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Inbox: Those small things have added up to a big season

There still are plenty of weapons to defend regardless of whether Christian McCaffrey plays

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TE Robert Tonyan

Rick from Rhinelander, WI

Do you think Aaron Rodgers will be MVP this season?

Right now? Yes. There still are three games to go…but yes. The award goes to the most valuable player to his team in the NFL. In 2020, I believe there's no one more valuable to his team than Aaron Rodgers.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

I would like to see Rodgers create some separation in the MVP race, but I'd also like to see the Packers gain breathing room for the No. 1 seed. Can Mahomes have another meek showing while still giving the Saints another L?

Rodgers would gladly take another New Orleans loss, even if it means a standout performance by Mahomes. He wants to play an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. That being said, if I'm a Packers fan, I'm probably rooting for Clyde Edwards-Helaire to break one…or two…or three.

Bill from Eudora, KS

Good morning! An observation, Wes. AR is going to break a very obscure record that most people will miss: 40-plus TDs in a single season has only been done 13 times total in NFL history and four players have done it twice: Dan Marino (48 and 44), Peyton Manning (55 and 49), Drew Brees (46 and 43) and Aaron Rodgers (45 and 40). Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Kurt Warner, Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford: once. It's not a common occurrence. Rodgers, with one TD becomes the NFL's first QB to have THREE 40-plus TDs in a season.

What a find. Take a bow, Bill. Put another tally in the "Rodgers for MVP" column.

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Brian from Twain Hart, CA

Loved the fact that A-Rod and the referees were wearing masks in the latest edition of Lego Packers!

I mean who doesn't love those videos? They're one of my favorite things on packers.com, especially with the player graphics this year.

Andy from Kalamazoo, MI

Dear Insiders, Carolina played the Chiefs and the Saints on the road and only lost by a combined five points, including one game without Christian McCaffrey. What strengths do they have that helped them play two of the league's best teams so tough?

McCaffrey is arguably the best all-around playmaker in the NFL but don't sleep on Mike Davis. The wily veteran has allowed the Panthers to stay in their packages this season with his ability to catch (57 receptions for 371 yards and two touchdowns) as well as run (137 carries for 555 yards and five TDs). Teddy Bridgewater is completing passes at a 70% clip and can hurt you with his feet (239 yards and four TDs), as well. DJ Moore, activated off reserve/COVID-19 Wednesday, is a big-play target and second to only Marquez Valdes-Scantling in yards per catch (18.5). So there still are plenty of weapons to defend, even if McCaffrey doesn't play.

Rich from De Pere, WI

For a while it seemed like we were watching a new budding star in Jon Runyan. Talking about him starting against his dad's old team, the Eagles. Then suddenly Rick Wagner started at tackle and Lucas Patrick moved to left guard and we haven't seen Runyan since. Is he hurt? Was he not as far along as everyone first thought?

No, Runyan is fine. The Packers just chose to tap into Billy Turner's versatility and slide him to right guard to get the veteran Rick Wagner in the lineup. Green Bay feels good about Turner at either spot on the right side, so this arrangement gives the offensive line a bit more experience. With Corey Linsley out at least two more games, Runyan remains the next man up if anything should happen, though.

Tony from River Falls, WI

In the future, do you see the NFL scheduling more games on NFL Network like Saturday's game? Living in western Wisconsin I always get stuck with the crappy Vikings on broadcast TV instead of the Packers. Gotta love the stupid "local market" blackout plan. Time to move further east maybe...

Listen, I'm not one to bite the hand that feeds, especially this year, but I sure hope not. I've never been a fan of Saturday night games.

Doug from Neenah, WI

With Tyler Ervin on IR, the remaining trio in the running backs room could be viewed as light in quantity...but not quality. Will AJ Dillon get some carries against Carolina to spread out the workload? It wouldn't hurt to have healthy RBs with fresh legs going into the playoffs.

I'm not sure how much Dillon will play against Carolina on offense but getting him back is important for the rest of the season. Matt LaFleur mentioned his return makes it more realistic for the Packers to deploy their two-RB packages again. While Tavon Austin is listed as a receiver, he also factors into this formula with his ability to run jet motions.

Gradon from El Paso, TX

Love your content, guys! You're always part of my morning ritual. That being said, I was watching my other morning ritual, "Good Morning Football," when they were breaking down their "'Cool Plays Bro," and they addressed a play from the Packers game last Sunday. Specifically speaking, it came from Robert Tonyan on that 21-yard completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling on third down that seems to have been overlooked. Tonyan blocked a defender in into the line which subsequently took out every defensive lineman there. Incredible.

It was a heads-up play by Tonyan to chip the rusher before breaking into his route. From there, the dominoes continued to fall and it gave Rodgers a fortnight to find MVS and comfortably step into the throw. I know everyone uses the touchdown numbers as evidence that Tonyan arrived this year but those small things have added up to a big year for the third-year tight end.

Kevin from Rockton, IL

Hey Wes, it's funny you made a bowling reference in regard to Robert Tonyan's block in the Lions game. It's as if he picked up a 7-10 split with 300-pound bowling pins.

Big Bob…big bowler…who knew?

Nico from Emmenbrücke, Switzerland

Hi guys. Thanks for your daily Insider Inbox – I love it! How Big Bob is playing, is very impressive. What are the chances of the Packers giving him a long-term deal? Thanks…and Go Pack Go from Switzerland.

Tonyan is eligible for an extension this offseason, but as an upcoming restricted free agent, he remains under the Packers' control through 2021. The Packers have used that extra year to work out deals in the past with Lane Taylor and Lucas Patrick, so you never know.

