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Inbox: Take a moment to appreciate

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Gabor from Budapest, Hungary

Mike, could you explain the dialog with Vic in the Monday column?

Someone was having fun, so I played along and refreshed the longtime readers on an old joke. Vic did not actually submit the question. I guess I should have made that clear.

Andrew from Eau Claire, WI

Mike, I am taking my 9-year-old son to his first game at Lambeau this Sunday. He is a die-hard Cardinals fan and loves Larry Fitzgerald. I am giddy with excitement to see the Packers get back on track and for my son to see, smell and hear a December football game in Green Bay for the first time. My question, what good story do you have about Larry Fitzgerald that I can tell him on the drive over?

I don’t have any good stories, other than the incredible respect I have for an amazing player. I’ve said before the two offensive players I’ve seen in person as a sports writer who looked like men among boys in their primes were Adrian Peterson and Fitzgerald. They’ve displayed a power and ferociousness with the ball in their hands that’s hard to describe. Second all-time in receiving yards and seventh in touchdowns, with a Hall of Fame QB for only one-third of his 15-year career. Astounding. The memories of the ’09 and ’15 playoff games in Arizona are tough from the Packers’ perspective, but everyone coming to the game Sunday should take a moment to appreciate a first-class Hall of Famer’s final appearance at Lambeau.

Zach from Christiansburg, VA

I had a thought on the onsides. I noticed that every single player is lined up on the sides like normal, however I noticed a gaping hole down the middle. Since it’s only a 10-yard kick, do you think that maybe having a speed guy kicking the onside down the middle and trying to race to the ball may be more efficient than having our guys not even make it past their wall? Their first reaction is to block the guy in front of them...can't be any worse than the 10 percent odds.

I like the thought, except some speedy guy lined up to kick off is going to make the return team guard the middle more. Plus, the rule that forces teams to have five players on either side of the kicker doesn’t allow for any deception as to who’s kicking off, otherwise you’ll draw an alignment flag. Justin from LA mentioned onside success has fallen from 23 percent to 8 percent. It was predictable, but I don’t know if the league has any interest in tweaking the rules again.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

This may be the grumpy old man in me coming out. After every first down or meaningful play the ball carrier seems to spin the ball or toss it down the field. The ref then has to chase it down. Seems like a total lack of respect towards the officials. If I was reffing I would have to tell them to get off my lawn.

They could start flagging them for delay of game if they’d like.

Mark from Oak Harbor, OH

Mike, in your article the other day you quote McCarthy as saying the team hasn't handled the in-game adjustments well. He went on to say the Vikings rushed four and played pass in the second half, no different than Seattle or New England. I'm not one to change coaches "just because," but I'm concerned that it sounded like our coach basically said he was outcoached in three games by the same scheme. What does the team or coaches have to do to remedy this? Thanks as always for your insight.

Better answers schematically with the players you have available, and better execution by those players. I didn’t hear McCarthy said he was outcoached. I heard him say it’s on everybody, coaches included.

John from Los Angeles, CA

When all is said and done, who do you think will be the definitive WR of the Rodgers era? Jordy Nelson or Davante Adams?

I’m not into predictions, but it’s an intriguing question. Interesting that you would ask it this week, because while touchdowns aren’t the only measure, Adams right now has exactly half as many TD receptions from Rodgers (35) as Nelson had (70), including postseason games. (Their official team record for a duo, regular season only, is 65, with Adams at 31.) He has a ways to go to catch him, but he certainly could do it.

Ray from Pasadena, CA

Looking to next year's draft (ahem), is draft order determined solely by regular-season record or does playoff finish factor in? If a team – let’s say the Saints for example – finishes 15-1 but gets beat in the first round of the playoffs, would they draft last or higher than a team that won the Super Bowl but finished with a worse regular-season record?

