LeRoy - Long time fan of yours and lifetime Packers fan. My question to you is this: Do you think the short week leading up to the Lions game hurt the Packers O-line and running game by not giving them their normal full week of rest between games, and do you see any problems with the O-line guys' legs/energy lasting down the stretch with all the running that the Packers have done this year? - Craig (Wheaton, IL)
Craig, that's a good question. But while I'm sure the short week didn't help the O-line, that wasn't the problem against the Lions. Even the Packers offensive linemen would tell you that on Thanksgiving they simply got outplayed by a big, tough and athletic Detroit defensive line.
The Packers never really got the running game going, and looking back I think they should have stuck it out a little longer before relying on the pass. Ahman Green finished the game with only 13 carries, and that's not enough for a guy who was leading the league in rushing yards a few weeks ago.
The Packers were never more than 10 points down to the Lions, and so long as the Packers are close, Green needs to get at least 20 carries a game. Even though the running game didn't do anything early on, it's hard to believe that with five to 10 more carries that Green wouldn't have broken one or started to wear down the Lions defense.
But that game is in the past now, and although you can expect opposing teams to stack against the run like the Lions did, you have to remember that Detroit is the only team to slow down the Packers running attack since the bye week.
Until another team proves capable of matching Detroit's effort, give Green and the O-line the benefit of the doubt to be the Packers' strength throughout the rest of the year.
How much of a factor is being "psyched up" in how a team starts a game? I like Mike Sherman as a coach, but he does not seem to get the players revved up before a game. He seems to prefer an even keel. The Packers seem emotionless at the start of some games and then fall behind and end up losing (the first Vikings game, the Arizona game, and the second Detroit game, for example). Is this really a factor in the games and should Mike Sherman be doing more to get the players ready to play? - Eric (Rosendale, WI)
Eric, that's a very intelligent question, but before I attempt to answer it I want to point something out. The three games you listed (vs. Minnesota, at Arizona and at Detroit) were games in which the Packers got off to slow starts. But do you really think that has to do with being "emotionless?"
Does that mean that the Packers were "emotionless" in the fourth quarter when Kansas City came from behind to beat them? Were the Buccaneers "emotionless" all game long when the Packers beat them in Tampa?
Emotion is crucial in a football game, that's true, but it isn't everything. Like I said earlier in the season, when teams are doing well, they look 'fired up,' but when things go poorly, it's hard to look energized.
True, Packers players suggested after the game that the Lions played harder than they did early on, but that doesn't mean that they didn't leave the locker room "psyched up." More likely, the Packers made the human mistake of looking past a struggling Lions team.
In the NFL, that's inexcusable, but it's also understandable.
Heck, leading up to the game many fans emailed me suggesting that the Packers should sit Brett Favre because they didn't think the Lions would pose much of a challenge.
But to answer your question, I can promise you that Coach Sherman is just as effective as 'revving' his players up as any other coach in the league. But after that's done, it's up to each player to make sure that he gives his all every down.
If you're going to blame Sherman's abilities as a motivator for the Packers' losses, then you can only assume that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers are struggling this season because their head coaches don't get them pumped up enough before games.
Are you ready to say that about Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher?
Since Brett Favre has been injured he has been averaging multiple interceptions and fumbles every game. Why is Coach Sherman refusing to let Favre rest and get healthy? - Bob (Barnegat, NJ)
Still trailing Minnesota in the standings with only four games left in the regular season, the Packers don't have time to rest Brett Favre. Injured or not he's the best quarterback they have and they need to stick with him through the stretch run.
Favre has struggled of late, that's true. But just like a manager in baseball leaves his power-pitching ace on the mound to try and work through a funk, Favre should be left on the field to work through his problems.
Hopefully the extra rest since the Detroit game will have Favre's thumb feeling good this week. And if he can remain patient and wait for his opportunities in the passing game, the Packers should be able to make a run led by Ahman Green and the running game.
Favre will rebound. I trust in that, and Packers fans should too.
The Packers have had many terrible losses this year, from the Chiefs coming back to win to losses at Detroit and Arizona and others at Lambeau Field. But out of the games that the Packers have lost, which one hurts the most? - Aaron (Brandon, SD)
The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles losses hurt, but the biggest losses of the year were at Arizona and Detroit, no doubt. In both cases the Packers played struggling teams that they should have been able to beat with a less-than-perfect effort.
Turnovers killed the Packers both times, and the play was sloppy on both sides of the ball.
With so much parity in the NFL, teams have to be able to win the few times each season in which there is a visible talent edge. Although the Cardinals and Lions are better teams than many fans give them credit for, those are both games the Packers should have won.
In your personal opinion do you think the Packers have a better chance of winning the division or beating out Seattle for the last Wild Card spot? - Tim (Sumter, SC)
Considering Minnesota's fairly tough remaining schedule, I think the Packers' best shot is winning the NFC North. It's also the most attractive goal as it would grant them a first-round playoff game at Lambeau Field.
But no matter which door the Packers choose, in order to make the playoffs they have to be able to win out in December. That's the goal. Everything else is wait and see.
LeRoy, who do you think poses the biggest threat in beating Green Bay in the remaining schedule? - Derek (Negaunee, MI)
I think you can pick either of the two remaining road games and consider them the toughest tests remaining in the regular season. San Diego and Oakland don't have great records, but those are two long road trips to make back to back.
The Packers will be playing in a different time zone against a pair of teams with nothing to lose. And so far the Packers haven't done well in that setting.
Do you feel that Green Bay's play calling is too predictable? I sit at home and can predict very well what the next play will be. If I can do that, it seems defensive coaches on the other teams must be able to. - Larry (Pocatello, ID)
Obviously there are instances where sitting at home you can watch the Packers line up and predict what they're going to do, but predicting a play and stopping a play are two different things.
In big wins over Minnesota, Tampa and San Francisco, the Packers didn't do anything fancy. They just lined up and executed, which is what football is about.
Of course teams can fall into formation tendencies and become overly predictable, but in the coming weeks you'll see the Packers adding some motions and shifts to their basic formations to give the opposition some new looks.
That 45-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker last week came with Kevin Barry on the field as a tight end, which is usually a running formation for the Packers.
Sometimes breaking your tendencies like that can create a big gain, but for the most part any football team lines up with the plays it runs best and challenges the opposition to stop them. If they're successful, they win. If not, they don't.
LeRoy, What surprises me the most about this year's Packers is their lack of consistency. How can a team be so dominating one week and then so totally dominated the next? I have played sports for a long time (never pro though) and the teams that I have been on never fluctuated as much as the Packers this season. We all have bad days, but what gives? - Paul (Kenosha, WI)
Paul, there isn't a single person in the Packers locker room who would argue with your assessment regarding inconsistency. But take a look at the NFL standings and you'll see that the Packers aren't alone.
At this level, winning is hard. Leave your A-game behind and you're usually going to get an 'L.'
The Packers biggest nemesis this season has been turnovers, which often have caused them to lose games in which they generally outplayed their opponent.
Take those away and they'd be one of the best teams in the league.
The good news is that whenever the Packers have been in a must-win situation this season, they've come out with a victory.
They've got four games left this season and all of them are must-wins. So by that logic the Packers are on pace to finish 10-6.
It should be fun to watch.
*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.
Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*