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Inbox: This is what you play for

The Packers have to start fast and finish strong against the 49ers

QB Aaron Rodgers

Colin from Tripoi, WI

Guys, no need to hype up this game. No monster TV screens. No halftime shows. No fluff and no nonsense. No, this is just football. Two great foes ready to go at it on the frozen tundra with only one purpose to survive and advance. This clash has all the look of a real slobber knocker. The more physical and determined team will win this throwback game. Plain and simple. Give me Mason Crosby on a game-winning FG.

I'm with you. There are games that need video packages and trailers to sell the viewer. This is a heavyweight title fight that sells itself. It's playoff season. It's winning time. This is what you play for. Good morning!

Rusty from Eustace, TX

Now we know the opponent, now we know the time, now is the time to get it done. What else do we need to know?

Your team is the favorite. I don't know if enough Packers fans realize that factoid.

Alfred from Kingston, Ontario

I think the key to this week's matchup vs. 49ers is getting off to a good start in all three phases. Both teams are familiar with one another, I think managing the unexpected early on will go a long way to determining the winner. What do you think?

For everything that happened, the difference in that game came down to how San Francisco started the game relative to how Dallas finished it. The 49ers set the tone early and did enough late to hang on. The Packers must bring their A game on Saturday night. Start fast, finish strong.

JR from East Moline, IL

What were the keys to victory last time Packers played the 49ers? Would you say Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, De'Vondre Campbell, Rashan Gary on the defense and basically the whole O-line on offense will be vital? Also, looking at the forecast for Green Bay this weekend has me wishing the game was on Sunday instead of Saturday.

The Packers stopped the run, pressured Jimmy Garoppolo and took the ball away. That's how they did it. The Niners having Elijah Mitchell is a game-changer, though. He's been San Francisco's bell cow since mid-November. So, this will be a stiff test for the Packers' defensive front.

Matt from Kolesin, Poland

I agree with Monday's Inbox title. The Packers need their best but on the other hand they should not have too much respect for other teams. This is not 2019 when we were modest contenders looking for some chances. In 2020 and 2021, we have been the best in the NFC (for today). We should know our value and don't let opponents throw us off the pedestal. We did that the last year. We lost to ourselves, not Tampa. Go out perfectly prepared, as motivated as ever and prove you are the best.

That's all I'm asking for from the fan base this week – don't be cocky but be confident. Last week, some of you were telling me the Eagles were the team you feared the most – and look how that turned out. You can respect the 49ers and all the challenges they present, while also acknowledging the Packers are the one who knock here. Play smart. Play disciplined. Cero miedo.

Phil from Marietta, GA

Deebo Samuel is incredibly versatile and talented. Have the Packers faced anyone like this in the recent past and what would be your plan to contain him?

The Packers saw Samuel once before this season so they have a good idea of what they're up against. There's no one like him as far as an All-Pro receiver who also can run out of the backfield. Samuel is without a shadow of a doubt the 49ers' go-to playmaker. That said, I think the work Green Bay's defense got two weeks ago against Amon-Ra St. Brown will be beneficial. If nothing else, it should be a wake-up call.

Randy from Westminster, CO

Deebo Samuel appears to be a rising star for the 49ers. What do the Packers need to do to contain him?

A lot of it depends on whether Jaire Alexander is available. If Alexander is given the green light, I'd love to see him traveling with Samuel. The Packers don't do it often but that would be a great matchup to watch.

Douglas from Union Grove, WI

Weston, nobody (that I've seen) is talking about the Niners flying home from Dallas, Sunday night, and then making the trip back to Green Bay. Any side effects?

It's not an easy turnaround. A talented, mentally tough football team can overcome it, but there's no question the Packers are holding the better hand.

Lee from Sullivan, IN

Do you think the weather played into the league scheduling our division game on Saturday? Forecast is warmer Saturday vs. Sunday.

I think the NFC having the Monday Night Football game had the most to do with it. This way, both wild-card winners will be playing on six days' rest.

Tom from Dollar Bay, MI

Currently looking at 18 degrees with 13 mph winds for Saturday. Equals about 4-5 degrees with wind chill at kickoff. Getting a team from Cali, I'm good with it.

I get fans want it cold but the Packers don't need to play this game in a walk-in freezer in order to win. They'll be fine.

Jerry from Luck, WI

I have had the feeling all season David Bakhtiari's absence has been one of the biggest reasons for a slow start. The O-line has been great in his absence, but the "Big Giraffe" provides the kind of blind-side security needed for timing and rhythm. With fewer split-second glances over his shoulder, I expect Aaron Rodgers' throws on rhythm early and often. Reasonable?

I've said this a few times now but I felt like Bakhtiari was missed the most in the run game. Yes, he's one of the greatest pass protectors of his generation but Matt LaFleur and Rodgers adjusted things enough to lighten the burden on Elgton Jenkins and Yosh Nijman. They rarely asked those guys to block four-plus seconds. The hardest thing to replicate is what Bakhtiari gives you as a run blocker, especially with the outside zone. For a guy who's building a Hall of Fame-worthy resume, it's crazy how underrated Bakhtiari is in that regard.

