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Inbox: That put everyone on notice

The road is full of landmines

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Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh

Scott from Palos Park, IL

Mike: Wes claims he does not require a birthday present because his cup runneth over. Just wondering who cleans that up?

All the junk on his desk absorbs any excess. It has a life of its own.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Insiders, it would appear the Rams were helpful during MNF, as we sit at the top of the NFC right now. What does that mean? I think it's even more important to just focus on the game ahead of us, week by week, to beat the next team up – without worrying about any game down the road. Sadly, that's probably not a favorite in the Inbox, or is it?

The bottom line is if the Packers win out, they get the top spot and the benefits therein. Green Bay has the conference record tiebreaker on both Tampa Bay and Arizona (plus the head-to-head over the Cardinals). No more help is needed, and that's a great position to be in. But this team will stay focused week to week. It's how LaFleur operates and he'll make sure of it. They'll be facing three teams fighting for their playoff lives the next three weeks (Ravens, Browns, Vikings) and then a team that gave the Packers all kinds of grief in the finale two years ago with a lot on the line (Lions). The road is full of landmines.

Gabriel from El Paso, TX

Would you consider it more important to go after the No. 1 seed in the playoffs or to rest Aaron Rodgers one game so can recover from his toe injury and being healthy for playoffs?

If Rodgers feels he can play, he needs to play, and he reiterated on McAfee's show he's going to do just that. The goal, which I believe he'd agree with, is to get the top seed and the bye so the toe can get another full week of rest in a month. Circumstances with records/seeds or his injury could change week to week, but right now, I suspect that's the approach.

Cindy from Stevens Point, WI

How come we have not made more changes to special teams?

LaFleur signaled Monday some personnel changes are coming. Let's see what unfolds.

Remirito from Ventura, CA

Can you help me understand how putting in starters would make the ST unit better since I would assume they haven't played any in a while? Is it as simple as physical talent and common-sense intelligence? Also I asked before and I'll ask again, would you inquire about Tyler Ervin? It's obvious Rodgers shouldn't be on the field at this point.

I don't think any option is off the table as far as return man at this point. Regarding veterans on the units, I think LaFleur is talking about guys who had similar duties in recent years, not someone who hasn't done it for a half dozen. There's no substitute for experience at this level, and filling gaps with new guys clearly isn't working.

Sawyer from Simpsonville, SC

I wonder how many of the guys currently playing for injured players would have been playing on special teams, how many second-team guys are practicing with the first teams instead of special teams, and how many guys who are hurt would be out there on special teams.

Valid queries, but it doesn't matter. Injuries are a part of life in the NFL. Every team deals with them and has to find a way to get the job done. The Rams just beat the Cardinals without Jalen Ramsey, but the trickle-down effect at corner didn't suddenly lead to special-teams breakdowns.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Not counting Super Bowls, what is John Harbaugh's most impressive victory?

His first year as Baltimore head coach in '08, he took his sixth-seeded Ravens into top-seeded Tennessee and knocked off the Titans in the playoffs. That put everyone on notice from the start he was going to build something pretty special there.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

The Ravens' injury woes this year have possibly been even worse than the Packers'. Who are the most dangerous players they have left (other than obviously Lamar if he's healthy)?

Tight end Mark Andrews and receiver Marquise Brown are plenty dangerous in my book. Andrews is having a monster year for a tight end (75-926-6). Defensively, the Ravens looked vulnerable early in the year but they've figured something out despite a lack of star power. They've gone 2-3 over their last five games but have given up just 89 points (17.8 per) in that span.

Todd from Long Island, NY

Hi guys, sometimes I like to do some "advanced scouting" on upcoming opponents out of curiosity. At the end of the Ravens game two weeks ago, Lamar Jackson had more grass stains on his all-white uniform than any other BAL skill-position players. I believe the RPO QB style of play is unsustainable during a 17-week NFL season. Do you think putting your franchise player at that much risk is worth the gamble?

I honestly don't know. When you're in the thick of it, this game is about doing whatever it takes to win on a weekly basis, and teams with those types of QBs ponder your question constantly. Baltimore, Arizona, Buffalo … there's plenty of success out there amidst the risks. Then again, RGIII is a cautionary tale, as is Cam Newton when it comes to the long-term perspective. Plenty of QBs who don't run around get hurt, too. It's a brutal game.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Mike. Lombardi's Packers had some unforgettable games against Baltimore when they were the Colts. What is your recollection of the most memorable Ravens game? Thanks.

There's been really nothing remarkable about this limited series. They've only met six times. I remember the perfect deep ball to Jordy and Cobb's horrible injury in '13. That's about it.

Michael from Eagle, ID

Weston Hod as Colonel Jessup is the "cast against type" content I'm here for. What's next, Spoff as Stephen A.?

Heaven help us.

Jake from Regina, Canada

Let it be known that there are walls to this Inbox, and those walls are guarded by clever men with keyboards. While some may talk about parties with founders of this column, and offer critiques as to how these walls are guarded, we all know that deep down we want you on that wall. We NEED you on that wall! Let the poetry fly as it may. Sincerely, an excitable and procrastinating law student.

Don't look now, Jake, but you're making an argument.

Dan from Inver Grove Heights, MN

Did you call the Code Red on special teams?

