconds, on the road. That's a gross oversimplification, but I think the point is clear.

Brett from Oshkosh, WI

Being only 22, I had to google what the Charlie Brown reference meant. So you're telling me you're not a therapist/psychoanalyst? You should probably make that known to your thousands of clients.

Whatever keeps it real for the generation that hears Red Baron and immediately pictures pepperoni with mozzarella, rather than a dog with flight goggles.

Jason from Ringle, WI

Just want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. We watch and cheer for a team playing a game that brings us together for entertainment. As fans, we may get caught up in the wins and losses and get emotional over this game. But we don't get rings and trophies as fans. We might get bragging rights for a year, and then it's on to another season. Tomorrow, let's take time to be thankful for and appreciate what truly matters. It may be different for everyone, but whatever it is, give thanks.

Amen. Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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