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Inbox: They'll need their best

They shouldn’t be surprised by anything

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QB Aaron Rodgers and the offense

Donna from Darien, WI

Bring on the Niners!

Ready or not, here they come.

Douglas from Bemidji, MN

Just one game at a time, but I'd love to beat the 49ers and then the Bucs on the way to the Super Bowl and redeem the last two seasons.

You and everyone else out there.

Al from Pasadena, CA

Well, Spoff, is it mercy, wow, or holy cow?

All of the above were uttered down the stretch in that Niners-Cowboys game, that's for sure. Game of the weekend, as predicted.

Dave from Comer, GA

How are the 49ers different from when we played them earlier in the year?

I think they've gotten even more creative and versatile with how they use Deebo Samuel. He's a handful.

Judy from Channing, MI

Now the entire nation knows the ref has to set the ball before the play.

Tough way for the Cowboys to learn that lesson.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

The Cowboys lost because of penalties (their 2021 Achilles heel) and because in the big moments, they literally dropped the ball. The Packers have played clean all season, and their receiving corps is stellar. So, I think we have reason to be optimistic. I'm concerned, though, that the 49ers looked like they were playing on fast forward during their first few drives. Starting fast seems to elude us. Do you think the defense can slow the 49ers down until our offense gets rolling?

That'll be the key to how the game unfolds. The 49ers didn't do much on offense after the quick 13-0 start. They might have only scored three more points if not for the Prescott pick. San Fran will have a carefully calculated script for the early drives. The Packers will have to withstand the surge.

Janet from Auburn, WA

I hope the 49ers players and coaches are just as exhausted as I am after that wild game.

The storyline of the week on their side will be the health of Nick Bosa (concussion) and Fred Warner (ankle).

Rob from Muskego, WI

With all these players looking likely to be back for playoffs, we may have found an exception to one of Vic's rules. Help is on the way?

As Wes astutely pointed out on "Unscripted" last week, that's primarily due to the changed, more open rules with injured reserve, which hopefully are here to stay.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

Quick thought: As our preferred starters get healthy, there's hopefully a trickle-down benefit to our special teams, too.

Perhaps. Not all these roster decisions will be easy.

Mike from Baraboo, WI

Which returning injured Packers player do you feel will have the biggest impact in the playoff run?

I'll stick with what I said a few weeks ago – David Bakhtiari. Five sacks from the edge rushers in last year's NFC title game still answers the question for me.

Curt from Algonquin, IL

I think the biggest difference in our offense since playing the 49ers in Week 3, perhaps even more than the return of David Bakhtiari, is that we've developed a two-headed running game. If I recall correctly, Aaron Jones was the clear feature back and AJ Dillon was the change of pace to spell Jones. In the last several games they've really shared the load. I think that could be the difference-maker in this game.

In the first meeting, Jones had 21 touches while Dillon had eight. Barring somebody getting a really hot hand, I wouldn't expect that great a disparity again.

The Green Bay Packers will host the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC Divisional playoff matchup at Lambeau Field. Here's a look back at Green Bay's 30-28 win over the 49ers in Week 3 of the 2021 season.

Joe from Swansea, IL

I spent most of Sunday afternoon rooting for the lower NFC team to win. Will I regret that, knowing the 49ers (their run offense, their tough defense) might be the playoff foe best-equipped to play in the cold? Seems De'Vondre Campbell and the rest of the Packers' linebacker corps will have a crucial role. What other factors are at play?

The Packers have to run the ball effectively to keep that defensive front honest. Stay balanced. That's how the Packers are at their best, and they'll need their best against that defense.

Shawn from Stratford, WI

No turnovers and stop the run = we win. Simple enough?

Maybe not quite that simple, but that'll go a long way.

Vince from Auburn, WA

San Francisco came out of the gates with incredible intensity on both sides of the ball in the first half. Those injuries to Bosa and Warner in the second half seemed to douse some of the that fire, however. It's an obvious advantage if either one of them can't play. My bigger concern, though, is the run blocking of the 49ers' offensive line. I really respect their old-school mentality and approach to the game.

The 49ers test the discipline of a defensive front with their motions, fakes, end-arounds, play-actions, etc. But this will be the fifth time the Packers have seen all of that in the past three years. They shouldn't be surprised by anything. Trust and execute.

John from Livermore, CA

So after yesterday's Bengals-Raiders whistle controversy, do you think the NFL will make this a "reviewable" call?

I don't think the league has much choice. One listen to the replay and what occurred was obvious. It's a simple rule.

Kevin from Neptune, NJ

Pray to the football gods we don't get Jerome Boger's crew for any playoff games this year. Can you remember a game with so many ticky-tacky flags? Especially a playoff game for goodness sake.

I read that Boger hadn't received a postseason assignment for seven years until getting one last year (and obviously again this year). I don't think he has to worry about another one anytime soon.

Jason from Lewistown, PA

Wow! Micah Hyde's interception. Seeing his play made me reminisce of his time with the Pack. Any good memories of Mr. Hyde? By the way. I've enjoyed the column for years now. Thank you both.

I'll always remember being at Hyde's locker after the loss to San Francisco in the '13 wild-card game. I was the first one to ask the then-rookie about his near-INT of Kaepernick on the final drive that could've given the Packers a shot to win but instead preceded the walk-off field goal. "I just dropped it," he said. "It was a catch I should have made." Well, he made the catch vs. Prescott in Dallas five years ago, and he made a whale of a catch Saturday night. It's as though he'll never let a game-changing play in the postseason slip through his hands again.

