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Inbox: What matters most is the pieces fit

The Packers need another fast start this Sunday in Detroit

WR Allen Lazard and TE Robert Tonyan

Joe from Monroe, WI

After some of the events recently in the NFL, I keep hearing fans claim that they could do better. I obviously know they couldn't, but it got me wondering. If you had to do one of the following in an NFL game, what would you choose: A) run a quick slant and try to catch a bullet from Favre in tight coverage, B) play QB in an obvious passing down with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers coming off the edge, or C) get a handoff on a run up the middle against Nitschke and the Packers of the '60s?

While Spoff is busy writing and enjoying a plate of press-box cookies, I'll be throwing the fastest check-down pass you've ever seen to the nearby running back before Matthews and Peppers drill me into the sediment.

Renee from Green Bay, WI

After the draft I was sure Green Bay missed out on an opportunity to add a receiver to the roster. Sure am glad I was wrong. Why does it seem that we are this deep in the season and doing well on offense that people are still whining that Green Bay needs another receiver to compete? Are they watching another team? Yes, another stud receiver would be great but Green Bay is only one game out of first place and other than some unfortunate drops they are holding their own, or am I wrong again?

I get why many fans wanted another weapon on offense. It's fun to talk about the hype surrounding a receiver taken in the first round. But what matters most, as it relates to this year's team, is the pieces fit. As talented as Davante Adams is, and he's arguably the best in the business right now, Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are the complementary parts that make this offense go.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Hi Wes, now all we need is one TD from our man Big Bob Tonyan to tie Bubba Franks! GPG!

The records keep falling. As many records as Rodgers and Adams will likely reset this year, Tonyan's run at Paul Coffman's franchise record for most TD catches in a season by a Packers tight end is one to watch these next four weeks.

Jeff from Athens, WI

I am not sure exactly why, but I feel Lazard is ready for a breakout game against the Lions. He looked better Sunday than he did the week before and he seems to play well against the Lions. So we have all that going for us, which is nice.

Lazard had a nice game last week, too. His blocking was solid and the 31-yard catch he made down the sideline keyed that 99-yard drive as much as Davante Adams' 42-yard grab on the shot play. Few catch the ball as naturally as Lazard – and he obviously has a strong track record against Detroit. It could be a great pick for player to watch this week.

Richard from Madison, WI

Hi Wes, among all the observations concerning the Aaron Jones run, has anybody commented on the mental awareness of the Packer blockers that were sufficiently disciplined not to block any of the trailing Eagles and incur the penalty? That's another sign of a well-coached team.

The blocking prowess of the receiving corps has been a staple for years in Green Bay. The Packers have performed well in that area going back to the early 2010s when Edgar Bennett was coaching that room – and it's been up to Jason Vrable, as the position coach, and Adams, as the elder statesman, to maintain that standard.

Bruce from Jackson, WI

Morning Wes and II, what can you tell us about how Ta is acclimating in Green Bay? Is he mainly being considered as a backup for Tyler Ervin on special teams, or do you think he will be given a chance to get some touches with the offense? More than just gimmick plays and sweeps? He doesn't appear to have as good of hands as Adams, but if he's physically fit, he might be a better option than what we have after Adams and Lazard as a WR. Thoughts?

Tavon Austin came to Green Bay looking for opportunity and it's opportunity he'll likely get after Ervin was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. With Ervin out until at least the Packers' regular-season finale in Chicago, Austin would appear to be the player best suited to replace him on returns and as the pre-snap motion receiver. But Austin will need to prove in practice he's ready for it before this topic becomes anything more than Inbox fodder.

Joseph from Salt Lake City, UT

Also, according to Pro Football Reference, Charles Woodson had a streak of three games at the end of the 2006 season, a streak of three games in the middle of the 2007 season. Darnell Savage would be in some good company. Here's to solid coverage, a quick pressure, rushed throws, and the ball in 26's hands!

