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It'll come down to the difference-makers

What are the magic numbers for Sunday?


Ray from Walker, MN

Hi guys, to expect the Packers' run defense to hold their average this weekend is not realistic, I believe. How many rushing yards or yards per attempt do you think we need to hold Dallas under to be successful?

Let's do this analytically. The Cowboys are averaging 155 rushing yards per game and 4.6 per carry. The Packers are allowing 43 and 2.0. If we split the difference, the Maginot Lines might be 99 and 3.3. How about that?

Barbara from Oswego, NY

So excited to see that Evan Siegle is the new photographer at Will he be posting anything similar to the "Along the Lines" feature that he did for the Green Bay Press-Gazette?

Evan is a rock star in his field as far as I'm concerned, and the organization is thrilled to have him. When I was at the Press-Gazette myself, he made a lot of my work look better than it deserved to be. As for special projects, I don't know what he has planned, but he got started here during the busy time of training camp and has been going full speed since. I'm excited for what the future brings.

Dan from Rogersville, WI

Is Prescott for real? Does the running game make him better? Is the O-line that good? All of the above?

A top rushing attack and a line full of first-round picks make any quarterback better, but I take nothing away from Prescott. He got thrown into a pressure cooker and has responded. The Cowboys were 1-11 without Tony Romo last season, Prescott hasn't thrown an interception in his first five NFL games, and he lost his best receiver three weeks ago. This will be his biggest stage to date, but if the Packers win, it won't be because of any stagefright.

Trev from Omaha, NE

A lot has been brought up about Ezekiel Elliott and the challenges he will bring, but what about the QB run game from Dak Prescott? He has three rushing TDs already and Green Bay has struggled against running QBs in the past.

I was surprised to learn that Prescott has only 61 rushing yards in five games. I think we may see him run and/or scramble more on Sunday.

Randy from Des Moines, IA

Do MM and TT read your articles and watch your segments to get a feel for what they need to improve upon and to scout upcoming opponents?

Lord, I hope not.

Sam from Dallas, WI

Lots of Callahan questions, I'm sure. After being on the active roster and subsequently being released midseason, Callahan must clear waivers, correct? Is a player required to sign with the first team that claims him? If a released player is claimed, does that mean anything in the compensatory pick formula?

If Callahan is claimed, his contract is assumed by the claiming team. Waiver claims mean nothing in the compensatory pick formula. If he clears waivers, he is eligible to be signed to anybody's practice squad, including Green Bay's.

Howard from Prairie du Chien, WI

What is the Packers' record when wearing throwback uniforms?

Under Mike McCarthy, the Packers are undefeated, 5-0. Wearing the navy jersey with the gold-circled number on the front, Green Bay beat San Francisco in 2010, St. Louis in 2011, Cleveland in 2013 and Philadelphia in 2014. Wearing the latest throwback with the gold yoke across the shoulders, the Packers beat San Diego last year. According to the**Dope Sheet**, the Packers are 8-3 all-time in an alternate jersey.

Jon from Appleton, WI

While you may be done with fantasy football, I would definitely encourage it for the casual fan. It got me to watch more games, and watching more games exposed me to more detail in those games, teaching me to learn the chess match hiding under the athleticism and violence.

Fair enough, but if the ball is on the 1-yard line and you're invested in whether your running back gets the ball (or your opponent's doesn't), you're not really analyzing the chess match.

Andres from St. Paul, MN

Isn't it funny how in 2011-12 all the talk was about being more physical since our finesse offense was figured out? Now we're physical on offense and defense but everyone wants the finesse back.

Don't get me wrong, touchdowns are always the goal, but a six-minute drive that ends in a field goal can help a defense just as much as a 90-second quick-strike TD.

Craig from Elkton, MD

"I guess that's why the penalty is applied differently." Very disappointed in that answer. You are called "Insiders" because you have access to people in the know. I'm sure you prefer easy questions that allow you to pontificate, but you owe it to your readers to do the research and provide solid answers.

Easy now. I thought that explaining how I analyzed the question logically, a process built on more than a decade of sitting in press boxes and studying this game, might be helpful and could start a conversation. Feed a man a fish, teach a man to fish, you know? I just wasn't going to declare a definitive answer when I didn't know for sure, and when I found the section of the rule book entitled "Penalty enforcement," it was 11 pages long. I didn't have that much time, and I don't have Gene Steratore on speed dial. I have since gleaned that the logic I applied to the situation (run play vs. pass play) was correct. Your fried cod is served.

Tim from Lancaster, PA

Is the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed the most impactful? The top of the AFC looks like a three-headed monster with New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver. The No. 1 seed gets to enjoy home-field advantage and likely won't have to deal with one of the other two juggernauts. Does this bear watching even this early in the season?

It's hard to imagine, right now, a team from outside that trio going to the Super Bowl from the AFC. But it's still early, and the Bills and Raiders are hot teams with designs on entering the conversation. Someone else might get hot, too. I remember thinking all year in 2012 that the AFC was a two-team race between the Broncos and Patriots, and then the Ravens, seeded fourth, beat them both in January.

Evan from Rochester, NY

I really hate all this talk about "What's wrong with Aaron Rodgers," not because I think it's false, he's clearly off his game, but because I think people get into such a "what have you done for me lately" attitude that they forget what he's capable of. Don't we just need to be patient with it, relax and trust the coaches can get him out of his funk?

