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Inbox: What a setting, what a performance

It’s still a week-to-week league

Cincinnati Bengals CB Cam Taylor-Britt
Cincinnati Bengals CB Cam Taylor-Britt

Angela from Elgin, IL

Can you hang out at Lambeau all year long?

Well, I work there, so I think I'm allowed, yeah.

Greg from Danbury, CT

I have never in my life rooted for the Cowboys, including Sunday night. But I would have liked to see McCarthy advance.

I just can't root for the Cowboys no matter what. That aside, here's a stat only a sports-writing geek like me would care about: As a head coach, McCarthy has now been eliminated from the playoffs four times by San Francisco, in four different stadiums.

Chris from West Allis, WI

So QB is the premier and therefore most expensive position in the league. 49ers have made deep runs now for several years with good, but not elite QB play, presumably spending less on the position and allowing more spending elsewhere. Not suggesting that's a formula everyone can pull off, but is it a workable strategy in today's NFL?

If you can build a truly elite defense and stay healthy, it is. That defense isn't normal. But when you get hit by injuries and don't have an elite QB to keep you afloat, you go 6-10, like the Niners did in 2020.

Emma from Davenport, FL

What was your favorite play of the weekend? Hands down mine was George Kittle's fair catch of McCaffery's TD spike.

Kittle's juggling catch over the middle was one for the ages. San Francisco's offense had done very little and that play sparked the unit in the second half.

Kim from Hudson, WI

One interesting game out of four isn't bad. The 49ers and Cowboys were all about the defense but I'm impressed with Brock Purdy. Mr. Irrelevant is looking poised and confident. Usually these young quarterbacks show their age and lack of experience by making some major mistake but he played really well. Is it the cast of characters around him or coaching or just a confident young man?

All of the above. He proved he could put together a couple of clutch drives when required, and the only potential killer mistake went through Trevon Diggs' hands.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Daniel Jones looked like a world beater against the Vikings. What happened?

He faced a playoff-caliber defense.

Graydon from Menomonie, WI

I enjoy all of the insight both you and Wes provide in the Insider Inbox. Thankfully, I don't bet using your prognostications like this one on in Friday's column... "I think the Giants are going to give the Eagles all they can handle."

Hey, the playoffs don't change the reality it's still a week-to-week league, and this week might've proven the least impressive victory in the wild-card round was New York's.

Dan from Herriman, UT

Mike, I questioned the Buffalo pick and should have spoken up before the fourth quarter of the game. Cincinnati just seems a more physical team. How do you like their chances against KC?

Speaking of impressive, what Cincinnati did on the road, in the snow, and less than full strength up front ranked at the top for me on the weekend. What a setting, what a performance, one week after they probably lose without a fluke play at the goal line. That's this league. With the Bengals winning at Arrowhead last year and Mahomes on a bad wheel, Cincinnati feels like the favorite to me now.

George from North Mankato, MN

Aside from the Lambeau Leap, can you think of a better celebratory practice than Zac Taylor and the Bengals gifting playoff game balls to the bars and people of Cincinnati?

Very cool.

Tim from Olathe, KS

Mike, I attended the Chiefs-Jaguars game on Saturday. The more I watch Mahomes the more I see the '90s version of Brett Favre. It's not just his talent, it's his toughness, courage, and will to win. And there is always a chance the next play will be something you have never seen before. Agree or is Mahomes a new mold?

I can see that, but I would say Mahomes has even more athleticism to draw upon when needed (and when not injured).

David from Cable, WI

Watching Giants and Eagles and thinking about Coach of the Year. The hype has been about Daboll, Pederson, Shanahan and Campbell. Have to admit I forgot about Nick Sirianni.

I think it's between Daboll, Shanahan and Sirianni. I'd be fine with any of them, but my vote goes to Daboll. The Giants were 22-59 over the previous five years and then made the playoffs out of the most competitive division in the league.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Good Monday Mike, the Jags made a mess of how they handled Kelce. It made me wish for the Robert Tonyan before his injury and how he impacted the Packer offensive performance and red zone in particular. They had to see it coming especially with his playoff history. Did the Jags blanket everyone else knowing he was going to get his, thinking that it wouldn't be enough to beat them?

I have no idea what the Jags' defensive game plan was, but I don't understand how the best offensive player on the other team has 10 catches and two TDs by halftime. The Chiefs were just feeding Kelce the ball at the line of scrimmage, which you can live with, but then at least take him away in the red zone. I didn't get it.

A.C. from Jasper, MO

I have read that the NFL is strongly thinking of always having the championship games at a neutral site. I think that is a terrible idea if they were to do this. The neutral site would always be either in a domed stadium or a city that has mild winters. No more Ice Bowl championships. I am curious how you guys feel about it.

In the immortal words of Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway (and echoed by Wes Hod), I strenuously object.

Aaron from Phoenix, AZ

Well, if it wasn't evident already, the offseason is officially upon us as the annual Schefter-click-bait-tour begins.

Schefter didn't report anything I didn't hear Rodgers basically say himself, to be honest. That aside, he will likely be the one breaking whatever news there is to break when the time comes.

Ryan from Sun Prairie, WI

Has Aaron Rodgers told Mike and Wes his decision and you are just not sharing?

Yup. He's testing us to see if we can keep a secret.

Shawn from Bozeman, MT

I'm not surprised at this point about all the speculation of Rodgers' future. It's an annual point of emphasis for the media at this point. What is surprising to me is that no one has really mentioned if there is even a strong trade market not so much for him but for his contract. I realize the thumb and jelling with new receivers made him look mortal this year, but one of those two things is guaranteed on a new team and the other could be just one play away at any time. Is the contract limiting?

