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Is this the game to get the Packers going?

Senior writer Mike Spofford took questions in his weekly chat


Hi everybody. Welcome to the playoffs. Let's go.

Comment From KK  Mike, In the last several weeks, it seems the defense has been the most reliable part of the team. Would it make sense to air it out like they've done when behind, and rely on the defense?

The biggest help to the defense right now would be for the offense to take advantage of the field position it's getting after a turnover, and to stop turning it over themselves. For Hyde's incredible INT to turn into a fumble-6 the other way a few snaps later was just a killer.

Comment From Jeff 

Mike, thanks for doing this. In your opinion, what has to change (and how do they change it) for the Packers to keep their season alive beyond Washington?

The defense needs to rise up a tad more, because this Redskins offense is explosive. More valuable would be the offense cutting down on mistakes. Cobb's awkward drop late in the second quarter and Linsley's holding penalty after the Hyde INT (which I thought was a terrible call, but so it goes) were killers, the type of mistakes this team can't afford. The margin of error is too small for this team as it's currently playing.

Comment From Connor

How are you guys planning to fix the offensive line to prevent so many sacks on Aaron Rodgers?

I can't fix anything. Let's make that clear. But getting the group healthy is the top priority, and I don't know how healthy it will be come Sunday. Did you see how much Lang is gutting it out on that shoulder out there? Hopefully Bakhtiari is back on Sunday. When he spoke with reporters yesterday, he sounded like a guy who wanted to play, but the decision wasn't up to him.

Comment From Kevin

How good is the Redskins secondary?

Washington is 28th in total defense, 26th against the run and 25th against the pass. The Packers will have matchups they can attack. They have to win them, and win them consistently.

Comment From Old Man

Hey Mike - thanks for the chat. I know you and Vic are tired of Jeff Janis questions. Everyone says he's not consistent with his routes. But why not have him run 3 or 4 "flys" a game? There isn't a lot of precision required with a fly. Just run as fast as you can 3 yards from the sideline. He'll be open.

If he's not going to draw a safety with him, there's not much point. Then it's 10 on 10. All I can say is if the coaches felt it would help, they'd run it. If he's just going to be a decoy, it won't matter.

Comment From Michael L 

The Packers have been scoring in the fourth quarter more than the 1st, 2nd, or third. Do you think this is because of prevent defense, or they find a rhythm? If it is because they found a rhythm, what takes them so long?

Defenses with big leads don't protect against first downs, they protect the end zone. It's not a coincidence the Packers have failed in goal-to-go at crunch time in Carolina, vs. Chicago and now vs. Minnesota. Those defenses still had the edge when it mattered.

Comment From Debbie Downer 

I am a hopeful person in general. Living in hope, hanging on to hope, etc. Is it wrong for me to feel hopeless about this playoff game. What is the point of winning in Washington, when I have very little hope of winning anything after that? Can you give me some hope? Or do I have to wait for the draft?

Just enjoy the playoffs, whatever they bring. The fan bases of 20 other teams have nothing to do right now but look to next season. You just never know in this league, and I mean that.

Comment From Jeff 

Thanks for the chat. Do you think the declining state of the offense could be attributed to a decline in Rodgers' play? For so long it seemed that as goes Rodgers so go the Packers. If this is the case, is it fair to wonder whether Rodgers' play will continue to decline in the years to come even though 32 is technically still young?

He's not having his best year. I think that's obvious. He's missed more throws to open receivers than I can recall. But I'm not about to say he's in a permanent state of decline. He's been incredibly good for a number of years. That's a tough standard to maintain, but one off year doesn't mean he'll never play at an MVP level again. No way I'd say that.

Comment From Chris
Mike, where's the pep rally Saturday?

Still waiting to find out the exact location. Once it's finalized, it'll be posted on the site.

Comment From Mike K 

Hi Mike, Hypothetically, with cold weather on a say 50 yard plus field goal; can an opposing player block the kick at the goal post crossbar?

No. That is illegal. He can, however, stand back there and return a missed kick.McCarthy said yesterday the tempo was "poor" in the Vikings game. I took that as a sign he plans to speed things up in DC.

