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Inbox: This is a huge preparation challenge

RB Josh Jacobs
RB Josh Jacobs

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Well, it's on to the Raiders. They beat the Bears across the pond so they will be another challenging team coming off a bye week. How do you feel the Packers match up and what challenges do the Raiders present?

Their running game with Jacobs is formidable. The Packers need to repeat the type of run defense they executed against the Lions and continue to put some past outings behind them in that regard.

Eric from Honolulu, HI

How can the Packers prepare for the Raiders on one less day of rest and having the opponent coming off a bye week?

This is a huge preparation challenge. Coming off a down-to-the-wire comeback against a division rival, and now a short week for an unfamiliar opponent. It’s hard to find the extra time for film study, but you have to.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Mike, what are the strengths of the Raiders? Haven't watched much of them at all.

I haven’t either, but their 97-yard TD drive against the Bears’ defense in the fourth quarter in London – after blowing a 17-0 lead – tells me they have players who can dust themselves off and get something done in the clutch. They also beat Indy on the road one week before the Colts went into Arrowhead and knocked off the Chiefs. They’re playing much better now than they were early-to-mid September. The tight end, Waller, is Carr’s go-to guy, and they’re top 10 in the league in third-down offense.

Chris from Victor, ID

If I had that list in front of me, I would guess it says the success rate for receivers picked up as street free agents mid-season is about the same as receivers the pundits suggest you cough up draft picks to trade for before the deadline. One group just carries way less risk to acquire.

We’ll see how quickly the Packers can get Ryan Grant up to speed. He’s never been a big yards-per-catch guy but he’s a proven NFL player who knows the game. I think what Amari Cooper did for the Cowboys last year is the exception more than the rule.

Matt from Jerome, ID

Pick up a receiver that shares the name of a running back we used to have...There's an 88 joke in there somewhere. To think we were finally starting to let it go.

Plenty are trying. I am not entertained.

Dan from Toledo, OH

I love the postgame locker room videos you guys share. They give the smallest glimpse into how close this team is. When you have Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Blake Martinez being the first to celebrate Mason Crosby's game ball, that's a sign of something special right there.

It’s a tight-knit bunch by all accounts, which should serve them well with four of five on the road coming up after this week. Charles Woodson used to talk about road games as true team endeavors. I’m paraphrasing here, but he would always say that you show up with your guys and your equipment, and that’s all you’ve got to get the job done. Getting to 6-1 would be a nice spot with the road gauntlet coming up.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

The best part of Jamaal’s last run was not him dropping to his butt before the goal line. It was his infectious smile you could clearly see while sitting there.

I’d expect nothing less from Williams, but there’s no chortling in the Inbox.

Bob from Chandler, AZ

The turf seemed to be a problem Monday night. Some of the drops, and certainly the deflection off of Shepherd's helmet, were the result. What's the report on the Lambeau soil?

A popular question, and I don’t know the answer. LaFleur said he was going to look into it, but there was definitely a footing issue Monday night. Don’t know if it has something to do with the transition to lower temps or what.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

Long time reader, thirteenth submission, first incomplete sentence. Aaron Rodgers speaking my native tongue made me unreasonably happy. Do you know if any players or coaches speak more than one language? Do you?

Spanish was my second major in college, and I studied for a semester in Seville. I can’t speak the language very well anymore, unfortunately, but I can still understand it as long as it’s not being spoken at too rapid-fire a pace.

A.J. from Brisbane, Australia

Nobody's mentioned it yet, but how about Lazard's catch along the sideline where he held the ball in one hand and threw the defender with the other? It seems like a snapshot of his playing style!

You love the aggressiveness, as long as he protects the ball, which he did. Allison did exactly the same thing back in Week 2 and coughed it up. So you have to be smart about it.

Hunter from Merrill, WI

Blake Martinez has led the team in tackles in each game up to this point (getting 13 and 15 against the Bears and Eagles) but against the Lions he only recorded five, tying with Za’Darius who also had a sack. Were his numbers impacted because the Lions had no run game? Also, it looked like every kickoff this game was returned. I thought it might have been due to the cold but many of them could have bounced into the end zone.