Not necessarily. With mutual interest between the QB and a new team, a contract could always be renegotiated.

Joshua from Milwaukee, WI

In 2008, there was confidence in Rodgers as he prepared to take over, but we still drafted Brohm (2nd) and Flynn (7th). If AR leaves, and Jordan Love is the starter next year, would you support drafting a QB or two, maybe even with a somewhat high pick?

I think the Packers would have to draft one and sign a veteran backup.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Mike, I heard a nationally broadcast show this week where the two hosts talked about the games that still haunt them. One of the hosts is a Wisconsin transplant and he mentioned the NFC title game vs. Seattle and the UW-Duke title game as his top two. I agree with those choices and would add the fourth-and-26 game and maybe Game 7 of the 1982 World Series to the list. I assume these games would rank highly on your list. Are there any others that still haunt you?

NLCS Game 6 in 2011 and Game 7 in 2018 will always be hard for me as well, along with the 2019 wild-card game since the Nationals won it all. The first UW-Kentucky game in the Final Four is up there, too. From a press box seat, nothing was as devastating as the game that shan't be discussed, so it's not worth ranking the long list of others.

Dave from Germantown, TN

My biggest disappointment in the last season was that we lost to the Detroit Lions twice. Both were games we coulda, shoulda won. When is the last time the Lions beat the Packers twice in a season?

2018 and 2017, with Rodgers not playing in either game in '17. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1991.

James from De Pere, WI

The 8-9 Buccaneers, with an aging QB, made the playoffs. After their loss they fired six coaches and three other coaches retired. They determined their season wasn't good enough and want to change the trajectory of their future. The 8-9 Packers, with an aging QB, didn't make the playoffs and they want everyone to return. Quite a difference in approaches, eh?

Sure, but also very different situations. Bowles just finished his first year in Tampa, having inherited Arians' staff, and now wants his own guys. LaFleur is entering Year 5, having already changed defensive coordinators once and special teams twice, and having just lost his offensive coordinator and two other offensive assistants a year ago. Two fruits yes, but apples and oranges.

Brian from Twain Harte, CA

All this talk about the Packers being over the salary cap, I thought this was the year that the NFL renegotiates the TV contracts and the salary cap was expected to increase a lot. When is the NFL going to announce the salary cap for 2023? In addition to the Sunday, Monday, and Thursday broadcasting rights contracts, the NFL should also go out to bid for NFC games, AFC games, and a separate contract for inter-conference games. That would add one more network broadcasting on Sundays.

The league wouldn't get as much money from FOX and CBS if it had a third network competing for the Sunday afternoon eyeballs. I would expect the '23 cap number to be finalized any day now.

Mark from Missoula, MT

In regards to Rodgers' broken thumb, I think we may be overlooking a key positive of his playing through. Showing Jordan Love the toughness needed to play Green Bay QB. I remember the narrative early in his career about "how can Rodgers be a durable as Favre?" I think he had a shoulder sprain or something, and they showed Rodgers warming up against the Buccaneers, with a grimace as he threw. I think the toughness questions ceased then. Love may likely be tested as such too, someday.

I'm sure Love learned that in 2021 when Rodgers had the bad foot, was barely practicing, and then played at an MVP level. I don't think he needed another lesson. I'm sure there were games in '22 Love felt – not in a resentful way, but in a naturally competitive, confident way – he might've been able to win.

Wayne from Stevens Point, WI

I see NFL special teams ranking (thanks Rick Gosselin) has been published and shows the Packers improving 10 spots. Congratulations. I may be cherry picking, but how would the Pack rank for the last portion of the season where Nixon was the returner? This gives the data time to reflect the results of different staff and players to gel. The rankings also show the Lions as quite good. If you noticed Nixon didn't have any spectacular returns against them. They stayed in their lanes.

Yes, Detroit certainly did. Over the last six games of the season, the Packers had only one significant special-teams miscue that I recall (blocked punt vs. Minnesota) and a bunch of positive plays. Where they "ranked" over that stretch, I have no idea, but that's where the units have to pick up in 2023.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

The conversation around re-signing Keisean Nixon is giving me flashbacks to a different player: Jared Cook. He was more established when he arrived, but in Green Bay, he was only a half-year wonder and I remember lots of "not worth the cost," "they can find someone else," "Rodgers made him look good," etc. Turns out, he still had a lot of game left, and the Packers did NOT find an easy replacement. This time, I hope they pony up for a role that's been equally hard to fill!

Couldn't agree more.

Kyle from Waunakee, WI

Keisean was very fun to watch this season, and the focus of ST in II has been on re-signing him. But, how much of the return threat was KN vs. Rich vs. the (new) core teamers that were signed vs. players on the roster last year who played ST this year?

My view is Bisaccia and the veterans brought in changed the culture on special teams. Then when Nixon started breaking long returns, he infused another level of energy into the units and the entire squad.

Jeff from Omaha, NE

What road trip provides you guys with the best all-around work environment? Everything from ease of travel to lodging to gametime work location, proximity to locker rooms and interview areas, media food buffets, restroom access, etc.? Conversely, what road trip is the most difficult or uncomfortable for your work experience?

Game results notwithstanding, U.S. Bank Stadium has made Minneapolis probably the most seamless, enjoyable road trip now. Anything with a long flight always wears me out, regardless. As far as close places we visit at least somewhat regularly, FedExField in D.C. is awful, MetLife in Jersey is no picnic, and Chicago is still a pain in various ways. Of the less frequented venues, Buffalo this year was difficult because there's a convoluted, distracting route postgame to get to the interviews, but the Bills might have their new stadium by the time of our next visit.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

Are you ever tempted to answer a question with "dubitably"?

Perhaps. Happy Monday.

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