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Inbox: There are many angles to this

The key is not to stay blocked

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QB Aaron Rodgers

Tia from Janesville, WI

What is your most memorable Packer moment from the 2020 season?

I'm hoping we haven't seen it yet.

Jeff from Greenwood, MN

Mike, did you just get "Wally Pipped" by McCarren?

Ha, no. I was back in the "Unscripted" saddle yesterday.

Ignacio from Madrid, Spain

Well, it's been a very long regular season with empty stadiums, but it seems that we will have fans at Lambeau Field when it matters the most. Do you think that 6,000 fans could make a difference in the game?

It's certainly not going to hurt. Here's the update on fans for the playoffs.

Jason from Austin, TX

II, I also did a lot of number crunching to try to produce an idea of what the biggest factor was in determining a winner. If you add up each scoring play by Team A vs. Team B and weighted them based on their respective points (e.g. 6 for TD, 3 for FG, 1 for PAT...), the team with the most points at the end of the game wins 100% of the time.

There's one in every crowd, right?

Dave from Coloma, MI

How big have the new rules concerning the expanded roster with the extra offensive lineman been for the Packers this year?

I don't recall the Packers being forced to use all eight active offensive linemen in a game this year, but they've certainly needed seven at times, so the rule left another sub available who might not otherwise have been there.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

So next time there's a holding penalty on a big run, can the official just understand what the linemen were trying to do and cut them some slack?

Another ha. But judging by the significant drop in holding calls overall this year, that approach seemed to hold sway at times.

Phil from Santa Rosa, CA

Hi Spoff, Wes sent me down a rabbit hole when he mentioned that we had an All-Pro wide receiver 22 years ago. I knew Antonio Freeman was Pro-Bowl-caliber, but I didn't realize he made first-team All-Pro. How would you compare Antonio in 1998 to Davante Adams this year?

I don't think there's much comparison, really, and that's taking nothing away from Freeman, who led the league in receiving yards and tied for second in TDs in '98. It's more the era. In '98, no receiver in the league had 100 catches, only one had 90, and seven had at least 1,150 yards. This year? Eight guys with at least 100 receptions, another six with 90-plus, and 10 with 1,150 yards or more (a dozen if you include the top tight ends, Kelce and Waller). Yet what Adams did still stood out statistically – tied for second with 115 catches, fifth in yards with 1,374 and tops in TDs with 18 – as well as on film, and he did it all in 13½ games.

Al from Green Bay, WI

There's been a lot of discussion of the impact of Green Bay's undrafted free agents – and rightly so. An article from Gil Brandt (NFL.com) lists the top 30 UDFAs in NFL history. Curiously, there was only one from Green Bay (Willie Wood). John Randle was the lone Minnesota guy, with none from Chicago or Detroit. Dallas had seven on the list, including Tony Romo. Kurt Warner was listed as No. 1 overall. I guess the other teams find gems too, right?

Sure, but the all-time top 30 is a pretty exclusive list (and the Packers were the first to sign Warner; they just already had Mark Brunell and a Heisman Trophy winner, Ty Detmer, backing up Favre that year). I'd put Green Bay's overall track record up against anybody's. I'll disagree with Wes a little on putting Barnes at the top of the modern list, because Wes wasn't here when Sam Shields arrived in '10. The Packers didn't have a viable third corner for the long haul that year with Al Harris' knee still on the mend. Shields saved them and then became a hero in the NFC title game with two picks. But Barnes' rookie season isn't over yet.

David from Cable, WI

Thinking about home field takes me back to 2011 and a question I would like to ask Aaron Rodgers. Wondering if the players as well as us fans didn't appreciate the importance of it because of what they accomplished the year before. Would be interesting to hear his perspective.

I would bet there's some truth to that. Seems only natural.

Tom from Yardley, PA

While I totally agree with your sentiments (on the Giants), it's interesting that several Eagles players were also outraged that Hurts was pulled from the game.