Comment From Pat  

Mike - do the Packers pick the best available player in the draft next year or pick for need? There seems to be a high urgency to pick for need than in years past. Do you think the high picks on the defensive side of the ball the past few drafts have made the offense more vulnerable to lack of depth?

That's part of it. Multiple injuries at one position have also played a part. With the number of needs I perceive this team having in the offseason, I think they'll have a good chance to maximize value in the draft by taking the best player, as they regularly do.

Comment From Adam  

Packers receivers have seen zone defense for so long, I think they forgot how to beat their man. They just run to a spot instead of making precise cuts. Until that changes, or until defenses play zone again, they won't get open.

I don't agree entirely, but I see your point. Defenses guarded against the big play vs. this offense for a long time.

Comment From Kevin  

Any news on Shields and whether he'll play? He would be a huge help for this game.

Haven't heard anything yet, but yes, it would be good to have Shields back against this passing offense.

Comment From Monica  

Back in 2010, what was the medias, coaches, fans feeling when the Packers made the wild card?

They had a different kind of matchup in the wild-card game at Philly vs. Vick. When Starks came out of nowhere and started running the ball like mad and they escaped Philly with a close win, there was a feeling they had a real chance. The fact that a not-overwhelming Bears were the No. 2 seed played into that as well.

Comment From Mel Kiper  Everyone is talking about lack of production on the outside and I agree. But don't you think looking forward, if you had to choose 1 person for next year to add, it'd be a round 1 or 2 Tight End? After all we'll have Jordy, Randall, Montgomery, Abby, and Janis with 1 more year experience and Adams may have to fight for a spot.

I see your point, but it's almost hard to spend that high a pick on a tight end these days when very few come out of college ready to block at this level. I haven't studied the TE crop for this year's draft, so we'll see.

Comment From Brett  

I think the frustrating part of this season is how good the defense is and the offense's inability to really get anything going. Put this defense on the 09' 11' 12' or 13' and we may have another lombardi trophy on the shelf. Is a turnover run the only way the Packers can make a run?

I believe I used the phrase "turnover binge" last week. That might be what it'll take. Let's not forget the '10 team had pick-sixes in the last three postseason games. They don't hurt the cause.

Comment From David  

Mike, could we see a home game against Seattle if we win this week?

Only way the Packers would host the Seahawks is if Seattle beats Minnesota, then Carolina, and then Green Bay beats Washington, then Arizona. If all that happens, the Seahawks would come to Lambeau for the NFC title game.

Comment From Kristin from Madison, WI  

Hiyah Mike - Who do you see as the Packers' X-factors in Sunday's game? Not necessarily the superstars, but a player or two who could step up and make a game-changing play. Thanks.

I get the sense Quinten Rollins might do something big. I don't know why. It's just a hunch.

Comment From Jon from South Saint Paul  

Hi Mike - Here's another thing: In past years when the passing game was playing at an elite level, it's not like they scored on every play. People were covered. But here's the difference: when they did have that one opportunity, 12 made the throw and the receiver made the catch and blew it open. This year, they're grinding and grinding and suddenly BAM - there's the open guy...errant throw. Or there's the perfect throw, blockers in place here goes... receiver drops it. This is the time - can they start making the plays here in Washington and beyond when they come up? If they can, there's nothing stopping this team.

I don't like long posts like that, but that's exactly what I mean when I say the margin for error for this team is very small.

Comment From Justin  

Do you think Kirk Cousins can be "The Man"?

He just finished fifth in the league in passer rating. It looks like the Redskins coaching staff's faith in him has paid off handsomely.

Comment From Linda P  

Mike, Now some fans are calling for McCarthy's firing..Last year it was Capers. What is it that makes fans need to blame someone. Isn't the reason for us being where we are a combination of things including injuries to the line and wide receiving corp? AND possibly injuries to Lacy?

Fans are often most reluctant to blame the players, unless there's an obvious lightning rod for criticism. I see you aren't exactly blaming the players either. There's usually plenty of blame to go around. I always keep that in mind.