Steven from Sauk Rapids, MN

I really wanted to see Hyde get that punt return TD, was a shame his blocker's foot got the best of him. Buffalo looks like the real deal and will be a tough out. That was a beatdown.

Are the Bills truly a hot team, or did they just have a hot game? We'll find out soon enough. Winning a playoff game on the road is Josh Allen's next step.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

What's the press box temperature like during cold-weather games? The TV booth guys always look very chilly. Can I presume your world is somewhat climate-controlled? At least enough so that fingers can type?

The gang in the TV booth sometimes leaves the windows open. The press box is all sealed up.

Andy from Davenport, IA

When was the last time the Packers picked up a guy like De'Vondre Campbell that so nonchalantly made All-Pro in their first year?

There's nothing comparable in my lifetime. The Packers traded for Ted Hendricks in 1974 and he made All-Pro, but he had been a three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro (one first team, one second) prior to his sole year in Green Bay. John Brockington made first-team All-Pro as a rookie in '71, but he was the No. 9 overall pick in the draft, so he wasn't exactly some out-of-nowhere story either.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

By any chance do you know if a QB-WR duo has ever before been first-team All-Pro in back-to-back seasons?

I went back to the league merger in 1970, and according to my research (which could be wrong), this is what I found. Steve Young and Jerry Rice did it three straight seasons (1992-94), while Joe Montana and Rice did it three times in a span of four years (1987, '89-90). Some other nuggets … the Dolphins had two different combos in the '70s, Bob Griese with Paul Warfield in '71 and Griese with Nat Moore in '77 … the Chargers had two with Dan Fouts and John Jefferson in '79, then Fouts and Wes Chandler in '82, while in between Jefferson and Charlie Joiner were the first-team All-Pro WRs in '80 with Fouts the second-team QB … there were some first-team/second-team combos with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in the mix, too … last but not least, Randy Moss did it with two different teams and QBs, the Vikings and Randall Cunningham in '98, then the Patriots and Tom Brady in '07.

Mike from Tacoma, WA

I call BS on the 1981 AFC Divisional being the best playoff game you ever watched. How old were you then? Your folks graduated college in '66.

I was 9 and I'll never forget it. I had grown enamored with those Air Coryell Chargers, who were ahead of their time a few years before Dan Marino was ahead of his time.

Sam from Janesville, WI

Hi Mike, if my math is correct (I know, I'm sorry) each player would receive $295,000 if the Packers win it all. Multiply that by 53 and you get $15,635,000. It's a fairly significant amount and as Vic used to say, "You pay it, you cap it." Is this still the case for playoff salary? And if so, it seems like a team that is going "all in" and is already up against the cap could be penalized for going to the playoffs.

Postseason pay is completely separate from the salary cap. The pay comes from the league, not the team, because all the ticket revenue from postseason games goes to the league, which sets the ticket prices.

Gary from Chippewa Falls, WI

Many proponents of the analytics of going for it on fourth down praise the aggressiveness of the coach. If Brandon Staley takes one field goal against KC instead of many failed fourth-down conversions, the Chargers make the playoffs. It seems many proponents won't lose their job for missed opportunities.

Wes and I were talking the other day about Staley and the Ravens' Harbaugh being maybe the league's most aggressive coaches with fourth downs and two-point tries, and both missed the playoffs by one game, coming up short multiple times when their decisions didn't work out. I realize it's all hypothetical based on how this or that unfolds, but I'll stick to feel, flow, situation, etc., helping make a tough call, not adherence to a philosophy.

James from Appleton, WI

Seeing teams fire their coaches and GMs underlines how not only are Gutekunst and LaFleur great at what they do, but Gutey grasps LaFleur's vision of what his team should look like and what kind of players fit that mold. Now that Barry has given a spark to the defense with his scheme, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Packers draft a middle linebacker higher than they have before.

They now see how a top inside linebacker makes this defense work, but in the draft, the player will still have to be worth the pick, based on how the board looks. Chasing another Campbell isn't going to make one magically fit the same way.

Mike from Las Vegas, NV

Mike, I don't know how close you are to retire, but I think you're going to see an eighth seed added to the playoffs before it happens. This year the NFL added a Monday night game! If the ratings go well, they're going to want more. I can see them with a tripleheader on Saturday and Sunday, and a doubleheader on Monday or … a Friday night game! I'm not saying it's a good thing, but I can see it coming. And here's something to think about. This year it would have been Packers-Saints.

I don't doubt it's coming at some point. But the seventh seeds certainly weren't needed this year.

Douglas from Union Grove, WI

Michael, I understand that there is a fair amount of stress in your job, with covering stories, deadlines, etc. Having said that, do you ever step back and tell yourself how lucky you are, working at Lambeau, especially this year? We go up north almost every week/weekend, and I always smile, crossing the river on 172, and being greeted by the big "G." We came though at about 11 p.m. last night, and with the crisp clear night, and home-field advantage, it seemed to be shining extra bright.

Trust me, I never take it for granted, and it's never more exciting than this time of year.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

I know with the week off it was fun to talk about a deep playoff run and holding up the Lombardi in a few weeks, but I think we have to refocus now. Just beat the (insert team here).

Happy Monday.

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