The 12 postseason teams are placed in the draft order based on when they exit the playoffs, then by regular-season record. Meaning, the four teams that lose on wild-card weekend will draft 21st through 24th, with the worst regular-season record at 21st and the best at 24th. Same for the divisional-round losers, 25th through 28th, conference runners-up are 29th and 30th, etc. If the Saints go 15-1 and lose their first playoff game, their pick would be No. 28.

Darragh from Dublin, Ireland

Does 9-6-1 get us in?

If four of the following five things occur: 1) Eagles lose once, 2) Cowboys or Redskins lose twice, 3) Seahawks lose twice, 4) Panthers lose twice, 5) Vikings lose thrice or Bears lose four times.

Haley from New Albany, IN

*Not a path to the playoffs question* but could you please point out the “helping” games this week and how they need to end in order to help the Pack provided they pull out the win?

You’re funny. Saints over Cowboys, Giants over Bears, Bucs over Panthers, Patriots over Vikings, 49ers over Seahawks, and Eagles over Redskins would all benefit the Packers.

Jake from Chantilly, VA

I do feel the defense has improved quite a bit this season. Alexander, Martinez, and Fackrell have all been great. But the secondary still concerns me. Yes, there have been a lot of injuries, and shutdown-level play was never expected out of guys like Breeland and Campbell who have been brought in to fill some gaps. But Josh Jackson and Josh Jones, who seem to be very much in the Packers long-term plans, have struggled this year. How can they improve over the last few games?

Keep studying the film, recognize the mistakes, and don’t make the same ones again. Teams will keep challenging you the same way until you prove you are up to the task, and then a new challenge comes. It’s all part of being a young player.

Gary from Chippewa Falls, WI

The losses are painful, but the enthusiasm of the young players shows this is not doom or gloom. They seem to understand the future is in the learning. No moral victories, but plenty of improvement.

A worthwhile way to look at it, as long as you’re not giving up. There’s still a chance the future is now.

John from Harrisonburg, VA

I love the way our defense looks, and I'm excited for its future, but I've noticed it hasn't been generating many turnovers. Alexander seems to always be near the ball, but that's mostly resulted in batted passes rather than picks. A healthy King also appears to be closer to a classic "shutdown" corner. A guy who can bait opposing QBs into throwing picks (Woodson was a master at it) would add a valuable element to this defense. Do you guys see anyone on this team who could develop that skill?

Well, Woodson will be a Hall of Famer, so that’s a tall order and it’s way too early to project anyone in that vein. I’d also contend that Woodson didn’t bait QBs into throwing picks as much as his instincts were so sharp he knew where the ball was going before the QB could change his mind. Semantics in our definitions maybe, but Woodson was the most instinctive defensive player I’ve ever covered.

Mike from Green Bay, WI

Please remember who our opponents were in our extraordinary home wins, and tie. Crap teams.

The tie was against the same “crap team” that just beat the Packers, the first win was against the team leading the NFC North, and another win was over a team that beat said first-place team with the same backup QB. Yes, two of those defeated are having rough years, but don’t let facts get in the way of your rant.

Ambrose from Two Rivers, WI

Why is anyone surprised at our lack of offensive talent? The last time we spent a first-round pick on an offensive player was 2011, and that was Derek Sherrod who is no longer on the team. We are lucky to have Davante Adams.

The Packers have spent nearly three times as many top 100 draft picks on defense (13) vs. offense (5) over the last half-dozen drafts. For good reason, because the defense needed the attention and continued to need it when some key picks didn’t pan out. But combine that with the fact that only two of the five offensive picks (Adams, Spriggs) are still on the team and your only forays into free agency have been at guard and tight end, and it’s eventually going to catch up to you.

Tom from Woodbury, MN

Hi, kind of lost with the discussion of what's wrong is the defense is quietly having a good year. In yards per game, the Packers rank 12th, and 16th in points per game. Granted, it's not top 10, but compared to recent years, this defense is doing great. They moved from bottom 10 in the league to top half. Another interesting stat is the Packers’ defense is the second-lowest in penalty yards.

