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Inbox: The film shows they're not

The simplest explanation is often the best one

Falcons QB Matt Ryan

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

Although the Insider Inbox delivers great content, how much better could it be if the writers were chosen in the first round?

I put this first just so Wes gets to scream in all caps some more tomorrow. You're welcome.

Michael from Morrison, IL

Alright Mike/Wes, while the win in New Orleans was great, it's time to look ahead. What does Atlanta do well that could cause matchup problems come Monday night?

We'll see what the news is on Julio Jones and his hamstring later this week, but Calvin Ridley is a tough matchup for anyone. His 349 receiving yards through three games ranks second in the league to DeAndre Hopkins' 356, and his four TDs are tied for first with Tyler Lockett. These guys have scored 90 points in three games without a win. They're capable of outscoring anybody.

Za from Milwaukee, WI

Our next upcoming game with the Falcons is feeling like a total trap game for me. They are 0-3 but they've been very competitive all those games. I feel like their season (and coach's job) is on the line and they are going to come out hard against the Packers to redeem themselves on that national Monday night stage. Is this feeling like a trap game to you?

I don't buy into trap games. It's only a trap game if you believe the Falcons' 0-3 record means they're a bad team. The film shows they're not. That's what the players will be focused on.

Rob from Hull, UK

Did anyone foresee the NFC South being 2-6 outside its own division after Week 3? Four good teams with quality QBs. I feel like the Falcons are not an 0-3 quality team, but they are a very dangerous team who have to start winning now.

I would anticipate the NFC South turning that trend around soon enough, but I'm fine if it waits another week.

Nick from Springfield, IL

Loved the Rock Report on the "best play ever." D coordinators will obviously make adjustments to slow the play by having the end man on the line of scrimmage jam the TE crossing the formation, much like jamming a pulling guard. I guess my question is how does LaFleur counter that?

I'm no X's and O's expert, but my guess is he could turn the play-action start into a read-option look for the QB, and if the end commits to jamming the crossing TE as you say, put the ball into the RB's belly and he's got a huge cutback lane. Or you send the TE in motion before the snap so he gets out earlier, and if the defense commits a cover man to him, that's one less for the intermediate and deep routes that are flooding that side. Watch the video again and I think you'll see what I mean.

Darrell from San Antonio, TX

Now that Tennessee has had positive tests come back and suspended operations, causing Minnesota to shut down, if those two teams can't play games on Sunday what happens? Will they just forfeit those games seeing how it's almost impossible to make them up? The NFL has a small window to reschedule unlike MLB where doubleheaders were played to make up games. It will be interesting to see how the league reacts, especially if someone was at the club and brought the mess back to their teammates.

I honestly can't answer any of those questions. We just have to see what happens from here. The league had protocols in place designed to isolate any potential outbreaks as quickly as possible and minimize the fallout. We will soon find out how well they work.

Bones from Ripon, WI

How in the world are the Green Bay Packers going to be able to stay COVID-free with Wisconsin in general and Brown County specifically literally blowing up with positive cases? What a shame it would be to have any player miss games now after such a fantastic start. I'm more than peeved by the willful negligence of folks in our state concerning the virus. You can leave that last sentence out if that's too politically charged.

No, I won't, because it doesn't have to be this way, and saying so isn't political. Others' willful negligence can negatively impact those taking precautions and therefore create the potential for significant complications to be thrust into what appears to be a promising Packers season. Location/concentration data show this team is at the largest risk of any in the NFL.

Mary from Billings, MT

With the Packers' bye week coming Week 5, what are the Packers' plans for the week off? Do they allow to let the players leave town or keep them around the facility to reduce the risk of COVID-19?

I don't know, but I'm sure LaFleur will be asked about it this week. Stay tuned.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

Is it too early to be worried about the lack of production from Preston Smith? I know we were spoiled last year. Am I expecting too much or are there things I'm not seeing?

I don't think anyone should consider double-digit sacks automatic, from any player. Preston has been dropping into coverage more this year with Fackrell no longer here, so his pass-rush opportunities have diminished. If Rashan Gary's ankle injury keeps him out for any period of time, we'll see if that changes Pettine's plans.

