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Inbox: The eyes and the stats say so

It really is the backbone of the team in so many ways

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Packers defense celebrates S Adrian Amos's interception

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

With all the talk of tiebreakers the last few weeks, it's almost like we forgot the best way to get the first seed: just have the best record.

Works every time, doesn't it?

Colin from Victoria, Canada

An awesome performance on both sides of the ball. What an exclamation point Jaire Alexander put on the game's final play! He absolutely denied Jimmy Graham from gaining any yards after the catch, and, of course, the end zone.

It was a fitting end to a defensive performance that saw the Bears go 0-fer in the red zone after the game's opening drive, with another stop coming on the fourth down just five yards from the red zone, at the 25.

John from Yakima, WA

Kudos to defense for red-zone stops, and for limiting Bears to three points in the 11-plus minutes TOP in third quarter; with demerits for allowing five fourth-down conversions.

But the one fourth down the Bears didn't convert was arguably the play that changed the game.

Dan from Toledo, OH

Week 17 scheduling has largely been a success, but have to think the NFL wants a do-over with SNF in a game where the Eagles had nothing to play for, benefited with a loss, and suspiciously put in their third-string QB. I know it probably wasn't a tank job and was probably for evaluation, but tell that to a Giants fan.

The league picked the only game it could guarantee a win-to-get-in scenario existed for somebody. It had no other option without risking a totally meaningless game. And I have no sympathy for the Giants. They won six games.

John from New York, NY

As a football fan, you have to be happy to see Alex Smith return from his leg injury and Ron Rivera battle cancer through the year and end up winning the NFC East. Never underestimate the power of the human soul!

Amen.

Casey from Frisco, TX

Well, when it came to securing the No. 1 seed, we didn't get the help we needed in Week 16 and we didn't get the help we needed in Week 17. Chalk one up for "just win."

The Packers got the help they needed earlier in December, from a four-win Eagles team no less. At that point, it was win the last three to get the top seed, and Green Bay got the job done.

Ryan from Sheboygan Falls, WI

Will Aaron Rodgers be the MVP?

I stated many times I thought he wrapped up the award last week, so I don't think he lost it by throwing four TDs and posting a 147.9 passer rating.

Michael from Lady Lake, FL

Okay Mike, please allow me to be perhaps the 1,000th person to ask: If Marquez Valdes-Scantling had caught that 53-yard pass for a touchdown, everything else being equal, would that have been enough for Rodgers to beat his own passer rating record?

It's impossible to say because so much more game remained at that point. What I can tell you, statistically, is if MVS catches the 53-yard TD, at that moment in time, Rodgers' passer rating for the season would have been 123.0, a half-point better than his 122.5 record. But there still would have been 28 minutes of game clock to go. He came awfully close no matter how you look at it. As I mentioned last week, if his interception vs. Tennessee had just been an incomplete pass, his season passer rating would have gone up by nine-tenths of a point.

Graeme from Tucson, AZ

So many talking points from that game. For me, the best part was seeing how the offense was able to overcome the MVS drop and a stalled third quarter to find their mojo again when it mattered in the fourth quarter. However, what do you think caused the slump? Did it really stem from the missed touchdown?

Yes, to be frank. It was deflating, and then the next offensive series they had second-and-1 and didn't convert. The slump seemed worse than it was because the Bears started playing ball-control.

Will from Glendale, AZ

The biggest win for me today was the NFL got the entire regular season in on time. As someone married to a front-line worker, the stories I heard made me think this season was going to be torpedoed sometime in October.

I admit I thought the exact same thing back in the spring and summer. I'm so glad I was wrong. But there's another finish line to cross.

Aaron from Maryville, MO

Who is the potential opponent for the Packers next?

It could be the Bears, Rams, Buccaneers or Washington. If the Bears beat the Saints, it's the Bears. If the Bears lose and the Rams beat the Seahawks, it's the Rams. If the Bears and Rams both lose, then it's the Tampa Bay-Washington winner.

