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Inbox: There's no reason to look at it any other way

It’s out there

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson

Mark from Westminster, CO

Mike, sometimes the only luck you need is to simply look out the window. I'd like to report that a rare black fox ran through my backyard at 8:23 a.m. MT on Tuesday while reading II and drinking my coffee. I have no doubt that this good luck event bodes well for the success of the Packers organization for the remainder of the year and into 2022.

I had never heard of a black fox being a good luck charm, but we'll take it I guess.

Eric from Oshkosh, WI

All season I've been saying, "It's a good win, but they still haven't played a really good game yet." I know we've been winning but we simply have to play better. I keep waiting for them to put it altogether, but these guys never seem to get there. At some point, we just have to say "we are what we are." Have you seen anything that suggests they can get there? Playing this disjointed in the playoffs against the best teams in the NFC will get us knocked out pretty quickly.

Last year much of the same sentiment permeated right around this time, following close wins over Philly, Detroit and Carolina, until the blowout of Tennessee at home in Week 16. Then everyone felt better. But as we all saw, the Packers still didn't play their best game when they had to have it. Does it remain out there for them? Absolutely. But we don't know if or when they'll find it. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and a defense that played the way it did from mid-October to mid-November, it's out there. I truly believe that.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Postulating on Richard from Livermore, CA, isn't Mason quite a golfer? In golf, golfers move from side to side in the Inbox, I mean tee box relative to the wind and shape of their normal shot. Aiming it down the middle only leaves you half a goal width margin of error on both sides. If you know that all your kicks go right to left, you aim at the right post which gives you a full goal width margin of error. Pros know their tendencies.

Precisely, and Brad from Marion, IA, had almost exactly the same thoughts. Crosby has a process for everything, and he trusts it. We should, too.

Jackson from Wausau, WI

With two games remaining, is the 2021 NFL MVP AR12's award to lose? I'm amazed how Rodgers has maintained this level of play despite a tumultuous offseason, COVID-19 criticism, and injury. The Cerebral Assassin of football rises.

I do believe it's his to lose. Jonathan Taylor could still go off in the last two games, but other than his 43-yard run Saturday night, he gained just 65 yards on his other 26 carries. That wasn't the performance he needed to remain a strong contender if Rodgers keeps putting up 100-plus passer ratings. Rodgers has separated himself pretty clearly in my view.

Steven from Messel, Germany

I Googled but could not find the answer: Based on number of games with a passing touchdown, who reached their respective record faster, Rodgers or Favre?

I don't quite understand what you're getting at, but here are the numbers: Favre started 253 regular-season games for the Packers and did not have a TD pass in 38 of them, while Rodgers has started 204 and didn't have a TD pass in 18 of those starts.

Richard from Madison, WI

I recall Drew Brees, when he was playing for Purdue, passing the ball 80 times vs. Wisconsin. Given the brutal cold and north winds we'll be facing Sunday night, do you foresee the Packers trying to RUN the ball 80 times? Because I'm pretty sure that the Vikings, with Dalvin Cook, are thinking exactly that.

For the record, Brees had 83 pass attempts at Camp Randall in 1998. While I agree the Vikings will try to pound Cook mercilessly if he's cleared to play, I would expect the Packers to run their offense. The quick flips to receivers on the outside are extensions of the running game for LaFleur and Rodgers, and they aren't going to just pound Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon into a loaded box because it's cold.

Paul from De Pere, WI

In a week-to-week league, who was the best team in Week 16?

Considering its opponent and the stakes in its game, probably Buffalo.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Perhaps I'm a football romantic, but like many Inbox followers I believe football was made to be played in the elements, especially this time of year. I imagine many old-school, pre-dome Vikings fans must cringe that the Packers could have a significant weather advantage this weekend. Do you know if cold-weather dome teams try to practice outside and acclimate prior to a Lambeau contest? I know the converse has been true when the Pack has faced a warm-weather team.

I know in recent years Matt Patricia had the Lions prep for some cold-weather games outside. Not sure how much good it did. I think it depends on a team's facilities. Does it have an outdoor practice field that's heated, and not frozen, to allow for practicing this time of year? I'm not familiar with Minnesota's environs.

Dwight from Brooklyn, NY

Now that teams can interview candidates for head coach, who on the Packers staff do you see as likely targets?

Nathaniel Hackett got a shot with Atlanta last year, it appears Jacksonville wants to talk with him, and I would expect him to get more bites at the apple. LaFleur would hate to lose him, but the opportunity would be well-deserved.

Joshua from Napoleon, OH

If the Cowboys would lose to the Cardinals this week, would Green Bay have to only win one of their remaining games to have the bye?


Josh from Cape Coral, FL

Guys, by the time the game kicks off Sunday night, the Dallas-Arizona game will be decided. If Dallas loses (not likely, but anything's possible) all we have to do is beat the Vikings to clinch the No. 1 seed. Do the II coaches tell their players the outcome of that game one way or another? We need to beat the Vikings either way, but does one outcome or the other provide a little extra spark?

The players are going to know whether the coaches tell them or not. But I don't think the motivation changes in any event. Equally interesting is if the Eagles and 49ers both win earlier Sunday, the Vikings will have to win in order to keep their season alive. Just as the Packers could be taking the field with a chance to lock up the top spot, the Vikings might be on the verge of mathematical elimination.

Hap from Graham, WA

Hey Mike, just a comment: Make no mistake about it. This Vikings game will be the toughest, hardest-hitting, old-school, hard-headed game of the year for the Pack. The Vikings will be coming into Lambeau with a "Helga's horn-sized chip" on their shoulder, and the Pack must answer with elevated grit and show their character under serious fire. GPG!

