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Inbox: The urgency is there and so too is the focus

Be who you are and capture the trophy the seed says you’re capable of capturing

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WR Davante Adams

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

In the NFL it's not how you start, it's how you finish. Week 18 notwithstanding the Packers finished pretty strong. Starting in five days no one gets a do-over. Being the No. 1 seed and falling short the last two years, does that make the task more difficult and add pressure? This year more than any I can remember feels like an "All-in, Super Bowl or Bust" year.

Pressure creates diamonds, Dean. The veterans on this team have been there and done that. They know what it takes to win. I think they have a chip on their shoulder, too, after watching Tampa pave its path to the Lombardi Trophy through the North end zone of Lambeau Field last January. As far as "Super Bowl or Bust," I've never liked the phrase. It reeks of desperation. I prefer "Be who you are" and capture the trophy the seed says you're capable of capturing.

Robert from Verona, WI

Looking at the list of Packers players potentially returning from injury for the playoffs, who is most likely to be on a limited snap count and how might that be handled? It seems easy enough to situationally rotate Za'Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander, and Randall Cobb into the game. Handling the return of David Bakhtiari and Josh Myers seems a lot more difficult. If their game conditioning is in question, do you find it likely Matt LaFleur would start them, and replace them mid-game?

The players who have been back the longest are the ones I'd expect to play the most, so that puts Bakhtiari and Myers in front of the pack. Sunday was meant to get them some in-game reps and see how their bodies respond. The next two weeks will help Bakhtiari and Myers get their conditioning back to play four quarters. Like Bakhtiari and Alexander before him, Za'Darius just needs to practice. That's Step 1.

Chris from West Allis, WI

While I wanted the Packers to put up a great defensive performance against Detroit just like everyone else, let's not forget De'Vondre Campbell didn't play at all. We can't praise him for changing the whole look of this defense and then be surprised when it doesn't look as good without him.

Not making excuses, because the Packers needed to defend the trick plays better, but not having Campbell is a big deal. He brings so much to that unit from both an athletic and leadership standpoint. The silver lining is the Packers clinching the No. 1 seed afforded Campbell and Aaron Jones an extended break here before the playoffs.

Jimmy from St. Louis, MO

Your thoughts on Dennis Kelly? To me, no matter who comes back, he's my starting right tackle in the playoffs.

I don't know who will start where on the offensive line once/if everyone is healthy, but I continue to be blown away by A) how well Kelly has played after not taking a single offensive snap for most of the season and B) how nobody wanted this guy. He's the new Jared Veldheer on the O-line.

Joshua from Appleton, WI

Good morning! One of the Outsiders Inbox questions was who you think would be the most improved player this year. My answer was Jon Runyan. To my untrained eye he really has seemed to step up from last year and seemed to make far fewer mistakes. What is your evaluation of him for the regular season?

It was a great pick then and even better now. I think Jon Runyan quietly has come a long way. You forget Runyan wasn't a Week 1 starter but he responded when presented with an opportunity. He's been a stable presence amidst a lot of turnover on the O-line this season.

Jacob from West Allis, WI

Josiah Deguara made the biggest play of his young career right before the playoffs. Do the Packers scheme up more opportunities for him after seeing that? Or does he just need to keep making the most of his limited opportunities? Either way, he gave opposing defenses another thing to game plan for which is nice.

Deguara's catch-and-run, and Lucas Patrick's second-level block were great, but it's not just Deguara's pass-catching that's impressed me. He continues to find ways to affect the football game. In addition to the 62-yard TD, Deguara set a couple lead blocks that sprung the running back. Each week, Deguara is looking more and more like the guy who came in as a rookie and immediately opened some eyes.

Dan from Edgerton, WI

Were you as impressed as much as I was on Allen Lazard's quick thinking to grab the ball before it hit the ground? The NFL's rule on carrying the ball through contact with the ground in the end zone breaks the ball breaking the plane rule for a touchdown

That's all Allen Lazard and the power of concentration.

Don from Riverton, UT

Love clearly showed a mixed bag of results in this game but I thought his over-the-top touch pass (to Davis, I believe) should have been caught for a TD and showed impressive potential.

