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Inbox: The response storyline cuts both ways this week

It’s never a question of if, only when

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Titans celebrate after touchdown during Titans-Texans football game

Eric from Stramproy, Netherlands

Hey Mike, for a guy who wouldn't want to be doing anything sales-related, Wes sure knows how to sell a story. Don't you think?

Don't give him any ideas or we'll lose him to more lucrative endeavors.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

Marcedes Lewis' interview Wednesday – wow. His professionalism and wisdom about the moment is impressive. He's a very impressive guy.

He has a presence both physically and orally that's rare. I don't think it's an accident that some of the Packers' tightest locker rooms have been when, separately, he and Julius Peppers have been here.

Melissa from Woodbury, MN

With all that is going on with COVID, how have you adjusted your regular-season coverage compared to prior years? Any big challenges you wouldn't otherwise face?

We're still producing the same amount of written content. The biggest challenge in that regard is having access to only a handful of player interviews per week, as opposed to an open locker room for 45 minutes three straight days. But we're managing. We're only doing two episodes of "Unscripted" per week instead of five due to the changed work demands of others involved in production. Same goes for our live Facebook/Twitter game preview segments, which we've had to abandon for the time being.

Jeremiah from Madison, WI

Wow, the Vikings traded Yannick Ngakoue after just six games. Is this them giving up on the season?

It's hard to see their struggling defense (28th in yards, 31st in points) getting better without the guy who has five of their 13 sacks and with Danielle Hunter now out for the season. They clearly wanted to get something for Ngakoue and save a bunch of money ($7.8 million or so in prorated salary) in the process. The front office appears to be looking toward the future. I guess we'll see how the coaches and players react.

Dan from Cromwell, CT

I have to correct Wes on his answer from yesterday. A Packers player has faced a father and then later son, Aaron Rodgers just dealt with Antoine Winfield Sr. and Antoine Winfield Jr. this past Sunday.

Several readers pointed this out. He stands corrected.

Josh from Salt Springs, New Brunswick

Hey Mike, on your mid-week chat you mentioned some notable games, however if you are tuning in for Steelers-Ravens, you may have to wait a bit, as the undefeated Steelers play the undefeated Titans this Sunday. Cheers.

Clearly. Live-action fumble on my part. I also stand corrected.

Tom from Two Rivers, WI

The way I see it, the Packers punched themselves in the face and couldn't get up off the mat. At the start of the second quarter, they were clearly in control of the game and the Bucs were teetering on the edge of a blowout loss. That's how razor thin the margin for error is in the NFL. What's your most recent previous memory of a Packer game that sort of played out the same way, win or lose?

Week 2 vs. Detroit. The Lions led 14-3 after one quarter and looked unstoppable. The Packers started to turn the tide in the second quarter and then landed the haymakers with the 75-yard TD run and pick-six early in the third quarter. Not exactly the same, but it happens in the NFL all the time.

Jason from New Hampton, IA

What has you excited about the matchup between the Packers and Texans this weekend?

That a large majority of Inbox submissions beginning around 3 p.m. on Sunday will no longer remain focused on the Bucs game.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Wasn't it interim coach Romeo Crennel who led KC past the 14-0 Packers in 2011? Same script but let's hope for a different ending this year.

Yes, that was Crennel as the Chiefs' interim coach nine years ago, but the Packers were 13-0, to be accurate. We've been talking all week about how the Packers respond to the Bucs game, but it'll also be interesting to see how the Texans respond to a gut-punch loss to a division rival that dropped them to 1-5. Will giving an undefeated team everything it could handle buoy them, or will the result and their place in the standings deflate them? The response storyline cuts both ways this week.

Al from Green Bay, WI

If you were the Texans coach, would you rather face a 5-0 Packers team that's rolling, or a 4-1 squad that got punched in the mouth last weekend?

Doug just reminded us of Crennel's answer.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Since we're focused on moving forward, here's a question about Sunday. Romeo Crennel is resetting his own record for oldest head coach in NFL history every week, while Matt LaFleur is one of the youngest in the league. Is this the biggest head coach age gap in history, or is it beat by something like the Pete Carroll/Sean McVay matchup?

I can't confirm the biggest gaps in league history, but these have to be close if not it. Crennel and LaFleur are 33 years apart (73 and 40). Carroll and McVay are 35 years apart (69 and 34).

Chun from El Monte, CA

This defense is meant to play with the lead and force the opponents into abandoning the run so we can rush the passer and create turnovers. How do we flip that script and make this defense good against the run? We have talent up front and in the secondary but somehow we get gashed every week for chunk plays.

Every defense gets gashed every week for chunk plays. That's the NFL. The key is whether you can recover before the possession is over, and that's a huge difference right now between this year's Green Bay defense and last year's. The Packers are currently 29th in the league in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 76.5% of the time (13-of-17). Last year, they were tied for sixth at 50% (24-of-48). Every red-zone stop saves four points, and the Packers aren't getting those stops.

