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Inbox: The summit is within reach

Only one future Hall of Famer can advance to the Super Bowl

Packers run through the tunnel pregame

Ron from Mitchell, SD

Please tell me Dean will enlighten us one more time as we prepare for the battle of this championship game!

He better. I shelled out some serious cash so Dean would postpone his vacation to Barbados a few more weeks to provide us with wise words of encouragement before the biggest game of the season. Good morning!

Grant from Madison, WI

Has this been the longest week of your career? We've been in championship games before, but last year it was pretty clear and convincing the 49ers were the better team. Aaron Rodgers is better this year than nearly ever before. For me, it's been the longest week...Go Pack Go!

Yes. It's time to play the game.

Kevin from Green Bay, WI

Thanks to Rob Demovsky, I now know Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have combined for 130,449 career yards passing and 993 touchdown passes. That's over 74 miles passing. I guess my question is how do you put into words how good these two have been, and for so long?

It's what these moments are all about. Rodgers and Brady are two of the best to ever do it but only one can advance to the Super Bowl. It's drama at its finest.

Sal from Hailey, ID

Morning Wes. Listening to Marcedes Lewis in his interview the other day, I can see why our guys would run through a wall for him. What an exemplary human. The experience, wisdom, and leadership of guys like Lewis, Tramon Williams, Mason Crosby, Aaron, and the rest of the old guard might be the linchpin of our success. Have you ever seen the player-coach dynamic this strong in GB before?

Lewis often says he's the last of a dying breed as a tight end, but that may also be true with how he uses his words. He's kind of a callback to Charles Woodson. Lewis doesn't talk a lot, but everyone listens when he does. The Packers have a strong collection of leaders in that locker room. Who's to say how that compares to previous teams, but it works for this group. They'll be ready to run through a wall by the time the first whistle blows on Sunday.

Rachel from Chetek, WI

Hello! There seems to have been more made of the confidence of this team heading into the playoffs. They are playing with a swagger that has been really fun to watch! Can you tell us if that mood seems to have spilled over to these final days of preparation? You've written and implied that they seemed dialed in, but does the atmosphere around Lambeau feel different than in past playoff games?

They're as loose as they are prepared and I think that starts from the top down. Matt LaFleur said on Friday they've treated this week just like all the others – the goal is to win the game Sunday, no different than Week 1 when they boarded the plane for the opener in Minnesota.

Al from Green Bay, WI

I'm hearing reports that Antonio Brown has been ruled out for the game on Sunday. Assuming the reports are accurate, how does that alter Green Bay's defensive approach?

The game plan is the game plan. I don't think Brown's injury changes that. Yes, it takes away one weapon from the Bucs' offense but Brady still has an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions with Michael Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Cam Brate. And we're not even talking about the running backs. The Packers' defense still has its work cut out for it regardless of Brown being out.

Elliot from Hopkins, MN

I read an interesting stat that Devin White was the most targeted linebacker letting up 86 catches on 98 targets for 768 yards and four touchdowns. Maybe the Packers attack him head-on in the pass?

The Buccaneers are the No. 1-ranked defense against the run but only 21st against the pass. The key for Tampa has been playing stingy up front and taking the ball away on the back end. Offensive efficiency and ball security are going to be paramount on Sunday.

Kent from Lewiston, ID

What's the obvious difference between the 2019 Packers and the 2020 version heading into the NFC finale? To me, AR is a year older and wiser! Go Pack Go from Idaho!

It isn't just Rodgers. It's the entire team; players and coaches alike. I keep using this analogy but it's true – it's like cooking a recipe. The second time is always going to be better than the first. This team is more confident in the recipe…and you can tell by how much better the meal tastes.

Tyler from Kenosha, WI

Do you think we will see more of Za'Darius Smith in the middle this game to attempt to get more of an inside pass rush in an attempt to move Tom Brady off his spot?

