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Inbox: They can dictate the pace

You absolutely cannot look past the Chargers

RB Jamaal Williams
RB Jamaal Williams

Michael from Fredonia, WI

How many times did you accidentally type "San Diego" this week?

More times than I care to admit. Good morning!

Brian from Twain Harte, CA

The ability of the Packers' offense to close out games has to have a profound effect on how opposing coaches navigate the fourth quarter. Do they go for it with six minutes left, thinking that they might not get the ball back? I am curious to see how others coaches change their late-game coaching philosophy when they play the Packers. What are your thoughts on this?

The Packers' four-minute offense has been the biggest surprise under Matt LaFleur. For my money, it's the best it's been in my eight years on the beat. They can dictate the pace on the ground. That's one area the offense had struggled in for years prior to this season. To your question, I don't think Andy Reid thought Dustin Colquitt would be the last Kansas City player to touch the ball last Sunday. But Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers made it so.

Kevin from Grand Rapids, MI

Was Larry excited about the seven consecutive runs to finish off the Chiefs? I couldn't tell.

That's the Rock's kinda football.

Dennis from Hartford, WI

Who do you think will be the key offensive player in this game?

Assuming he plays, it's easily Davante Adams. He'll force the Chargers to make a tough decision – do they continue to double him like other teams did before his injury? And if LA goes that route, does that leave a single safety or linebacker to defend Aaron Jones in space? That's the pick-your-poison offense the Packers envisioned at the start of the year.

Nathan from Lino Lakes, MN

Do the Chargers wish they took Aaron Rodgers over Shawne Merriman in the 2005 NFL Draft? Do you project this would have prevented the franchise move?

I think there's a lot of teams that wish they would've taken Rodgers in 2005.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

I thought of this earlier but forgot to post it. I felt like the amazing throw to Jake Kumerow was a similar play to the one that he caught for a TD against OAK. Similar, but not exact. The OAK TD though, Rodgers was not throwing on the run. But still giving Kumerow an opportunity for a great gain was simply unbelievable. To have two throws like that in one game...Sorry, doubters. AR still completely elite.

Aaron Rodgers has made more elite passes than can be counted at this point. But you know he's in a groove when Rodgers is stringing those plays together week after week after week. That's what we're seeing right now.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

When Jordy Nelson was lost for the season in 2015, Adams and Randall Cobb spent much of the season injured and ineffective. I thought it was a great opportunity for young ascending talent to evolve. Then the Packers got James Jones off waivers and he quickly became AR's favorite new/old target and the young guys were largely ignored. The last month the Packers stood pat and the young guys have stepped up. To whom would you give credit for what seems like a change in philosophy? Coach, GM, Rodgers, players?

All four play a role, but the players probably have affected that the most. I think Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard are a cut above the guys the Packers were rolling with that year. They're talented, but more importantly, they know what's expected of them in the system. It didn't take long for either guy to get on that same page with Rodgers, either. So I guess it's a credit to Brian Gutekunst for finding them, as well.

Joel from York, NE

I haven't heard Jaire Alexander's number called as much that last few games. Is he earning enough of a reputation opposing offenses just aren't throwing his way, is his man not getting open, am I missing those plays, or is it a combination of all three?

Since the Cowboys game, Jaire has pretty much been living on Alexander Island. Pro Football Focus had him for four catches allowed last week for 35 yards.

Renee from Green Bay, WI

Other than our divisional games, which two games do you feel are the more important to win and do those two appear to be the most challenging? Totally agree all games are important to win but all games seem to present different challenges.

The two California games this month. You absolutely cannot look past the Chargers. For all its faults, Los Angeles can play with anyone and Philip Rivers has had some monster games against Green Bay. And San Francisco is a measuring-stick game if there ever was one. The 49ers will tell the Packers a lot about themselves.

Green Bay Packers players hopped onto a Friday night flight on their way to Los Angeles for a Week 9 matchup against the Chargers.

Greg from Downers Grove, IL

The Bolts are an interesting team. Great offensive weapons but lacking results. I am most concerned about Austin Ekeler, who has been their most explosive player this year. Has there been much talk about which LB, corner or safety will be covering him?

Ekeler is a problem. The guy is on pace for 100-plus catches this year. So whether it's Adrian Amos, Blake Martinez or some other defender getting thrown into the mix, the Packers have to be careful with how they defend Ekeler. I'm sure the Chargers are looking at the film of what Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman did in space last Sunday, and wanting to replicate that production.

Nathan from Lino Lakes, MN

I agree with some of the other questions that surround Rashan Gary and how he is being utilized. Who makes decisions on an increase in snaps? Is he given a path to more snaps in practice, or is it less clear for him?

Snaps are up to Mike Pettine and Mike Smith, but my question to you is are you going to take snaps away from Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith to get Gary on the field more? Let the rookie grow – his time will come soon enough.

Drew from Rogers City, MI

This seems to be the healthiest Packers team in years. Is it luck or does it have something to do with Matt's approach in bringing players back from injury slowly as opposed to the McCarthy "if you are healthy enough to play, you play" philosophy?

There are a few things the Packers have done differently under LaFleur that have helped on the injury front. I think the occasional Wednesday walkthroughs in lieu of practice have been a change for the better. It helps guys get their bodies back and maximizes the returns of that Thursday padded practice. Going back to a traditional preparation week also has been a positive shift. McCarthy was ahead of the curve with the Friday STAA program but I think the league quickly caught up to that. Players are doing yoga, massage and other regeneration techniques year-round now. I don't think you need to dedicate a full day to that anymore.