I think Martinez’s tackle total was affected by Goodson and Lowry having four tackles each, frankly. That’s not a bad thing, at all. You knew the Lions and Agnew were going to challenge the Packers’ kickoff coverage with the long returns Green Bay has given up this year. Detroit’s kickoff strategy was to kick high and short and try to tackle shy of the 25, which mostly worked.

Scott from De Pere, WI

The past three games have all had a different offensive star (Adams, Jones, Williams). Who do you think will be the star this week against the Raiders?

Well, I was going to say Marquez Valdes-Scantling is due for a big game, but now he’s on the injury report (ankle/knee) as DNP for Wednesday. Robert Tonyan (limited, hip) could be on his way back to action, so I’ll be keeping an eye on him this week.

Rich from Eagle River, WI

Wes said they cannot pay him enough to be an NFL ref. What is their approximate pay?

I’ve seen reports that a referee makes around $200K for one season. I haven’t seen it reported what the others on the crew – umpire, line judge, back judge, etc. – generally make.

Raj from Phoenix, AZ

With the Packers’ win on Monday, this is the second time they’ve beaten Detroit despite being in the lead for exactly zero seconds (walk-off Hail Mary, walk-off game-winning field goal). Do you have any sense of how uncommon this is league-wide, or is it something that happens more frequently than I would imagine?

I have no idea, but I doubt it’s exceedingly rare.

Al from Green Bay, WI

In Preston Smith's critical third down Q4 sack of Stafford, I noticed a couple things that some "might have missed." First, the play clock expired just before the ball was snapped. Second, Smith jumped offside, getting around the tackle before he had a chance to make a block. Third, no flag for either infraction. It made me wonder. Was Preston watching the play clock, knowing the snap was imminent, so he bolted as soon as it hit :00? If so, that was a savvy veteran move.

I think that’s exactly what he did.

Matt from Denver, CO

I know we’re probably all sick of talk about officiating, but I had a basketball coach tell me something that I think is very applicable. “Refs don’t call fouls, they call what they think looks like a foul.” The point being, it’s less important if you actually foul, what matters is if it looks like a foul. Don’t do things that look like a foul even if it technically isn’t.

Especially if it’s already been called once. I wholeheartedly agree with Wes’s take on Flowers. It’s the whole fool me once, fool me twice thing. More broadly speaking, the league does this to itself – create officiating controversies – with these “points of emphasis,” beyond the RTP and PI stuff from the last two Septembers. Bakhtiari has been flagged multiple times for holding this year. Is a three-time All-Pro suddenly a penalty-prone liability? No, of course not. It’s the league giving the officials these points of emphasis, just like hands to the face, and the flags coming out. As I said on “Unscripted,” I think the ultimate point of emphasis should be if it’s not obvious, don’t call it. That’s the only way officiating controversies will diminish.

Rick from Sterling, CO

One simple change to replay I'd like to propose. When the on-field officials call the play differently, let replay make the deciding vote. Why should "clear visual evidence" be necessary when the original call had to be decided "in conference"?

Ding ding ding. I say why should the call on the field matter anymore when there’s always a camera angle that gives a better look than any official on the field could have had? But I’ll stop there. If you didn’t see my soliloquy (rant? diatribe?) on Wednesday’s “Packers Unscripted,” you’re welcome to check it out.

Cicero from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Hey guys, just want to know your thoughts about Bulaga’s performance so far. He has been just outstanding.

Yes, yes he has. He’s had his share of strong years. This might be his best so far.

Dennis from Batavia, IL

AR12 said he lobbied receivers coach Al Whitted during the fourth quarter to get Allen Lazard more snaps. During the game who is determining the various rotations and who is on the field (position coaches?) and how is this coordinated with the plays being called or the package inserted? Another example. Rashan Gary played only five snaps. Who is most responsible for that decision?

Position coaches control playing time, for the most part, establishing pecking orders for each personnel package and telling a guy when to sub in for another. If a player is on the field in a given personnel group, he has to know all the possible calls in that package, otherwise he can’t be in it or the play-caller gets hamstrung. The position coach has to make sure he’s not putting the play-caller in a bad place.

