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Inbox: That's a formula that rarely if ever fails

There’s no slam-dunk choice

Packers T Bryan Bulaga, G Billy Turner, C Corey Linsley and G Elgton Jenkins block the Minnesota Vikings' defensive line in Monday night's game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Packers T Bryan Bulaga, G Billy Turner, C Corey Linsley and G Elgton Jenkins block the Minnesota Vikings' defensive line in Monday night's game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Terry from Elk Mound, WI

I respectfully submit "Horn in the first quarter, taillights in the fourth" for II one-liner of the year. Bravo Wes!

A popular reader sentiment, and he delivered it on Christmas no less. Every once in a while as a writer you read a line you wish you'd come up with yourself.

Lynn from Butler, IN

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Inbox Wednesday. Merry Christmas. I wish you could have had Christmas off to spend the whole day with your family.

Wes finished the Christmas Day Inbox on Tuesday afternoon. I wrote this one late last night after my family had gone to bed. It's all good, but we appreciate the consideration.

Ray from Clark, NJ

Played on Monday night. Well-deserved Christmas Day off. Travel to Detroit on Saturday. Not much time to prepare for division rival Lions. How much does this concern you?

Short weeks are always more about mental preparation anyway, and there is extra meeting time built in to the schedule the rest of the week. It's still more prep time, and more importantly recovery time, than for a Thursday game.

Ron from Bellaire, MI

The Packers best not sleep on the Lions. From the Lions' standpoint, the Packers are their biggest rival and they remember "hands to the face" and a "Hail Mary." They would like nothing better than to relegate the Packers to the third seed and have to play the Vikings a third time. The Lions will not sleep on Sunday afternoon. How do the Packers keep the Lions at bay?

Play clean football, make tackles, contain Kerryon Johnson in the run game and Kenny Golladay on deep balls, and spread the ball around to all your weapons on offense. That's the long answer. The short answer is to control both lines of scrimmage like the Packers did Monday night. The two best position groups on the field in Minneapolis were Green Bay's offensive and defensive fronts. That's a formula that rarely if ever fails.

Tom from Fairfield, CT

While I haven't followed the Lions closely, other than a couple or so games they seem to have played every game close and competitively (just like the Packers in this sense). What is the real story with the Lions at this point?

Playing musical quarterbacks has not helped their season, obviously. They were a contender with Matthew Stafford at QB, in my opinion, because he could keep them in games despite a struggling defense. They haven't been as competitive since taking the Bears to the wire on Thanksgiving Day. That loss seemed to sap some of their spirit.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

What do the Lions have going for them that the Packers need to watch out for?

All their players without secure futures know this is their last chance to make an impression on the Quinn-Patricia regime that is apparently being retained for 2020.

Jordon from Dubuque, IA

I'm sitting here waiting for my traditional cinnamon rolls to cool off, reading my daily Inbox, watching a movie I've watched everyday this day for years and I've finally figured out where the "I don't know, Margo" reference is from. Merry Christmas everyone.

Better late than never I guess.

Jake from Franklin, WI

Who are the other frontrunners for Defensive Player of the Year? Do you think Z has a shot with the narrative of the Packers not having an "elite" defense?

It strikes me as a large field right now. In no particular order, Stephon Gilmore, Chandler Jones, Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt, Nick Bosa and Cameron Jordan are all contenders along with Smith. Jones and Donald are not going to the playoffs, and Watt might not either, but I don't think that diminishes their candidacies, so the Packers' overall rankings shouldn't take away from Smith's. There's no slam-dunk choice.

Burt from Oconto Falls, WI

Couldn't help but notice Aaron Jones going up and down the sidelines apologizing to everyone for his turnover. Talk about accountability and boy did he more than make up for that mistake.

They had his back, he had theirs. There's the label of a team and the spirit of a team. They aren't the same thing.

Larry from Belgrade, MT

Everyone seems to be forgetting that, although highly unlikely, a tie between SF and SEA would also net us the No. 1 seed. So really, we really are just rooting for SF to NOT win.

They really, like really did play deep into overtime the first time they met, too.

Billie Jo from West Plains, MO

I was reading the injury report for our game against the Lions this week, and noticed several players listed under Wednesday's practice as "NIR (veteran rest)." What does the NIR stand for?

Not injury-related.

Josh from Melbourne, Australia

With Jamaal Williams carrying a shoulder injury, are we better off sitting him this week and getting him right for playoffs and having Dexter Williams and Tyler Ervin handle the backup/change-of-pace responsibilities this week?

It's for the medical staff to determine the risk. If Williams is at any legitimate risk for greater injury, I would think he rests this week.

Ronald from Panabo, Philippines

Insiders, with the injury to Jamaal Williams will we see a lot more of Tyler Ervin against Detroit. Also during the locker room interview Aaron Jones commented on his speed. Is Ervin the fastest back on the squad right now?

I don't know that for a fact, but he didn't get his number called on a jet sweep because he's slow.

Al from Green Bay, WI

I think back to the GB-Dallas game and all the yards the Cowboys racked up in "garbage time." The way the Packers' defense stifled Minnesota even after the 13-point lead speaks to defensive maturity!

