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Inbox: You have to maximize the opportunity

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

Al from Green Bay, WI

I heard on the radio (and I wonder if it's true) that SF has allowed only four plays of 20-plus yards all year. Can GB get four in this game alone, or is there something about the SF defense that makes it unlikely?

You're more likely to beat San Francisco with efficiency than explosives. The 49ers are fundamentally sound and disciplined. If you do break a big gain, you better score off of it. For that same reason takeaways are going to be paramount in this game, as well. You have to maximize the opportunity. Good morning!

Martin from Evansville, IN

Are we blowing this 49ers game out of proportion? I feel like we're putting too much emphasis on one game.

Define we. If "we" means fans, that's up to y'all. If "we" means the team, then I would say no. While you can't get too high or too low regardless of the outcome, the locker room needs to be locked in when it takes the field Sunday night. This is a chance to prove the Packers are more than just a good comeback story. It is a chance to showcase one of the best teams in the NFL.

Mike from Madison, WI

It seems like Aaron Rodgers is not getting as many "free" plays this year. Is it because defenses are quicker getting the substitutions made, or are the officials taking longer to spot the ball in play?

Officials are blowing those plays dead more often now and assessing the 5-yard penalty. We saw that shift midway through the 2016 season.

Jeff from Brooklyn, WI

I can see a lot of Ryan Grant or even Dorsey Levens in Jamaal Williams while Aaron Jones is more like Ahman Green. Do you have any comparisons from these two exciting RBs we have?

The Green comparison is the first thing that comes to mind for Jones. I actually see more of Edgar Bennett in Williams than the other two.

Drew from Rogers City, MI

Has a running back ever led the Packers in receiving TDs for a season? Could Jamaal do it this year?

It's possible. The last time it happened was in 1991 when Vince Workman tied Sterling Sharpe for the team lead with four.

Thomas from Evansville, IN

How are we going to use our own Jimmy G (Jimmy Graham) better against the 49ers and through the rest of the season?

You saw it against the Panthers – creating opportunities to get him the ball. The Packers schemed up that 48-yard catch-and-run perfectly against Carolina and Graham executed.

Shaun from Sun Prairie, WI

With the solid record this year, when is the earliest the Packers (16-game season) have ever clinched a playoff spot? Not saying it's going to be this year, but just curious!

The earliest I can recall was the Packers clinching a playoff spot with their 27-15 win over Detroit on Thanksgiving on Nov. 24, 2011. The win improved Green Bay to 11-0.

Dan from Toledo, OH

Everything is on the line and no one needs any extra motivation. Still, don't you think Aaron Rodgers loves beating the 49ers for them passing on Rodgers at No. 1 all those years ago?

I don't want to speak for Rodgers but I think he's past that at this point. That was almost 15 years ago. He wants to win because this game is essential for playoff positioning.

Mark from Eureka, IL

No. 12 wants to play at home in January. He will be the difference Sunday night. He will be at his peak in all phases of the game.

It reminds me of what Rodgers said after the NFC title game nearly three years ago – they need to play those games at Lambeau Field. The first 11 weeks have the Packers in position to do that – but you gotta finish strong. That starts in San Francisco…or Santa Clara, I guess.

Brett from Oshkosh, WI

It may be true that most Inbox questions can be Googled, but that's just not as cool as having your name and question/thoughts appear in the Inbox.

We really need to start producing "I had my question published in Insider Inbox!" T-shirts and lunch boxes.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

I've watched the Packers since about 1960 and so many of the images in my memories involve mud-soaked players and frozen tundra. Now celebrating 100 seasons with the photos and clips, they often show the mud-soaked battles in the slop. At Lambeau with the heating system and the perfectly maintained turf with its woven base, is that muddy frozen tundra permanently an image from the past? I honestly think I'll miss it although I'm sure the players don't.

Unless something goes terribly wrong, that probably is something of the past. The hybrid nature of the grass helps keep the field in place. The grow lights also ensure the field is able to recover quickly if there's a back-to-back homestand like next month with Washington and Chicago.

Sal from Hailey, ID

Cole Madison was the only player who didn't practice Friday? It can't just be luck (or the bye) keeping everyone in playing shape. What are some of the changes to which we can attribute the health of the team?

I think just being smart with how the Packers practice and rehab. I don't know all the nitty, gritty details but there have been noticeable changes with how the team trains. I also want to echo Matt LaFleur's comments about how heartbreaking Madison's knee injury is. I can't say enough about Cole. It's been cool getting to know him this year. He's a kind soul and has been 100-percent dedicated to the cause since he returned to the team in April. I wish him nothing but the best in his recovery.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

LaFleur stated that Ibraheim Campbell's presence stabilized roles and responsibilities for a lot of guys on D. Am I being overly optimistic or does this mean the D might be better equipped to avoid some of the big plays?

