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Inbox: The storyline in Chicago writes itself

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Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

What scheme or approach to you think Philbin and Rodgers will try against the Bears’ defense? I don't see us running on them with any regularity, but we’ll have to try or they will be teeing off on AR. This will easily be our biggest challenge of the season playing at Chicago, and I am sure they are thinking of that first game of the year.

They’re also thinking of clinching their first division title since 2010 against a rival whom they haven’t beaten on their home field since that same season. The storyline in Chicago writes itself.

Tom from Fairfield, CT

Well, I think I'm seeing the tiniest trickle of a swagger in Rodgers' and other Packers' body language, statements, etc. I think this is exactly what the doctor ordered. These guys have absolutely nothing to lose at this point. It makes for a very positive and favorable energy, which is the opposite of the tension and negativism we saw the month or so prior to that, don't you think?

It’s a long season, and any positive and favorable energy must be drawn upon whenever available. For numerous reasons, it was in short supply since the bye week. Now is the time to seize it, whatever comes of it.

John from Apopka, FL

From what the Bears’ offense showed last Sunday, stopping the Bears’ running attack will be the key to this game. Forcing the Bears into a passing mode will give the Packers a better chance for turnovers. Trubisky didn't do well in the cold of Chicago. The Packers will have to keep seven in the box to stop the run and force Trubisky to beat them. Your thoughts?

Yes, you must put the game in Trubisky’s hands, but you forgot to mention containing him on scrambles. He has almost 400 rushing yards this year. Too many teams have let him ramble around. Don’t rush to sack him, rush to make him throw it.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

If there's anything this season has taught me it's that I don't know anything about football but I really enjoy it. How do I become one of those fans that knows everything and is always angry?

That’s funny.

Casey from Kansas City, MO

Why in the world can't the refs go back and look at a play without the coach challenging? There are 22 guys running around, obviously sometimes they aren't going to have the best look. If it's questionable why can't they say "Hey, I didn't get a good look, let’s go back and check it out."

I ended Tuesday’s “Unscripted” with the thought that as much as the NFL has resisted over the years incorporating anything from the college game (e.g., two-point conversion, targeting rule), we’ve reached a point where the league almost has no choice but to adopt the college replay system where a booth official can stop the game to take a look at any play he/she deems worthy of review. But then Wes astutely brought up the point that based on how various reviews have gone this year, all bets are still off. I can’t disagree, but we have to keep trying.

Ivan from Oxnard, CA

I read somewhere that about 37 percent of replay-review calls have been overturned since 1999. Commentators are saying they find it difficult to overturn the original call on the field even when it's obvious. Seems like they're protecting the officials too much. Why have replays if you're not going to get it right when slow-motion evidence is there?

This is the other thing I’ve decided. The call on the field shouldn’t matter anymore. Why give such credence to clearly unreliable decisions? Call what is seen on the replay. Period.

Jerry from Onalaska, WI

Snow in South Carolina! I can hear Vic screaming his profanities from here.

I hope everyone’s staying safe down there. Wow.

Tyler from Grantsburg, WI

Rodgers is on 368-pass streak without an interception, but will be facing a Bears defense that has 25 on the season and is coming off a four-interception night against one of the top teams in the league. Win the turnover battle, that’d be my “Packers win if...” if I were part of the “Final Thoughts” cast.

The stats you mention there fall into the “somethin’s gotta give” category for Sunday.

Andy from Eden Prairie, MN

I know Davon House was brought back to be a good veteran presence, but I hope we focus on bringing back Breeland next year to be that "veteran." I know he has struggled to stay healthy, but when he does play, I think he shows why Carolina signed him to that now voided three-year/$24M deal. Two INTs and a fumble recovery. Not bad for the deal we signed him to. Hopefully we re-sign him before he hits the open market and gets too spendy. Alexander was quoted, "I need him back." WE need him back.

No roster ever has enough veteran cornerbacks who are proven players. As I said in my mid-week chat, it’ll come down to price.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

Dec. 9, 1984. Imagine that, Spoff and I share our first ever NFL game. I was just over three months old, but still neat.

No kidding? I was 12 and I’ll never forget it. I still think about it every time I see the columns out front of Soldier Field.

Ted from Boston, MA

Wes/Spoff, do you feel like some days you are particularly proud of the Inbox? I imagine your reactions regularly include frustration, laughter, anger, gratitude, and embarrassment. Much like being a parent.

Except the Inbox never grows up.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

Well Mike, the last two weeks didn't quite go according to plan, but you'll be getting on that plane to Chicago still in the hunt. As far as the Bears go, what are your thoughts on their use of trick plays? I'm not sure which is better, the creativity behind them or the execution. I mean, if I'm the Bears, I keep going back to the well. I just don't see a situation where one of these plays could potentially blow up in their faces.

What impresses me the most about those calls is they’re in crucial situations. Third-and-goal against the Rams in an 8-6 game. Do-or-die last play of regulation vs. the Giants. That tells me they’ve practiced them more than just here or there so Nagy feels good about the calls anytime.

