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Inbox: Sometimes you have to make them respect you

Mason Crosby continues to only get better in Year 14

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WR Davante Adams

Gregory from Perkasie, PA

I guess we know to get the extra big bag of popcorn ready whenever the Packers play in Detroit.

That's what I was trying to tell everyone.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

That sure did go fast. From Path to the Playoffs just starting up 10 days ago to clinching a playoff spot to winning the division crown to moving into the presumptive first seed all within a few hours on Sunday afternoon. Now just run the table to win out. Go Pack Go!

There is still a lot of football to be played but the Packers sitting in the top spot in the NFC with three games to go should serve as a reminder of how every contending team is still seeking that fabled "full consistency" we often speak of. The best teams are those that overcome the setbacks and keep moving towards the ultimate prize.

Jordan from Virginia Beach, VA

After Mahomes' tough day and "12" shining again, the MVP award is now his to take. Aaron Rodgers leads in TDs, few interceptions, QBR and rating. He is third in yards and fourth in average as well as completion percentage. Consider he only has one dud thus far and 2020 averages will get him the trophy and most likely the No. 1 seed. Go Pack Go!

Rodgers extended his lead over Mahomes by a car length or two this weekend, in my estimation. Rodgers' numbers not only exceed those he posted during his second MVP season in 2014, but also are nearly on par with his historic 2011 campaign. Rodgers owns the league's highest passer rating (119.7) and has had only one game where it's been less than 108. There are three games left to be played, but if Rodgers keeps this pace, it's all adding up to his third MVP season.

Scott from Anchorage, AK

I think ML doesn't get serious talk about as coach of the year because he's not just the coach of the offense, but also of defense and special teams. What say you? I realize he doesn't call their plays, but he kept those coordinators in the offseason.

I don't think that has anything to do with it. As much as LaFleur deserves to be in that conversation, I doubt he loses much sleep over it. The goal is the Super Bowl. If you win that, all the talking heads follow. There's a reason why some were banging the drum for Bill Belichick to be Coach of the Year for guiding New England to a 6-6 record (a team, mind you, he assembled himself as GM). At the end of the day, most of these awards are misguided popularity contests. It's not fair but sometimes you just have to make them respect you. Ask Davante Adams.

Cam from Pekin, IL

The biggest difference I noticed with Marquez Valdes-Scantling against Detroit was he was catching the ball with his hands extended instead of trapping it against his chest. And yes, he had extremely strong hands on the back-shoulder catch for the TD.

Exactly – and that's a valuable tool for a 6-foot-4 receiver like Valdes-Scantling who is going to have a significant size advantage over any defensive back covering him. The farther away he catches that ball, the harder it becomes for the DB to bat it out. "Strong hands," as Rodgers put it, are a huge part of the QB having confidence to throw that ball to MVS. You're watching the maturation of talented athlete into a promising receiver.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

I saw the term "strong hands" used for the performance of MVS Sunday. In my memory and from my position on the couch it was the best "hands" game of his career. With his drops in the past he has looked uncomfortable catching the ball. Have you noticed that in the practice sessions you were able to witness in the past?

I feel like some of the passes MVS has dropped in the past were under rather straightforward circumstances – like his drop on the crosser early in the Indy game. Just a mental error. When it comes down to making a competitive grab in traffic, Valdes-Scantling seems to excel in those situations (e.g. the deep ball from Rodgers in Indy). It's funny how this game works sometimes.

Bill from Somers, NY

The last catch by Robert Tonyan showed us our tight end for many years to come. He is getting better and better, and with Adams on the outside it should open up things for Rodgers, especially in the postseason.

Speaking of natural, Tonyan is just a machine out there – the play-action rollout late that's been mostly unstoppable this year, his chip block that bowled over three Lions and of course his penchant for finding open holes in the red zone. Tonyan is the one.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Which Packers do you think are starting to show they should be AP All-Pro? I see Aaron Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, Davante Adams, and Jaire Alexander all getting in either first or second team. Elgton Jenkins? Za'Darius Smith? Perhaps Corey Linsley? Though I'm sure his injury hurts his chances. What say you?

It's so tough to be named All-Pro but Rodgers, Bakhtiari and Adams need to be. I won't accept anything else. Alexander has a case for garnering individual recognition but he kind of fits in that Darrelle Revis category, where he's not going to lead the NFL in INTs necessarily because QBs simply don't throw at him that often. And obviously, you know Z's feelings on being "snubbed."