Comment From Jason H  

I think the dropped balls are largely a result of having to work hard early in the route. It can break your focus and exhaust you. Press is a great strategy if you can handle the risk. Our Packers just haven't made anyone afraid of it lately. I think that will change in this game with Davante Adams in a big way. He's too athletic and mature to be in this slump forever, isn't he?

I thought Adams' two broken tackles that turned a short pass into a 24-yard gain on Sunday night was a great sign. I was also glad he didn't spike the ball after the play.

Comment From Kelly from Virginia  

Can you explain why Rodgers' "fumble" for a TD Sunday night was not an incomplete pass if his arm was going forward? Thank you!

Because the ball was knocked loose in his hand before the arm started going forward. The loss of control before the forward motion made it a fumble.

Comment From Carlo  

The Packers' OL is banged up. Healthy bodies on the OL seem to be the pressing need for this week. I believe that a healthier OL and an effective Lacy and Starks are key here. The Redskins' defensive numbers seems to back that up. When might we know the health prospects of the OL for this week?

I agree with you, and we should have a sense of things by Thursday or Friday. I'm not sure Lang will really be right until next season, but I give him a ton of credit for gutting it out. Bulaga coming back off the Arizona game and playing well was a good sign. Sitton has dealt with a back problem all season, and playing out of position didn't help him. Getting Bakhtiari back in there will obviously help. The situation should be better, but this line won't be going in "all healed up."

Comment From Timothy P.  

Mike, no one seems to think the Packers have a chance this year. McCarthy said in his press conference, though, that there's not a big difference between 1 and 6 in the NFC. Do you share that sentiment?

I do. It would not shock me if at least one of the 6 seeds -- Pittsburgh or Seattle -- made it to the Super Bowl this year. Maybe even both. You get in and take your chances.

Comment From Mike  

What happened during the bye week that changed the course of this season? Did Denver give the league a blueprint on how to stop Aaron and the Pack?

That was part of it. St. Louis did that back in Week 5, but the Broncos had the offense to go with the defensive game plan to make it work.

Comment From Ryan  

Hey Mike. I don't like the "if" game but would it have helped to have not cut Myles White after the preseason given the lack of depth receivers wise?

They had Abby on the practice squad when the season began and brought him up when the need arose. I'm not sure how much more you're supposed to protect yourself.

Comment From Tony  

It would be great to see a contested ball be caught -- seems like we haven't seen one in a while. That has to play into a QB's thought process when a guy is covered.

Absolutely. Jones has been the guy to make those catches this year, but he missed one on that free play on Sunday.

Comment From Carlo  

What is your gut telling you about Sunday? Not a final score-type prediction, but how do you think this team will respond to where it is now, and what it has been through in the last few weeks?

I see this game coming down to the end and the Packers will have to make the key play at crunch time. They did that with Randall's swat vs. San Diego and the Hail Mary. They did not do it at Carolina, vs. Detroit (the FG), vs. Chicago and vs. Minnesota. All four of those the Packers had a chance at the end to win or tie the game and failed. They'll have to make the key play on Sunday.

Comment From Pat - Collierville  

Mike - Have you seen the movie Concussion or do you plan to see it?

I do plan to see it and want to. I read the book and saw the Frontline documentary.

Comment From Eric  

How long are the odds that the Packers have something up their sleeve like the 49ers did when they unleashed the read option on us? Not necessarily that specifically, but a game changer.

I'm not expecting radical changes. The Packers have tried just about everything. The Niners had a bye week to work on that, too, by the way.

Comment From Ted  

On Sunday we got a penalty for offensive holding on the same play where Lacy was hit and driven seven yards out of bounds. Sholuld that hit out of bounds been called? Seems like some players never get the advantage of calls. Same as when Matthews was being hog-tied a couple of times and no holding called.

That's the frustrating part of the game that no one can control. I thought the holding call on Linsley was BS. The guy slipped down to one knee and the flag came out. I think McCarthy thought it was an awful call, too. It turned a run by Lacy for a first down into third-and-12, which became the fumble-6 and changed the game. Those are the type of things the Packers haven't been able to overcome this year. They happen to all teams. There was a bogus PI on the Vikings on the sideline on Sunday that was ridiculous. The best teams overcome that kind of stuff.

