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Is there an X-factor for Sunday in Atlanta?

Visiting locker rooms aren't what they used to be


Ryan from Santee, CA

Who is your X-factor on both sides of the ball? Mine would be Montgomery and Gunter, respectively.

Good choices, but if an X-factor is someone who doesn't immediately come to mind having a significant impact, I'd be more inclined to pick less obvious choices. Like Richard Rodgers, who has been quiet so far this year, or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who might be helping Gunter over the top covering Jones.

Wesley from York, UK

As a British sports fan, one of the most perplexing things about the NFL for me is overtime. Why is it necessary in the regular season? In other sports I follow it is perfectly acceptable to turn up, play a game and walk away as equals.

For better or worse, that's just not the American way. Jesse's got this.

Jesse from Bismarck, ND

Ties are like participation ribbons! We want winners and losers, not mamby-pamby, nice-job-for-showing-up participants. That is the NFL fan today. P.S. Packer fans don't like the losing part.

Moving on.

George from Hutchinson, MN

A widely held view of a team's chances of making the playoffs has two benchmarks. One, have a record of at least 7-3 after 10 games, and two, have a record of at least 10-6 at the end of the season. The Packers will need to win three out of the next four games to reach the first benchmark. If not, then attaining the latter benchmark becomes increasingly more difficult.

I've never heard the 7-3 thing. I think that's just for fans who want to feel a little more secure regarding their team's margin for error when you really want to be playing your best football down the stretch anyway. Be that as it may, I'm starting to wonder if 10 wins is going to earn a spot in the NFC this year. It's still early to assess the big picture when we're not halfway yet, but it might take 11. It could depend on whether these one-win teams like Carolina, Chicago, and San Francisco start pulling some upsets.

Look inside the Packers locker room both before and after Thursday night's tilt with the Bears. Photos by Evan Siegle,

Brian from Superior, WI

Guys, it looks like the Packers' locker room is really plush with large lockers, nice woodwork and of course the cool "G" carpet. I'm wondering if the visitors' locker room is just as nice. Do other teams make their visitor locker rooms "uncomfortable" for the other team?

Some of the ones in older stadiums are really cramped, but even so, it wouldn't feel so tight after a game if hordes of reporters weren't tromping through for interviews. Now that the Metrodome is gone, Soldier Field is the tightest one we regularly deal with. The visitors' locker room at Lambeau before the 2003 renovation was an abomination compared to modern standards. It was like an oversized high school bathroom. I can remember in the late '90s gathering around Warren Sapp as he sat on a bench with nothing but a towel draped over his lap, and another towel on the floor that was catching his tobacco spit as reporters fired questions. Pleasant scene. Generally speaking, the newer the stadium, the more spacious the accommodations.

Justin from Canton, NC

The discussion of cover corner over running back got me thinking. I can just not throw it towards Deion, but you can't stop me from handing it to Jim Brown every play. Does that sway Mike?

But if you're not throwing it at Deion, the defense has far less field to defend. I think it's a tough call. I said**in my mid-week chat**that the conditions in the playoffs might influence my decision. A cold-weather game I might lean toward the running back, but on a fast track indoors, I think I want my top corner on their top receiver.

Richard from Yankton, SD

By now I normally have this gut feeling if we have a chance. This year I feel nothing about this team.

Lotta football left.

Tony from River Falls, WI

Which conference do you see as more dominant, or has the NFL achieved conference parity? Personally I think the NFC has a slight edge in talent, but of course I'm biased.

I'm still having a hard time seeing an AFC team outside the trio of New England, Denver or Pittsburgh (with Big Ben) making it to the Super Bowl. The NFC seems to have a larger pool of contenders, but I admit I pay more attention to NFC teams for obvious reasons, so I might be biased as well.

Toz from Golden Bay, Australia

Can't help but notice nobody talking about the 4-3 Lions. Stafford is starting to deliver on all that potential.

Detroit's offense appears to be better without Calvin Johnson, which is a credit to Stafford. They've won three straight down-to-the-wire home games after a rough start. If they start winning on the road – and they're at Minnesota in two weeks – then look out.

Bob from Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Is there a reason the number 41 seems to not be worn by a player for the last three years? I might have forgotten some special person or reason why this has happened.

No reason that I know of. It hasn't been worn in a regular-season game since 2010, when Spencer Havner had it. Various players have worn it in training camp since then but didn't make the team. It happens sometimes. With quick research, I found seven other non-retired numbers that, to my knowledge, haven't been worn in a regular-season game for at least that long without an obvious reason (like Paul Hornung's No. 5). They are 7, 35, 40, 45, 60, 68 and 77. Three of them are currently being worn by Brett Hundley (7), Jermaine Whitehead (35) and Kyle Murphy (68).

Andrew from New York, NY

Insiders, when a trade is made you hear a lot from the player about learning the offensive/defensive system. Is learning a system truly difficult or something that can be studied within a week?

It depends if they've ever been in a similar system before. If a player is coming from another offense with West Coast principles, for example, the major adjustment might be simply new language, or new names for the same things they've done before. If the player is coming into a foreign system, it can be a more arduous, lengthy process. It can also depend on the player's acumen and how often he's had to make such transitions before.

