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Inbox: They're gonna have to

If the Packers are to make a run, there’s no other option

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Defensive line

Dennis from Parrish, FL

Armpit warmers? Have I been in the FLA too long?

I rescind my Weston Wisdom plaudits.

Doug from West Bend, WI

First you tell us you don't like cheese and now you tell us you don't like pie crust?? (Double question marks to express my incredulity.) What other surprises do you have in store?

I'm a little afraid to find out. Without the crust, can you even call it pie? Just wondering.

Steve from Algoma, WI

Pick-six 49ers. Flag. Phantom RTP on Bosa. 15 yards and first-and-10 Seahawks. The NFL should be ashamed of itself.

In other words, you're saying the safety rules are an unmanageable mess as currently written and enforced? Who knew?

Dave from Lakewood Ranch, FL

The 49ers' tackling just looks "different," doesn't it?

That's the best defense in football right now, and I don't think it's close.

Brian from Trego, WI

Mike, racquetball? C'mon man! You do realize that pickleball is the game for guys your age right?

I'm not giving in. Yet.

Joe from Wausau, WI

I've seen conflicting information on whether Allen Lazard will be an unrestricted or restricted free agent after this season. I believe he will be restricted because he was not on the active roster enough games in 2019 for that to be an accrued season. Can you verify?

Lazard will be unrestricted. This is his fourth accrued season. He played in every game in 2019. He did not get an accrued season in 2018, which is why he was not a restricted free agent until after last season.

Tom from Woodbury, MN

How long before teams realize that utilizing a running quarterback cannot be a long-term strategy? Sadly, injuries to these types of quarterbacks are a regular occurrence.

Injuries are always a question of when, not if, in this league, regardless of position. The more your quarterback runs around, the sooner the when arrives for him.

Sam from Melbourne, IA

It would appear the Detroit fans have trouble with doing the wave on offense too. That gave me a good chuckle.

Me, too.

Johnny from Madison, WI

Regarding division winners getting the highest seeds, I think it comes down to minimizing scheduling inequities. Your schedule is most similar to your division mates, so it's not as fair to compare records across divisions. Sure, a wild card might have a better record than a division winner, but there's no objective way to say it's due to them being a better team, and not that their division had an easier schedule.

True enough, but it's more about the owners wanting a financial reward for being a division champ.

Brian from Baldwin, WI

You mentioned home playoff games being big money for the organizations. I get it being big money for the community, but I thought all ticket sale revenues went to the league, so how much money can the team really make on just parking and concessions and still have to pay everyone and maintain the facility?

Plenty, plus there's club seat/suite/luxury box revenue that doesn't go into the ticket revenue pool the league takes.

Dana from Monument, CO

I agree with Mike using the "sticky" gloves is fair if they're available to everyone, but it made me wonder, do defensive backs typically use those gloves? Seems to me, as a HS cornerback years ago, I would not want to wear gloves playing defense.

Some do, some don't. Personal preference.

Gary from Cross Plains, WI

Mike said if it doesn't have material impact on the play, keep the flag in your pocket. Problem is how does the ref know it doesn't have material impact. A lot of calls in the secondary are away from the eventual play, but how does the ref know that the hold he sees isn't what keeps the player from breaking open and being the target and QB moves to next in the progression. And if ref waits, people complain about throwing the flag late. Point of this – no-win situation for the refs!

I'm not talking so much about the calls in the secondary. Any of those can impact a QB's reads and progression. I get that. I'm referring to the holding or block in the back when the ball-carrier/screen receiver/returner is nowhere near the infraction or has already run past it. Or the hands to the face on a cornerback jam when a running play is going the other direction. Or a defensive holding flag on an interior lineman when the run was a stretch to the outside (London, anyone?). I realize that adds more judgment into the equation, which is what they'd prefer to reduce. But with a better replay review system, I think better judgment could be exercised in other areas. That's my overarching point.

The Green Bay Packers held practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022.

Brandon from Imperial, MO

Good morning, I just read that the NFL is considering ejections for RTP and hits on defenseless players. I certainly hope there will be some oversight or at least make it a reviewable penalty. I'd hate to have guys ejected on a clean QB hit just because in real time the official thought it was egregious and threw a flag. If implemented, do you think this would be a "NY official" buzzing down when it looked dirty on the replay or the refs deciding in real time with no recourse for a bad call?

I certainly hope they don't go to ejections, but if they do, they'll definitely be subject to replay review. I would not be in favor of ejections, but everyone knows I am in favor of making safety rules/fouls reviewable. The infractions are so specific regarding helmet contact, head/neck area, etc., it's not always clear at live speed what occurred. Players' heads can whiplash, making a clean hit to the torso appear really bad and illegal. Just take a look at it and get the call right, whatever it is.

Phil from Madison, WI

I don't think pushing the pile needs to be a penalty. Just a rule that as soon as an offensive player pushes the ball carrier rather than another player in the pile the play is blown dead and the ball is spotted.

I could live with that.

Michael from Novato, CA

Regarding rule changes you'd like to see; it annoys me to no end to see a defense stop a third-and-(say)-14, only to have the offense bailed out by a cheap 5-yard holding penalty. I never understood why that's an automatic first down. Seems like 5 yards and a second crack should be enough reward for the offense. What's the idea behind that?

