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Inbox: Today is that day

This is what the Packers have played for; they’ve earned this shot at greatness

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Lambeau Field

Jerry from La Crosse, WI

Insiders, well here we are. I think it's time to hear those four words. You know what they are, and we need hear them.

Just beat the 49ers. Good morning!

Linda from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Good Playoff Morning! Wes, we've finally made it to what we have been waiting for the entire season. Now all the Packers have to do is "Win One Game At A Time! Three More!" Too much to ask for? GO PACK GO! (And be LOUD!)

The opportunity this team has worked for since Jan. 24, 2021, is finally here. Today is that day. And just in case the four words Jerry meant were, "The baloney stops now," then let's squeeze those in here, too.

Gary from Chippewa Falls, WI

Receive or defer? I would receive given the weather.

Win.

Matt from Burlington , WI

II, geez. Who ordered the weather for Saturday? It's going to warm up to 12 for the game?

While mildly disappointing, I'll take actual January weather in Wisconsin over whatever the heck that was during last year's NFC Championship Game.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

It is time for playoff football. Will it be cold? Yes. Will we be yelling until we are hoarse? Yes. The anticipation for the game and the optimism and hope for a victory are just the lead-ins to a magical night at Lambeau Field. Stay strong team, do your jobs as well as you are able, and Go Pack Go!

I like what Rasul Douglas had to say when he was asked on Friday about what his advice is to Eric Stokes playing in his first NFL playoff game: "Just do what you do. This is a regular game. Don't make the moment bigger than it has to be." Keep in mind, Douglas is one of the few guys in the Packers' locker room who owns a Super Bowl ring.

Myles from Gilbert, AZ

Hello II! Wes, what an amazing piece on Marcedes Lewis. Bravo, sir. I am truly grateful to have a man of such character on this team. The numbers simply do not tell the story of his value. I can only hope we see the Big Dog get in the end zone on Saturday in front of a raucous Lambeau Field. Three more to go. GPG!

Thank you, Myles. And thanks to everyone who reached out regarding the story. Any and all credit goes to Marcedes Lewis and his mom Yvonne. They not only were receptive to me writing the story but also very open, thoughtful and descriptive with their recollections from that very challenging time. With any tremendous story, I do my best to just stay out of the subjects' way and let them tell their truth. It was an enlightening experience for me getting to peal back the curtain a little bit and gain a greater understanding of how Lewis became the person and leader he is today.

Hap from Graham, WA

Hey, Wes: Are you ready for our COY lock Matt LaFleur to open his box of creative genius (read: unique, sneaky plays), so we can witness play-calling we may have not yet seen? I know the Niners and his good friend Kyle Shanahan are a bit concerned! This game has made me superfluously curious more than any other this year. GPG!

The NFL Coach of the Year balloting is over but your point stands. The first 15 minutes of this game and the last 15 are going to be crazy. These are two of the league's better teams when it comes to winning down-to-the-wire games, but as I said during "Final Thoughts," I thought LaFleur and the Packers are just a little bit better.

Dan from Toledo, OH

With all our injured players potentially coming back, what position do you believe is the "easiest" to return to after a multi-month absence? I would think running back is the easy answer, plus they may even benefit from some rest.

I think we'll see a lot of Preston Smith and Rashan Gary on early downs, and Za'Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus providing some rotational depth on third downs and passing situations. It's the postseason now. It's all hands on deck. Any reps Za'Darius and Mercilus can take off the plate of Preston and Gary will help this defense.

Erin from Bellingham, WA

Holy moly, I have goose bumps seeing the news that we have activated Smith and Mercilus officially. Anyone have any breathing techniques to help calm a fan while still being able to be present to all the good feels this team has gifted us with this season! How can we not be filled with gratitude?! Sending the good vibes from the Pacific Northwest!

Whatever happens, I'm satisfied the Packers will be as close to 100% as possible during this playoff run, especially on defense. We've only seen the Smith Bros. together for a handful of snaps in the regular-season opener. Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas have yet to play for the Packers at the same time.

David from Solon Springs, WI

I sure hope Darnell Savage can cover George Kittle a lot better than he did Mark Andrews from Baltimore. Do you think Alexander might help with tight end coverage, get his feet wet?

The Packers have seen Kittle quite a bit over the past few seasons. If Alexander is cleared, that's one other possibility. Otherwise, Adrian Amos, Savage, Chandon Sullivan and even De'Vondre Campbell could be an option depending on the package the defense is in. The defense will have a plan. It comes down to execution. What happened in Baltimore can't happen again. They all know that.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

Wes, first, that what a great piece you did on Marcedes and his mother, Yvonne Withers! It makes you pull for the "Big Dog" even more, if that is possible. My question/concern is how do you explain how our defense has been vulnerable to "trick" plays, especially the ones in Detroit? Is it simply a missed assignment by a particular player or is it a defensive scheme or coverage that is in place that gets exploited? What are you seeing and what can our defense do to avoid this?

It's just staying disciplined, trusting your training and not biting on the candy the offense is showing you. If you're on the back end, stay aware of where the skill-position players are. If you're up front, contain your edges and stay in pursuit of the football. The scheme can survive trick plays. The dam breaks when the mental errors pile up.

Jack from Edina, MN

I hope we come out on the first offensive drive screaming like a "Bat out of Hell." My Three Things: if we can establish the run, make a few splash turnover plays, and get the defense off the field on third down, then I like our chances for this game. But hey, even "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." Am I excited to see another playoff game at Lambeau? Mike "Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth": Indubitably.

