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Inbox: They've earned every bit of this opportunity

It’s no accident Preston Smith has stood the test of NFL time

S Benny Sapp III, QB Jordan Love, QB Sean Clifford
S Benny Sapp III, QB Jordan Love, QB Sean Clifford

Randy from Westminster, CO

My motto for Sunday is: "How 'bout we beat them Cowboys!"

It's a daunting challenge, but every time I dig into Dallas, one question pops into my mind: Why not?

Graydon from Menomonie, WI

The snowstorm is wreaking havoc on travel all over the state. But fear not, game day is almost here! I know the Packers fans are going to be loud because there is not much else to do except watch football.

I don't think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for a while…Hey, at least the weather will be warm in Dallas, right?

Etienne from St. Joachim de Tourelle, Canada

Good morning, Insiders. Beside a win, what would be your biggest wish for Sunday's game? I am hoping for a game without any controversy. That's my biggest wish beside a win.

A game without controversy would be nice, but I'll throw in Jordan Love playing well in his first playoff game. The Packers quarterback has been on an incredible run over the past eight games. It'd be great to see that trend continue in Dallas.

Robert from Verona, WI

The Packers have benefitted from significant rookie (and second-year player) contributions this season, but can you share what you're looking for when assessing if those players will have long-term success? You guys seem to have a pretty good handle on "who truly belongs," and we all know that some players will build on early success, and others will find it hard to replicate year after year. The eye test alone isn't enough given that scheme, good fortune/luck, and matchups are also factors.

Consistency. That's all it is. There have been countless players over the years who emerged for a stretch or maybe even a season but can't maintain. What has differentiated players such as Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and now Aaron Jones is how they continually perform at an elite level. Scheme fit and complementary pieces are important, but ultimately success is defined by what a player does when presented with an opportunity. Dontayvion Wicks, Tucker Kraft, Carrington Valentine, Karl Brooks, Bo Melton and Rasheed Walker have all done that this year and they're playing to that standard every week.

Dave from Emmalena, KY

I saw an interesting stat that showed Love was blitzed more than any other QB this year. Almost 30 times more than the second-place QB. Even with that, he was 20th in sacks. I know more than one commentator has mentioned his success against the blitz. My question is, do you think it's because of the O-line, RBs and TEs picking up the blitz, Love beating it with quick throws, his ability to move, or a combination of all of these?

It's a sum of the whole. I think Love's blitz recognition has gotten better, but the blocking unit has been exceptional for the Packers during the second half of the season. Certainly, that starts with the offensive line, but I love what I've seen from Kraft, Ben Sims, and the receivers, too. The buy-in has been outstanding.

Jake from Decatur, GA

Clearly, the vast majority of fans feel like we're playing with house money now. Whether it's another game to watch or some playoff experience to help prepare for a deep run next year, we have already won. I'm sure the players feel differently, but how exactly? Do they see this game as a measuring stick? Another chance to prove the doubters wrong? The next step toward winning next month's Super Bowl? Or just another game to win?

I'm not a big fan of the "house money" line because it's not house money. It's the Packers' money. They've earned every bit of this opportunity. It's fun to look into the future, but don't let it pull you out of the present. You play for today because you don't know what the future holds.

Tom from Southfield, MI

II, if ever there was a game for the offense to help the defense with multiple, sustained, clock-chewing drives, this is it. You touched on this briefly in one of your answers, but if you could reply to this to expand on your thoughts, I'd so appreciate it.

I couldn't agree more. Dallas has controlled the clock this season, leading the NFL in first downs and ranking third in time of possession. The Packers need to set the pace in both categories to prevail. Fortunately, that's been two of Green Bay's biggest strengths under Matt LaFleur.

Nikos from Twyford, UK

Were you as thrilled as I was when the wild-card matchups were finalized, and "America's Team" was pitted against the Dallas Cowboys?

I see what you did there, Nikos. It's noted and appreciated.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Good Playoff Weekend, Wes! Much comment has been made of the importance of Dak Prescott, Micah Parsons and CeeDee Lamb in the Cowboys' success. With turnovers being a key game statistic DaRon Bland's nine interceptions catch my eye especially when compared with the Packers' seven season total. Will the Packers stay away from him or throw at him with his penchant for risk taking?

