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Inbox: That doesn't appear to be the case

There’s a lot going on out there

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

John from Madison, WI

It just feels weird that the season isn't over yet. This 17th game is going to take some getting used to.

So is a Monday night playoff game, but that's a discussion for next week.

LeeAnn from Carefree, IN

Hello Mike, attendance or more importantly participation today might be very interesting don't you think?

Sure, but Thursday's practice will be even more telling.

Ralph from Naples, FL

Mike, I read the term "line to gain" in yesterday's column. Doesn't that sound like a mouthful that doesn't belong in football? And speaking of mouthfuls, "line to gain" reminds me of what I have seen on my scale every morning of this holiday season. I have surpassed it so often that now I'm stuck with a first-and-January and a diet where all I can eat is air.

Not a lot in the playbook for first-and-January, but I hear you, man. As for "line to gain," all I know is I'd never survive the live blog if I had to type that constantly. I just say "marker" and move on.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Mike, I was expecting the Vikings to go all-in with getting the ball to their RBs all night. Cook and Mattison had a total of 17 times where they saw the ball coming their way. I thought Cook by himself would see the ball at least 30 times. What happened? Was it not in the Vikings' game plan or did they just quickly abandon the game plan?

I have no idea. After we finished our stories in the wee hours, I went through the play-by-play with Wes and counted the Vikings taking 14 offensive snaps through the first quarter and a half, when the game was 6-0. Cook ran the ball on only five of those 14 plays, and one of them was a third-and-20 surrender draw. I just didn't get it.

Keith from Lincoln, IL

Does the length of David Bakhtiari's rehab from his ACL surgery foreshadow the length of time it will take Elgton Jenkins to recover? If the timeframe is similar, we could be without him until three-fourths of the way through the 2022 season, right?

There's no way to tell. Not all ACL rehabs are created equal. Bryan Bulaga was back in 10 months. Bakhtiari is at 12 months and counting, but it sounds like he'll be on the practice field this week. He'll be back when his body is ready to be back. Same with Jenkins next season.

Jim from Maple Grove, MN

Insiders, as far as who is in the playoffs is concerned, it looks like the NFC depends mostly on the outcome of the Rams-49ers game, and whether the Saints can beat the Falcons. In the AFC, the wildest (plausible) ending I can picture is the Steelers winning and the Chargers-Raiders game ending in a tie. If that happens, who is in? For simplicity, you can assume the Colts beat the Jags, but for fun you can play out a win/lose/tie scenario for the Colts.

You're right about the NFC. If the 49ers win, they're in. If they lose and the Saints win, New Orleans gets the last spot. There are additional complications to a 49ers win, though, namely it would open up the NFC West for the Cardinals to steal the division, and the 2-5 seeding would be all up for grabs. In the AFC, I don't normally ponder the implications of ties, but I'll humor you. If Chargers-Raiders ends in a tie, the Chargers are in, and the Raiders also get in with a tie if the Colts lose.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

Anyone else get the feeling we'll somehow end up playing the Saints in the divisional round? The past two years we've faced the only team that's blown us out in the regular season, again in the playoffs. It seems like fate would have us finally avenge a blowout regular-season loss on the way to the Super Bowl.

It's an entirely plausible scenario.

Donald from Fayetteville, NC

How crazy/unusual is it that the top seven teams in the AFC could finish within one game of each other (with five teams at 11-6 and two at 10-7)? Any slice of the range of possibilities, like 2-5 having the same record, seems wild enough on its own.

Parity at its best.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

Please help me with a list of "things to cheer for" this week. The obvious: Packers' health, individual and team records, returns of injured All-Pros, successful time for backups, a win (sure). Cheering for the best possible SB path, which team would you least like to see in Lambeau in the playoffs and which would you most prefer the Packers to face?