That could be in the cards once again, especially since the Packers won't have Kingsley Keke on Sunday. Mike Pettine uses that package more as a change of a pace but everyone knows the game when you play Brady – you need to get pressure up the middle. It doesn't matter how you do it – you just need to do it if you're going to come out with your arm raised.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Wes, your story on Allen Lazard, in tandem with his video press conference, was the perfect reveal of the heart of a champion amongst champions, no matter the result on Sunday.

I'll echo what LaFleur said after the game last week – the Packers knew what they had. Green Bay could've invested every draft pick it had last spring into the receiver position and it still might not have found someone who fits this offense, and locker room, as well as Lazard does. You can't put a stopwatch on character and you can't measure a player's heart. Allen Lazard was a true find.

Ross from Hudson, WI

I just came back from a week vacation in Florida. It wasn't hot there, only in the high 60s, but stepping out of the airport into the cold (and I live here) it was like a slap in the face. I feel the skill players on the Bucs will be greatly affected by the environment on Sunday much like the Rams were. The trenches not so much, but the receivers will suffer. Do you think the cold will play a big role or is that over-hyped?

It won't be that cold. Personally, I'm more interested in how much snow we get and whether it stops by game time.

Brian from Rochester, MN

Before we signed Damon Harrison, I was remarking to a friend that Brian Price seemed to have really good push and clogged up some holes and even drew some double-teams, but in very limited snaps. Then, last weekend, I don't think Snacks played at all, but Price did. Is that mostly "Snacks is still getting the playbook down," or do the Packers like Price more than it would seem to most people?

Harrison and Price both played three snaps against the Rams. I think part of that was the Packers played a lot of nickel (two defensive linemen) and dime (one defensive lineman), and primarily used Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster when they were in base. We'll see what the game plan calls for on Sunday. If Pettine wants more base, Harrison and Price should see the field more.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

How is Mason Crosby doing? We as fans can predict without Rodgers or Davante Adams the team would take a hit, how about without Crosby? Easy to notice the flashy plays by others but Mason has been a silent kind of hero for years. Not a lot of glamour kicking a FG or PAT, but they sure are important.

Crosby was taken off the injury report Friday and should be good to go for his 246th consecutive NFL game. I know people like to rip on kickers, but Crosby is as tough as they come.

Dan from Kenosha, WI

Insiders, as the recipient of more breaks and fractures than any one person should be forced to endure, I have to say I wouldn't be excited that my first game back could be mid-20s with a chance of snow. Welcome to Lambeau, Mr. Vea!

I'm curious to see how Vita Vea looks and how much he plays. That's a quick turnaround. At first, I thought the Bucs might be playing some mind games when they designated Vea to return this week. I'll say same thing I said about Aaron Donald last week – if Vea plays, Green Bay better be ready for the best version of him. Based on what LaFleur said on Friday, I'm guessing the Packers will be.

Hank from Hardscrabble, IN

Few people remember the architect who designed a well-built house. Ted was a good architect.

And that's exactly how Ted would want it. Rest in peace to one of the best people to ever walk through this building.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

Wes, do you have a favorite Ted Thompson quote? Mine (from the 2014 draft) is: "We try not to anticipate too much of anything, because you end up with a broken heart."

I never infiltrated Thompson's circle of trust the way Brian Gutekunst and the scouts did, but I definitely got to experience his dry sense of humor several times. Rob Demovsky shared one of my favorite stories about the time Rob was taking a photo of Thompson and the Packers' brass walking out for a shareholders meeting years ago, and Ted decided to keep walking towards him…and walking towards him, until he was directly in front of Rob's iPhone with a half-smile. There was also a time during a road trip when myself and two of my colleagues walked into an elevator that Ted was in, one by one. He was on the phone at the time but made it a point to say hello…to each one of us. "Hi…Hi…Hi…" You can tell the person on the other side of the phone was like, "Ted, what was that?" And he goes, "I was just saying hi." He was one of a kind.

David from Janesville, WI

My only comment on Ted Thompson's passing is related to a photo I saw in one of the stories. Ted was known for looking for "Packer people" when he filled the roster. In the photo he stood between Micah Hyde and Jayrone Elliott on the sidelines. I found that fitting.