Ryan from Colfax, WI

I'm not trying to extrapolate or be over-dramatic, but what do you think is the biggest problem of the Packers' pass rush? Their personnel is relatively the same, a better Rashan Gary, and another year in Pettine's system. Was Kenny Clark's absence early on bigger than what we think? I think back to last year and remember that opposing QBs were always under pressure, this year it is almost non-existent.

Along with the lack of turnovers, that's another big difference from last year. I'm not going to claim to have the answers. I do think getting Za'Darius Smith, Gary and Clark all back to full health will make a difference. It has to. They've all battled injuries of different sorts. Pass rush is at the root of most turnovers.

Mike from Baraboo, WI

J.J. Watt appears to be on a slow decline but he is still a force. What will be Green Bay's game plan to hold the Texans' pass rush at bay?

We'll have to see if the Packers will be forced to adjust up front due to David Bakhtiari's injury, or if the All-Pro left tackle can play. Watt and Mercilus make the pass rush go, and how the Packers line up will determine how much chipping and helping from the backs and tight ends they'll employ on the edges.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

When Bakh went down I expected Elgton Jenkins to step in at tackle like he had done Week 1 on the right side. Is there a particular reason they started him at RT over a healthy Wagner in Week 1 but then switched to having Wagner come in at LT in Week 6?

In-game adjustments are usually different from the ones you make during the week when players are taking all their practice reps.

Andy from Verona, WI

What are your thoughts on the start of the Big Ten football season?

Tonight will be my first snaps of college football this fall. It's been hard for me to get interested without the conference I've followed all my life being in on the action.

Jeff from Coventry, RI

We hear every week it's a copycat league, so what did Tampa do that Houston will try to copy? More importantly, do they have the personnel to do so? Most importantly, how do we beat it?

I don't think Houston has the personnel defensively. Zach Cunningham and Tyrell Adams are not Lavonte David and Devin White, but nobody really is. Offensively, the Texans won't hesitate to run the ball with David Johnson and test the Packers deep with speedy receivers like Fuller and Cooks.

Eric from Blacksburg, VA

Interesting, but also obvious thought: If not for the Packers winning all their division games last year, the Bears could have been 10-6 and the Vikings could have been 12-4. Makes you remember just how important divisional games are. Very much looking forward to the next five on our schedule.

Every division game is like a doubleheader in the standings.

Dave from East Burke, VT

Do you think the Pack are already scoping out the Bears?

Those two games with Chicago will certainly loom large, but as Eric just pointed out, there are five opponents to play in the meantime. I'd bet if I asked LaFleur when the first Bears game is, he wouldn't be able to tell me.

The Green Bay Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

Jason from Austin, TX

So the Packers should have drafted a WR and ILB with their one first-round pick in the draft? And then sign a high-priced free agent. All while maintaining enough cap space to keep Bak, Aaron Jones and all the other guys that are due a new contract after this season? Cool. Got it. Thanks.

Sure thing.

Andrew from Grayslake, IL

Is Aaron calling out Spoff or Hod when he attacks the "clickbait media" on the McAfee Show?

I don't think those shots are directed at the local media who talk to Aaron multiple times per week. What he objects to, rightfully so, are the online aggregators out there who take a comment from a press conference, usually out of context, and fashion a potentially misleading headline out of it to get clicks. They don't have access or a relationship to maintain so what do they care?

Kevin from Indy, IN

Jaire Alexander shut out Ridley and Evans. He's shown a willingness and ability to tackle all season. He even has an improvised blitz for a safety. What's it going to take for announcers to stop saying he's on his way to becoming a star and admit he's one of the best corners in the league?

Interceptions, until their film study catches up with his game.

Chris from Blythe, CA

Week 1, Davante Adams. Week 2, Jones. Week 3, Allen Lazard. Week 4, Robert Tonyan. Week 5, bye. Week 6, no one...Alright, Mike, let's right this ship! Who's it going to be?

I'm with Wes here. I think it has to be Jones this week.

Paul from Holt, MI

The consensus early on was that this Packer team has the talent to be in the Super Bowl. That and the 4-0 start may not have been a good thing. It is said that "losing" shows the true character of a team. The next three weeks will show if this team can build the character necessary to fulfill the Super Bowl prediction. Anything to add?

I would never say winning four straight games is not a good thing. The objective is to win, and you must do so to give yourself the best chance to win a championship. But the NFL will always reveal and test your character along the way. It's never a question of if, only when.

Scott from New Orleans, LA

What is the defensive key for this week's game against the Texans? I believe it is to contain Deshaun Watson and not let him beat you with his legs.

So do I. That's why I wrote about it. Happy Friday.

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