I concur with your Week 18 list. As for the playoff possibilities, I don't get too hung up on it either way, but it's hard to even ponder until the seedings and first-round matchups are set. If the 49ers beat the Rams this week to get in, nobody will want to play them and everyone will be wondering if L.A. has cooled off. If the Rams win, they're the No. 2 seed with a six-game winning streak and a "dangerous" stamp. So who knows? If you want some kind of framework, figure out who you think the two toughest NFC opponents are, and root for them to get the 2 and 3 seeds, because then the Packers wouldn't have to beat both of them to get to the Super Bowl. That's the best I can do right now.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

Cris Collinsworth mentioned how good Davante Adams was with his "late" hands. I've always wondered if receivers ever used fake hands in an attempt to get a DB to jump on a route.

DeAndre Hopkins did something like that against Stokes on that deep ball in Arizona. Super-savvy veteran move.

Paul from Los Angeles, CA

The lack of penalties against the Packers is an underrated aspect of the Vikings game I think. A very clean and disciplined game always seems to bode well.

There were only six flags the entire game – four on Minnesota (one declined), two on Green Bay (one declined). Though I don't believe the flag for punt-catch interference should have been picked up, overall, it was incredibly refreshing.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Like my II friends, I felt that David Moore passed the eye test with flying colors. But I also saw a scheme change on punt returns. A number of times Vikings gunners were double-covered, giving Moore room to run. Was this a new wrinkle? Does double-covering the gunners leave the defense more vulnerable to a fake punt?

It does, because you only have six players to defend the middle against eight opponents on the punt team (11 minus the punter and gunners). Doubling the gunners is a decision often based on yards to go and field position.

Erin from Milwaukee, WI

David Moore's 21-yard punt return isn't just the longest punt return for the Packers this season; it's the longest punt return that they've had since Jaire Alexander returned one for 24 yards back in Week 13 of 2018! I'm not sure it's possible to overemphasize how dismal our punt return game has been. The question is, can we now start making returns like this a more common occurrence? 21 yards shouldn't be enough to get any fanbase's hype train started, but here we are.

Serenity now.

Dennis from Beavercreek, OH

Mike or Wes, please help me understand something. During preseason and after the first game when the Packers laid an egg I believe you supported Coach LaFleur's decision not to play the starters. Now it seems as you support his decision to play the starters in a meaningless game when an injury could hurt during the postseason. I believe in resting guys with lingering injuries (Aaron Rodgers) and playing starters a half game (esp. those coming off injury). Good players get rusty after two weeks off.

I believe LaFleur is dead on when he says there's no right answer. I do think it's a different conversation if Rodgers' toe were still greatly bothering him, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Curt from Flippin, AR

Hi Mike, I'm sure I wasn't the only fan excited to see Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon in the same backfield more frequently Sunday night. It seemed a head-scratcher that it didn't happen much before the Vikings game. What do you think? Have LaFleur and Hackett been keeping this under their hats all year just to roll it out in full in the playoffs?

They might've intended to use it sooner, but Jones' knee injury in November could've thrown a wrench into those plans. I'm sure early in the year they were consciously monitoring Jones' and Dillon's reps with the idea of 17 (or 20 or 21) games on tap. Not using them together kept their workload down. Whatever the case, it's a wrinkle for which opposing defenses must now prepare.

Alan from Fresno, CA

Good morning! Jim from St. Pete Beach, FL, thought the Pack's need to turn the red zone back into the gold zone is the biggest area to improve for a championship run. I offer this: The improvement Pack needs is to start stronger and score more in the first quarter. Our first-quarter scoring seems to be down this year. Improve that and the force the opponent to play from behind. Too often this year we were the ones playing catch up after the first quarter. Am I off on my thoughts?

Not at all. The slow starts on offense are the biggest difference between last season and this one. My hope is that as Rodgers gets into a regular practice routine again, scoring in the first quarter will rise.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Insiders, any significant takeaways from AR12's appearance on the Manning Cast Monday night, besides that Coach LaFleur pays attention to his eyebrows?

I guess now we know his scotch isn't reserved for strictly a postgame drink.

John from Worthington, OH

I thought the NFL had backup officials available in case one went down during the game. Or is that just during the playoffs?