There's no reason to look at it any other way.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Good morning Inbox, did you happen to see Aaron Jones running downfield to block for Allen Lazard? It was great to see Lazard get some love back his way. How valuable is selfless teamwork?

I saw it live and commented in the blog right away. It wouldn't surprise me if that was Jones' favorite play of the entire game.

Joe from Wausau, WI

Do players on IR need to be activated before the season ends to be eligible to play in the playoffs?

No. Last season, the Packers activated Raven Greene off IR in mid-January.

Robert from Chandler, AZ

If Amari is not cleared to play on Sunday – due to COVID – who handles returns?

Barring a new acquisition, my best guesses would be Chandon Sullivan on punts and Patrick Taylor on kickoffs.

Jeff from Asheville, NC

In regards to Gutey combing through the layers of pro personnel to find the golden nugget, do you wonder if he thinks, "It's down there somewhere, let me take another look"?

I'm sure that mentality creeps in with scouts at certain points, depending on the situation. Let's not forget the signing of Rasul Douglas was out of necessity. If Jaire Alexander doesn't get hurt, Douglas probably never comes to Green Bay. The Packers needed a corner, and I would suspect Gutekunst prioritized a cover guy with legitimate NFL experience in his search.

Larry from Crystal Lake, IL

With two weeks and 32 total games remaining, which conference race is more intriguing: AFC with 12 teams competing for six spots, or NFC with six teams vying for two spots?

I think the answer is obvious. The fact that three of the four divisions in the AFC are still to be decided with two games to go is pretty crazy.

Mike from Lake Villa, IL

Good morning, Spoff! I always love your WYMM posts each week. They definitely help me watch the game differently. Regarding play No. 4 from this week, Preston Smith initially puts pressure and contact on Mayfield, however Rashan Gary and Dean Lowry finish the sack. Does Preston get credit for a half sack on that play or is the sack only shared between Rashan and Dean? (I actually was wondering this after the play happened.)

That sack went all to Gary from the press box statisticians, but teams can send in plays to Elias Sports Bureau to be reviewed for statistical alterations. I'm not privy to what the Packers send in for review, but we usually find out by the end of the week if any stats get changed.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

Could it be that coaches, old-school or new-school, make strategic decisions mostly by intuition? Older coaches learned the game in the days of run to win, play field position, and defense wins championships. Analytics back then would have been different, too. Guys like LaFleur came of age as the rules were tilting to favor offense, passing, and more possessions. It's not that the young guns trust the numbers more, just that their intuitions tend to agree more with the numbers for today's game.

That's a really interesting, and I think rather astute, observation. Plus it makes a lot of sense.

Joe from Swansea, IL

Topic: Poor tackling. Questions: How much is that caused by late-season fatigue? Limited contact during practice? Increased walk-throughs during the week to keep players fresh? Whatever's the cause, what's the solution? Thanks for your insight, as always.

It's part of the fine line coaches are always walking, keeping the players' bodies fresh versus getting the full-speed work needed to stay sharp. Fundamentals can slip at any point. I tend to think that missed tackles are more a function of bad angles/positioning and poor timing than tackling technique, so full-speed workouts (even if not full contact) should help iron things out.

Doug from Onalaska, WI

First of all, thank you for all you do. We're all better fans as a result of your efforts. Happy New Year to all at 1265. I'm no statistician, but how unusual is it for a team to sweep two divisions? In this case, the NFC West (considered the best in the NFL by many) and the AFC North.

A common query. I don't have enough league-wide history at my disposal to research this in a timely fashion, but I can tell you since the advent of the current divisional and scheduling format in 2002, it's the first time the Packers have done it.

Jacob from Superior, WI

With the CDC cutting the quarantine time from 10 days to five for even unvaccinated who test positive, will the NFL be adopting those guidelines too?

Another popular question. It just did late yesterday, for asymptomatic individuals, regardless of vaccination status.

Jeff from Wentzville, MO

In Wes's answer to Anthony from Sturgeon Bay, WI, he said: "It was a quality start for the Packers' special teams. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. They don't need a miracle. Everyone just needs to do their part." For all those fans who weekly ask: What do we have to do to be fill in the blank, the end of your answer is spot on. Everyone just needs to do their part. If they do, this team can/will beat anybody. Go Pack Go!

I wholeheartedly agree.

Jocelyn from Lavon, TX

Devastated to learn about John Madden. I know for many he called some of the biggest games, while others know him as a Super Bowl winner. However, for me and millions in my generation, he narrated the beginning of my love for football. For better or for worse I learned about the game through his brand and "asking" him what plays I should call. Not nearly enough space here, but his passing feels like a very happy part of my childhood was taken away with it. RIP John Madden, and Boom!

I don't have a personal connection to the video game, so I'll let Wes describe his tomorrow. But as I've mentioned in this space before, John Madden was the first announcer who taught me about football. I knew I could learn something from every game he called, whether it was how Joe Montana was reading the defense or how Lawrence Taylor was attacking the offensive tackle. I guess the best tribute I can give him is he's probably the reason I mute (or at least mentally tune out) announcers most of the time now – if they can't expand on what he taught me, I have little need to listen. He was the best. RIP to a legend.

Jeff from Ogden, UT

If you ever call Kirk Cousins Captain Kirk again I'll give you a Vulcan neck pinch, and instruct Scotty to beam you to some crappy planet where the sun never shines and giant lizards think you look like a happy meal.

You listening, Wes? Ogden isn't far from Area 51 either, so I'd beware.

Matt from Belmont, WI

Hey Mike, I've done a one-and-a-half off the low board at the Platteville pool. How about you?

Cannonball only. Happy Wednesday.