Savage has played two of his best games as a member of the Packers the past two weeks – and he did so by being in the right position, trusting his instincts and letting plays come to him. He has the talent. He has the speed. And now he's putting together the mental side of the game, too.

Derek from Maple Grove, MN

Great team effort in the win against the Eagles. How about the athleticism shown by Savage on his INT? I know these guys are professionals and they spend their lives getting their bodies ready to play. My jaw still hit the ground when I saw him make that catch!

That's why they test players in the vertical every February in Indy.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

Lions always seem to play the Packers well – what are your keys for the game to come away with a "W"?

Don't let Matthew Stafford get into a rhythm. Once he starts dealing, Stafford is a tough QB to win a shootout against. Just ask the Bears. Also, the Packers need another start fast this Sunday. They've been in some real slobberknockers with the Lions at Ford Field over the years, even in games in which they've been heavily favored. Green Bay needs another first half like the ones it's had the past three weeks.

Meagan from Wausau, WI

Who is the one player to watch on the Lions next week? Having DeAndre Swift and/or Kenny Golladay back will be huge for them. But T.J. Hockenson has emerged as a fantastic target for Stafford.

It's probably Hockenson. Golladay is an elite receiver if he does play, but the Packers are as healthy as they've been all season at cornerback. Hockenson can cause a lot of matchup problems for any defense, but especially now with Raven Greene out. Hockenson has come into his own this season to develop into one of Stafford's most trusted confidants on the field. He's also probably overdue for a trip to the end zone. The Packers need to hold him off one more week.

Edward from Milwaukee, WI

How do think the Packers stack up against the run moving forward in the playoffs with the elite running backs?

Ask me again after the Tennessee game.

Paul from Johannesburg, South Africa

Early in the year, Krys Barnes was getting a lot of playing time and good press coverage on packers.com. I understand Kamal Martin has earned his starting spot but I would still expect Barnes to be in a LB rotation. I don't recall seeing him in on any snaps for the past several games, however. Is this just because of Martin's play or has something else also happened?

Sunday was Barnes' first game back after a month-long stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Packers have finally gotten healthy at inside linebacker, too, with Christian Kirksey back in the lineup. Barnes showed he could be trusted earlier this year and the defense may need to turn to him again at some point down the stretch.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

When it comes to the Packers' defense, while they are playing at a competitive level, do you think less is more? What if the defense's game plan were more simplified like ML did with the offense?

That's what they're striving for, too. I'll be interested to hear what Mike Pettine has to say about that later today.

Bill from Somers, NY

Lost in the great game was the drop by MVS again. A 50-plus yard throw by Aaron Rodgers. Do you think A-Rod can trust him in a critical situation?


Curt from Algonquin, IL

Can we get some recognition for the blocks MVS threw on Jones's 77-yard TD run? I was impressed by a WR running downfield to block, but the Rock Report showed how amazing it really was. Running full tilt, bodies flying everywhere, and he has the skill and presence of mind to keep two very difficult blocks to the defenders' side and legal in a situation where a lesser player could've blocked from behind and had the whole play flagged and called back. As always, the Rock Report is must-watch video!


Tom from Douglassville, PA

Was wondering how Corey Linsley is doing? Is he out for the season, or can he make it back for the playoffs?

The Packers are hopeful they can get Linsley and Billy Winn back at some point. That's all I know right now.

Dave from Germantown, TN

The next time Aaron Jones has a long TD run, should your headline read AJ styles?

I like the cut of your jib, Dave, but unfortunately we need the full "Aaron Jones" in the headline for SEO purposes.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

If we want to talk about where a team would be without the player and make him MVP, how about the Steelers? Without Ben last year, no playoffs. This year they were 11-0.

But that's every team with an MVP QB, no? Do you remember the 2017 Packers?

Ian from Kirkwhelpington, England

Wes, entering the final four weeks of the regular season, do you share my fear that there will be more interest in who finishes second and third in divisions to secure a wild-card place than in who finishes first and second in the division? To my mind, the new playoff format rewards mediocrity and is a poor move that needs to be reversed for future seasons.