Ari from Chicago, IL

Good morning Mike! Thanks for the live blog, we all really appreciate it. As it feels inevitable that we'll be hosting Tampa Bay in two weeks, is it too early for the coaches to be game planning for the Bucs?

The usual procedure during a playoff bye is to do some prep work for all the potential opponents, except now it's four possibilities instead of three. Though one of those four is Chicago, so it's only three new opponents to look at. But I'm with you – if I were to lean one way, I'd skew the time and resources at least a little toward Tampa Bay and adjust from there.

Susan from Santa Cruz, CA

Hi Mike, last week Wes mentioned that the Packers had the No. 1 seed only twice in his lifetime. Since you are my age, how many times has it been in your lifetime? I can only recall one other No. 1 seed prior to today, but they've obviously done it at least once more, since I am older than Wes.

1996, 2011 and this year. That's it, that's all.

Nate from New Berlin, WI

This is a team that can fumble a punt return, drop a touchdown, lose the time of possession by 10 minutes, and still score 35 points. Pretty encouraging going into the playoffs.

It's incredibly difficult to score 35 points in seven legitimate possessions, just 44 plays. That's kind of ridiculous, really.

Luc from St. Thomas, Canada

So not only did Rodgers finish with more TD passes than punts, but Davante Adams finished with more TD receptions than Mason Crosby had FGs.

Speaking of ridiculous.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

I don't recall Snacks getting into the game. Was there not enough time to get him into the game plan or caught up with or our defensive strategies or verbiage?

Wes and I estimate that Damon Harrison played around a dozen snaps. They didn't waste any time getting him in there. He was on the field in the first quarter.

Soldier Field hosted a Week 17 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.

Joe from Wausau, WI

Mike Pettine. Give the guy credit. The defense has surrendered fewer than 20 points in four of the last five games. I think the key move was replacing Christian Kirksey with Krys Barnes as every-down linebacker. Barnes has been better there than Kirksey, and Kirksey has had impact plays in a reduced role. Thoughts?

Your last point I've been making for a few weeks now. I think Barnes would have taken on the larger role sooner if not for his injuries and stint on the COVID list. But what matters is the defense has its best alignment and is playing its best football now.

Garrett from Le Mars, IA

All-Pro left tackle lost for the season and that OL doesn't miss a step. Is this the deepest OL unit you've seen? While I miss Bak, that unit...WOW.

It has adjusted with aplomb all season long. Remarkable work. I'd have to study other years more closely to claim the "deepest" (when T.J. Lang is a backup on a Super Bowl-winning team that also lost its starting right tackle for the season, you're pretty deep), but I would say this group is the most flexible and resilient. It really is the backbone of the team in so many ways.

Jacob from Mason, OH

Why didn't we see much of AJ Dillon?

I'm sure the plan was to use him more, but the Packers only ran 44 offensive plays. That's painfully low.

Ryan from Ripon, WI

With the NFL looking at adding 17 games, are they going to decrease the preseason games? Will they add a bye week? Will this push the playoffs back?

If there's a 17th regular-season game, the preseason would be reduced to three games. I don't believe the NFL wants to start the regular season any earlier (the decision was made years ago to not start on Labor Day weekend), so I believe the postseason would get pushed back a week. I have not heard about adding any byes.

Jason from Vernon Hills, IL

How has LaFleur been able to get control of the locker room? Why does he resonate so well with the players and coaches?

He keeps it real. Players know where they stand with him, and he genuinely cares about them. He demands as much of himself, if not more, than he demands of anybody else. He's fostered an environment of widespread input and responsibility, but everyone knows who makes the final decision and moves forward together. He takes accountability, publicly and privately, for failures or shortcomings. It all adds up to effective leadership.

Monika from Charlotte, NC

Do you think Matt LaFleur knew what he was getting with Aaron Rodgers when he took the job? In what ways do you think Rodgers surprised him?