I believe the latter is true.

Jon from Salem, MA

Mike, great stuff on WYMM as always. Taking a closer look at those plays really emphasizes the importance of a defense being on the same page. A blown coverage could be a CB thinking he has help when he doesn't, or that same CB playing to his help that never came. In each case, the mistake is by a different player, but the result is the same. Kudos to Joe Barry and Jerry Gray for keeping these guys in sync.

It's easy for things to go wrong, and they do go wrong at times. There's a lot going on out there on any given snap, and it can change from play to play.

Salongo from Hailey, ID

Speaking of that Bradbury play, did Adrian Amos get credited for one-plus tackles on that one? He got the first guy and stripped the ball, then was part of the tackle on the center, as well.

Nope. Officially, he doesn't get a credit for a tackle on Conklin because Conklin didn't catch it, and he doesn't get credit for a PBU because Bradbury caught it.

Jeff from Ogden, UT

That was a "Vic" kind of game. December football played with power. Our big guys manhandled their big guys. This team feels different, powerful, imposing. Do you sense that?

I'm not going to say that based on Sunday night's game. But I need to be diplomatic here … I'll just say I don't think the Vikings, collectively, rallied around the idea of playing in the cold with a backup QB who had never thrown a TD pass in an NFL game.

Pat from Kennesaw, GA

I have a comment on the MVP race this year. Everyone thinks 12 is a lock again. I'm not so sure about that. I think there is a better than 50% chance he doesn't get it. And I think it's because of some of the writers that vote just don't like him after all the stuff that has taken place with him this year and will hold a grudge against him. I've heard worse comments about Aaron Rodgers than I have for what AB did this past Sunday. What do you say?

I don't think the type of off-field stuff Rodgers stirred up should factor in the voting at all, and I hope it doesn't. I heard what AP voter Hub Arkush said yesterday and it disappointed me. I've known Hub a long time, and Hub's a good football guy, but he's misguided here. Rodgers wasn't out getting in trouble with the law or suspended by the league. He shared opinions and aired grievances that rubbed some people the wrong way. Whatever reactions to his thoughts, those shouldn't impact MVP consideration, in my view.

Keith from Bakersfield, CA

Good morning! I know we're all impressed with ML's record-setting performance in his first three years, compared to other first-time coaches. How about his record versus all other NFL teams over the last three years? GB's won more regular-season games (39) than any other team. KC is closest with 37, and then the Saints, Bills and Ravens with 33. He's not only outperformed other first-time coaches, but all current veteran coaches. How does his record stack up against the best three-year runs ever?

The 39 wins are tied for second in a three-year stretch, all time. Mike Ditka won 40 with the Bears from 1985-87 (15-2, 14-1, and 11-4, when the strike reduced the '87 season by one game … for the record, the Bears went 2-1 in the three replacement games in '87 that are part of the 11-4).

Ed from Minneapolis, MN

Happy New Year to you and Wes, Mike, and thanks to you both for such great Packer coverage. Is it difficult for you to go from a less formal "voice" in a game blog, or today's mid-week chat, to your normal journalism style?

I hadn't really thought about it. I hope there's a certain level of professionalism and conversational tone in both. But focusing on the more formal approach for a traditional news or feature story is pretty natural because it's engrained in the job. Just like no cheering in the press box.

Scott from Hayward, WI

This is for the thousands of us who submit questions repeatedly only to learn our question got rejected again. How about a setting up a rejection-reply link that gives feedback stating one of the following: Too Stupid, Too Negative, Too Boring, Close but no Cigar, or Give it up? Maybe you should throw a bone to all of us in the rejection pile.

But that would ruin the mystique. Plus, it would break the rule that we don't talk about Inbox.

Lee from Silver Cliff, WI

The essence of the Inbox is to provide an esoteric but subliminal response to the greater need of the human species in direct response to the longings of our ancestors for the need of activity and community. Can you please explain why this is so?

Happy Wednesday.