Comment From Colton  

Have two wild cards ever made the Super Bowl in the same year?

I don't believe that has happened since the league went to the current 12-team playoff format with 6 seeds in each conference. In a year that a 5 or 6 has made it, the other conference's rep was not the 5 or 6, as far as I know.

Comment From Jason H  

I love the recent comments of McCarthy, Rodgers, and other players. Do you think their optimism is more rooted in confidence or hope?

Both. This team believes it can play better because it has.

Comment From Mark  

Mike, have you ever seen another kicker make a play like Mason Crosby made on Patterson on that kickoff return? After that play, I was thinking the Packers had a real shot to win.

That was remarkable. A horrible play by the coverage team almost turned into the play that won the game. It's the kind of break the Packers haven't taken advantage of often enough.

Comment From Ben C  

In the back of my mind, I still think about the missed opportunity for the Packers to go to the Superbowl last year. Do you think the players have the same thoughts?

No, I don't think it would cross their minds unless and until they're back in the NFC title game. It has crossed mine, though, I admit, when I think about how healthy the Packers were at this time last year, and the length of the injury report now.

Comment From Harrison  

Wouldn't a rematch of Super Bowl 1 be neat for Super Bowl 50? I think Kansas City doesn't get the respect they deserve.

They'll have every opportunity to earn that respect. If the Chiefs win two road games and get to the AFC title game, they'll have it. It's all about earning it now. What everyone thinks to this point is fodder.

Comment From Ashley  

Do you see Clay playing a little more on the outside to help the pass rush the Sunday?

If the defense can stop the run the way they've stopped Peterson this year, then yes. I think Clay will get those outside rush chances. That's been Capers' approach lately. But the run has to be stopped first.

Comment From Zac  

Mike, I will start by saying Lane Taylor is a heck of a football player. He filled in nicely against Detroit and Minnesota. Tretter looked like a starter when he filled in for Linsley. Do you see Offensive Tackle depth as a priority this off-season?

I think you know the answer to that. They just had to play a LG at LT with the division title on the line.

Comment From Mez  

Hi Mike. Not to take anything away from Seattle's play in the second half of the season, but I see the Vikings having a legit shot to knock them off. I'm taking a bunch of heat for it and it seems like the Viking have already lost the court of public opinion. What's your take?

I think the Vikings will have a hard time beating the Seahawks the way Wilson is playing, but I never count out a team with a legit defense and power running game. The Vikings have both. It's the QB experience and production factor that has everyone pointing to Seattle. The Vikings won't beat the Seahawks if Bridgewater throws for 99 yards with a 45 rating like he did at Lambeau. Amazing the Packers could lose against numbers like that, but that's how this season has gone.

OK, my hour is about up. I'll scan the remaining questions for a few more. Thanks for all the participation.

Comment From Kevin  

It's unfortunate not to win the division, but this may have been the best match-up to get the offense going.

A good way to look at it.

Comment From Guest  

I know it's been said that there is no cheering in the press box, but what about just expressive reaction to major plays?

There are reactions to great plays all the time. It just can't be a reaction of the rooting kind. We're all human. At least I am.

Comment From Matt.  

Kansas City doesn't get out of Houston alive. That's a scary team right now.

You're on the record. I'm wondering if there's ever been a team to win 10 in a row and not win its division and be playing on the road in the wild-card round. Kind of hard to fathom.

Comment From Eric  

I've noticed that when things looked bad this season nobody said R-E-L-A-X. You know it when you got it.

True. But did you hear McCarthy yesterday practically saying "bring it on"? He talked about loving the challenge his team faces. He'll have this team ready to play.

Comment From CJ  

Wouldn't it have made more sense to shift Bulaga to left tackle and start Tretter at right tackle last week or is that too much shuffling of the line?

I wondered about that, and I'm guessing if it was considered, the fact that Bulaga was coming off an injury of his own played into it. But that's just a guess on my part.

Comment From Schmiddy  

Have you been able to see Star Wars yet, or is that on the list after the season ends?

No, and yes, the list is getting long. It can keep getting longer, though. Won't bother me in the slightest. That's all for today, folks. Thanks again. Take care. --Mike

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