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Inbox: They’ll get more exotic

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Mutt from Blaine, MN

Wes can't be holding his "good morning" until the second response. That first answer sets the whole tone for the column and since I don't check for the author, I use that first answer to set my expectations. Both Wes and Spoff bring quality, but in different ways and that hiccup took nearly half the column to recover. Luckily I was able to make in-column adjustments and still thoroughly enjoyed.

I always struggled to hit changeups, too.

Leandro from Lexington, KY

Wes has never seen a tie game where either team deserved to be victorious? Really? After that "penalty" on Clay cost Jaire his first NFL interception to seal the first game against the Vikings last year, I hope the Inbox is eating him alive. And I'm sorry that Mike has to deal with it.

That makes two of us.

Mike from Park Ridge, NJ

Hello II, in baseball there are hitters’ and pitchers’ ballparks. After watching the Saints-Texans game on the turf in the dome, how do you calibrate the advantage of a dome with the likes of playing at Lambeau Field?

Noise issues aside, turf fields without weather concerns generally make life easier for kickers and help fast teams maximize their speed. Maybe it’s perception more than reality, but any true difference in team speed seems to show up more readily on turf.

Dan from Toledo, OH

Wondered if you guys had noticed that Jayrone Elliott signed with the Steelers after being cut in the original trim-down? Good for him. Wish him the best!

Indubitably.

Matt from Lake Worth, FL

Being from a different time zone, what is the "proper" time to start tailgating for a noon home game at Lambeau?

Well, the stadium parking lots open four hours before kickoff. You’ve got it much better than the West Coasters when it comes to off-site tailgating for an early game.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

Hey guys! Vikings running back Cook gives me a lot of concern and Kirk Cousins throws a better ball than Trubisky, but our defense should be up to the task. I know our offense is still a work in progress, but Rodgers & Co. need to stress the defense this week or we could be in for a disappointing game. How do you rate the Vikings’ defense compared to Chicago's?

More creative, and I’m not saying that to disparage Chicago’s unit. The Bears don’t blitz much. They rely on their regular front to get pressure and play things more straight up. The Vikings will definitely blitz more and get more exotic with their looks. But the results matter more than the methods, and both defenses are darn good. The biggest similarity is they both aggressively attack the ball to create turnovers, though Minnesota’s takeaway total was lower than usual last year.

Michael from Madison, WI

The running game still needs a lot of improvement. Do the Packers have a good enough group to make a deep run in the playoffs or will they need to trade for a No. 1 back?

What’s that? Playoffs? Don’t talk about … playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?

Charles from Poynette, WI

Hey Insiders, which player is your X-factor for the game on Sunday? Also do you see this game being another defensive battle or a more high-scoring affair?

I expect there to be more than 13 total points scored, but beyond that I have no idea. An X-factor might be Trevor Davis.

Jon from Salem, MA

Hi Mike, thank you for bringing back “What You Might’ve Missed.” It's definitely my favorite weekly piece on the site. Do you typically have a feel for what you're going to highlight as the game is unfolding, or does it hit you after re-watching the film?

I’m too busy during the game to process that level of detail, but on occasion I might mark a certain play in my notebook to go back and look. In this case I just sat down and started going through the defensive film to see what would emerge. What I saw with all the different looks on third down was really fascinating, I thought.

Bryan from Wauwatosa, WI

Mike, given the upcoming slate of defenses the Packers will face, could we be waiting until the second half of the season to see the offense round into form? Bears, Vikings, Broncos, Eagles, Cowboys, and Lions – on paper – is a brutal start for a new scheme with a rookie head coach.

It’s a tough row to hoe, no doubt, but playing five of the next six at home should help. The offense will get a chance to smooth things out and make progress without the noise factor for a while.

Scott from Fredonia, WI

Regarding tie games, what do you think the ramifications would be of eliminating the tie column in the team record and handing both teams a loss in the case of a tie? It would force teams to play for the win in most cases. And it would give the fans the finality we seem to crave.

It’ll never happen, and maybe I’m just in a weird mood, but I’m actually intrigued by that idea.

Dan from Topeka, KS

Packers offense takes a step forward with more continuity and fluid drives while the defense does not have an improvement but continues to set edges and shut down the run plus good secondary coverage. What improvements are you looking for in the Pack's second game of the 2019 season?

Aside from third downs on offense I mentioned the other day, I’d say cutting down on penalties. Twelve flags (10 accepted) were too many. There were some in all three phases. Clean them up before they really cost you.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Mike, were there any significant injuries against the Bears? Who do you think can break out on offense this week for GB?

There were no significant injuries reported after the game, and everyone except Shepherd and Burks was practicing on Monday, with Hollman still in the red non-contact jersey. Thursday, when practice is in pads, is the best indicator of where the team is health-wise.

Steve from Cottage Grove, WI

Are the number and quality of II submissions back to regular-season form yet, or is there some work to do and coaching needed to get the questions back in "game shape”?

I don’t know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself.

Kevin from Holmen, WI

When's the last time a punter won the game for the Packers?

The one that came to my mind was the 9-0 road shutout of the Jets in 2010. I went back and looked up Tim Masthay’s stats from that game. Five of eight punts inside the 20, only one touchback, with a 44.0-yard average (41.5 net). In a 3-0 game late third quarter, he pinned the Jets on their own 5, and the Packers got an interception on the next drive to set up the second field goal. It was an impactful performance.

Dennis from Denver, CO

Who decides to call heads or tails? Is that predetermined by the coach, or a spontaneous decision by one of the team captains?

The head coach tells the captains what he wants.

Ken from Long Beach, CA

Guys, in the past you have stated the difference between winning and losing is slim. Week 1 which was the “best team to lose” and the “worst team to win.”