Greg from Sacramento, CA

Why doesn't the coaching staff use the big rookie back on short-yardage downs?

Probably because they're perfectly happy with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in those situations, and they're hesitant to use AJ Dillon because they aren't sure about his pass-protection acumen if Aaron Rodgers changes the play at the line based on the defensive look. LaFleur admitted he wished he'd have gone with different personnel on the fourth-and-1 at midfield Sunday night, but I suspect he was referring to using Williams there, not Dillon coming in cold off the bench. Don't forget Jones did score on fourth-and-goal at the 1.

Andrew from Derby, CT

Going back to Matt from Philly's question about what Collinsworth said about the Packers' defense is built to play and win in shootouts, I think he meant a bend-but-don't-break defense who can rush the passer and create turnovers in high-scoring games. Your thoughts?

That's a fair interpretation, and similar to that put forth by several other readers (though I liked Wes's analogy, too). Go back to Super Bowl LII, for which Collinsworth was in the booth – the highest-scoring in history between the Patriots and Eagles. The shootout turned on Brandon Graham's strip-sack of Tom Brady at crunch time. No one was praising the defenses in that game, but a late defensive play decided it. It's not always the plays you make but when you make them. If the turnover forced by Za'Darius Smith happens in the first quarter, it's not nearly as impactful.

Terrance from Sun Prairie, WI

What player is the biggest threat to the Packers' defense?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the one with the ball.

Steve from Scranton, PA

As flawlessly as the Packers' O executed, I have to believe a sold-out Superdome flips the outcome. I've been at a Penn State-Ohio State game at Beaver Stadium and a playoff game at old Yankee Stadium when the stands actually swayed, but the loudest venue by far was a GB-Detroit game in 2014 at Ford Field. It was uncomfortable and unenjoyable, and I recall thinking how could anyone (players, officials...even sportswriters) function in such an environment. Dome-field advantage is enormous!

Wow, and Ford Field doesn't even approach my top five in terms of discomfort. The Packers have won their share of big games in raucous indoor venues here and there over the past decade (Dallas a few times, Minnesota, Atlanta), so I'm not going to say flat-out the Packers would have lost Sunday night. But there's no question it's an easier task without the crowd noise. As I said after Week 1, the Packers lose some of their home edge, too, but given these first two road stadiums and five of eight road games overall indoors, it's a worthwhile tradeoff for Green Bay.

Matt from Wauconda, IL

Is it just me or does it seem like the offense still possibly has another gear it can kick into? I'm not expecting to score on every drive, but even averaging 40-ish points a game there were points left on the field with shorter field goals. It's very exciting.

Well, I recall talking a lot last year about how the offense, with all the fits and starts, just seemed to need that initial first down to get rolling. The Packers have gone three-and-out only once in three games, and that was with a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter vs. Detroit. So we're witnessing more consistency built upon the foundation we saw last year. More points in close? Careful not to get greedy. The Packers have 10 TDs in 16 red-zone possessions so far. That percentage (62.5) ranks 15th right now, but the 16 chances are more than anyone else in the league, and if the TD rate is maintained over the course of the whole season that's a top-10 figure. Just a little higher to 66-67 is almost always top five.

Nick from Hamilton, ON

You'd think throwing 360-plus touchdowns to non-first-round WRs would prove you don't need them to have a HOF career. Can someone please point this out to all the analysts who won't stop beating that dead horse?

No, no, no. Let's remind them that with Bulaga gone, the Packers' entire offense doesn't have a single first-round pick other than Rodgers suiting up except 15-year veteran Marcedes Lewis, who was drafted the year after Rodgers and arrived here a couple of years ago. At least it would give them a new graphic to make.

Don from Foxboro, WI

The Packers' run defense seems, once again, to be a weakness. Is it scheme, linebackers, lack of personnel in key positions, or am I way off base?

The run defense needs Kenny Clark, but the unit also needs to get off blocks. We're going to hear from defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery later this week and I can almost bet that's what he's going to say. You're going to get blocked in the run game. Beating blocks is how you stop the run game.