Everyone wants an explanation. If I were to print the various theories that have floated through the Inbox, I'd have to fire myself.

The Packers were back outside Thursday at Clarke Hinkle Field ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Cowboys. Photos by Evan Siegle,

Jeremy from Walnut Creek, CA

Over the first four games of 2014, Tom Brady averaged less than 200 yards and accrued just four touchdowns. I remember how many pundits and fantasy gurus were convinced his career was over. Yet he brought home yet another Lombardi Trophy that year. When will we learn perspective?

We're on to the next questionnati.

Dan from Herriman, UT

Hey guys, did you watch the crazy Cubs' ninth-inning comeback? What a game.

Without regrets, I'm a little short on sleep this week because I stayed up to watch both of those Cubs-Giants classics on Monday and Tuesday nights, following the 1-0 gem in the opener last Friday. That might have been the best four-game playoff series ever. I can't turn away from good postseason baseball.

Jay from Woodstock, GA

I asked this question last year, but didn't get an answer. I admit it's a minor thing, but I'm curious. I just looked at the **new photos from the team photo shoot**, and again this year, Randall Cobb's jersey is a different style from everybody else. Why?

He has the neckline custom altered by the team seamstresses for comfort.

Steven from Milwaukee, WI

In recent years, we've seen teams like the 49ers, Jets, and Seahawks make names for themselves on defense by getting their best 11 players on the field and leaving them there, as much as possible. The Packers seem to be having success taking the completely opposite approach. Can constantly rotating a deep roster of good, but not great players, and keeping fresh legs continue to prove successful?

I don't see it quite the same way. You need elite-level difference-makers, and the Packers have those in Clay Matthews and Mike Daniels. Another has emerged this year in Nick Perry, and they have another in Sam Shields when he's healthy. They're working on developing more in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and others. The depth helps with fresh legs, yes, but more important it has prevented major drop-offs when guys like Matthews and Shields have missed time. At the end of the day, though, in a big moment or with the season on the line, it's going to be about the game-changers changing games.

Bill from Ringle, WI

Insiders, a lot of call to change the punter out there but none of them have mentioned what happens if a new holder in the middle of the season messes up Crosby.

I'd been waiting for somebody to bring up the elephant in the equation. It took more than half the week. Crosby is 18-for-18 combined on field goals and PATs this season.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Guys, Gunter the Hunter did a great job against Odell Beckham Jr., but was this just a mirage since the Packers played two deep safeties the whole game? Or is LaDarius for real?

McCarthy commented on how Gunter takes the plan from the practice field to the game field very well and executes it. He also was lauded by Dom Capers for being the best cover man in the Lions game, when the safeties weren't deep all the time. It's fun watching him develop.

Haillie from Washington, WI

Hi, I think the offense is playing very well. I think we started the game with some new looks scored pretty easily and Mike felt in control and backed off. Do you think he likes to play it close to the vest and backs off when he can see we can win without showing our hand?

No, that's not it. A common question this week has been why the Packers went back to standard personnel at times when the constant shuffling worked so well on the opening drive vs. the Giants. I believe McCarthy is still figuring out what this team is going to hang its hat on offensively as the season progresses. In a perfect world, he'd like to have all methods at his disposal come December and January, but he can't know that, or get there, without working at it.

Andrew from Pleasantville, NJ

I completely understand the separation between doing your job as a reporter and being a fan, but I feel that if I was a team reporter I would hate for some players to have a dislike/hatred towards me. Do you guys feel somewhat similar and enjoy maybe having some type of friendship with the players you cover?

Your place of residence clearly suits you. I strive to get along with everybody and do my job professionally to earn the respect of the players and coaches, first and foremost. If any other motivations took precedence, I don't think I'd be successful.

Brian from Pleasant Prairie, WI

During the game, at one point it sounded like Rodgers stopped his cadence and shouted something to the defense. Cris Collinsworth even commented on it in the broadcast. I know he's made statements that he's done that in the past, with Urlacher if I remember correctly. Any audio of what he actually said? It's always funny to me when he does that.

Rodgers was asked about that on Wednesday at his locker and said he was actually talking to his own linemen.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

Mike, the way you **described Prescott and the Dallas offense** reminds me of Seattle during Wilson's rookie year. Do you see the same similarities?

Somewhat, but Wilson had a much more dynamic defense behind him. The Cowboys' defense is no slouch, but I think Wilson started with a larger margin for error.

Mike from Oklahoma City, OK

Insiders, with all the attention Dallas's offense is getting, specifically Dak's lack of INTs, how important is it to win the turnover battle this week? Can the Packers stop the run AND put an end to Dak's impressive start?

The Packers had their hands on a number of potential interceptions the past two games. This would be a good game to start catching those.

Matt from Winfield, IL

I think Dak Prescott doesn't have a turnover yet this year. I get the thought on pressuring a young QB but something tells me the way to win this game is get ahead, move them away from the running game, play coverage and see if he can remain patient when playing from behind. In short, this is the week the defense needs the offense.

I agree with that last part. But even if the Packers get ahead by two scores, I'd be shocked to see the Cowboys get too far away from the run.

Dan from Rochester, MN

Hey guys, in response to the Mike Daniels nickname, I've been calling him "The Nasty Man" for the last couple years. I think it perfectly describes his playing style. It's also really fun to say.

It's not as fun to say as "Gunga Galunga."

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