Extremely fitting. Hyde and Elliott are two of my all-time favorites and both were overlooked prospects from Ohio unearthed by Thompson and his personnel department.

Douglas from Bloomington, IL

Win it for Ted. Win it for David Bakhtiari. Win it for Rodgers. Win it for yourself. Just win it.

Longfellow couldn't have said it better himself.

Neal from Ft Worth, TX

Wes, Friday was Spoff's last II prior to the Bucs game and he forgot to tell us who his pick is to step up this week. He's on a roll and we need to know. Can you stick a note in your lunch to remind him?

I can…or you can just watch "Final Thoughts" later today.

Bryan from Springfield, OH

Just beat the Buccaneers! I still feel responsible for 2014. I was checking my phone for Super Bowl tickets in the 4th quarter. I'm not making that mistake again. Go Pack Go!

LeRoy Butler made the same mistake.

Jim from McLean, VA

Good morning, Wes! With the recent signing of Tramon, I was wondering if there's any chance the Packers can get John back out on the field Sunday? I can hear the 9,000-plus at Lambeau mooing out his name as he flattens those LBs for our three backs.

I like it.

Sawyer from Greenville, SC

Fred from La Crosse was quoting Grand Master Oogway from "Kung Fu Panda."

I can promise you Spoff has not seen "Kung Fu Panda." He seems like more of a "Karate Kid" guy.

Steve from New Berlin, WI

Good morning gentlemen, with the assumption that II readers ferret out and digest all things Packers, why is it that so many of us are not adopting Aaron Rodgers' recent statement of his being to live in the moment and understand that the future is a beautiful mystery? I will suppress all anxiety about the upcoming game and let tomorrow take care of itself.

I wouldn't be too hard on yourself, Steve. Because there's a lot you don't know. There's a lot I don't know. We haven't experienced what Rodgers and this team have experienced. We haven't sat in those meetings. We, quite literally, haven't been in that locker room. We don't know the game plan. But this team is confident…and Rodgers is in a good place, mentally. Whether you're in the stands or watching, we have the best seats in the house to watch greatness reveal itself on Sunday.

Alan from Mount Auburn, IL

Decades ago, I lived in Milwaukee. My family went to Milwaukee County Stadium to watch the Packers and, of course, the Milwaukee Braves. In 1957, the Braves, led by Henry Aaron, won the World Series. Hearing of Hammerin' Hank's passing brought back the memories of watching him play. A great player and a better man.

Speaking of greatness…the word "legend" doesn't even begin to describe Hank Aaron. He was such an important and iconic figure not only to baseball, but also our country. There are so many stories I recall my grandfather telling me about Hammerin' Hank, but what I appreciate most is how Aaron stayed true to his professional roots in Milwaukee, embracing his return with the fledgling Brewers in 1975. What a sad 12 months this has been for Wisconsin sports.

Roger from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Good morning! Atta boy Spoff and Wes! Or is it Hod and Mike. Both pairs deserve Atta boys. From doinks to laser beams to observers, not barnacles, we learn something new every day. Keep up the good work, it brightens up my day. Go Pack Go!

It's been a fun season. Here's to two more weeks of trying to find answers to the questions that won't go away.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

The time has arrived,

Lambeau Field's highest honor,

There's no place like home.

There certainly isn't. I can't wait to hear that Lambeau crowd again, either. That was an electric atmosphere last Saturday. OK, it's that time. Dean, take it away.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

The prize clearly in sight

The mountain top two victories away

A rematch with a southern Bay

A foe who months ago soundly defeated our Men of the Emerald Bay on their home turf

Led by a Goat they now come to battle on the Frozen Tundra

They will try to repeat their dominance on our Hallowed Ground

The time is at hand to rise up Men of the Bay

Stay the course the summit is within reach

*The Packers have been climbing that mountain for the last six months. It's everything they've worked for and now it's right there for the taking. Enjoy the game, everyone. *