OK, that's enough. It's one of my all-time favorite movies but I have to stop.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Hi Mike, just finished watching the latest WYMM which I always find so enjoyable and enlightening. I could watch a whole game's worth of those. So thank you for that. On the play where Aaron Rodgers makes an incredibly convincing fake handoff to Aaron Jones and before delivering a strike to Marcedes Lewis, I had to marvel how effective that fake was and wondered why we don't see more of that kind of misdirection. Is it something that's loses its effectiveness if it's done too often?

Absolutely. You can only go to certain wells so many times. You have to pick your spots to try that exaggerated fake, because Rodgers turns his back to the defense. Do it again and the slot defender might just blitz to clobber the QB before he knows what hit him.

Douglas from Bemidji, MN

Depending on how long Billy Turner is out, if David Bakhtiari comes back, do you start Yosh or Dennis Kelly at RT?

Interesting question. My gut says Dennis Kelly, because Yosh Nijman hasn't played on the right side in games yet, and Kelly was a starter for Tennessee at right tackle all last season.

Hal from Lanesboro, MN

Regarding Paul from De Pere's question, I believe that a certain No. 4 never "grew out" of the habit of throwing INT's and that seemed to work out OK. What say you?

It can work out if you have otherworldly, Hall of Fame talent. It's advisable for a young QB trying to find his way to work on better habits.

Joel from Green Bay, WI

Gentlemen, aside from kicking the ball through the uprights, special teams were an unmitigated disaster. In addition, the Bears had big-play TDs on a "student body left" play and an option route with a speedy WR coming out of the backfield isolated on the Packers' slowest safety. Despite that, the Packers won with a comfortable margin of victory. Does that speak to how far apart these franchises are, or do you feel the 3-0 turnover margin was a bigger factor in the outcome?

The Packers ran one interception back for a touchdown, scored one play after the second turnover, got a second INT to prevent the Bears from making it a one-score game, and won by two TDs. Turnovers tilt games more than anything else, most of the time, and can surmount self-inflicted obstacles.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

As I sat in the stands and surveyed my view Sunday night at the game, I appreciated how beautiful Lambeau Field is with the lights, fireworks, and filled with appreciative fans. It also registered how much more inside seating has been constructed in recent years. What are the numbers for how many ticketed seats are outside in the bowl on the bleachers versus the number of fans who now are sitting inside in the boxes, club seats, etc.?

I believe the breakdown is approximately as follows: The bowl seats around 62,700 (including 3,000 outdoor club seats), the south end zone holds 8,300 (including standing room only), and the indoor capacity is around 10,000. Some of the 8,300 in the south end zone might be indoor seats and would boost the latter number.

Chad from Rhinelander, WI

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it our No. 88 buddy, Ty Montgomery (not Randall Cobb), who had the heads-up play (where he fielded a kickoff with one foot out of bounds)?

They both did it.

Dan from Tallahassee, FL

Good morning. From Tuesday's column: "Gray just helped the young man to start finding it." From your observations and inference, what percentage of the time do Packer coaches spend teaching the "how" (mechanics) versus the "why" (motivation, concepts, scheme)?

They teach both, routinely, but certain guys thrive from knowing more about all the details of one vs. the other. Some rise to another level by perfecting technique, while others maximize their talents by understanding everything about their fit in the scheme and why certain calls are made. The best coaches know how to tailor their coaching to get the most out of their players.

Randy from Ooltewah, TN

Lots of questions about special teams this week. Let's take a minute to congratulate a special team – the Wisconsin women's volleyball team – on making its third straight appearance in the NCAA national semifinals (aka the Final Four) Thursday night against Louisville. Good luck, ladies, we'll be pulling for you! Hoping for the program's first national championship.

One of the great regrets of my youth is my high school didn't have a boys volleyball team. I really got into the game back then and marvel to see it played at the highest levels. Go Big Red.

John from Rhinelander, WI

After watching what has happened to the Packers' linemen this year, Vic is definitely right about how you should get as many of the big guys as possible!

You can never have enough big guys, pass rushers and corners, but there's still just 53 spots. Roster management isn't easy.

Bobby from Joplin, MO

Mike, is shutting the in-game blog down early your version of the dagger?

I suppose, but don't tie me into some catchphrase. The beauty of the blog is in its spontaneity. I plan absolutely nothing.

Aaron from Phoenix, AZ

Regarding Allen Lazard and his blocking impacting his receiving opportunities, I believe if you watch some of the film you'll see that he's so respected as a blocker that GB's offense does use it as a decoy where the defense is deceived due to his advanced skill in that domain, and AR12 delivers the ball just as he breaks out of his block fake. That has to be an advantage of which ML, NH, and AR are fully aware allowing them to scheme those plays at the right time.

Precisely, which they did in the fourth quarter of the playoff game against the Rams last January when he caught a 58-yard TD pass to seal the win.

Dale from Downers Grove, IL

If Lamar Jackson can play, will the FOOTball game between the Packers and Ravens become known as an epic battle of the fractured pinky toe vs. the sprained ankle? Will the winner be described as having accomplished an amazing FEAT, while the loser will suffer the agony of deFEAT? I'll see myself out.

Please do.

George from North Mankato, MN

Can II handle the truth?

Sorry, I really am done now. Happy Wednesday.

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