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Inbox: You gotta be ready for all of it

The stars have aligned in Green Bay at the game’s most coveted position

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Greg from Belvidere, IL

Six games to go, Packers with half-game lead. Buckle up boys and girls, the next month and a half is gonna be a great ride!

And you're all sitting in the passenger seat. Six weeks to decide a season. Let's get after it. Good morning!

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

On our last West Coast trip, the team traveled a day earlier in hopes this would better prepare them for that weekend. It obviously did not work out the way the Packers had thought. Do they plan on getting out there earlier again this week or has ML given any comments in regards to how they are planning to make changes to their west coast trips to be better prepared and come out on top with a "W"?

The team will fly out Saturday, no different than a typical game. Matt LaFleur consulted the team's strength coaches, trainers and nutritionists, and sought the opinions of other individuals he respects outside of the building before making that decision. The conclusion he came to was a two-hour time difference doesn't tax the players enough to warrant such a sizeable shift in routine. The team can leave Saturday afternoon, get acclimated and be ready to play Sunday.

Jeff from Milwaukee, WI

Longtime reader, first time asking a question this week. This year's bye week appears to be coming at the best time. We get an extra week of rest before going to San Francisco that could decide top seeding in the NFC. My question is, do coaches and players still only prepare for the next opponent, after the bye, or do they prepare for two weeks? Thanks for all the work you do!

As LaFleur talked about Monday, the sole focus has to be the 49ers. That's not taking anything away from Washington but an argument can be made the most important game of Green Bay's regular season takes place Sunday night. Much like the Packers, the 49ers can win in a variety of ways. You gotta be ready for all of it.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

Arizona showed that it's getting there, but not quite ready yet. I think successfully executing the six-minute drill and defensive stops in the waning minutes of a close game are what separate the good teams from the rest. The Packers have had several defensive stops to end games this season and held the ball for five minutes to close out the Chiefs.

The Cardinals are probably a seven- or eight-win team…that I absolutely do not want to play. They're dangerous and credit to San Francisco for successfully navigating those waters. If you would've told me Jimmy Garoppolo would throw for nearly three times as many yards as Kyler Murray and the Cardinals would outrush the 49ers, I would never have believed you. Wild.

Zach from Stevens Point, WI

San Fran is obviously really good at 9-1, but I have not seen much of them this year. What are their weaknesses we will try to exploit?

San Francisco is a very good team but I think the past few weeks have proven the 49ers are not infallible. The offense has been dealing with a lot of injuries (George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders and Matt Breida) and its once-unstoppable run game has slowed down a bit lately. Garoppolo has thrown 10 interceptions in 10 games, so there likely will be an opportunity or two for a big play. Conversely, the 49ers are still plus-5 in turnover margin because of how stout Robert Saleh's defense has been.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

With an extra week to prepare, a national stage, and home-field advantage in the picture, do you see the San Fran game as a likely candidate for some new-look plays? I envision something like both backs in the backfield and fake a screen left and come back to screen right. Maybe not actual flee-flickers but more complicated and unscouted looks.

Death. Taxes. And unscouted looks coming out of the bye week.

Justin from Wausau, WI

Regarding the familiarity between Kyle Shanahan and LaFleur, my take is this: While it certainly cuts both ways, I think any advantage sways to the successor. My reason is while they share a general offensive philosophy, LaFleur, a former subordinate, would have a better grasp on the nuances of KS's approach. Shanahan, meanwhile, wouldn't be privy to the subtle variances ML might adopt when he has the reigns. All that said, Shanahan has the benefit of an extra year of experience as HC. Just win, baby.

It's an interesting theory. Matt Patricia's Lions beating Bill Belichick's Patriots last year probably speaks to that. It's a strange matchup with all the crossover – Shanahan, Saleh and Mike LaFleur in San Fran, and LaFleur and Adam Stenavich in Green Bay. May the best friend win on Sunday night.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, what did the Packers learn about themselves during the self-scout?

A lot…but LaFleur wasn't giving any specific examples away. The overriding theme – they have work to do these next six weeks to become the team that locker room feels it's capable of being.