Tony from Eau Claire, WI

I've heard just about enough of this "lose for a high draft pick" nonsense! I would never cheer for a team that isn't committed to winning each week. Even if we're pulling starters/playbooks Week 17 for an eventual playoff push, those backups better know that this organization expects them to win. I think "losing to win" breeds a dense, passive-aggressive organizational culture of inferiority that I want no part of. I like our team's culture, and I like what it models for me, an admiring fan.

Well said, and the last to be said on my watch regarding this topic.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

"The Horror” – the Bears are poised to dominate the NFC North for ? years to come. I couldn't imagine saying/thinking that a year or two ago. Mike, tell me why I'm wrong and it won't happen.

Dominate? Nah. Even when the Packers won four straight division titles (2011-14), I never considered it dominating. The standings in ’12 and ’14 are proof of that. The Bears are good. I take nothing away from their season. Their level of competitiveness over the next few years will depend on two things. One, they’ll have to draft better than most, because they don’t have a first-round pick until 2021. Two, Trubisky’s development. What’s his ceiling? That’s really the key to how much better they can get.

Zach from Winona, MN

To touch on the Dolphins-Pats last-second play, how did Belichick think they were going to throw a Hail Mary? I don’t think Tannehill could even throw it that far. And even if you did, why not put your freak athlete Josh Gordon back deep? It’s not about picking off the Hail Mary. It’s about disrupting it. I think 12 might have some input on this as well.

I’m no Belichick apologist, but you obviously don’t remember earlier this year he had Gordon back deep on the Hail Mary at Soldier Field, and the Bears still caught the pass, right in front of Gordon, only to be tackled at the 1-yard line by other guys. I’m sure he had that potential in mind – a catch in the field of play and the receiver slipping away for the score – so his primary thought defensively was to prevent a long catch.

Dean from Orlando, FL

I know Packer fans are disappointed in the Packers’ season this year, but there are four playoff teams from last year in the NFC who are fighting for, at most, the sixth spot. Which team is the most disappointing to you – Eagles, Vikings, Panthers, Falcons, or Packers?

Why pick one? The question itself, with so many viable choices, illustrates the danger of expectations. That’s the takeaway.

Dale from Berlin, WI

What is your evaluation of the Kirk Cousins deal at this point?

He’d better make it work with his next offensive coordinator, I’ll say that.

Jeff from Kansas City, MO

It would appear the reports of the death of NFL defenses are greatly exaggerated.

But do any of those defenses have an offense that makes anyone worry? And are those defenses going to hold up in the warm-weather or dome locales the fast-track offenses prefer? Home field will matter in the playoffs, considerably.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

After these last two Sunday night and Monday night games, it looks as if the old adage that defense wins championships may still merit reconsideration in this season of offensive explosion. My husband said that he still loved the thrill of the Week 14 Rams-Chiefs 105-point epic Monday night game, but the showing by the Bears' and Seahawks' defenses has been genuinely impressive.

No doubt, but let’s see what the postseason brings.

Kristen from Surprise, AZ

I was resigned to missing the playoffs for a second straight year. This glimmer of hope is messing with my emotions. Of course I want us to win out, but I don't want to be crushed again! Just part of being a fan, right? Tell me this is normal.

Very normal, but don’t fear disappointment. Accept it as a realistic outcome and you can still enjoy rooting for a better one.

Tom from Palatine, IL

After watching the Bears manhandle the supposed best offense in football on Sunday night, what do you think the Packers need to do to slow down that pass rush? More quick timing routes and screens or just try to run/play-action? Any thoughts?

Run the ball. If it’s not working, run it some more. And if it’s still not working, run it some more. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you have to find a way to run against the Bears in order to protect the QB and the ball. Run the ball with multiple tight ends, out of four wide, with a fullback, try it all.

Brayden from Fayetteville, NC

Who is your choice for defensive ROY? I may be biased, but with Jaire Alexander’s play this year, I think he’s an obvious front-runner.

Nothing against Alexander, but it’s going to be difficult for anyone but Derwin James or Darius Leonard to win that award at this point.

Curt from Oronoco, MN

Half or more of NFC teams still have a shot at a playoff spot. Parity? Mediocrity? Does it matter to the league which?

What do you think? Last week, Cowboys-Eagles pitted 7-5 vs. 6-6, with plenty on the line. Officiating controversies aside, it was as entertaining a late-season football game as anyone could ask for.

Eric from Cary, NC

After doing a brief recap of events from the weekend, is it safe to say this is the year of the goal post and overtime? I don't recall ever seeing so many balls bounce off the uprights and so many games go to overtime.

I don’t have the upright stats in front of me, but I did look up the OTs. The record is 25 in one season (2002), and this year was on a similar pace with 10 OTs in the first seven weeks. But then there were no OTs from Weeks 8-12, and the season total is now at 13.

Kerry from Kickapoo, KS

So being the Insiders, can you back-door me into the Paul McCartney concert in June? I can masquerade as one of Marge's seamstresses.

Only if you come in through the bathroom window.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Until the Packers demonstrate the ability to beat good teams, any talk of the playoffs is an exercise in fantasy. This week is it. This is the season. The baloney stops now. Can this team beat the Bears? I look forward to finding out.

Me, too. Make it a great Wednesday.

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