Love had his moments and I wouldn't put that first INT all on him. Beyond that, I don't think there's much to be said. The playoffs are here and Aaron Rodgers is healthy. Keep the main thing the main thing.

Kevin from Marquette, MI

What's it going to take for Green Bay to go all the way this year in the playoffs? I feel like I'm reliving 2020 and 2019 as I see a well-balanced team (especially offensively) enter the playoffs. Will it come down to us having to beat Tom Brady and overcome the mystique that he carries?

Maybe. Maybe not. The NFL playoffs are a labyrinth and you never know where each corridor will lead. That's why I've always been such a strong proponent of earning a first-round bye. Because any of these 14 teams can win one postseason game. The question is which one can win three (or four). The Packers are one game closer to the ultimate prize than the other six playoff teams in the NFC. That's called an edge.

Thomas from Evansville, IN

Which playoff team do you think would have the hardest time playing in Lambeau in January?

Other than Philly, they're all warm-weather/dome teams. So, I'd take the Packers versus the field. But I want to see Tampa Bay play here again. This time in 10-degree weather or snow.

Keith from La Pine, OR

Well, it appears that Green Bay efficiency and mastery has been tough on division rival coaches, again. What does it say that two programs are going to scrap and start over?

It's probably time. I have great respect for Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer but the situation in Minnesota has been trending in the wrong direction the past two years. If the Vikings want to rebuild, a new sculptor is needed. By all accounts, Matt Nagy is a solid guy who had a great debut with the Bears in 2018 but this was a challenging year for Chicago. The McCaskeys gave Ryan Pace a fairly long leash and it just didn't work out. So, on to the next one.

Elliot from Hopkins, MN

Unrelated to the Packers but how could the Dolphins let go Flores? Two winning seasons in three seasons with the roster he inherited. I'm hoping the Bears and Vikings don't get him.

On the other end of the spectrum, this was a total head-scratcher. Brian Flores deserved better. I hope he gets a chance to be an NFL head coach this offseason.

Bob from Grand Rapids, MI

So, with both the Vikings and Bears firing both head coach and GM, does that make the Lions the biggest threat for next season? If the NFL thinks so, we may get another Detroit-Green Bay season-ender!

Next season? I'm not sure. The Lions still need another good offseason and incoming draft class to close the talent gap and work their way back into contention. But I did say on Packers pregame radio that I see Detroit is closer than Chicago or Minnesota because the Lions stand firmly behind their head coach and the culture Dan Campbell is creating. I don't know what Chicago and Minnesota have right now.

Russ from Henrico, VA

The COY naysayers seem to think having Aaron Rodgers rules ML out. The three years prior to ML the records were 23-24-1. The last three 39-10. What gives?

I don't know. Frankly, I don't care. I made my pitch for Matt LaFleur seven times over, but it's about the Super Bowl now. Last I checked, the last three winners aren't even in the playoffs. Heck, one even got let go. So, you can go on and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a (darn).

Mike from West Bend, WI

Hi II, it was good to see LaFleur get a bit edgy talking about his D needing "all 11 doing their damn job!" I was wondering if he was only a fluffy stuff coach or when he was going to show his real colors. Love this team, Love this coach, Love this column! Thanks Mike and Wes for all you give and thank you Pack for a season of great football!

That's LaFleur. He's real and he's raw when talking about his football team. LaFleur isn't going to throw anyone under the bus or make excuses, but he's also not going to dump water down your back and tell you it's raining. The urgency is there and so too is the focus.

Bill from Olathe, KS

After the Detroit game and watching the interviews of the players, it looked like Aaron Rodgers and Allen Lazard were located in an electrical room or equipment room of some sort with a blanket thrown up behind them, while Adams and Bakhtiari have a nice Packer/American Family banner behind them. I thought that was really strange. What's up?

Welcome to Ford Field.

Josh from Adams, WI

You play to win the game (unless a tie is just as good and your opponent is willing to play to one).

When it doubt, don't call timeout. I've never seen anything like what transpired in Vegas Sunday night. The future is bright for the Chargers but it wasn't meant to be this season.