Amy from Bayport, MN

Trading Trevor Davis to the Raiders obviously left a hole to fill in the return game. With the release of Tremon Smith and the struggles of Darrius Shepherd Monday night, where do you see the Packers looking to fill that role? Do you give the undrafted rookie another chance to prove himself? Tramon Williams is sure-handed but is not much of a threat to break a long return. Any chance we’ll see Jaire Alexander returning punts?

I wouldn’t rule anything out, though LaFleur said Wednesday they’re sticking with Shepherd. Whatever the case, the Packers need more from their return game. Their return averages on both punt and kickoff are significantly lower than their opponents’ averages. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story as far as field position, but they are starkly different.

Jacob from Madison, WI

As a Packers fan, it’s embarrassing the level the readers and writers of this column are going to to excuse the terrible calls by the refs that gifted us the game. I’m not saying we should give back the win, but can we just acknowledge how bad those calls were and the fact that we likely don’t win without them?

I don’t believe I’ve excused them, for the same reason I didn’t dwell on the deflected interception at the goal line vs. Philly that was clearly DPI. I’ve simply said it’s now part of life in the NFL. Every team’s fortunes change on calls (or non-calls) at some point, more often now than ever. If you can’t acknowledge that, you’re not watching the same game.

Jack from Marshfield, WI

When was the last interception Rodgers threw that didn’t hit a Packer receiver first?

I think you have to go back to the Carolina game in Dec. 2017, his brief one-game return from the broken collarbone.

Tim from Spooner, WI

How about a shout-out to the new coaching staff's handling of clock management! Leaving seven seconds left at the end of the first half and zero time at the end of the game for the Lions to attack in the two-minute drill. In past years it was infuriating to see how often the clock was managed, particularly up to halftime. Another overlooked stat. Holding other teams scoreless in last two minutes of a half.

I found the initial exasperation in my live blog halftime chat Monday night to be pretty amusing. Running the ball on third-and-goal from the 21 with the opponent out of timeouts was absolutely the right move. You’re in a low-percentage situation and can take three points without putting your defense back out there. At the time, I thought the Packers might run it on second down to see if they could get closer, drain the clock to about 20 seconds, and then decide what to try on third. But however you go about it, make sure you get points and kill the clock. That’s what they did.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Mike, your predecessor put an asterisk on the Lions in his rankings for being robbed by the officials. Would you agree the officiating was just as bad or worse in the Packers' loss to the Eagles? Derek Barnett should have been ejected for his egregious hit on Williams and then his game impacting strip-sack never happens.

Don’t discount the possibility my old friend is doing that just to get a rise out of a good chunk of his readership. That said, I totally get his point about only calling what you see, not anticipating or “looking” for a call, and I agree. But then I have to ask, did anybody see the ball break the plane on fourth-and-goal Monday night? I didn’t. Just keep playing.

Chuck from Neenah, WI

Regarding the comparison of Allen Lazard to Davante Adams  recalled to mind a similar situation at another time. A really tough, physical receiver named Sterling Sharpe who could "out-muscle" most of the DBs in the league during his star-studded but injury-limited time with the Packers. Could we be viewing the reincarnation of that with Lazard?

Look, I get the perspective Wes was trying to convey, but let’s pump the brakes a little. I’m as excited as the next guy for where Lazard goes from here, but Adams? Sharpe? How about we just let him play.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Last season, Aaron Rodgers had a statistically "down" year. This season, if you look at the numbers, they're even lower than 2018. Yet there is no talk about the decline of Rodgers this season because winning makes all of the difference. With that said, despite what the numbers say, there has been something about his play that has been outstanding. What is it, exactly?

Smarts, ball security, and accuracy on the run come to mind.

Christow from Dallas, TX

Hey Insiders, I’m liking what I’m seeing from AR12 this season. He isn’t putting up monster numbers, but he is doing little things to lead. After Lazard had his third catch, he starts jawing with the DB, and the camera went to Aaron authoritatively waving him back to the huddle. I couldn’t have been happier. It’s as if he was saying, “Hey youngster, you’re playing good, but we haven’t won yet.” Save that stuff for after the win. I love it. Just win baby.

Happy Thursday.

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