LaFleur was asked a version of this question this week and said Jordan Love can't hesitate. Bland is a ball hawk, but Love must play the play and keep attacking like he has been over the past two months.

Estillac from Belém, Brazil

My first question answered in II was on the week before the Packers-Cowboys playoff game in 2016. By then, Wes, you said the key to that game had two words. Dak. Prescott. Years later, I think the response still applies. Our defense can't let Prescott play and have to try forcing errant throws that can become interceptions. What do you think? Here's hoping for another win this time, too! Go, Pack, Go!

A takeaway or two has gone a long way for this defense in past encounters with Dallas. I think that holds true this Sunday. It's like that time-honored Dom Capers idiom – the team whose QB has the higher passer rating likely comes out on top.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Dallas is a force at home, and the Packers don't have a shot, right? Wrong. Reasons to believe: 1) The playoffs are functionally a new season with both teams at 0-0. 2) Remember the last three times the Packers were underdogs (Det, KC, Minn.)? All wins. 3) J-Love, Aaron Jones and the offense are really clicking. They're in "Look out" mode! 4) The defense is ascending, allowing only one TD in the last two games. 5) Expectations for Dallas are high, so the pressure is squarely on them. GPG

The pressure lies in Dallas, but the possibilities belong to Green Bay.

Mike from Algoma, WI

Are you kidding me? Going into this weekend I'm not even concerned if the Packers win or lose. I'm mostly interested to see how this young team performs, no matter the result. What has happened to me? Any kind of growth really irritates me. I blame you and Wes.

The result very much matters. Winning would go a long way to this team's development. Either way, however, it must be said few people outside of this area code expected the Packers to be in this position this year. To quote Valentine earlier this week, "I feel like we've been the underdog this whole season so why change it now?"

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Hi Wes, I'm back! There's nothing like a good old-fashioned playoff rivalry to lift a guy. Observation from behind enemy lines: There has been a noticeable and uncharacteristic lack of bluster coming from DFW Cowboys fans this week. They are nervous. One apprehensive friend worries the Pack might have success running right at Micah Parsons, thus neutralizing his big-play ability. Is a strong running game even more critical this week? Temps will be in the 20s, definitely pound-it weather.

I'm neither an NFL head coach nor a play-caller, but Jones has touched the ball 20-plus times in each of Green Bay's last three wins. As long as No. 33 is healthy, I'm handing him that football. The yards and production are nice, but you can also see how Jones has amped up this team's swagger since returning to the lineup.

Herbert from Palm Desert, CA

Hi guys, I was under the impression that the Packers had Aaron Jones under contract for the next two years, but recently read an article saying that's not the case. What can you tell us about his contract? I've already voiced my opinion that he's the best Packer back I've ever seen, and I go all the way back to the Jim Taylor era. His vision and acceleration are a marvel. He hits a hole at full speed and makes cuts within it without slowing down. I hope he has a big day Sunday.

Jones is under contract for one more season. He's also been lethal against Dallas over the years. In three games against the Cowboys, Jones has rushed for 370 yards and six TDs on 62 carries (6.0 yards per carry) and added another 102 yards on 10 receptions. He's been a game-changer in this series. I'm excited for the fourth chapter.

Jake from Regina, Canada

Happy Saturday fellas. Let me preface this question by stating that I'm not playing the comparison game to put unrealistic expectation on Dontayvion Wicks' shoulders, but merely as a fun thought experiment. I know lots of discussion has been had comparing Tay's skillset to Tae; however, recently I have started to think of him more as a young Stefon Diggs. Similar frames, similar skillsets, and both fifth round picks. Diggs was a little faster and smaller, and Tay has better leaping ability. Thoughts?

It's one thing for fans to make those comparisons, but it hits different when players and coaches are saying that. Who's to say how high Wicks' ceiling runs and whether he can put together a Pro Bowl career like Davante Adams and Diggs have done? But the fact there is this much buzz around Wicks speaks to the rookie season he's put together in Green Bay. His future is bright.