Steve from Wabasha, MN

Please correct me if I'm wrong but are our only players missing from the opening-game roster because of injury Robert Tonyan and Jenkins?

Yes, as far as veterans are concerned. Kylin Hill is out for the year, too. The Packers are as healthy as they've been all season, though.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Just wanted to give a shout out to the coaches and the player execution on rules. After this weekend, I can't help but think about Ty/Cobb stepping out of bounds to down a kickoff, and Davante Adams running the ball to the ref when we needed to spike the ball for a comeback.

I don't know if any of you saw Jace Sternberger's tweet on Sunday but he mentioned how the Packers' coaching staff stressed to players the importance of getting the ball to the referee. One of the greatest compliments you can give LaFleur is his teams are always fundamentally sound and disciplined.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

Wes: Understanding all players' concussions and concussion histories are different, when Nick Bosa is inevitably cleared to play Saturday I'm wondering, by way of comparison with the Packers' concussion history, how common it is for players ruled out of a game due to concussion being allowed to play the following week (short or otherwise)?

It does happen. It's rare but it won't be unprecedented when Bosa plays.

John from Bigfork, MT

I love how Aaron Rodgers is into meditation, quieting his mind and moving through all the stuff that comes to him on the field and off the field. Meditation is so important for not only players but all of us. Does he share his meditation practice with other players? I definitely see the positive in my life by taking the time to quiet your mind every day.

I don't know of any group mediation sessions but there are quite a few players who are into meditation and yoga. Of course, the biggest example is Jaire Alexander. I think there is a strong connection between being mentally at peace and performing at your best. I'm not a professional athlete but I know for a fact my three-mile run goes a heck of a lot better when I'm not stressed out.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, how do the players avoid frostbite and frozen extremities during these gelid Green Bay games?

Not too different than how the rest of Wisconsin manages the bitter cold this time of year. They'll have heaters blowing hot air and hand warmers. What I didn't realize was the chicken broth trick. I'm not sure if that's something they still do but the CBS broadcast mentioned how Micah Hyde picked that up in Green Bay and brought it to Buffalo.

Michael from Pound, WI

Gents, just a comment on the analytics topic. Analytics are just like the internet; you can find whatever you want in there. You can justify every preconceived notion you have to justify doing what you want. You can't just use the analytics of your team, but you have to know the analytics of the opponent. Catching someone off-guard is one thing. Analytics cannot, will not and does not (Dr. Suess anyone) replace good coaching or good players. Teams with those may use analytics correctly. GPG and thanks.

Football technology is important. The Packers have an entire department dedicated to it. But the external analytics folks have lost me. I used to think Pro Football Focus and some of those outfits were cool when they first came out, but I've slowly lost interest. There probably are a lot of fancy statistics that outline why the Packers have been so good the past three years, but numbers are whatever you make them.

Drew from Orange City, IA

This weekend saw three of the six games essentially wrapped up by halftime (Bills, Bucs, Chiefs). Thinking back on previous years, it seems like the Packers struggle to just stomp on opponents in the playoffs. Can you help us recall a time when they absolutely dominated a team? It seems like it's always cardiac craziness when watching the green and gold. I anticipate the game on Saturday being another close one as well.

So, obviously you erased out the Packers routing the top-seeded Falcons from your memory bank? Or the Joe Webb game in 2012? Or the 2016 NFC Wild Card matchup with the New York Giants? I get the tough losses are always the easiest to remember but my goodness people.

Greg from Downers Grove, IL

Given the success the 49ers had to start the game yesterday, if we win the coin toss, what would you do and why?

It's suddenly become in vogue for teams to take the ball but then look what happened to Pittsburgh Sunday night. So, I defer. You're at home. Let your defense set the tone.

Ryan from London, UK

The No. 7 seeds are now 0-4, three of which weren't competitive. I don't think anyone apart from the NFL accountants will lose any sleep that we didn't get to see Trevor Siemian start a playoff game as the eighth seed

I'm still waiting to be proven wrong on these seven seeds, folks.

Richie from Oceanside, CA

Mike mentioning "Air Coryell" in the '70s and '80s. He truly was ahead of his time and deserves to be in the HOF. Overlooked for far too long. Your thoughts?

I think the Pro Football Hall of Fame has overbaked the potato on these coaches they're letting into Canton. If you want to put Bill Cowher in, whatever. But Don Coryell had a greater impact on the game, in my opinion. Back in the day, that used to be a part of the credentialing process.

Brian from San Antonio, TX

II, Great column – you both should be proud of what you have built. Not so much a question as a statement: For those handwringers worried about the 49ers, I'm reminded of the following quote spoken by Ulysses S. Grant when taking over command of the federal Army and in response to similar handwringing amongst his commanders: "Quit thinking about what Bobby Lee's gonna do to us and start thinking about what we're going to do to him." Fear not.

"In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten. Then who continues the attack wins." I love Grant – the general, the President and the novelist. One of the truly great men in our nation's history. He quite literally wrote the book on redemption.

Corey from Bethlehem, PA

I know we've beaten the 49ers since that fateful NFC Championship Game but I feel this is our shot at true redemption.

Make no mistake, it's not revenge they're after…it's a reckoning.


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