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Inbox: Time to make it count

Be careful because the Rams are still playing with purpose

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TE Robert Tonyan, QB Aaron Rodgers & RB Aaron Jones

Duane from Oak Creek, WI

How do you feel about the chances of making the playoffs?

That depends on how the Packers come out of the bye and play against the Los Angeles Rams. This past weekend helped Green Bay's cause but none of it matters if the Packers don't take care of business at home Monday. The friendly home stretch Green Bay has looked forward to is here. Time to make it count.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

What do the Packers have to do to make sure Baker Mayfield's encore isn't as impressive as his debut?

Succeed where the Raiders failed – take the ball away and play solid fourth-quarter football. The Rams are not a good running team, so it stands to reason Mayfield could throw 35-plus passes again. The Packers squeaked out a 24-22 win over Cleveland last year thanks in part to the defense's four interceptions. Mayfield is a gunslinger. The secondary needs to be snipers.

Joe from Joe, NC

Happy birthday, Wes! Couldn't help but root for Baker after the two-minute drive on Thursday. Wish he wasn't playing the Packers next! How does a team prepare for a previously established quarterback playing on a brand-new team?

Thank you. Another year older, another year weirder. I don't think things change too much with the installation of Mayfield in Los Angeles' offense. The Packers have a ton of familiarity with Sean McVay and the Rams. It's just matching what they know about LA's scheme with what Mayfield does well. It's a favorable matchup for Green Bay in a season of unfavorable circumstances, but this will be no cakewalk. Be careful because the Rams are still playing with purpose.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

It would seem that the main guy who could beat the Packers (other than the Packers themselves) would be Aaron Donald. Elgton Jenkins in particular has done well against him in the past. What needs to happen to continue that trend?

Just not allowing him to wreak havoc. To that end, the Packers have done well against Donald in the past. Without a Von Miller on the edge, the Packers' offensive line can center more attention on No. 99's whereabouts, too.

Scott from Sussex, WI

Of course, there's nuance and plenty of other factors, but after seeing the offense crash after the departure of Davante Adams, and the offensive surge with the emergence of Christian Watson, has your opinion changed on the importance of the WR position in comparison to other non-QB positions? I used to think LT was at the top, but we have one of the best LTs in the game who can't provide the sort of boost to the offense that Watson can.

It depends on the team. Davante Adams is having another All-Pro season with Las Vegas, but it hasn't translated into wins. Undoubtedly, this has been a season of transition for the Packers' offense. As I wrote about Monday, the seeds Green Bay planted in the spring with the receiving corps are starting to flourish. Left tackles are still an essential part of any successful offense but Watson is more than just a receiver. He's becoming a field-tilter. In a sport of game-changers, those skill-position players are worth their weight in gold.

Jeffery from Brooklyn, WI

When the Packers win out, do they make the playoffs, or do they need another team to lose?

No. The Giants, Seahawks and Commanders still need to lose a few for Green Bay to sneak back into the playoff race. Sunday was a good start, though.

John from Jupiter, FL

Morning Wes. Yesterday, Mike listed the unrestricted free agents, one of which was Mason Crosby. I really get the feeling Mason Crosby would retire rather than seek a spot on another team. Would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks

I've always gotten the indication Crosby is going to keep doing this until he can't anymore, but I've never asked him that question, specifically. Crosby certainly is in rarified air (more on that next week) but Robbie Gould, Matt Prater, Nick Folk and the Packers' all-time leading scorer are the only other kickers I can think of in that club of active kickers older than 38.

Steven from Colorado Springs, CO

On NFL.com the other day, they were talking about 2023 players and the draft, and it mentioned whether Tom Brady would retire. I was watching the Tampa/Niners game. All that had me thinking, if Brady doesn't retire, will the roughing the passer rule be modified to include not tipping over the quarterback's walker? Seriously, Mr. Irrelevant shows he has a lot to learn, but also that he has great potential (so far). When the year started, I'd bet he didn't think he'd be starting.

This league revels in unpredictability. Seeing Brock Purdy's dad tear up was special, though. It was everything that's right about this sport. And you can be sure every Packers fan in the country will be cheering along with Papa Purdy on Thursday night in Seattle. As far as Brady is concerned, I've stopped trying to predict when he'll call it quits. It'll probably be the year after my retirement.

