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Inbox: That speaks volumes

They produce like the stars they are

WR Jayden Reed, wide receivers/passing game coordinator Jason Vrable, WR Dontayvion Wicks
WR Jayden Reed, wide receivers/passing game coordinator Jason Vrable, WR Dontayvion Wicks

Ron from Appleton, WI

The Packers can beat the Cowboys. But will they?

That's why we watch.

Nathan from Williamstown, MA

Wes is right, if sixth-seeded Los Angeles ends up hosting the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, that would really be something ;) There's never been a game later than the wild-card round featuring two wild-card teams, correct?

Not that I know of.

Tom from Prescott, AZ

I know there is no math in the Inbox, but has a 7 seed ever beat a 2 seed in the playoffs?

Not yet. In the three previous seasons with this playoff format, Miami last year and Indy in '20 came the closest, each losing by three points at Buffalo.

Dave from Fort Knox, KY

Why do you think the NFL scheduled all the AFC games first? Knowing that possibly two NFC teams will play the following on a short week.

Huh, I hadn't even noticed that until you mentioned it. Maybe for divisional weekend they'll have both AFC games on Saturday and both NFC games on Sunday, meaning only one team from each conference will be on a short week. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Sheila from Denver, CO

I have to say I loved the double dagger call in the radio broadcast. It made it even more exciting. Go Pack Go!

I'll have to ask Larry if that was a first.

Steve from Scranton, PA

Mike, whether GB won 13 games as the 1 seed or snuck in at 7 with a 9-8 mark, your mantra has always been consistent: Just make the playoffs and let the chips fall. The rollercoaster ride of a season and mediocre record is camouflaging the fact that, at this moment, the Pack is a really good football team. Two of our biggest playmakers (33/23) literally played a fraction of the season and now appear healthy, and our QB is light-years beyond his early-season inconsistencies. Your thoughts?

That pretty much sums it up. Beyond the QB, so many young players around him have progressed beyond their inconsistencies as well, both up front (Walker, Rhyan) and on the perimeter (you know the list). I don't know what's going to happen Sunday, but I know this team is going to compete its (tail) off, and if they give themselves a chance in the fourth quarter, we'll see what happens.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Hi Mike, what does the practice and travel schedule look like this week?

Standard for a week with a Sunday game.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

"Even when guys have been banged up, this offense still presents a lot of looks to the opposition. What's more, no two players are alike." How does that affect Dallas' preparation for the game?

They won't be scheming to try to take away one guy, and it's almost impossible to predict in advance certain calls the coaches will design for specific receivers to run. My guess is the Cowboys will focus instead on pass rush in this game, using the home crowd/silent count advantage to heat up Love and see how he responds. They'll look to force the Packers to keep extra bodies in for protection to reduce the downfield route options.

Bob from Racine, WI

Gentlemen: Many thanks for the two of you putting in long hours as seasons get extended. Question: What will the Packers face with the Cowboys they haven't yet faced with other teams they've played?

A team that has jumped on a lot of opponents right out of the gate. The Cowboys scored 296 of their league-high 509 points in the first half. Minimizing any early momentum will be easier said than done, especially down there.

Ray from Clark, NJ

Mike, Joe Barry's game plan of lane integrity and controlled lane blitzes versus Fields was executed phenomenally. I believe this was the biggest factor in the victory. How do you think this plan should differ vs. Dak Prescott or should it be the same?

You can't dismiss Prescott's running ability, but it's certainly not the same. I do like the idea of trying to collapse the pocket around him, though, rather than giving him the chance to fire downfield on the run.

Mark from Snellville, GA

Time to confess. I was so upset when we picked Jordan Love instead of a top receiver but now I am ready to happily eat a massive helping of crow! That said, our O-Line has impressed beyond measure facing Sweat, Hunter, Jones and Hutchinson in recent weeks without any of them making an impact on the game. My keys to beating Dallas, limit Micah Parsons and Cee Dee Lamb while our offense does its thing. Not expecting to win but it wouldn't surprise me! Can we shock the Cowboys again? GPG!

It does feel like Parsons and Lamb are the keys, but everyone goes into games against the Cowboys thinking that, yet they produce like the stars they are. I do like the Packers' recent track record against high-impact pass rushers. Beginning with the Rams and Aaron Donald in Week 9, Green Bay has significantly limited the opponent's top defender in every game but one (Giants, Kayvon Thibodeaux). Top receivers have been the bigger challenge, with Keenan Allen, Chris Godwin and D.J. Chark all having standout games against the Packers, yet George Pickens, Justin Jefferson, Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Moore were all held relatively well in check.

Seth from Chicago, IL

Hey II! Just an observation but I think perhaps my favorite thing this season has been seeing Rashan Gary wear his heart on his sleeve. You can tell he loves everyone on that team, has their back, and is everyone's hype man. Every locker room video of him makes me want to run through walls and/or cry. You can't say enough about what his presence and leadership means to this young group of men. I hope he's a lifetime Packer.

Gary had 4½ sacks during the Packers' three-game winning streak over the Chargers, Lions and Chiefs. Opponents adjusted, and he hasn't had a sack since, while the defense has recorded 16 sacks in the last four games without him (in a sense) since the shutout in Jersey. It feels like Gary is due to bust out again, and if he doesn't because of the attention he continues to draw, the Packers are finding other ways to get home. Hopefully that continues.

Andy from Walpole, MA

I used to hear a lot of talk about the "rookie wall," a slump first-year players would hit around Week 10 due to the increased intensity and longer length of the NFL season. Our rookie receivers don't seem to have had that slump, although pretty much all of them have missed games due to injury. Is the rookie wall a myth? Or have coaches gotten better at coaching guys through it?