I appreciate the ode to Meatloaf. All it was missing was a "Fight Club" reference. Listen, I get why everyone is talking about the 49ers' run game. That was the path to victory for San Fran two years ago. But the Packers have a formidable duo in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, who are both healthy. If the Packers run the ball better than the 49ers, they win this football game.

Chris from Belleville, WI

Mike, not a question, just a thank you. Your explanation on scripted plays was a fantastic bit of knowledge. I had been misunderstanding it for many years.

His response was perfect, almost dictionary-like. You could put that response in any football book and not need to change a single word.

Bob from Green Bay, WI

The Pack looks like they will go into the game with only four defensive linemen active...do you have any concerns with this?

There are only four defensive linemen currently on the 53-man roster but I believe the Packers can still elevate practice-squad players until 3 p.m. CT.

Tom from Emerado, ND

Has there been any talk from the coaches/players preparing for Trey Lance being under center? He would stretch the edges making it difficult for the linebackers to set an edge.

Lance scored a touchdown against the Packers in Week 3. So, I would imagine the defensive coaches will have their players prepared for the possibility of Lance under center.

Josh from Rochester, NY

While the Packers' special teams has been an issue all season and is ranked last in the league, I noticed that the 49ers aren't ranked much better at 26th. Given both teams' struggles, how big of an impact do you think special teams will have on the outcome of this game, especially given the forecast for Saturday? If Randall Cobb is good to go, do you see him handling return duties or has David Moore earned the opportunity over both Cobb and Amari Rodgers based on his limited time with the team?

Rankings don't matter. What's in the past does not matter. It's whether a team has learned from those mistakes or not. I don't need to tell you how special teams can be the difference between a win or a loss this time of year. That being said, I think Maurice Drayton has held his unit accountable and the Packers have made improvements over the last month. I really don't know who the returner is going to be. I liked what I saw from Moore against the Vikings but Cobb traditionally is sure-handed, as well.

Russell from Lexington, KY

I just wanted to say that your piece on Marcedes Lewis brought me to tears. I lost my mother in March of 2021 but one of my favorite memories of her is one Marcedes and I share. I ended up getting into a bar fight when I was young and I was arrested. One of my friends went to my mother's house at 2 a.m., woke her up and said, "Karen, Russell's in jail." Her response, "Leave him in there," and went back to sleep. It's a good memory. Thank you. Memories make us rich.

That's probably my favorite anecdote from the entire story and one I don't believe Lewis has told before (at least, I couldn't find it anywhere). Yvonne knew she needed to teach her son an important lesson that day, because where they're from, bad decisions like that can easily lead a young person down the wrong path. I'm sure your mother left the same lasting impression on you that night. God bless you, Karen.

Dick from St. Cloud, MN

Just wanted to say thanks Wes. In my 78 years, the Marcedes Lewis story was the most moving story I have ever read, heard or seen in cinema.

I usually prefer to just email a reply to these submissions, but holy smokes, when a distinguished gentleman of 78 years says it's the most moving story he's ever read, I have to give him his proper due.

John from Aesch, BL, Switzerland

Not a question, just kudos to Wes for his story on Big Dog. Even more kudos to the Big Dog himself and his mother for persevering through challenges that would defeat lesser people. I'm already grateful for the many blessings I have in life but reading Marcedes' story makes me grateful all over again. Thanks to Wes for the story, and for giving me cause to reflect on my own life, but thanks most of all to Marcedes and his mom, Yvonne. Awesome!

Honestly, that's always my biggest takeaway from these stories. I'm so thankful for my parents and everything they did for me to help me get where I am and my wife for being an incredible mother to our son. Attitude of gratitude.

Jimmy from Rockford , IL

Green. Gold. Together. Marcedes needs a ring.

It is awe-inspiring what Lewis has accomplished after being written off so many times during his NFL career. Really, all that's left is a Super Bowl ring and that 17th season to tie Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez. After a lot of losing seasons in Jacksonville, it's cool Lewis at least has a legitimate chance at taking that final step to the Super Bowl. I know this group wants to win it for him, Randall Cobb and all these other veterans who have been so close.

Randy from Westminster, CO

After watching those promotional videos from Aaron Rodgers and Marcedes Lewis I want to run through a wall for the Packers. I think the team is inspired to run through a 49ers wall Saturday night. Go Pack Go!

I know I said earlier this week this game didn't need trailers or hype videos but my goodness did our video department do a fantastic job on those things. I tip my cap to Adam Hoebelheinrich, Tyler Gajewski and the rest of the team.

Steve from Ankeny, IA

Half of me wants to enjoy the anticipation for another week, the other half wants the kickoff RIGHT NOW!

Enjoy the anticipation and the day. Kickoff will be here before you know it.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

No margin for error,

All the work has led to this,

survive and advance.

Take me there, Dean!

And he will…but first.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

On your feet everybody – let's get the wave going. First playoff game poem of the year: dean ... Dean ... DEan ... DEAn ... DEAN ... DEEEAAANNN ....

The most important poem of the season…until the next one.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Gameday

The journey continues

The road to fourteen is clear

Win or go home

A common playoff foe who has derailed the Packers three times in the last nine years

The day of reckoning is at hand

Not this time

Not in our house

That may have been your best poem to date, Dean. Well, folks, that day is here. Twelve months of tailgates, cheering and countless memories have brought us all back to the playoffs. This is what the Packers have played for; they've earned this shot at greatness. My one request for everyone – please take a second or two and appreciate today for what it is. Here's to another step in the journey. Enjoy the game everybody.

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