Nathan from Manitowoc, WI

Chad Clifton is on the honorary captains for the Rams game. I hope people realize how good he was as a rock-solid left tackle for a decade on championship-contending teams. My money is on Clifton, but who do you think is the most underrated Packer the last 20 years?

Corey Linsley is up there. The fact he never made a Pro Bowl in Green Bay is ridiculous. Another player I feel never got his flowers was Jordy Nelson. He was beloved by Packers fans but it's astonishing he only made one Pro Bowl and no All-Pro teams. Micah Hyde (defensive back/punt returner), Bryan Bulaga and Crosby are probably honorable mentions, too.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

I noticed you're fielding some macro questions about the Packers moving forward. Fans will no doubt be sending in recommendations to improve our team. The NFL has changed a lot over the years and there are many ways to win football games. However, there seems to be one almost absolute truth about the sport. It's very hard to win consistently if you can't stop the run.

Whatever happens, the Packers have to address that area of the defense this offseason. I don't think it falls on one player or position group, but it's been an issue that's lingered all season for Green Bay. The Packers yielded a decent number of rushing yards per play the past few years but that was negated by not allowing explosive plays. This year, the Packers just haven't stopped the run well enough without overcommitting to the defensive front.

Kent from Naperville, IL

Very excited that the Pack is now the leader in wins in NFL history! It gives me bragging rights within my family of Bears fans! Curious, who is the leader in losses in NFL history?

According to Statmuse, no team has lost more than the Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals (785).

Russ from Henrico, VA

Based on getting up to speed as a pro, what two positions would you build from the draft and what two from free agency?

It's hard to limit to two apiece. As a general philosophy, I'd draft quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive linemen, edge rushers and cornerbacks, and look to sign tight ends, defensive linemen, inside linebackers and safeties. It seems like that latter group is just harder to project. If you look at inside linebacker, in particular, it's alarming how many first- and second-round picks have underperformed leaguewide.

Chris from Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania

Greetings, Wes. Mike said, "Good, reliable, success-altering linemen on both sides of the ball are the hardest commodity to find, develop, procure and keep on your team." What makes difference-making linemen so much rarer than difference-makers at other positions? Is it the fact that you need five at the same time, their size, or something else? Thanks for bringing entertaining content at all times.

It's the old Ted Thompson adage. The good lord only made so many athletic people who are that big. And those who have size may not be as quick or nimble with their feet. It's very difficult to get all the preferable traits to align in the trenches. Again, that's why I think it's sometimes better to sign a De'Vondre Campbell or Ryan Pickett than to try to find that guy in an NFL Draft.

Anthony from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Something Gutey said the other day hit a chord with me. To paraphrase: Maintaining a winning culture is extremely important. In your opinion, is there a significance between 9-8 and 8-9?

Not necessarily but I do think there's a significant difference between losing and quitting. "Losing" teams can still win. Quitters are predestined to lose.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, how many times has Green Bay gone to the playoffs during your esteemed packers.com career? What has that meant to you?

Under the packers.com banner, I've made four trips to the playoffs (2016, 2019-21). Each trip has been incredible in its own unique way. My first year was the "run the table" season. As I've said before, the Packers' win in Dallas that year remains the coolest moment of my time working the beat.

Joseph from Vermillion, SD

It's a good thing I'm a Packers fan. Whenever I cheer for the Vikings, it never seems to work out. Or did they do that out of spite? That was sarcasm, to be clear. I know they wanted to wrap up the division.

Like we talked about last week, the Lions are tougher than a $2 steak at home. They were favored for a reason.

Randy from Klamath Falls, OR

For fun, you both should head over to Vikings.com and see the doom and gloom of the fans of a 10-3 team. You'd think you were reading about the Packers. Here's a sample: [This defense] can't cover anybody. Zone defense does not work, but then you see what this offense is not doing, and you wonder, why, with all this talent, aren't we more explosive. Third-and-15 against this defense is almost a given, but third-and-1 with this offense is a crap shoot! Enjoy.

That's part of being a fan. But if I promised any Vikings fan that their team would have 10 wins on Dec. 13, 2022, they would've gladly taken that six months ago. While I said Minnesota likely would be the best non-Packers team in the NFC North this year, Detroit still scares me a heck of a lot more long-term. Because the Lions have a vision for the future under Brad Holmes. As many games as the Vikings have won, I still have questions about their ceiling and endgame.

Marteen from Reno, NV

Top of the morning Mike and Wes! Hope you got your Christmas chores done and rested. How did the NFL find out about the "fake" injuries involving the Saints? I can't recall a team including coaches fined for this type of egregious behavior.