I don't think it's a myth, but it wasn't what it once was with training camps so much less strenuous physically than even 15 years ago. No more two-a-days, limited time on the practice field, etc. Other CBA changes have limited padded practices during the regular season as well. Coaches must have a feel for where their team is health-wise at all times. LaFleur has held mostly jog-through practices on Wednesdays down the stretch with the team's injury list so long. All of that factors in.

Paul from Schenectady, NY

I hear countless times of how young and inexperienced the Packers are, and how young players are prone to mistakes. On the last play of the first half against the Bears, the young and inexperienced Packers made mistakes. In the halftime on-field interview ML was very angry with the team and its execution. Isn't ML partially at fault for not attempting a field goal instead of running the final play, given the prior play was nearly intercepted and the Packers are a young, inexperienced team?

LaFleur owned the final first-half sequence in his Monday presser.

Tom from Dade City, FL

Hi guys. It's great knowing that this young team is heading to the playoffs. Many had said they couldn't because Rodgers was gone. I am happy for all the young players that contributed; but I am especially impressed with the wide receiver group. They have really shone brightly, many times right off the practice squad! Who is the wide receivers coach? He and his crew deserve tons of credit! And thanks for all you do to help us understand this whacky game.

As much as Tom Clements might be the best thing to happen to Jordan Love, Jason Vrable might be the unsung hero of the offensive coaching staff this year. LaFleur has brought up his name a lot lately, along with tight ends coach John Dunn. They've had to bring along the youngest guys on the roster while dealing with injuries at the same time, and there isn't a one of them Love doesn't trust out on the field. That speaks volumes.

CJ from Cedar Rapids, IA

Are there any coaches still in Green Bay that are left over from the Mike McCarthy era?

As far as position coaches, other than Clements, who left two years before McCarthy and then returned last year, there's Ben Sirmans (running backs), Jerry Montgomery (D-line), and Ryan Downard (quality control then, now DBs).

Joe from Hampshire, IL

Mike/Wes, during the game, I went ballistic at Corey Ballentine on the punt near the goal line when he did not scatter, but rather ended up grabbing the ball, risking a fumble. I since learned he knows the rules better than I, so can you briefly explain the rule Ballentine demonstrated?

Anytime the punting team is the first to touch the ball, the receiving team is guaranteed possession at the end of the play, no matter what. So there's no chance of a turnover by Ballentine if he grabs the ball and starts to run after the opponent touches it first. I've always been skeptical of calling it a truly no-risk play, though, because a penalty on the ensuing return could still back you up.

John from Lake in the Hills, IL

I know "now is not the time," but Keith from Dodgeville makes a good point. Next year's schedule looks formidable, but things can always change in the NFL. I think what is happening is the NFC North is just starting to become a top to bottom tough division like the AFC North. We can look forward to a higher level of competition. The North may rule again like the "Black and Blue" years.

However the NFC North takes shape in the coming years, all I know is the Packers once again have the best quarterback in the bunch and that's been a pretty good formula the last three decades.

Dan from Concord, NC

During Sunday's game, Tony Romo pointed out that the Packers had eight different receivers with over 200 yards this season (by the end of the game, that number was up to nine). How rare is this accomplishment?

According to my research (which could be wrong), eight Packers have posted 200-plus receiving yards in a season several times. But the only other season I could find with nine was 2021, when as a team the Packers had 316 more passing yards than this year (4,526 to 4,210) and Adams led the way with a franchise-record 1,553. This year's top two, Jayden Reed (793) and Romeo Doubs (674) don't add up to that number.

Tom from Columbus, NJ

In regards to this team being the youngest team in NFL history to make the playoffs … looking back at ONLY the previous two draft classes, Gute really NAILED both. I count eight impactful players from '22 and 9-10 from this past draft. Can you think of a team in recent history that has THAT many draft picks produce right away like that? I really think Gute deserves more credit than he gets. Especially when you factor in some of his other picks and moves throughout the years. Ya gotta LOVE it.

For the record, it's the youngest team since the '74 Bills to make the playoffs, and the No. 7 seed has only existed for four seasons. But with that out of the way, when you look at what Sean Rhyan and Rasheed Walker did in Year 2 after effective redshirt seasons as rookies, it could be a very close call down the road which draft class between '22 and '23 ends up the better one.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Mike, thank you for "Top 10 plays that got Packers into playoffs." Your work provided perfect snow day viewing. Did you have a favorite play of the season?

In terms of the gotta-have-it impact, it was Doubs' game-winning TD vs. the Chargers. Staring 3-7 in the face, the way he snatched that ball out of the air said this team wasn't done yet. As for the visual aesthetics as seen from the press box, it's a toss-up between the Luke Musgrave TD off the double fake screens, and Reed's 59-yarder last Sunday off the play-action boot left. Those were eye-openers from upstairs.

Terry from Elroy, WI

To follow up on the comment from Paula of Apple Valley: When the Packers won it all in 1996, I felt I was part of it after suffering through the previous two decades of Packers football. When they won in 2010, I was happy that my children got to experience it during their lifetimes. Now, I'm just happy for the players, coaches, etc., and hope they do well. Are my changing perspectives just a result of the aging process?

Depends on the individual, but I thought Paula's comment was one of the more intriguing I've ever read from a fan. It's hard to totally relate in the unique position that is this job, but nonetheless it struck a chord. When you're not just rooting for the logos and the colors and the clothes, but you truly like the individuals sporting them and want to see them have success to celebrate, that's a perspective that strikes me as more balanced and enjoyable than any other.

Glen from Eugene, OR

How about a bonus "What I might’ve missed?" segment, where you couldn't see something live, because you were busy giving us your best on the blog?

Happy Wednesday.

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