We've crossed the Rubicon on the expanded playoff issue, folks. Like it or not, and many of you know my stance on it, the 14-team playoff is here to stay.

Dick from Four Oaks, NC

Regarding the use of smelling salts, I seem to remember a fella named Favre using them regularly as well. Must be something to it!

I tried smelling salts once but it didn't seem to help my writing any.

Scott from Sauk City, WI

Hello, II! Thoughts on the Big Fourteen's plans to allow THE Ohio State University to play in the conference title game, requiring a complete about-face from the established protocols they put in place this fall? I used a Vic-ism to describe it today. "When they say it's not about the money, that's when it's really about the money."

Welcome to sports in the era of COVID-19…where everything is made up and the rules don't matter.

Stefan from Rock Island, IL

Looking at the next four weeks, it would appear that the Saints have two difficult matchups in Kansas City and Minnesota. Riding the edge of the playoff bubble, and currently in, I see the Vikings as being a dangerous team and an interesting matchup for Dew Brees (or Taysom Hill?) and company. For the Packers, Carolina and Tennessee are both worthy adversaries. However, I feel like the single win difference could very well swing to zero and allow Green Bay to make a run at home.

I know the Vikings were in a knock-down, drag-out battle with Jacksonville last weekend but I wouldn't be clamoring to play Minnesota the last four weeks of the regular season. If the playoffs started today, the Vikings would be the No. 7 team. For as much as some rag on the Packers' schedule, take a look at the teams New Orleans has faced during its winning streak since Week 3. The Saints still very much have their work cut out for them.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

I thought it was telling that interim coach Darrell Bevell said one of his first goals was for his Lions to "have more fun." And it appeared that was a recipe for success last week. These players are all talented, but the psyche seems equally important. Given the firings this season of Patricia and O'Brien, I think it fair to say the Belichick coaching tree has not been terribly successful. Is the era of the old-school, tough, no-nonsense head coach dying or dead?

I don't think so. Mike Vrabel, who played for Belichick and coached under O'Brien, is having a great deal of success in Tennessee with a smash-mouth run game and an active, physical defense.

Eddie from La Crosse, WI

Alex Smith's "hidden ball trick" is gaining more and more attention. Would you predict that the NFL will be discussing it in the offseason, if not sooner? I think it's a sure bet (but I'm only betting imaginary Inbox currency).

Alex Smith…you crafty old veteran, you. I know he said it wasn't intentional but it turned out to be a brilliant move. I'm not sure how soon the league can change the ruling on that but I'm guessing we'll see a change made for there to be a delay of game penalty and clock runoff in the near future.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

Following up on the Alex Smith/officiating question from yesterday: What's the difference between a K ball and a regular ball?

It's a new ball, often straight out of the box, that tends to be slicker and harder. From everything I read, the NFL uses them to prevent teams from manipulating the regular game balls to make them easier to kick.

Doug from Neenah, WI

The Eagles game was the third time this season I've followed Mike's live blog during the broadcast. As a socially distanced retiree, it's fun to read Mike's fast-paced and insightful commentaries as well as remarks from other fans, snarky or not. It's like watching the game with a group of friends! They know more than the TV announcers anyway. Keep up the good work and let's spread the word to others who might be "home alone" during the games. GPG.

Spoff and his nimble fingertips do a great job with it.

Haylee from Little Suamico, WI

What Starburst flavor is the best? #PerksTest

Cherry. Seriously, that's the best question you could come up with for a Perks test, Haylee?

Robert from Menasha, WI

Hi Mike. Yes, you should try the smelling salts before writing Inbox, indeed! And Wes also, for good measure. I will do my part as well before reading. Can you also send some down to Dean from Leavenworth, IN, to trial before writing his next poetic pregame post?

That might be enough to bring back "GOOD MORNING!"