Keith from San Antonio, TX

I can't decide. Is it an advantage or disadvantage to the 4-5 NFC matchup being Monday night, if the Packers end up playing the winner?

Only if they'd plop their next game on Saturday. Otherwise, I think it balances out. If Tampa and Dallas win, my best guess is they'll play Saturday with the Packers facing the winner of LAR-AZ Sunday. Just a hunch.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

What NFC wild-card team has the best chances this weekend? I'll be hoping for the Eagles to win a hard-fought nail-biter.

The Eagles got stomped this weekend but the Eagles remain no easy out. Tampa is going to have to work for it. And San Francisco vs. Dallas might be the best matchup of them all. It's going to be a great weekend of wild-card games.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

The game that has my interest is Steelers vs. Chiefs. I've watched Big Ben play so many meaningful playoff games over the years, it only seems fitting that one last time he is in the mix. I can't help but wonder if the telecast will show a man wearing flip-flops and khakis, a Terrible Towel in one hand and The Thing in the other?

I'm definitely getting some "For Love of the Game" vibes with this final run for Big Ben. As someone who grew up in "The Quarterback Club" era in the 1990s, it's tough watching this recent wave of Brees, Rivers, Eli Manning and Roethlisberger transition into retirement. The torch is slowly being passed to the next generation of QBs.

Steve from Algoma, WI

Insiders, I admit I was not a big fan of the 17-game season. My mind is changed. I will sign up for this every year* if you can promise me an overtime game with playoff implications in each of the Sunday viewing windows of Week 18, plus a two-win, 14-point home underdog knocking out another team**.

*(Assuming the Packers clinch in Week 15).

**(Because the team most likely to be a two-win home dog is the Lions, and we know how much the NFL loves the Packers at Ford Field the last week.)

I've warmed up slightly (very slightly) to the 14-team playoff field over the past two years but I don't see my opinion changing about the 17-game regular season anytime soon. Football was fun when regular-season finales happened in Week 17, too.

The Green Bay Packers faced the Detroit Lions in a Week 18 matchup on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022.

Al from Spearfish, SD

"A season is a season, no matter how many games a player plays." What bothered me watching the Rams-49ers game was every time Joe Buck mentioned Cooper Kupp breaking the record, he qualified it by saying it's a 17-game season.

Well, I don't hear anyone singing songs for all the pre-1978 NFL records. As much as I detest the 17-game season, I recognize that's how this game is being played now. I'm disenchanted, not delusional.

Charlene from Williston, ND

I am curious how someone can get an autograph from Allen Lazard?

I'm sorry Charlene. The best I can do is Spoff on a cocktail napkin. You could try tweeting Allen.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

The Packers 2022 season schedule will include road games in Buffalo, Miami, and Tampa. For those of us who enjoy traveling to a road game or two each year, who do we need to contact to begin petitioning for the Bills game to be in September, and the Miami and Tampa games to be in December and January?

I'm reminded of the Jaguars game in 2016. After finding out the game wouldn't be in London, I remember thinking, "Well, hopefully they put it in December and at least we get to go to Florida in the winter." Instead, the NFL scheduled it as the regular-season opener, and Spoff and I got to wear suits in 90-degree heat.

Steve from Eau Claire, WI

Good morning Insiders! Great articles, love to read them! Just curious though, where has Cliff Christl been in recent months? I always loved reading his stuff as well and it looks like he hasn't had anything in several months.

The guy just spent the past four years writing a 1,000-page book on the Packers' entire history. I'd say he's entitled to some R&R.

JR from East Moline, IL

What is statistically more likely to be accomplished, a three-game winning streak or an 11-game winning streak? This is why I'm glad they lost a meaningless game.

I thought this same thing on Sunday night after the game. If the Packers do win it all, that game in Detroit could be the burn card before an impressive hand is dealt.

Simon from Santa Clara, CA

I know everyone worries about the players and coaches having an extended layoff, but I worry about the writers. How are you guys gonna stay competitive without any meaningful games to write about?

Oh, I think we'll find a way to manage.

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