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Inbox: That will remain the outlier

It’s a 60-minute game, whether a team is rested or battle-tested

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

Jacob from Holmen, WI

What kind of money will the talking heads exclaim the Packers are playing with Saturday? Lunch money?

That won't get very far in an expensive locale like the Bay Area. But if I could combine mine with Wes's …

Darryl from Glen Carbon, IL

Good morning. Not a question, but a comment on something Wes said yesterday: "The 49ers offense is deep and dangerous." You know what? So is ours. We're not overachieving anymore. We're good. Like, scary good.

Nobody's sneaking up on anybody anymore, not at this stage.

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

OK, on to the Niners. Aside from the usual suspects, such as McCaffrey, Kittle, Purdy, Deebo, and Bosa, are there any under-the-radar folks on their team we should watch out for?

I wouldn't consider any of them under the radar, but there's also Brandon Aiyuk, Fred Warner, Jimmie Ward, Chase Young, and Arik Armstead (if he returns from injury). That's all.

Rich from Fort Lauderdale, FL

Is anyone really sure if Head Coach LaFleur has won his first playoff game without a HOF starting QB quite yet?

Oh boy. Easy now.

Craig from Beldenville, WI

Hello Mike, with Kingsley Enagbare's unfortunate late injury, who is most likely to be rotating in with LVN? I've really enjoyed 55's play this year, seems to have a heck of a motor.

Enagbare is an energy guy and the defense will miss him. Next up could be Brenton Cox Jr., who's been a gameday inactive most of the season, while Arron Mosby and Keshawn Banks are options from the practice squad, as I outlined in this story. First and foremost, I expect a larger workload for Lukas Van Ness, whose game has gotten steadily more productive as the season's gone on.

Brian from Alta Vista, IA

If you are Shanahan and win the toss, are you deferring and potentially letting the Packers get off to a hot start, or do you take the ball in the first half to try and prevent that?

A popular query. If I'm Shanahan, I'm probably counting on my very fresh defense to stand tall on the opening series.

Scott from Liberty Township, OH

My untrained eye sees Pollard as more of a straight-line runner and the defense did a fantastic job of plugging the holes up front and the linebackers and safeties did their job of tackling at the second level. With the patience, elusiveness and speed of McCaffrey, what extra schematic elements can the defense add to limit his production?

That's the thing with the 49ers. You can't scheme your way to containing McCaffrey, Samuel or Kittle without leaving yourself vulnerable to one of the other guys. The way they challenge you with so many big-time weapons (Aiyuk too), they make it difficult to get a lot of hats to the ball. They force you to tackle well in the open field, often singled up. Miss against these guys and you're in trouble.

Paul from Los Angeles, CA

The last time the Packers had the No. 1 seed we were bumped out by the streaking wild-card 49ers. I always felt the rest hurt us. Teams usually seem to perform better when they have to scrap their way into it, as the Packers are now. The 49ers not only had a bye, but rested most of their starters Week 18. They haven't played in a while and I hope it shows.

Rest vs. rust is debated in all sports, all the time. Frankly, there's legitimate risk no matter which way you go, especially in a sport like football with injuries so prevalent. In the game you reference from two years ago, the Packers marched right down the field on their opening possession and scored a touchdown, while the defense started the game on fire. That loss wasn't about being sluggish from the time off. It's a 60-minute game, whether a team is rested or battle-tested.

Erik from Sisters, OR

Does ML have some plays squirreled away for the next game, not so much trick plays but just unscouted looks? Also, does installing those plays become impossible with the short week or have they practiced them throughout the year? Also, did the Packers use any new looks for Dallas or did they use the menu that got them there? Thanks!

In any game plan, there's always a mixture of base concepts with variations, plus other ideas implemented that are opponent-specific. Thoughts from prior game plans are recycled, too, for certain situations, such as the back-side bomb to Luke Musgrave from Week 1 in Chicago. On a short week like this with mostly jog-through work, I wouldn't expect a bunch of brand-new stuff they don't have time to rep, but with all the time guys like Christian Watson, Aaron Jones and Musgrave missed, I'm sure they have plays from game plans that were repped at some point but never called.

Chris from Weston, WI

Key to this 49ers game – score touchdowns not field goals. This game strikes me as one that will have limited possessions for each team. McCaffrey will get a bunch of touches as will Jones. Red-zone offense, and defense, will be huge. Plus, sometimes the difference between three and seven is more than just the four points.

That's what I harped on all last week for the Dallas game, and it certainly continues to apply. It's very hard to shut postseason teams down on offense, but limiting the damage on the scoreboard while maximizing your own chances can go a long way. That's precisely how the Lions beat the Rams.

John from Portland, OR

Willie Davis, Jordy Nelson, now Romeo Doubs, some pretty impressive playoff performances by Packers wearing No. 87. Am I forgetting anyone? Thanks to you and your staff for all of your work and great coverage.

Robert Brooks had three 100-yard receiving games in his playoff career.

Gary from Davenport, IA

While Wes was correct when he said Jordan Love had the QB rating record for a first postseason start, he didn't mention that he tied the record. It was set the day before by C. J. Stroud. Their stat lines were identical except Stroud had two more yards passing and two more rushing.

The record for a first playoff start is actually Wisconsin native Dave Krieg's max 158.3 in '83 for Seattle vs. Denver, but it never makes any lists because he only attempted 13 passes (12-of-13, 200 yards, 3 TDs) in a 31-7 blowout.

BJ from Crystal Lake, IL

Good morning II. During the Bills vs. Steelers game Allen took off from the pocket and at any moment when he got close to a defender, he could've slid, but he didn't and ended up taking it to the house. In the second half, Allen takes off again and just as the defender starts to go for the tackle Allen slides and gets the 15-yard penalty. Safety is key and QBs are protected, but it seems like QBs are having their cake and eating it too. Mahomes does the same thing on sidelines.