It's huge. It allows Adrian Amos to play his natural position at safety. Amos stepped up for the defense the first half of the year but the Packers didn't sign him to play hybrid linebacker. Campbell is also a solid run defender, which allows Pettine to go lighter on early downs, if needed.

Paul from Adams, WI

Do you think Jake Kumerow can contribute more for the team and get more playing time? I have seen him make some great blocks in the backfield.

Kumerow, Allen Lazard and Geronimo Allison have all done a nice job with their blocks, which is why the Packers are using all three. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett told reporters Thursday night how much he likes the production the Packers have received from that rotation. There's also the added benefit of making opposing defenses prepare for multiple receivers.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, has Ty Summers been productive on special teams? Do you see him getting any defensive snaps?

I think Summers has done a nice job on special teams, tied for second with six coverage tackles. That's the focus for him right now.

Dennis from Beavercreek, OH

Here are two questions that maybe I should have asked a week ago when we still had more than a week before the Packers played. With all this talk of the owners pushing for a 17-game season, would that increase a player's salary or does the salary stay the same? If it increases by one week, which I believe it does, will they divide the salary by 16 or 17 to get the increase?

That's something they'll need to hash out in the CBA, if a game is added. Players don't want to play for free, nor should they. If an extra game is added, then base salaries and bonuses should be prorated to include the extra game.

Jerry from Moline, IL

I don't understand why players would expect more compensation in the CBA if the league went to a 17-game schedule. They are getting paid for preseason games. If the total number of games does not increase, why should they be paid differently?

Players actually are paid differently for preseason. They get a stipend for training camp and participation in games. Their actual contract doesn't kick in until Week 1.

Sam from Milwaukee, WI

Hi II, how important would you say the Super Bowl is for a team's season?

How important is the final guitar riff in "Free Bird"?

Jason from Aurora, WI

Best Niners memory/play? Has to be Simmons/Newsome scoop-and-score in '95. It was a breakthrough play in a breakthrough game for the Packers. After years of riding backseat to Dallas and San Fran, that play announced that we were ready to take the keys and drive.

The Craig Newsome era was great while it lasted. Some will hate me for this comment, but that's the first rookie first-round pick I can remember being excited about as a kid.

Elizabeth from Sylvania, OH

I'm hoping the past will fuel Aaron Rodgers' fire on Sunday night. The 49ers had the Packers' number for a few years in a row in the regular season and playoffs, both home and away. My favorite memory has to be Clay Matthews' flying sideline hit on Colin Kaepernick. What is yours during those more recent years?

My memory isn't Matthews' hit but rather his response to Jim Harbaugh intimating Matthews was a dirty player. Clay's retort the following week? "I'm an awesome player, not a dirty player." Classic Clay.

Darrell from San Antonio, TX

In reference to Blaine from Fennimore's question, one of my most poignant memories of the Packers-49ers saga is the no-call fumble by Jerry Rice that cost us a trip to the Super Bowl. That one still sticks in my craw to this day. As Janis Joplin once said, we must make amends.

I can only imagine how Packers fans would have handled Rice's fumble in the social-media era.

Renee from Green Bay, WI

My husband is a war veteran and has given up on many things in life that has brought him happiness. I can only imagine the emotional battles he faces as he won't talk about it or what happened. But for some time now he has been following you guys every morning after watching "Leave it to Beaver." I started myself reading and submitting questions. We have a competition now who will get their questions posted. Thank you for what you do for my husband and Packers fans with your wit and wisdom.

First off, I apologize to your husband for adding a post to your tally. But I wanted to take this chance to say thank you for your service and following our coverage on the site. We aim to give fans a platform to enjoy the team and take a break from their daily troubles.

Jeff from Athens, WI

Longtime reader and occasional submitter here and just want to tell you guys that I love your work. I finally watched your "Unscripted" for the first time. It won't be the last, either. As solid as the Inbox is, your commentary on "Unscripted" is equally if not more insightful. Thank you for your dedication and professionalism. My question is this: Do you ever see yourselves leaving the Packer fold and covering another team, or is it the Packers or bust? I hate to think of losing you guys.

Thanks Jeff. I'm sure there's also a small army of readers who feel the exact opposite but we appreciate the kind words regardless. You never know what the future holds. I'm just thankful for today and my packers.com colleagues.

Braden from Aurora, CO

What's the plane like on road trips? Is everyone working or watching Netflix?

I'm in the back of the plane with the rest of Packers digital. Most people watch movies. Spoff reads his Sports Illustrated. I usually listen to music, read or play video games.

Nate from Kewaskum, WI

Dressing or stuffing?

Stuffing. Duh.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

The NFL flexed the game so Wisconsin hunters could sit in their deer stand until dark and still see kickoff. Good luck to everyone and be safe!

Pa Hod will be among them. And best of luck to all the deer this weekend.

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