Tom from Douglassville, PA

Other than the week off, I don't see the No. 1 seed as being helpful. Without fans what other benefits do we get?

For starters, not having to fly cross-country in the middle of winter is a pretty good deal. It's also a golden opportunity for the Packers to stay in their routine and play in a familiar environment.

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Kevin from Mechanicsburg, PA

Continued great job II! I continue to be confused on the spinning onside kick. What is the risk of the receiving team trying to recover the ball before it travels 10 yards? If they muff it, doesn't the illegal procedure penalty come into play? Thanks.

The risk is it becomes a live ball the moment a member of the receiving team touches the football. If he muffs it, the kicking team has a chance to recover. The illegal procedure only comes into play if the ball doesn't travel 10 yards and the receiving team doesn't field it.

Martin from Cape May, NJ

When a kickoff is near the sideline and a player keeps one foot out of bounds to catch it, it is a penalty for kicking out of bounds. So with the onside kick, if a player on the receiving team keeps one foot out of bounds and touches the ball, would it not be a penalty for a kick out of bounds? Then, would they even need to possess the ball or would merely touching it invoke the penalty?

But there would be no point in doing so because a kick out of bounds places the ball at either the receiving team's 40-yard line or the spot where it went out. Again, many of you are making this out to be waaaaaaaaaaay more complicated than it really is. The ball must travel 10 yards IN-BOUNDS in the field of play before the kicking team can recover it. That's why Allen Lazard had his toes on the line and the Packers were "standing." There was no incentive to try recovering a rapidly spinning ball before it reaches that point unless you want to risk bobbling it.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

When you guys say opponents will now "test" the Packers' special teams more, what exactly does that mean? Is it just about choosing to bring out a kick, or a field a punt, or do they actually scheme trick and/or directional returns towards specific areas and players?

All of the above. Like Jamal Agnew's kickoff return last week. Most returners – who aren't Pro Bowlers, mind you – probably don't take that out from a good four yards in the end zone. I think back to those mortar kicks the Colts used against the Packers, as well, when Tyler Ervin was injured. It's like any other phase of the game – when you put something on film, you need to get it fixed because teams are going to look to hit you in that area until it's corrected.

John from Hillsborough, NJ

Happy Holidays Insiders! How much of a factor will the cold temp be for the Carolina game? By my quick review, the Panthers have not played in a game where the temp was below 63 degrees at kickoff this year.

To paraphrase Ed Tom from "No Country For Old Men": "I don't know, but it ought to. I've felt the cold air in Green Bay recently, and it's certainly made an impression on me." I truly believe these bizarre conditions the Packers have played in at Lambeau Field will benefit them in the long run, especially if it snows a little Saturday.

Col from Ludlow, UK

Hi Wes. Would Matt LaFleur's interest in who wins Coach of the Year be equal to, greater than, or lesser than your interest in weekly power rankings, or in-season whom-we-might-draft questions?

Knowing LaFleur, probably less – which I didn't think was possible with how little I care about power rankings.

Jerry from Harvard, IL

Not saying I'm old, but I recall "Fresh start with Bart," "The Pack is fine with Dan Devine," and of course, "Infante's Infantry." I did have the "Fresh Start with Bart" on my bumper. Oh yes, the good old days.

"The Pack is fine with Dan Devine" is, uh, reassuring.

Don from Madison, WI

The Lindy Infante sticker was, "The Pack Will Fly High With Lindy." It had a plane on it. I loved those stickers.

Oh.

Phil from Oshkosh, WI

The slogan associated with coach Lindy was, "Infante We Trust." I made an elaborate paper banner with that on it, only to have the wind promptly tear to pieces.

How many Lindy Infante stickers were there?

Will from Oakland, CA

Lindy's was one of my favorite stickers: "Infante We Trust!" What would you think about the bumper sticker "LaFleur for the Pack – higher than the ceiling for most teams"?

Hey-oh!

Hal from Lanesboro, MN

Not a question so much as a comment. Reading about the Packers' investments in both Equity League and the City of Green Bay Police Department, along with the years of almost no "bad news" about players' behavior, just reinforces the pride I feel every time I don my Packers' facemask to walk to the store. Keep up the great work, Mr. Murphy and all. May peace and justice reign.

It was a great gesture by the Packers' organization, President/CEO Mark Murphy and the leadership council to put words into action. What's even better is how everything was accomplished in partnership with the Green Bay Police Dept. I had a chance to meet Chief Smith several years ago and came away incredibly impressed with not only his leadership and communication skills, but also his vision. I also think it's valuable for officers to have the tools to go back and review how situations were handled. It's a great teaching tool.

Dave from Eau Claire, WI

With the announcement of no general admission to fans for the rest of regular season, I would really like to suggest consideration of a first responder/health-care worker appreciation game during the playoffs. Vaccines will have been given to them, which would reduce the fan health concerns for their attendance. What better way to say "Thank you" to these brave people and also give a big ol' goodbye to 2020!

It sure sounds like the seeds have been planted by what Roger Goodell said on Wednesday about the possibility of hosting front-line workers who have received the vaccine at the Super Bowl. I'm just a worker bee, though. We'll have to see where all this leads.

Sean from Chicago, IL

Did the Inbox really let the Dec. 15 column come and go without wishing Wes a happy birthday? Well let me be the first to offer a happy belated birthday! Hopefully Mike at least let you keep the healthy snack from your lunch on Tuesday.

Thank you, Sean. I appreciate it. It was a great day. But more importantly, today is my son's third birthday. So happy birthday to him. You mean the absolute world to us. I hope you find this one day during a random Google search and get embarrassed by your old man telling you how much he loves you.

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