The defense hadn't closed out a game in a while, and LaFleur spoke to that after the Washington and Chicago games. The mixup in the secondary that was negated by the hold on Fackrell certainly needs to be discussed, though.

Dennis from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Za'Darius Smith – wow! That was one of the most dominant defensive games by a single player I've seen in a long time. Just freaking awesome! One thing I haven't seen mentioned, though, is when Aaron Jones fumbled, it was Jones who fought his way through traffic to make the tackle on Kendricks. Instead of hanging his head as I've seen others do after a fumble, he turns into a defender and makes a play. Kendricks may well have scored if not for Jones. Good to have him on our side!

A couple of receivers quit trying to bring Kendricks down on that play when it was never blown dead. Not good. That's why Jones had to make the play.

Mike from Somerset, WI

The Packers have had a complete overhaul on their coaching staff. Outside of Matt LaFleur, which coach impressed you the most?

It takes players first, but when your two free-agent outside linebackers both post career highs in sacks, I think a nod to the position coach is appropriate. Also, I could listen to Mike Smith talk football all day. Really engaging guy, and he even helped scrape all the snow off my car when we got back from Jersey a few weeks ago.

Kolby from Oak Hills

Where is our deep passing game? I think we will need it come playoffs.

If the opponent is going to play two deep safeties all night, like the Vikings did, you're not going to have a deep passing game. You have to find other ways. The Packers didn't force it and were rewarded for their approach. Do what it takes to win that day.

Scott from Fredonia, WI

Why don't they count "turnover on downs" when tallying turnovers? Seems to me a fourth-down stop is a change of possession, same as a fumble or interception.

Blocked punts don't count as turnovers, nor do onside kick recoveries. No statistic is perfect.

Jeff from Kenosha, WI

Back in November I was watching the Dan Patrick show and he said the Packers were a good team but not ready for big-boy football. I agreed. Then the Niners cleaned our clocks and I was convinced of it. Now I'm not nearly so sure. Can one game make that kind of difference or is mine just wishful thinking?

I'll go back to what I said after the Niners game. There was still time to improve and the Packers were going to work to do so, no matter how many people insisted on the Niners game defining their season. The defense has come on strong and allowed 15 or fewer points in four straight games (first time for a Green Bay defense since 2002, by the way). The offense has been on the verge of scoring a bunch more every game, and if it starts cashing in on plus-territory opportunities, it'll be at another level. The special teams found a return game. That's a long way of saying the premise of your question assumes the Packers are the same team now they were in November. They aren't.

John from Sheboygan, WI

The thing that has not been mentioned is no penalties on the offensive line because of the noise.

It has now.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

Please explain why the Packers were forced to use a timeout or face a 10-second runoff after the refs made a bad call on the Jimmy Graham fumble near the sidelines. It's not like the team committed a false start with a running clock. The refs made the mistake forcing the booth review, yet the Packers were penalized. That lost time out was HUGE and in my opinion cost the Packers a TD. Thanks.

You have to look at it from the other perspective, which is to say the defense gets penalized for the mistake, and no credit for punching the ball out, if it isn't corrected. If the officials had called it correctly to begin with, the recovery of the live ball would have kept the clock running, so the Packers either burn time to run the next play or call a timeout to stop the clock. The 10-second runoff with choice of timeout is to approximate what should have happened to be fair to both sides.

Mike from Algoma, WI

"If you don't focus on ticky-tack penalties, you're more likely to catch the real ones." Brilliant, Wes! Can the NFL make that page one of the referee's handbook?

I liked that one, too. It goes back to what I said several weeks ago, that the sole "point of emphasis" I want to see for next season is "only call what matters."

Brett from Oshkosh, WI

I've got another merchandising idea. There could be lunchboxes sold at Lambeau that say, "I went to Lambeau Field, and all I got was Wes's lunch." Even if that's not as good of an idea as I like to think, I'd still love some Inbox merch. If only I could've gotten ahold of the famous Ask Vic "thing"...

The "thing" was more hype than heft, believe me. But if I could talk to Cenex about sponsoring your T-shirt idea, we may be onto something.

Daniel from Delta, PA

Merry Christmas Mike, Wes, and to all of the Inbox and Packers community! I hope everyone's day was amazing. Looking at what needs to happen for those teams trying to get that last AFC wild card, it sure is nice worrying only about seeding and not getting into the dance. I'm not sure what type of spark Beast Mode will give that Seattle offense but his press conference sure didn't disappoint. And how about J.J. Watt making a possible comeback just in time for the playoffs? Wild!

The second season is almost here.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Expectations should be tempered, but should this be the week to put together a complete game? An away game against a team we should beat shouldn't be ugly. A little dominance would go a long way.

It means nothing, and I stress absolutely nothing, to me how the Packers win this game in Detroit, as long as they win it.

Tinger from Red Wing, MN

Anybody else notice how happy Aaron Rodgers was in the postgame locker room? He hasn't been that excited all year. I am thinking 12-3 has awoken a sleeping giant. Blow that through your big hornamajiggy.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Happy Thursday.