That's a completely separate issue, and I don't blame the Philly players for being miffed. Not at all.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

The Packers finished at or near the top of the league in most offensive categories, despite never going up-tempo except at the end of halves. If memory serves, LaFleur stated he wanted to incorporate more of that but the truncated offseason derailed those plans. Given the success of this year's offense, do you believe they will still look to incorporate that in the future?

As a wrinkle or change-up, sure. As a primary concept, no, not the way LaFleur likes to constantly change personnel.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

Do you think since the Packers have so many players in the HOF it hurts Butler's chances of getting in? Do voters want to get more teams represented, bringing more interest to fans of all teams to visit? Whether I agree with it or not, it's a business, which means revenue always trumps "fairness."

I don't think that's a factor. Individual opinions differ, but the voters I know are interested solely in honoring the best players, no matter their team(s).

John from Little Rock, AR

With the bye week can we take a moment to appreciate the fact we got to watch Charles Woodson play football?

Rodgers has called him the best player he's ever played with (and Adams is now in the conversation). Woodson is without peer as the best defensive player I've ever covered. His instincts and ability to impact a game were off the charts.

Jim from San Antonio, TX

From Rodgers' second season as a starter through the 2014 season, the Packers were 64-23 (.736) in regular-season games AR started. In the four years after, the Packers were 28-22-1 (.559) in games AR started. And since the coaching change, they are 26-6 (.813). There are many possibilities for the drop-off in the middle: hangover from the NFC Championship loss, lack of talent, or tired schemes. It does not, however, appear to be caused by the diminishing skills of the QB.

If you recall, I said when LaFleur was hired that the mental challenge of mastering a new system might be just what Rodgers needs to maximize what's left in his career. His mind is razor sharp and the challenge might have expanded it and made it sharper yet. But he's credited physical improvements, too, citing how he worked out differently this past offseason, especially with his lower body. There are many angles to this.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

The comment on replay standards interested me. I, too, have been bothered by officials swallowing whistles to allow replay when there is a built-in bias to favor the call on the field. I wonder if they could employ two standards: (1) challenges can only be won if indisputable visual evidence is found; and (2) auto-booth reviews are not bound by that higher standard. There still could be times when there is insufficient evidence to change the call on the field.

Stop it. You're making too much sense. Though I believe you're also complicating replay well beyond where the league would want to take it.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

Everyone talking about getting Rodgers another ring before he's gone, but nobody's mentioning Mason Crosby. I think it would be great for him to get a second ring, too. Show the man some love.

Trust me, if there's going to be any rallying cry in the locker room with that sort of sentiment, it'll be for getting guys like Marcedes Lewis and David Bakhtiari a ring.

Benjamin from Evergreen Park, IL

Raven Greene's injury was a huge blow to our defense. We always seemed to be better with his versatility. As a result, we have had to play a bigger personnel package more often. Has this been a blessing in disguise? Or just ascending players getting better?

The bigger personnel being used more often has been matchup-based more than anything. The Packers adjusted better to Raven Greene's injury absence this year than last year, in my opinion, because Adrian Amos became that much more knowledgeable/comfortable in the scheme and more of a leader in his second year here.

The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

Dale from Lima, NY

NFL.com has posted a list of the 10 best running backs in 2020. Aaron Jones is deservedly among them. Of the other nine, the Packers have played against six of them – Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook (twice), Alvin Kamara, Jonathan Taylor, David Montgomery (twice), and James Robinson. My question is addressed to all of the "fans" who have been bemoaning the Packers' run defense. Has any other team had its run defense tested so much this season? And did anyone else rise to the challenge so well?

The Packers' improvements against the run down the stretch have been impossible to deny. The 57-yard run by Montgomery to open Week 12 became a turning point, and to finish tied for 13th against the run with your list accounting for half the regular-season opponents is more than respectable. I'm sure they'd like to have finished better than 21st in yards per carry (4.5), but that also speaks to how much they struggled earlier in the year.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

Mike, with respect to our defensive improvement over the past several games, one major improvement that I see has come from the outside linebackers being disciplined in "setting the edge." It certainly has kept long runs to a minimum. What do you see as the biggest improvement, defensively?