I didn't like Allen's fake slide on the long TD run, either. That shouldn't be allowed.

Matt from Kolesin, Poland

I think that people who make a schedule of divisional round should consider that teams which face well-rested No. 1 seeds should have a full week, not one day shorter.

That was never part of the equation. With two wild-card games on Monday, those two winners were slated to play Sunday so they wouldn't be on a two-days-short week. The Buffalo postponement practically guaranteed the Green Bay-Dallas winner would be playing Saturday.

Jeff from Dorr, MI

Watching replay of 2016 playoff game last week and either Buck or Aikman mentioned Red Batty by name while fixing Bulaga's chinstrap. Sewing jerseys, fixing chinstraps, what was this guy's original career choice? What does he do in the offseason, wander around the stadium fixing things like a loose newel post?

His career choice was football equipment. It's been his life. Red was born in Montreal and was a ball boy for the CFL's Allouettes at age 14. He became their equipment manager at 20, moved on to the same job with the Houston Oilers at 22, and 13 years later came to Green Bay. He's got two Grey Cup rings as well as two Super Bowl rings. He's a treasure as well as an institution around here. And his favorite sport is, of course, hockey.

Grant from Janesville, WI

Following up on drafting and developing QBs. This will only happen with QBs drafted in the mid-late first round to winning teams. The Packers could teach Love while Rodgers won games. Mahomes could sit because Alex Smith was a solid starter. The Titans tried it this year with Levis behind Tannehill, but then impatience set in when the losing began, so in went Levis. Throwing QBs into the fire works often enough (Herbert, Burrow, Stroud) that franchises won't change their ways.

I agree. The way the Packers, Chiefs and Ravens got to where they are with their current quarterbacks, that will remain the outlier. There are enough success stories going for the quick fix that plenty of teams will hope they can end up on that side of the ledger.

James from Santa Maria, CA

Good morning all, if I had the words I would describe how much fun that victory was but instead I would just like to share what has been said by the talking heads since the dominant victory: "Jerry Jones needs to look at the entire organization because Dallas just got beat by an INFERIOR team." My question is Mike and Wes can you put that on a bulletin board somewhere please?

Anyone who would say that knows nothing about the NFL. The only thing inferior about the Packers was their record at 9-8. They finished the season 6-2, the Cowboys finished it 7-2. The records decided where the game was played. That's all. No team in the NFL is the same in January as it is in September and October. That's this league. Just ask the Eagles.

Tim from Tucson, AZ

With the early demise in the playoffs of some teams that previously looked like Super Bowl contenders and the late rise of teams like the Packers, it appears an old adage is quite true. "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse." Seems applicable to an NFL season.

I talked about this on our latest "Unscripted." Every team's season is its own entity. Some teams steadily grow and improve. Others fall off. Some plateau, and therefore start lagging behind those that are improving. Some ride a rollercoaster of ups and downs that never stops. Some get hot and there's no telling when they'll cool off. Health and the timing of injuries always factor in. When I was a kid, I loved watching speedskating in the Olympics, mostly because of Eric Heiden from Madison. I liken the NFL's regular season to those long-track, distance events. Everybody battles through the grind of 17 games, which eliminates 18 teams and positions the other 14 based on how they fared. Then they take those 14 to the short track and fire another starting gun.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

After all that talk of strongest divisions, there's exactly one division left with two teams in the tourney and it's the NFC North. Who would have thunk it?

And the only division in the NFC to have two teams combine for 23 wins is the only one not to be represented this weekend. Welcome to the crapshoot known as the playoffs.

Bruce from Travelers Rest, SC

Only one visiting team prevailed last weekend.

Only one game decided by fewer than 14 points was the more surprising thing to me.

George from Edinburg, VA

Mike, was play No. 4 in your WYMM the one where coach LaFleur called a timeout because the play was for Doubs and he had come off the field?

Yup, that's the one.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

What is the timing for selecting the NFL Coach of the Year? Four NFL teams have no Pro Bowlers on their roster. One of those teams just dismantled a home-field juggernaut (and seven Pro Bowlers) in front of 40 million viewers. The other three earned picks 1, 2, and 3 in the upcoming draft – though Carolina's pick goes to the Bears. Will the eye-popping performance of this young roster in these closing weeks factor into ML's chances?

It's a regular-season award, and the votes are turned in before the playoffs begin. I mentioned to Wes when we started watching the Cleveland-Houston game on the flight to Dallas, with Kevin Stefanski and DeMeco Ryans two top contenders for the award, it's going to look a little silly if the voters picked the loser of that game, especially now that it turned into a blowout.

James from Sidney, MT

The win against Dallas was amazing. And the team should be extremely proud of themselves. But how do they keep themselves humble enough to not let it go to their heads? San Francisco will be quite the test for this young team.

It wasn't that long ago this game humbled them plenty. They've learned that improving and winning is a heckuva lotta fun, and this team to me looks like it just wants to keep having fun.

Ed from Windsor, CO

It appears this GBP team has matured and does not blink. I bet most NFC fans would have bet against both Bays, good thing there is no gambling allowed at Bushwood. The Packers are 10-point underdogs. Just spin the wheel or roll the dice, isn't it a great opportunity?

That's all anyone can ask for.

Sue from Three Lakes, WI

One of my all-time favorite Wes quotes, "If people wanna sleep on GB, then tuck 'em in!" Can you beat that, Spoff? GPG!

I'm not even going to try. That might be my favorite of Wes's many great lines this season.

Brian from Sugarland, TX

Shakespeare wrote, "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." Then there is hubris, assuming greatness. Let's see how this all works out.

I'm also fine relying on the original bard. Happy Wednesday.

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