Oddly enough, I think New Orleans still had all its timeouts remaining. The NFL needs to address this somehow. I'm not sure how you police it but it sure seems like an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty would be in order (e.g. the Jesse Bates incident earlier this month) or at least forcing the defense to burn a timeout.

Rob from Lennox, SD

So, a quick question in regard to Amari Rodgers. Why were the Packers so stuck on using him as a return man and giving him very few opportunities at WR? It always seemed to me that, with his limited opportunities, he looked like a WR with potential. Your thoughts?

I think it's been well-established how much I liked Amari. As Spoff said, we wish him well with his fresh start in Houston. But let's pump the breaks on the "Why didn't the Packers play him on offense?" narrative. They gave him opportunities. As much as people like to rag on the Packers' receiving corps, there are very talented young men in that room and a lot of mouths to feed. Rodgers may turn into a good NFL receiver but I'm not sure who you take off the field in Green Bay right now. Christian Watson and Allen Lazard are every-down players and Randall Cobb is a reliable slot receiver. We're not even talking about the two-RB sets and tight end packages Green Bay utilizes. That's why it's been hard to get Sammy Watkins and Samori Toure a ton of snaps even with Romeo Doubs sidelined over the last month.

Bob from Port Saint Lucie, FL

Wes, there have been many bad calls by refs this year but the roughing call by Miami after a "textbook" tackle and not putting weight on the passer has to be among the worst. Do you think there is a chance that those will be reviewable in the future? I don't like all the stoppages during the game, but anything is better than allowing a horrible call to stand.

The NFL needs to stop emphasizing things (e.g. defensive holding) and focus on getting common-sense calls (or non-calls) correct.

Carl from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

"The safety rules have created a monster the NFL struggles to manage. It's becoming more and more apparent every year." I would even take it a step further and say that the NFL refuses to manage them better, for whatever unknown reason.

The league doesn't care. The games are played, and people watch. That's all that matters. That's been my contention since Jan. 20, 2019.

Al from Green Bay, WI

I know. . . you don't typically participate in rumor spreading or click bait generation. But please weigh in on the rumor that the Packers have entered the transfer portal to join the NFC South before the end of the season. Thanks!

I'm not-so-silently pulling for the Panthers to pull off a miracle. I love what Steve Wilks has done in Carolina so far and believe he should get REAL consideration for the head-coaching position. James Campen is also there and I'm Team Campy until the day I leave this earth.

Evan from Durango, CO

I know this will never happen, but for the sake of this year's Packers likely finishing in the 8 seed I'll suggest this: Division winners with a losing record are banned from the postseason. If you win the division at 8-8-1, you're in, but 8-9 and you're out unless there are no other teams in the conference with a better record.

I don't like the idea of disqualifying a team from the playoffs for that reason. You gotta win your division. It's not your fault if you're the best of the worst. But it is kinda bonkers that you are rewarded with a postseason home game.

Sue from Three Lakes, WI

You guys are fantastic! Often times questions asked appear to require a lot of research by you to answer. What are your resources? Just the good old internet or do you have other go to books, etc.? Sometimes it seems like one answer could have taken you a long time to research and it would be easier for you to ignore it, but you don't. Thanks for that.

Pro Football Reference is my go-to. A lot of the analytics I used to consult PFF for can now be found on PFR. If I'm looking for exact games and NFL rankings, we have access to a media site that gives us sortable statistics and game books.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Wes, do you think the fact that the amazing Terrance Marshall's catch with his legs is made less amazing because he should have caught it with his hands?

Thigh catches are the new body catch.

Andrew from Placentia, CA

I just read about what Mike White of the Jets played through with his rib injuries. I had a severe cough last month and pulled muscles in my ribs that made it painful to play with my kids. I can't imagine playing with injuries like that, or what AR is playing with. But I want you both to know that I never forget the times you produce stories and II with hangnails. Your bravery and toughness don't go unnoticed. I tip my hat to the warriors of II.

Hangnails? Spoff has written through everything but a broken hand this year. Jordan Flu Game? More like Spoff Season!

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

Never thought I'd read an Inbox where Mike used the word bro. Major props to you for keeping him young Wes.

By the 2023 opener, I'll have him dropping "dude, bro and bruv" with equal enthusiasm. Welcome back to football, Packers fans.

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