The defense hasn’t arrived but has turned a corner in my view, and it continues to keep the Packers in games, giving them chances to win. Some turnovers would help, but by and large, it’s on the other phases to hold up their end if any run is to materialize.

Dan from St. Louis, MO

Is it fair to say that either the Packers need to find ways to win despite injuries, or we need to acknowledge that the Vikings and Bears are better teams right now? No disrespect to Cobb, but my eyes tell me he would not have made up the difference against the Vikings. No way.

Totally fair. Cobb played against the Rams and Patriots. The offense’s third-down woes go beyond the absence of Cobb. As Anne from Madison said, you lose when you only score three points in the second half two games in a row. This isn’t about one or two missing players.

Nick from Richmond, VA

I’m curious to see what the average time Rodgers held onto the ball before throwing on our scoring drives vs. non-scoring drives. Seems like they move the ball more consistently when the ball is coming out quickly vs. taking long drop backs and looking for big plays.

True enough, but you can’t just play one way all the time. You have to be able to execute in a variety of ways to have any sustained success.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

When a draft-and-develop team has sustained success like the Packers and therefore chronic poor draft position, is it the lack of "star/impact" players or overall roster depth that becomes more the issue?

This game is always about star players.

Donna from Darien, WI

Wouldn’t that be something if the Packers could get their first road win of the season against the Bears on Sunday, Dec. 16?

It would really be something if it still means something. I want that game to mean something. I know it’s one at a time, but I just want to get on the plane for Chicago still in the hunt, and two home wins will do that. By the way, I addressed this as well as a number of other common queries floating through the Inbox in my mid-week chat yesterday, so please check it out.

Kevin from Asbury Park, NJ

I think the most frustrating thing in the loss to the Vikings was that they consistently got pressure rushing only four. It's not like the Packers’ O-line hasn't seen good pass rushers before. What happened?

That’s what the better defenses do, get consistent pressure with only four. I will point out that on Richardson’s first sack, they ran the stunt on Green Bay’s left side right after Bakhtiari and Taylor exited the game. Smart on their part. They ran it again right after Bakhtiari came back in the game, and that was the play he got hurt a second time. Those were two of their four sacks.

Ryan from Gladstone, OR

The Packers have been bad at times this year but in their defense they had a brutal schedule coming out of the bye. At LA, at NE, home vs. Miami, but then at SEA on a short week, then at MIN. Not many teams would get through that unscathed. I guess that’s why the WAS and DET games were so important.

No one would get through it unscathed, but the Packers needed to do better than lose four of five. The Washington and Detroit games are still the ones that stick in my craw, to be honest. If the Packers had even resembled the team that strung together seven pretty darn good quarters after the bye, they’d have won one or both of those early road games, and not only would everything look different, one early road win might have translated into pulling out one of these more recent ones. Ifs and buts.

Ian from Owatonna, MN

Every year our team seems to rise up after seemingly hitting rock bottom. For some reason it didn’t seem like we were at that point yet heading into Minnesota. Now I think we have reached that point, and we are ready to pull together. That being said, what’s the key to beating Arizona?

If the Packers don’t turn the ball over, they should win this game.

Alex from Irondequoit, NY

Tell you what...anyone with the last name of Beer is OK in my book!

There has to be a good joke in there somewhere, but I’m still too tired from all these night games on the road.

Scott from Green Bay, WI

What I'm hearing is "...self-inflicted...no rhythm...mistakes...can't sustain..." So the "galvanizing moment" talk doesn't sound good to me. A galvanizing moment won't eliminate our struggles and place us on course. What we need is, keep your edge...run your route correctly...keep leverage...communicate, etc. In other words, everyone do your job, and do your best with it every day.

Yup. That’s where it starts. Then you have a chance for the galvanizing moment.

Uriah from Marysville, OH

Tyler from Fargo, ND, said hope never dies. That may be true, but sometimes it gets beaten within an inch of its life.

All part of the deal. Happy Wednesday, everyone.

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