It goes back to the DB who knows he's beat on third-and-long and he's just going to grab some jersey (and/or see if he can get away with it) before the QB throws the ball. If he's caught, it's only a 5-yard penalty and still third down. I get how the free first down is frustrating, but the league doesn't want rules that can be exploited against the spirit of the game. It's the same logic behind DPI being a spot foul.

Andy from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Regarding the questionable calls and struggles of the officials, don't you think at some level this is a problem the NFL actually likes to have? Controversy always sells, and keeps the league in the news cycle even more than it normally would. It could explain the reason the league has been so slow to find a solution.

I can appreciate the sentiment, and Russ from Henrico, VA, shares it, among others. Realistically, I think the NFL has captured enough of the country's fancy, and has enough controversies unrelated to the officials (such as coaching decisions, strategies, etc.) to discuss ad nauseum, that it doesn't need or enjoy so much attention on the officiating. Cozying up to the gambling world and constantly having officiating controversies is not the best look, in my opinion.

Austin from Woodstock, IL

Seeing both rugby and replay review in the same column makes me think people need to watch how international rugby has implemented the TV Match Official (TMO). The TMO has the ability to stop play and call clear fouls like high tackles or offsides which could be hard for the on-field refs to determine. Also during a review the stadium/viewer gets to see what the ref is seeing and hear what is being discussed. Not perfect but the cleanest and fairest implementation I have seen.

It would seem all the sports a majority of Americans don't watch have better replay review systems than the ones they do. I don't know what to make of that, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

William from Newburgh, IN

I was told there would be no rugby in the Inbox, just saying…

But don't "maul" and "ruck" sound more interesting than "two deep" and "jet sweep"?

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Mike, what NFL teams have been the biggest disappointment this season? I would bet some preseason picks are not what the season has produced. That is why you have to play one game at a time and never overlook an opponent. Glad you are feeling better!

Aside from the two teams playing on Monday night, other clubs I would categorize as disappointments in 2022 to this point would be (in no particular order) the Colts, Raiders, Broncos, Buccaneers and Saints.

Jeff from Champlin, MN

Kenny Clark has upped his game the last few years down stretch. Do you see Kenny and the rest of the DL and the inside 'backers turning the run defense around down the stretch and also improving the pass rush up the middle, which is so important especially with R. Gary out?

They're gonna have to. If the Packers are to make a run, there's no other option. The defense improving starts with the trenches improving.

Thierry from Metz, France

Hi Mike, hope you healing well. Despite its talent, the team has been inconsistent this season due to multiple reasons. Now with the emergence of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs coming back and 12's thumb seeming healed, the offense might be fixed. What is the first weakness in GB defense you'd say is the most decisive in seeing the Pack go on a last-chance playoff run?

The Packers have to be better at both stopping the run and getting after quarterbacks. Wes and I talked about this on the latest "Unscripted." I believe the guys up front can improve against the run. Without Gary on the edge, QB pressure might require some creativity.

James from Appleton, WI

I was surprised to see PFF ranking the Packers offensive line second in the league, behind the Eagles. More unexpected, the Bears' line has moved from 31st to start the season to the top 10, coinciding with Justin Fields' emergence as a runner. I always viewed the line as helping the skill players, but now I see that the talent level of the players behind the line can raise the performance of the linemen.

A car's engine is always the engine, but it isn't worth much if the wheels fall off.

Derek from Sheboygan, WI

It all boils down to coaching. The coaches have no fire, drive or desire and that directly translates to our players' disposition on the field of play.

It's been a rough season, but that's about as ignorant as it gets. I'm not saying the coaches are blameless. They must absorb their share, no doubt. But to make a blanket claim they have "no fire, drive or desire" is baseless, ignorant and insulting.

Tony from Clendenin, WV

I know you guys are around professional athletes all the time, but have either of you ever been a bit starstruck when meeting someone?

I don't know about starstruck, but covering the 2002 MLB Home Run Derby and All-Star Game at Miller Park and being around all the best players in baseball for two days was pretty wild for me.

Josh from Newhall, CA

It seems like everyone is overlooking the biggest obstacle to us grabbing the final playoff spot. The Lions are on a tear and playing as well as some of the league's best teams. I did some digging and it turns out if the Lions' only loss the rest of the way is to the Pack, they hold the strength of victory tiebreaker, and by a fairly large margin. I know we shouldn't be counting our chickens (or something like that), but it seems like the Jets this week is the best chance for a loss. J-E-T-S.

The Lions' offense vs. the Jets' defense is a really intriguing matchup. I'm very curious.

Dale from Prescott, WI

Will Wes be doing the Tuesday morning Inbox or are you flipping the order?

I'll be doing Tuesday morning's column so we can stick with our customary postgame duties. Wes will take Monday morning next week, and then I'll take a usual day of his later in the week to get back on our normal rotation.

John from Livermore, CA

Win four games, get some help. So you're saying there's a chance. Odds are long, but I take them. What's your key to this week's win?

Get the lead early and get some turnovers. Happy Friday.

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