Colin from Tripoli, WI

Rodgers has more TD passes than JK Scott has punts. That bodes well for the playoffs. But that defense...change my mind.

That's the No. 1 sign your offense is healthy and producing.

Woody from Kill Devil Hills, NC

After the placekicker issues the last couple of weekends, a comment rather than a question. In addition to the quarterback over the past 30 years or so, we have been blessed with placekickers. From Chris Jackie, Ryan Longwell, Mason Crosby (and one season Dave Rayner) we have avoided many heartbreaks with these talented men. Many teams have seen a lot of different players go through that position.

We talk so much about how Packers fans need to be appreciative of having back-to-back Hall of Famers at QB but one thing that often gets overlooked is the stability the Packers have had at kicker over the last 25 years. Sometimes kickers get rattled and knocked off their game when adversity hits. That's never been an issue with Crosby. He continues to only get better, even in Year 14.

Clyde from Iron Mountain, MI

If they still give out game balls, I would think Mason Crosby would get it not only for the long field goal but the tackle that led to only a field goal.

That, too. He's always been a willing tackler – sometimes too willing. Crosby has perfected the art of rolling into the returner's legs to trip him or at least slow him down.

Sam from Melbourne, IA

I thought Tavon Austin looked super explosive. He definitely should be a weapon for the rest of the season.

LaFleur lamented not getting Austin more opportunities but it was an encouraging start for the eighth-year veteran. He not only looked natural on the jet motions but it also struck me how comfortable he is fielding punts.

Richard from Menasha, WI

How does the Packers' daily schedule change this week with a Saturday game?

Nothing too crazy. Monday and Tuesday (player off day) are the same. Wednesday and Thursday are just more condensed. Perhaps they don't practice in pads. I lost track of how many they have left.

Michael from Montréal, Canada

Do you see any potential "boosts" on the horizon? This could be either from players returning from IR/COVID or younger players who still have unrealized upside? If so, from where/when do you see this coming? Thanks.

Thankfully, the Packers no longer have anyone on reserve/COVID-19 after AJ Dillon's activation. Corey Linsley, Billy Winn and Tyler Ervin are eligible to return for the regular-season finale against the Bears.

Nathan from New Berlin, WI

I'm surprised nobody mentioned Aaron Jones keeping his streak of uncalled facemask penalties going. There was no replay, but in real time his head got jerked back pretty hard on that first-quarter run.

For whatever reason, Jones gets no respect on those plays. Maybe it's the Oakley visor keeping their hands out of his eyes.

Dick from Oshkosh, WI

The offense has been cooking and it's been so fun to watch, but wondering if there is a reason the RBs haven't been getting as many receptions/attempts in the passing game?

I think there are two reasons for that. First, they haven't run as many two-RB packages over the last month with AJ Dillon and Tyler Ervin out. The Packers also have been using more empty sets. It's not impossible for Aaron Rodgers to target the running back in that personnel grouping but he's not usually the first or second read.

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James from Appleton, WI

Thinking way back to how Fritz Shurmur put big bodies on the line. It seems Mike Pettine's plan to stop the run relies on a tweener who can drop back like a safety or come to the line like a LB. Still, is there a chance we'll see Kenny Clark, Kingsley Keke and Dean Lowry lining up together, especially against a runner like Derrick Henry?

Well, that is the Packers' starting base front – and they can play a true 3-4 out of it or pivot to a five-man front with five DBs. The Packers still have some things to iron out on defense, but they enter Week 15 having limited skill players to 115 yards on 31 carries over the last two games. They'll need all hands on deck – linemen, linebackers, water kids – to stop McCaffrey Saturday night (if he plays).

Patrick from Valrico, FL

What's your opinion on the Marvin Jones play? I see the ball hit his hands while the feet were both still on the ground, but I still feel like the only way you can call that a catch is if you are assuming he had full control of the ball the instant it touches his hands. It kind of reminds me of the old play clock extra second since they watch the snap first. How does the progression of a call go on receptions near the sideline, establish clear control, then football move or inbound determination?