Andy from Columbus, TX

Insiders, can you give me an honest assessment of Blake Martinez? It seems to me that he is excellent at being in the right place in all the defensive schemes, but lacks a little physically in ability to "stonewall" a ball carrier.

He can deliver a hit, but he's not a thumper, no. Those are a bit of a dying breed in today's NFL because they can get exposed in pass coverage by schemes designed to isolate them on a much faster running back or tight end. A happy medium is the more common requirement at the position now.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

After a safety, if you kick or punt it out of bounds, where does the ball go?

The receiving team has the option of taking the ball at the spot it went out of bounds, or 30 yards from the spot of the free kick, which would be midfield if there were no penalties assessed. The choice is the same on a regular kickoff out of bounds, except the yardage choice is 25 yards from the spot, which is the 40.

Jason from Austin, TX

I wonder why more teams don't go for the hard count when lining up for a punt or field goal. Especially when you see a player running to gain momentum to jump over the line. Could be an easy 5 yards.

Sure, except the long snapper has his head between his legs looking back and can't see the guy charging the line to jump over him. If he could, why would he snap it? That's part of the reason the ploy can work.

Braedon from Endicott, NY

Each week I see that we've interviewed our opponent's head coach and quarterback. Do our opponents interview Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers?

Yes. Weekly conference calls with the opposing coach and a player (often the QB, but not always) have been a part of NFL media coverage going back to Vic's earlier days.

Sean from Alfalfa, OK

Looking to the Packers playing overseas difficulties, do you think the NFL will eventually force a divisional opponent to bite the bullet for that game like they forced the color-rush Bears game on us? Hopefully if they do it'll be the Lions.

It's been mentioned before that teams wanting to host a future Super Bowl in their stadium may need to move a home game to London, whether they want to or not. I could see that scenario involving a Green Bay road game eventually sending the Packers overseas.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

The QB picture made me think, are the Starr/Lombardi five championships better than the four Brady/Belichick Super Bowls, and what if they got five? Two best dynasties in NFL history, or Bradshaw/Noll Steelers too?

The Packers of the '60s, Steelers of the '70s, 49ers of the '80s, and Cowboys of the '90s were dynasties because of what they accomplished in a relatively short time frame. Whatever label you want to give it, what stands out to me about the Patriots is that their first and fourth titles with the same coach and QB came 13 years apart, and they may not be done.

Jacob from Collegedale, TN

I was watching some older NFL highlights and noticed that when J. J. Watt caught one of his receiving touchdowns, it was thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick. When Fitzpatrick was on the Jets, J. J. Watt got a sack on him. I am wondering if you know if he is the only player to have a receiving touchdown and a sack on the same quarterback?

It's too bad Julius Peppers didn't catch Aaron Rodgers' pass at the goal line in New Orleans in 2014.

Linda from Elwood, IL

Could the Packers have reclaimed Joe Callahan last weekend, or are they ineligible because they released him?

They could have put in a claim. I don't know if they did (the Packers never reveal such decisions), but even if they had, the Browns were higher in the claim order.

Don from Cedar Rapids, IA

If pass interference is called on a play, how does that affect a quarterback's stats?

It doesn't. Statistically, the pass is not counted as an attempt or completion, and the yards are penalty yards, not passing yards.

Aaron from Mount Prospect, IL

Always wondered, when does the clock stop on a field goal try? When the ball goes through the uprights? When the ball hits the net? When the ball hits anything outside the field of play? It always seems that the clock completely expires anytime there's seven seconds or less.

I don't know the official answer, but seven seconds is a little long. That's how much time was on the clock when the Patriots' Adam Vinatieri beat the Rams on a walk-off kick in Super Bowl XXXVI. That ball was practically on the ground with two seconds still on the clock and they just let it run out.

Pooks from Duluth, MN

Props to Wes with the Vic-esque response to Bob from Milwaukee yesterday. Don't the readers understand your responses are (at times) more of a reflection of the overall Inbox and less of a direct response to an individual? Keep up the good work, gents.

Never has an item on a Wes Inbox day generated as much feedback as that one.

Jake from St. Cloud, FL

With all the animosity over the Packers beating a 1-5 team this past Thursday, just be thankful you weren't writing when the Packers lost to a 0-7 Tampa Bay team back in 2009.

I was, but I wasn't reading fan emails, if that's what you mean.

Dave from Comer, GA

Speaking of not liking tie games, I was at the MLB All-Star Game in Milwaukee that ended in a tie. One disgruntled (and inebriated) fan complained as we left the stadium, "I paid to see somebody win!" I thought to myself, "No, you paid to watch the game, you had expectations that someone would win."

I was there, too, in the auxiliary press area in Miller Park's lower right-field bleachers. The night before during the Home Run Derby, I nearly got drilled by a Jason Giambi blast while talking to my wife on the phone. I waved to her as I ducked out of the way. For the game, I was assigned the story on the All-Star MVP, so I had to write about an award that wasn't awarded. Fun times. And now, as a result, we've bestowed home-field advantage in the World Series to the team that won nine fewer games in the regular season. We dislike ties so much we do nonsensical things.

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