That's certainly one of them. The other that stands out up front is shedding blocks. As Pettine likes to say, you're going to get blocked. The key is not to stay blocked.

Daniel from Lakeland, FL

We have an opportunity to watch three future Hall of Fame QBs compete in the same conference playoff (Rodgers, Brady, Brees). Are you aware of any other conference playoff season with the same number (or greater) of QBs of this stature?

Throw in Wilson and it's four. The most recent one I could find that is close but doesn't quite measure up was 2014 in the AFC, with Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger and Luck. Otherwise, I think it's back to 1996 in the NFC with Favre, Aikman, Young and Moon.

Eric form Arlington, MN

If you were to pick a defensive MVP for this season for the Packers, who are the top three on the list? I go with Amos, Jaire Alexander, and Za'Darius Smith.

It would be hard for me to leave Kenny Clark off. Out of those four, it's difficult to choose just three.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Longtime reader and writer, so I guess that makes me an II junkie. Any idea how the outcomes of this weekend's games determine whether the Packers will play on Saturday versus Sunday?

The only thing that might factor is if the opponent is the Bears, I'd expect the game to be Sunday so Chicago is not on a short week. But I can't say that definitively. And who knows otherwise.

Peter from Irvine, CA

Jeff from Birchwood stopped his Packers' win-by-calendar-date analysis at the end of December. They have played many fewer games in January, and they have a chance to fill in some this year. Ominously, the Packers have lost twice on Jan. 16, both times to the Cowboys. Jan. 17 is a clean slate. How much sleep should I lose over which date they play?

There's a first time to be had, either way.

Steven from Birchington, England

Which NFL team has the longest playoff drought?

Now that the Browns snapped theirs, the honor goes to the New York Jets, who are at 10 years (and no one else in the league is at more than five). The Jets haven't played in the postseason since the 2010 AFC title game.

Cody from Thunder Bay, Ontario

My biggest concern with the Packers heading into the postseason is their ability to bounce back when things don't go their way. I think back to the Tampa game first and even after the MVS drop last week. They turned it around against the Bears but they're far less superior than most teams in the playoffs. Am I justified in this line of thinking or am I just picking a bump in the road from a long season?

I mentioned in my mid-week chat I thought the way the Packers finished the season – needing to regain command against the Titans and Bears when it seemed to be slipping away – was a very good sign for the playoffs. The Packers didn't let those teams stay in control nearly as long as in earlier games against Tampa Bay and Indy.

Dave from Germantown, TN

What are the won-loss records of the playoff teams over the last six weeks? In other words, who besides the Packers is a hot team right now?

Seattle is 5-1 over its last six games, while Washington, New Orleans and Tampa Bay are all 4-2. But the Bucs are 4-0 since a late Week 13 bye, so I'd consider them the hottest of the other NFC contenders.

Nick from Anson, WI

Just did a quick Google search of "2020 NFL season predictions." The results did not disappoint. The top results had the Packers finishing between 7-9 and 9-7 and missing the playoffs or as the third wild-card team. My favorite prediction had Carson Wentz as the MVP and Matt Patricia as the coach of the year. With all that being said, what are your predictions for the playoffs? I'll see myself out.

Much appreciated.

Michael from Portland, OR

I can't wait to NOT watch the Packers this weekend!

Me, too. With that in mind, I'll be writing a story for packers.com late Sunday when we know next week's opponent. At roughly the same time, I'll be writing Monday morning's column, so send in your thoughts and observations on the other games and let's talk wild-card football for a day.

Russ from Henrico, VA

Let me see if I have this straight? We will play somebody. They will be dangerous. But we're at home. If we play to our strengths we will win. Oh, and no turnovers. Am I on the right track?

Happy Friday.

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