Spencer from Salem, WI

Longtime reader, first-time writer. LaFleur mentioned this week GB likes to study itself to see what other teams will be seeing when preparing to play them. Do teams ever bring in external scouts and ask them to provide a scouting report on themselves to help avoid preconceived conclusions?

A lot of first-timers today. Welcome. Some organizations hire consultants to analyze their teams and the rest of the NFL. I think that's what Mike Pettine was doing before returning to coaching with the Packers in 2018.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

I agree with the inevitable comment in Monday's II, in both the Minnesota and SF victories, once the tide started turning it wasn't going to change again. Can you think of any games where the favorite got in a deep hole, came back to take the lead, yet the underdog managed to then come back? I can't.

I really can't. That's kind of been how the Vikings and 49ers have survived to get to this point, though. Good teams find ways to win even when they don't play their best that day.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Ibraheim Campbell has made an impact with his return. I could see in the Carolina game that it gave Adrian Amos more looks deep, which led to the pick by Tramon Williams. He also caused a fumble, which was not recovered by the Packers but it was what Campbell did last year. Are there any other benefits coming out of the bye from players that have not been playing much to this point?

A veteran with fresh legs can benefit a team late in a season. I mean, how many times have we talked about what Erik Walden and Howard Green brought to the Super Bowl XLV team? Campbell is a smart, fearless player who's playing in the perfect defense for his skill set. His presence also frees up Amos to play his best position. It's a win-win.

George from Vancouver, BC

Wes and Mike, one of the many curious things I notice over GB's offense is the split of downs between Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. I just saw an ESPN article that suggested that GB's O is far more effective when Jones is on the field? So why not use Jones more?

Because you don't play Texas hold 'em with one card.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The tight end position will be interesting to watch in the remaining games. With Jace Sternberger now off IR and Robert Tonyan's impending return, might we get more explosive from that position?

The past month was telling about the importance of tight ends in LaFleur's offense. He had no issue using Sternberger or Evan Baylis as the third option in Tonyan's absence. It was enlightening, as well. I thought Sternberger looked good in what was essentially his debut against the Panthers. If Tonyan is active Sunday, those are two more aces up LaFleur's sleeves. And with that, I'll stop with the card references.

Bruce from Appleton, WI

What will the Packers' defense have to do to slow down the 49ers' offense?

Contain the run without having to constantly load the box.

Matt from East Troy, WI

II, I saw someone evaluated BG's first draft class already. It is too soon. The bright spot being Jaire Alexander is stated and true. Is it best to evaluate after the third season playing, or after three years from the draft date meaning four years playing?

I've never liked grading draft classes because of how many of those players are still on the roster. Just look at how much we learned about the 2016 draft class last year and the 2017 group this year. The 2011 and '15 classes largely didn't work out. We can go back and say that definitively now, but as long as draft picks are still on the roster, you can't predict how the story will end.

Lori from Heredia, Costa Rica

Wes, who did the 49ers choose with the extra draft picks they received from da Bears in 2017 so da Bears could move up one spot and have Mitchell Trubisky?

With the actual picks acquired, the 49ers took Solomon Thomas (2017 first round, third overall) and Fred Warner (2018 third, 70th). They also separately traded the other two picks (2017 third- and fourth-rounders). The fourth-rounder helped move up to draft C.J. Beathard in the third round in 2017 (No. 104). The third was used to acquire a 2018 second-round pick from New Orleans, which they traded to Washington to move up and take Dante Pettis. I think I have that straight.

Gina from Waukesha, WI

Mike, thank you for your article on Campbell and the practice squad. I know that they are valuable players for the team. Are there separate coaches for the practice squad or do the offensive and defensive coaches provide the coaching for the squad?

Mike McCarthy always made it a point to refer to the team as the 63-man roster, not the 53. While they don't suit up on game day, practice-squad players are in the same position room as their active counterparts. It not only brings out the best of those players in practice, but also prepares them for inevitably being promoted at some point during the year.

Dale from Kettering, OH

It seems like some casual fans would rather just have one player to know and still sound like a fan. How would you (delicately) edge them into an appreciation of the team aspect? After all, it's hard to explain what the O-line does, but without a good one, everyone else looks very average.

I'd say re-watch the Panthers game. The Packers weren't dominant in any one area of that game but it was a good enough overall performance to win. Everyone wants a blowout but it's those type of victories that show you a team's mettle.