Jeff from Greenville, SC

I noticed Mason Crosby is between Preston Smith and Hunter Bradley in the locker room. Which player is located in the most unusual place in the locker room?

Right now, it might be Oren Burks between Blake Martinez and Tim Boyle, but all-time it's definitely DuJuan Harris. For whatever reason, Harris' locker was all the way down by the offensive linemen. That occasionally happens late in the season when a player is signed and they're out of lockers in the main area to put that individual by his position group, but Harris stayed down there all three years he was here.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

With the return game there are obvious differences to fielding the ball, but what about blocking? Does one require holding the block longer or does it take more physicality from one to the other?

Lane integrity is so vital on kickoff returns – staying in your gap if you're a defender and clearing space if you're the blocker. Blocking is important on both plays but I'd say kickoffs are the more "physical" play. Punt plays are all finesse. Success is dictated by cleverness and making the first defender miss to get into the open field.

Jeremiah from South Bend, IN

Given the need for tackling and blocking on kickoff and kickoff return teams, respectively, is a player's natural position on offense or defense a factor in choosing special teams units?

Historically speaking, yes. The overall speed of the play usually results in a lot of receivers, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs playing on that unit.

Bart from Albuquerque, NM

With the game in LA, I'm wondering what the air quality will be with all the fires. Is this a concern for the game and is there any chance of impacts to the game from the fires?

That is an ongoing concern in that portion of California, but as of right now, it's not expected to affect the game whatsoever from what I understand.

Will from Madison, WI

What happened to Ryan Grant (the WR)? They signed him when things were looking mighty thin at the position, and obviously things have improved since then. I remember Grant being a pretty good receiver when he was in Washington, not that I would want them to punish Lazard, Kumerow, or Marquez Valdes-Scantling after their great performances. Do you think they are just waiting for him to get caught up on the playbook or have they moved on after the big games by others? Any chance he can return kicks?

This is what I'm talking about when you guys ask, "Why don't they sign Player X or Player Y" midseason. Because the players in that locker room have been in this playbook since April. That experience counts for something. Grant is a talented, experienced receiver but he's also only been here for two weeks. There just hasn't been that opening for him yet. Grant hasn't returned kicks or punts in the NFL.

Mike from Lakewood, CO

What does it mean when a player is said to run behind his pads?

It means to lower your shoulders and run with power.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

Always felt a bit sorry for the very loyal Browns fans – not their fault of rotating coaches, GMs and bad drafts, etc. I was hoping that Baker Mayfield might be their answer, but the year has not gone according to pundits and Mayfield is not looking even close to what was expected. Have you seen the Browns and what do you think about Mayfield?

I believe the Browns still have a future with Mayfield. I just don't think they were as close to contending as everyone thought they were. It's a simple case of trying to sprint before they could run. That's how you trip.

Chad from Kansas City, MO

Why would the NFL allow a team to play in such a small-capacity stadium? I would be afraid of hurting the brand. They should play a football game on the middle infield of the Daytona International Speedway. Could you imagine the turnout?

The NFL wouldn't approve this long-term but it's the best interim option available. Variable ticket pricing also helps. The NFL looks at the bottom line – not just the attendance figure.

Zurdo from Rosepark, CA

Long time II reader, ninth time submitting a question with three different aliases and none answered, yet a question like Chuck's from Horicon gets posted. Are any of you guys growing the 'stache out for no-shave November? Go Pack Go.

So you've never had a question answered with three different aliases? Well, I'm proud to tell you this is the one that got you on the board. No-shave November? More like Can't-shave ever.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

Snickers or Milky Way?


Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, the Green Bay Halloween superhero pictures were awesome. Which one was your favorite?

Preston Smith. That doesn't look like a drawing. It looks real. Our social intern Jennifer Fisher did a really nice job with the entire series.

Packers players illustrated as some well-known characters for Halloween.

Brock from West Lafayette, IN

Mike mentioning in the Inbox about all the upcoming matchups between the top contenders of the NFC made me smile, because there's still so much great football ahead. Are there any non-Packers matchups you're really looking forward to seeing?

You mean other than Dolphins-Jets? No, I really wish I could watch New England and Baltimore. I expect I'll be on the plane writing when that game is going on. That's going to be a humdinger.

Papa from Venice, FL

Need your input Wes...Having a chili cook-off during this Sunday's game with dozens of hard core Packer fans. My recipe is over 45 years old, and has always been well-received. But it probably needs a class name to put it over the top. Do you think calling it "Titletown Chili" will be exactly what it needs?

What about "Ice Bowl" Chili?

Tim from Grimes, IA

I'm sure your Inbox has been overwhelmed with stories of cancer survivors and losses per your story on Lancaster and submissions from Cheryl in Glen Falls and John in Boston. November is pancreatic cancer awareness month. I lost my 54-year-old brother last July, eight months after he was diagnosed. Cancer victims may be some of the most courageous people I have ever met; it's the survivors that have to work through the loss and memories. Thanks to you for providing an outlet for cheers and tears.

I'm so sorry for your loss, Tim. Every cancer story is heartbreaking but pancreatic cancer is especially so.

Dylan from Raleigh, NC

How many different stadiums has Aaron been credited for a win in? Only one shot to add Dignity Health Sports Park to that list.

So you better make it count. Enjoy the game, everybody.