There are no tears allowed nor apologies necessary in the NFL, but the road efforts of the Colts and Texans in close defeats stood out. Seattle’s home win didn’t impress me.

Eric from Greenville, WI

Now that Week 1 is in the books, what is the best/worst overreaction you've seen?

The beating the Browns are taking is a classic case of building them up to tear them down. It was a 15-13 game late in the third quarter.

Will from Green Bay, WI

I saw that Rashan Gary played only six snaps against the Bears. While that isn't shocking for a rookie in his first ever game, can we expect to see more of him (especially on passing downs) against Minnesota?

I think so, for a couple reasons. One, I don’t expect the Smiths to continue to play 99 and 92 percent of the defensive snaps, respectively, every week. Two, the last play I highlighted in WYMM.

Jason from Olive Branch, MS

Saints and Patriots are similar to Packers in their star QB is elite. Saints and Patriots, offensively, both seemed to be more cohesive in their first game than the Pack. Do you think it’s scheme-related, more practice, or those other teams didn’t face an offense-wrecker like Mack?

It wasn’t Mack, it was the whole Chicago defense, which was the best in the league last year in a number of key categories and brought back almost everyone. The transition to a new offense is part of it, yes, but I don’t think anyone else in the league is facing two tougher defenses in the first two weeks than the Packers.

Joe from Ashburn, VA

I was watching both the New England and New Orleans games and noticed that Brady and Brees are able to get the ball out of their hands so fast they hardly get hit and always seem to have open receivers. My question is, as good as Aaron is at reading defenses, why aren't we seeing more of this from GB? Is it that our receivers are not able to get separation, does Aaron just prefer to play sandlot football, or has he lost his confidence to throw the ball in rhythm before the receiver is open?

It was one game in a new system. Let’s give it some time.

Grant from Plymouth, MN

I just noticed, with the Bears at 0-1, the Lions at 0-0-1, and the Vikings at 1-0 just like the Pack, whoever wins this week's game will be 2-0 and hold the lead in the NFC North no matter what happens with the other teams.

The winner of this game will be the early-season darling of the division, for whatever it’s worth.

Matt from Waukesha, WI

With the Packers opening the season last Thursday, do the coaches use those extra days to get a head start on reviewing film and prepping for Minnesota? Advantage Packers?

I don’t know. LaFleur said the coaches were grinding away most of the weekend while the players were off, but they still didn’t have Minnesota’s Week 1 film until late Sunday.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Not that guys like Cousins, Flacco, Rivers, Dak and Stafford aren't deserving and capable of big games as better-than-average starters, but it seems like the Packers’ schedule is missing games against most of the top-five tier of league QBs this year. Mahomes is the only one. No Ben, Brady, Wilson, Brees, Ryan and a few more (until the playoffs?). Did we catch a break and how might it work in our favor?

Wentz, Newton and Carr are no slouches in my book when healthy, and you’re selling Rivers a little short. I think the AFC West, top to bottom, has the best quartet of QBs in that conference (Mahomes, Rivers, Carr, Flacco) so no one in the NFC North got a break with the division pairings this year.

Sean from Las Vegas, NV

With all the concern about the field condition in Canada in the preseason, how is the baseball field the Raiders played on any better?

It’s not.

Shane from Bourbonnais, IL

So watching the Monday night game and how it ended got me thinking. When there were six seconds left, and New Orleans had the timeout, could the defense have not touched him and let time expire when he dropped down? I mean, you know he's going to do a quick hit. They should have protected the outsides and let them have the middle and not touch him.

A popular query. I addressed this on yesterday’s “Unscripted.” If the offensive player gives himself up, the offense can call timeout. He doesn’t have to be touched for the play to be over.

Dave from Germantown, TN

I saw that in Sunday's game, Minnesota ran the ball 39 times and only threw 10 passes. Can the Packers control the run game with Raven Greene at the second inside linebacker or are the Packers going to need to turn to Ty Summers or B.J. Goodson for a large number of snaps?

That’s the million-dollar schematic question for this game. I think Pettine would love to see his unit stop the run as it did against the Bears, with Martinez as the only true inside linebacker on the field, because it helps with both coverage and pass-rush options. But if it can’t, he’ll have to adjust.

Richard from Canton, GA

Was the Detroit-Arizona tie the first when both teams scored in overtime?

When the Packers and Vikings tied in 2013, both teams scored in OT, but the extra period was still 15 minutes then.

Blaine from Fennimore, WI

Did you see the Falcons don't play a single division game until November? Is that a blessing or curse?

That’s crazy. They have five division games in a row from Weeks 10-14, starting right after their bye. I’ve never seen a schedule look anything like that.

Robert from Panama City Beach, FL

Two players from last year’s draft will make All-Pro this year, Alexander and Scott. Thoughts?

All-Pro might be too tall an order, but Pro Bowl consideration wouldn’t be a stretch.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

Aaron Rodgers spoke out unreservedly crediting the defense for the victory over the Bears. Does getting such a ringing endorsement from the leader of the offense carry any extra significance for the defensive team?

I refer you to LaFleur’s response to getting the game ball from Rodgers. “Heck, yeah. It always means something.”

Todd from Owasso, OK

We got a defense. I really think we're just a catchy name from immortality, like the Steel Curtain or (gag) Purple People Eaters. How about the Pettine Zoo?

Please see yourself out.

Chris from Katy, TX

One missed kick and Vedvik gets the Ficken boot.

You, too.

Joseph from Franklin, WI

What do the Packers need to do to win the North?

Win more games than the Vikings, Bears and Lions. Now it’s my turn. Happy Wednesday.

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