Jason from Austin, TX

At this point in the season, no matter how tempting it would be sometimes, I would stop challenging PI calls if I were a coach. It's not worth the loss of challenge and timeout. There's almost a greater chance of returning an onside kick than overturning a PI call. It might be greater. I haven't looked at the numbers.

I agree. Hence my tweet during the Carolina game saying, "I'm not sure about that OPI on Allen Lazard. I'm definitely sure about the reason not to challenge it."

Jason from Albuquerque, NM

Just a follow-up to your response to the new PI rule: "At this point, I'll be shocked if the rule isn't scrapped in the offseason." Scrapped? Heck, the NFL will make another rule to make the rule this year is more confusing for everyone. I am just saying.

I do not think the NFL owners and coaches will scrap it completely, especially if something controversial happens in the playoffs. I think that would be allowing the league office in New York to win. I could see this whole thing being the same massive headache as last offseason.

Packers rookies Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage signed autographs at Lambeau Field Monday night in exchange for donations to the Salvation Army.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

Historically, the Packers are unbelievably blessed at QB. The Vikings always seem to find a great running back. The Bears always have great LBs and DLs. The Lions...never mind (bad example). How do you explain – despite changing GMs – teams' apparent good luck/skill at filling certain positions, and poor track record at others (Bears at QB, etc.)?

It's a good question that I'm not sure I have an answer to because it's been multiple personnel departments over decades who have discovered that talent. In my opinion, finding true gems is 90% skill and 50% good fortune. The stars have to align. Fortunately, they have in Green Bay at the game's most coveted position.

Ryan from Chicago, IL

Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely without pay. It got me thinking, where does his salary go during that time? It obviously still counts against the cap, but does it now just line the pockets of Browns ownership?

His salary and prorated signing bonus actually doesn't go towards the cap. When a player is suspended in-season, the team gets credit back for however many weeks that player missed. What I can't say with certainty is whether the team keeps that money or if it is donated like a typical weekly fine would be.

Thomas from Beaver Dam, WI

Not a question; however, the play of Elgton Jenkins, taken in the second round, reminds me of another second pick taken by Ron Wolf who fans were wondering about: Chad Clifton. It shows how the GMs and scouts do their work.

When you think about it for a second, it's incredible how many quality offensive linemen the Packers have drafted – and in some cases undrafted – and developed. Jenkins doesn't play a glamorous position but he's been one of the most impressive rookies to walk through the doors at Lambeau Field in the last decade.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Are the Packers the only team that has to do the "Double Bosa" this year?

Pittsburgh also had to do it (Week 3 at San Francisco and Week 6 at Los Angeles).

Brett from Boonsboro, MD

I'm not impressed by Lamar Jackson. We've seen it all before. Vick, RG III, Cam Newton and so on and so forth. A running QB never lasts in the NFL because injury is inevitable and quick to come. Being able to run and extend plays once in a while is a great trait, but when you start planning RPOs and options for the QB to run, you're just feeding him to the lions.

I think Jackson has proven he's more than just a runner. He had doubters since the day he announced he was turning pro…and he's silenced every single one of them so far. He's now a legitimate MVP candidate. I've been a huge fan of his game going back to Louisville. I believe his art will last.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Like a lot of Packer fans, I was hoping for some help from the Cardinals and Broncos last weekend. But in retrospect, it's probably better for the Pack to have to earn their way into the postseason (and their seed). Whoever makes it to the Super Bowl this year will have to face a formidable opponent (Patriots, Ravens or KC) and needs to be battle-tested. Iron sharpens iron, right?

Sure, but the Broncos not tripping all over themselves in the second half on Sunday still would've helped matters.

Paul from Indio, CA

The Lego replay review announcement was great. The crowd's reaction that followed was even better. I could listen to that perpetually and still get chills.

It's fantastic. If you haven't had a chance yet, please check it out. The Davante Adams sideline catch and goal-line stand sequences are true to the finest detail. It brought a smile to my face when I watched it Monday morning.

Bill from Maple Grove, MN

The goal-line view of the Panthers' attempted touchdown run in the Lego highlights definitely showed it was no touchdown!

Mystery solved.