I watched the play 12 times over and still have no clue whether he got the left foot down. It was so close. If there wasn't conclusive evidence to overturn, then the ruling on the field stands. It was a brilliant catch, though…or non-catch, I suppose.

Isaac from Columbia, TN

On Jamaal Williams ' run when he landed on a defender but was whistled down, I have seen guys fumble in that situation and the booth has overturned it, even though the whistle was blown and he was called down on the field. But then in this case, they didn't give Williams the extra four or five yards. You can't have it both ways, can you?

Unfortunately, you can when it comes to turnover plays that are automatically reviewed. Regardless, Williams should not have been whistled down but it also isn't probably worth the challenge since it was only a matter of a few yards.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

At the beginning of the season the special-teams coverage units were playing very well. Immediately after the injury to John Lovett in the Chicago game, the coverage units have had at least one breakdown in every game. It's hard to conceptualize a critical player on ST vs. losing a starting QB on offense but is it possible? I mean the drop-off was so immediate that even though it seems improbable you just cannot help but notice the correlation.

That's an interesting point. Some of you might recall Spoff and I used a quote from Shawn Mennenga talking about the impact Lovett was making on special teams to headline a recap of the assistant coaches' news conferences last month. The next day, we found out Lovett had been lost for the season due to a knee injury he sustained in practice. That was a big blow for the coverage units. LaFleur was generally pleased with how special teams performed but it ended on a sour note with that 71-yard return by Jamal Agnew.

Connor from Boca Raton, FL

Is it a case of Mason not having a big enough leg to have his kickoffs reach the back half of the end zone? It seems to me like the easiest way to avoid big returns is to force them to knee the ball every time. Surely if he can drain a 57-yarder with room to spare, he can force touchbacks.

Surely if you can drive the golf ball 200 yards, you can do it over and over and over again without a fail or a mishit, right? Touchbacks are great but the other 10 guys on the field can't just assume each one is going up the tunnel. You gotta maintain your gap and stick to your fundamentals.

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Peter from Morganfield, KY

Morning gentlemen! Glad for Sunday's win, but an unrelated question: Is Lambeau Field the tallest building in Green Bay? And if so, are there any other NFL cities where the NFL stadium is the tallest building? Thanks.

Correct, the top of the south end zone is the tallest spot in Green Bay. I gotta imagine it's the only NFL team to hold that distinction in its market.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

If we have to endure network rules analysts second-guessing refs and pointing out calls that should have been made but weren't, I feel like the least we can ask for is for them to mention a rule that affects a call. The last bounce was clearly before the 45 but the booth analysts either didn't know or didn't mention the 10-yard requirement for onside kicks. Seems like one time a rules analyst might actually have helped?

That whole sequence was brutal. The ball never went 10 yards inbounds. The drama of the play was greatly exaggerated.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

Mike, I too thought the ball hadn't gone the necessary 10 yards before going out of bounds, but the announcers never mentioned it.

That wasn't the only thing they got wrong. Oh, and how about them copying Mike's homework but not mentioning where they got that stat about former assistants who have coached against the Packers? Cool beans.

Sandra from Elkhart Lake, WI

Will the Saturday, Dec. 19, game be carried on a local station or just the NFL Network?

Only in the local market. For more details, we'll have our usual "How to watch" story on packers.com later this week.

Daniel from Allen, TX

Back when I was a kid, we had bumper stickers like, "The Pack Will Shine With Dan Devine," or "The Pack Will Go Far With Bart Starr." For ML should we go with, "The Pack Will Win For Sure With Matt LaFleur," or "The Pack Will Stay Out Of The Sewer With Matt LaFleur"? I leave it to the fine minds of the II to make the better choice.

With all due respect to Bart, there may be a good reason they junked the coach bumper stickers.

Jaden from Minot, ND

Hi, I don't write in really ever but do enjoy reading the Inbox. I was wondering if fans will be allowed at Lambeau in some capacity? My dad and I have said if they allow, we will make the drive to attend our first game at Lambeau ever! I know it may not be possible this year, but still hanging onto hope! Thanks for all your great coverage of the Packers! Have a blessed week! Go Pack Go!

Unfortunately, Lambeau Field will not be open to ticketed fans for the final two home games of the regular season. The organization has yet to announce plans for playoffs, though. I sincerely hope you and your dad are able to get here sooner than later. Have a great week, everybody.

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