Jeff from Littlefork, MN

Any update on Jaire Alexander? If gambling were legal at Bushwood, how much money would you put on him playing Sunday? I love what Corey Ballentine and Carrington Valentine have done in the secondary but really feel like we need "23" to shadow Lamb.

Alexander didn't practice on Friday, but LaFleur said the team will give him up until gametime to play. While Ballentine and Valentine have played great this season, Alexander is one of the very best at his position. Like Jones' presence on offense, the defense, too, operates at another level when No. 23 is on the field.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

In last year's game, Dallas really moved Lamb around (slot, motion, line up in backfield) to ensure favorable matchups on key downs. No doubt this year's game will differ in many respects, but GB absolutely has to be prepared for that. Especially when, for example, Lamb is in the slot on third down and GB blitzes. That will put a lot of pressure on Walker and the safeties. Lamb almost never hurt GB when lined up wide against a CB last year.

You don't need a Pro Football Focus receptions breakdown to know Lamb is a playmaker defenses have to account for at all times. Having Alexander available would be huge, but even if Jaire is out there, it'll take more than one individual to slow down a receiver as versatile as Lamb.

Joe from Hampshire, IL

Wes, Spoff the McCarthy ghostwriter! What other revelations of our favorite two Insiders can we look forward to learning? As for ironman Preston Smith, what are some of the unique player self-care methods Packer players have mentioned?

Lotta of hot tub, lotta cold tub, and a lot of sauna. Seriously, Smith and Marcedes Lewis should write a book on their recovery process when their careers are over. It's no accident those guys have stood the test of NFL time.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Mike, Steve from Scranton, PA said he hoped no NFL GM read Cliff's formula for franchise success. Don't you think it goes back to the owner's patience, or lack thereof? Isn't that truly the Packers' advantage?

I would submit that's what makes this the best job in the NFL.

Jean from Montreal, Canada

Mike mentioned that ML has the seventh longest tenure in the NFL. Are you surprised that he hasn't won yet the NFL Coach of the Year award? Perhaps that is the key to his success

This is your tri-annual reminder I couldn't care less about the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award.

Frank from Green Bay, WI

Doesn't this remind you of the 1995 divisional playoff game, Packers at 49ers? Niners were the overpowering returning Super Bowl favorites who pounded powerhouse Dallas in the regular season. Well, I believe. Isn't this why they play the game?

If you wanna watch a good movie and know the ending, then pop in "The Natural." If you wanna live on the edge of your seat for three hours, tune in Sunday.

Rhonda from Italy, TX

Seriously y'all, pack your woolies. The Chicken n Pickle is half outside. Why are you bringing the weather with you!

She may get wooly…Girls, they do get wooly. 'Cause of all the stress. Yeah. When they get wooly, try a little tendernesssssss…I'm sorry what was the question?

Wesley from Kingsland, GA

Lightning struck. I literally jumped out of my seat yesterday. Thanks to the incredible generosity of this organization, I won tickets to the game on Sunday. In a whirlwind on reservations and contact, AT&T Stadium will have two more Packers fans in attendance on Sunday and I can't wait to see you both at the pep rally on Saturday. What a blessing. For anyone that ever has or had a doubt, I'll tell you one word: BELIEVE.

Let's goooooooooo! Have an amazing time.

Josh from Adams, WI

We are all 0-0 now and as history has shown us, all you need is "a chip and a chair." I like our chances...

That's a great way to look at it. Unless you're a No. 1 seed, the NFL playoffs are four best-of-one series.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Ownership of the Bears secure and a season of Love continues
A mountain looms in Dallas where the Cowboys have won 16 straight
The burden of expectation lies heavy on the favored Cowboys Sunday
The Packers talent and growth are real and they play with one soaring heart
Four words Green Bay, "Believe! This is doable."
Shock the world, Green and Gold

Well, that just about does it for me. I gotta go wait outside for Spoff to come pick me up on his snowmobile and head to the airport. Stay safe and enjoy the playoffs, everyone.

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