I think LaFleur knew exactly the player he was getting. What he couldn't be absolutely sure of initially was whether Rodgers would put everything into learning and mastering a new offensive scheme this deep into his career. Last year was not easy on Rodgers, but to his credit, he embraced it as not only a change but also a process, and here we are.

Nicholas from Moore, SC

Does the David Bakhtiari injury have a ripple effect on re-signing Corey Linsley? Knowing the All-Pro LT is probably out until at least midseason next year, do the Packers need to sign the starting center even more? Having to fill two starting spots where the predecessor was possibly the best in the league at their position would be daunting.

Yes, it would be. You've raised a legitimate question for the offseason. I'm sure Gutekunst has spun his wheels a little bit assessing the situation, but at this stage the priority now is the next game and the opportunity afoot. There will be plenty of time to figure out the rest.

Joel from Sand Springs, OK

Insiders, I read a report recently that the Packers have one of the worst salary caps for next year being 29 million in the red. Is that accurate, and if so, is that fixable with restructuring or are we looking at losing a significant amount of players?

I haven't studied the exact numbers, but every team is going to have cap issues. It will be an offseason of uncharted territory.

Van from Newmarket, Canada

Great end result despite a few big gaffes (Tavon Austin fumble, Preston Smith's offside negating the Adrian Amos strip, Kevin King dropped INT, MVS drop). There's no FULL CONSISTENCY, but which of this team's warts needs the most work if we're to realize our playoff hopes?

It's still special teams. The units had only one bad play in Chicago, and the rest of the effort was solid. But that one bad play can get you beat in the postseason.

Reed from Myrtle Beach, SC

Has there ever been a time where more Packers fans are HUGE Bears fans? No doubt it seems better to not have to play Tampa in two weeks, but also not have the Saints around, too. In other words, the worst-case scenario would be having to beat Tampa and then New Orleans to get to the Super Bowl. Certainly, any other route but that would be preferable.

I was thoroughly unimpressed with Trubisky, who rarely challenged with downfield throws, and with all due respect to the improving Packers' defense, the Saints' defense is better than Green Bay's. But this is the NFL, so we'll see.

Keegan from Atlanta, GA

Have teams entirely given up on throwing at Jaire?

There's a lack of interest, yes.

Gary from Livermore, CA

Longtime reader, first-time writer. Throughout the year we all talk about December football. The Packers have had the two most complete games (in my humble opinion) of the season here in make-or-break December. The road now comes through Lambeau. With the Packers peaking at the exact right time, who do you think are going to be the most influential players offensively and defensively to become the pivotal pieces of the team to reach the SB?

Aside from the obvious choices, if I were to pick one on each side of the ball, I'd choose two guys in the trenches – Billy Turner and Kenny Clark.

Brian from Reno, NV

I feel like this team is tested. Offense is ready. Defense is ready. Come to Lambeau and take it. If you can you deserve it. It is ours for the taking.

The Packers have done everything they've needed to do to earn the top seed, and they finished the regular season strong on both sides of the ball. You can't ask for much more. That said, the Bucs, Saints and Seahawks are not exactly limping into the playoffs. The NFC is wide open, but you're right, the others don't have a choice but to come to Lambeau.

Myles from Phoenix, AZ

Good morning, Mike and Wes. Considering this team and the 2019 team both went 13-3, who do you believe had the better regular season?

This team is the better one. It doesn't mean it'll get as far or farther than last year's, but it's the better team. The eyes and the stats say so.

Ken from New York, NY

Add Green Bay to my weather app...check.

What took you so long?

Dave from Comer, GA

So I guess our 13-3 record last year may not have been a fluke, huh?

I think we're well past that.

Dan from Grand Rapids, MI

It has been a 12-month battle of "I really feel like we're not that far off" after the NFC title game vs. "The Packers are due for regression," and I am excited to see how it ends.

Aren't we all. Happy Monday.

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