Brian from Moncks Corner, SC

The O-line is getting big time props, long overdue. How much of the O-line's early-season success is due to that unit's improvements versus the overall offensive philosophy (run/pass balance) and general comfort level of the offense (Rodgers throwing in rhythm)?

It's a little of everything, but I put it mostly on the comfort level with the offense, though not solely Rodgers' rhythm as you say. The linemen are all more comfortable, too. LaFleur has talked about how checks at the line can change the direction of the play and everyone's job at a moment's notice, and they're executing without a hitch. The linemen themselves have mentioned not having to think as much about assignments and being confident they know exactly what to do. All of that factors in.

Terry from Elk Mound, WI

Regarding Rodgers noticing his "smile" on you interpret that as him being coy, or do you think he literally saw his smile and was reminded of a time when the game was more enjoyable which has resulted in a changed mindset and approach?

I have no idea if he'll turn out to be right, but I thought Wes's answer was brilliant because the simplest explanation is often the best one, however you want to interpret it.

Michael from Corning, NY

Seeing the offense use three different tight ends effectively this week, do you anticipate they will be used as frequently when 17 returns?

Yes, absolutely. They may not get the ball as much, but their snaps aren't going to decrease. They're a big part of how LaFleur's offense functions.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers T David Bakhtiari from his Pro Bowl season.

George from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Is Lambeau Field going to be colder in late-season games without 80,000 fans in their seats?

Ha, I hadn't thought about it. Heat rises and the playing surface is the lowest point in the stadium, so my layman's scientific guess is it won't matter. I'm sure an Inbox reader more well-versed in thermal dynamics can provide a better answer.

Tina from Brooklyn, NY

Both Mike and Wes commented on the Packers' ST doing a good job on the onside kick but on review, if the kick had gone 10 yards, all the Packers were boxed out. They got lucky when the ball spun and stopped. I can't believe that's truly how they wanted to play that.

I took another look. Three things: (1) the ball only went 8½ yards, so it was never really that close to being live, (2) Allen Lazard was in position to push the closest Saints player into the ball to touch it illegally before the 10-yard mark if it veered from its sideways path, and (3) the receiving team doesn't want to engage in blocks, box out, or get too close to the ball because it gives the kicking team the opportunity to push a player into the ball to make it live before 10 yards. I'll stand by my stance they played it pretty well.

Jose from Las Vegas, NV

What happens if the receiving team purposely kicks or slaps the ball out of bounds on an onside kick?

Intentionally batting a live, uncontrolled ball is illegal.

Chris from Bettendorf, IA

Much has been made of Rodgers' hard count and free plays his entire career, but I have yet to see other teams try to get the free play. Almost every other team's linemen come out of their stance and start pointing as soon as a defender jumps, why? It's a credit to all 11 Packers on the field, from Rodgers' cadence, to no one jumping, to Corey Linsley snapping the ball unprompted, to all 11 executing an actual play instead of a fire drill that the Packers get the results they do on those plays.

To be accurate, though, sometimes it is a fire drill. The receivers do improvise routes, similar to when Rodgers is scrambling, to try to maximize on the opportunity.

Kary from Sheboygan, WI

How close was Davante Adams playing against the Saints? Do we find out about him on Wednesday, or is that all pushed back because of the Monday night game?

LaFleur did not indicate how close he was. The first practice this week is pushed back a day, to Thursday.

Kent from Lewiston, ID

Spoff, my son Kyle and his wife Lexie could truly use a jolt of Inbox good fortune as one week ago their daughter Kamas was born prematurely and remains in ICU. Tragically, their Rhodesian Ridgeback, Boone, was hit and killed the same day. The kids and Boone attended the Bears game this past December in Green Bay on their way home to Idaho. Let it be known that Boone was a diehard Packer fan. RIP Big Dog.

All the best to your family, Kent.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Brewers in 2 or 3?

Ha. If there's a way to finish below .500 in a playoff series and still advance, 2020 will find it. Happy Wednesday.