Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How big is this Week 2 game against the Vikings?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his weekly live chat

CB Jaire Alexander
CB Jaire Alexander

Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on today. Let's get to it.

These first 2 games are an awfully tough way to break out the new offense. How much improvement do you expect to see this week?

Minnesota's defense is no picnic, but playing at home with one game under the belt should help. Rodgers gets to operate the offense without all the raucous crowd noise in five of the next six games. Progress should be forthcoming.

Who's your "unexpected star" for the Minnesota game? I'm going to say MVS, because I think the Vikes will try to blanket Adams, and it'll be hard to run against them.

I'm wondering how much the Packers might try to get Aaron Jones involved in the passing game on Sunday. The Rams blistered the Vikes defense last year with backfield routes.

Third downs were a problem last year, and there was no comfort or rhythm with them in Chicago. Crowd noise will do that, and defenses are going to do their most exotic stuff on third down. It's how the game is played now. The Packers need to find some third-down concepts they can execute in rhythm so they don't have to rely on off-schedule playmaking to move the chains.

I'm hearing how much better the Vikings offense is than the Bears. I just don't see it. Stop the run, brink some heat, and make Cousins beat you. Same formula as last week. Do you agree?

Minnesota's perimeter players are more dynamic weapons than Chicago's. Cousins isn't the scrambler Trubisky can be, so keep up the pressure and that'll help the guys in the back end when the Vikings want/need to throw.

Hi Mike, The overall speed of the defense was impressive in the Chicago game. Eleven men to the ball.Are the reserves up to that task of replacing a front liner and maintaining this obvious improvement?

The starters are starters for a reason, but as I mentioned in Inbox the other day, I don't think the Smiths are going to play 90-plus percent of the plays all the time. Gary and Fackrell can handle more when called upon. Lancaster is a great fourth D-lineman for run downs. Josh Jackson is the 5th corner on the depth chart currently. I think the Packers are in good shape there, but of course it helps to be fully healthy.

Mike, my buddy (Vikings fan) and I both think each other's respective team played against an inferior opponent Week 1. Do you see the Falcons or the Bears as a better 0-1 team, and therefore, the Packers or Vikings as the better 1-0 team?

I don't look at it that way. September football is a different animal. You just need to win a couple of games so you don't take yourself out of it while your team finds itself. Division wins are like bonuses this time of year. Road wins, too. What the Packers did last week was significant, but you don't want to give that edge right back by losing to a division foe at home.

I really liked the double play action on the long (wobbly) pass to MVS. That big play is exactly what I envisioned this offense to look like when I heard who our new coach was and the tree he comes from. Is it your opinion based on the practices you have seen that this offense will look more like that than the majority of the game?

You have to pick and choose your places to take shots. A lot of times shots downfield only open up when the defense has committed to stopping something else that's been working. The Packers had nothing going for them the first quarter and used the shot play as a spark to get going. It worked, but you don't want to need a 50-yard bomb every week to finally do something positive.

Do you believe that if the packers have a top ten defense the whole season, the packers are favorites in the NFC?

I think if the Packers' defense plays to this level, they'll put themselves in position in the NFC North. Get on top of the division first and worry about the rest way, way down the road.

Did the Packers have both King and Alexander on the field for both Viking games?

Last year? They were on the field together for the first 2 or 2 1/2 quarters of the Week 2 game last year, then King exited and Cousins went off. The second game last year King did not play.

Hey Mike! Love your insight sir. Do you think the Packers will run the ball a lot more than previous meetings with the Vikings?

I sure think they're gonna try, because being able to run the ball is the best way to slow down that pass rush. And if you can slow down the pass rush and force them to bring extra rushers to get pressure, that's when Rodgers can find a matchup on the back end to go after.

Does the defense take a similar stance that it did against Chicago and try to make Cousins "play quarterback?" It seems like the Vikings tried to keep the ball out of his hands last Sunday.

They didn't need to throw the ball with a 21-0 lead in the second quarter (eventually 28-0 in the second half), so why put anything on film for your next opponents to see? They still have plenty of unscouted looks they can throw at the Packers in their passing game.

The Vikings will indubitably try to force Dalvin Cook up our throats. What or who is the key to stopping their running game?

Stay in your gap on the outside runs and then don't miss tackles. He's quick and powerful, so he's tough to bring down. If you're the free guy not being blocked, you can't miss the tackle.

What 1 on 1 matchup up front do the Packers need to win to get the run game going?

It's not about 1-on-1 matchups to run the ball. It's about the entire offensive line moving in sync, taking care of their assignments, and the back making the right read and cut. Running the ball is a group effort.

Hi Mike - It was a great defensive win last week! What aspect or stat do you think needs to be MOST improved on offense in order to have success this week? Besides the obvious answer of every aspect ;)

Third downs. 2-for-12 is how you only score 10 points. I don't see the Packers winning regularly going 2-for-12 on third down.

Hi Mike, Do you expect to see more action through Vitale this week? It seem that they worked on this quite a bit in training camp.

Everything is game-plan specific. Vitale is one of those versatile players who will be featured in the game plans some weeks, not so much others depending on how the coaches feel they can move the ball most effectively.

How can Minnesota's o line be exploited this game? I feel like that will be one of the keys to a W this weekend.

Based on the small sample size in Week 1, they're a better run-blocking unit than pass-blocking one. Cousins only had 10 pass attempts, but PFF had the Falcons with five pressures, and he was sacked once. So you have to stop the run and then work on getting pressure.

I couldn't find who the captains were last week. Are we just not doing them this year?

It was Rodgers and Adams on offense, Z. Smith and Amos on defense (I think) and Crosby for special teams.

Hi Mike, The Bears result and the performances of the recent acquisitions has proved to me that Brian Gutekunst is the real deal as GM. Any personal experiences with Gutey that hinted as to the caliber of the man?

I used to bump into him on walks across the street to training camp practices in years past, and it was always fun to just talk to him about the rookies and what he was seeing so far. He's a genuine guy who always has his eye on everything. He doesn't miss things.

Do you think a couple of big drives by the offense is all that's needed for the new system to click in?

I thought the drive for the FG in Chicago in the fourth quarter, starting from their own 4-yard line, was impressive work by the Packers. That was a key drive at a clutch time. Mix of run and pass, rhythm plays for the most part. Drives like those are the starting point for me, moreso than the big plays down the field, even though those obviously are a huge help too.

Where was Geronimo Allison last week? It seems like MVS has passed him on the WR depth chart with the TEs eating any other targets

Allison will get his chances. I'm not too worried about that. Working in all the TEs into the passing game was important the first week. It gives defenses more to prepare for and is a change from last year.

Hi Mike! Who are the players on the Vikings defensive front to contain the most? I expect huge improvements from our O-line this week.

Griffen and Hunter are the most explosive pass rushers up front, and Joseph is a heckuva a run stopper. That's a group that expects to win one-on-one matchups more often than not. It's also a group very familiar to GB's offensive line. These guys know each other well.

In my opinion a team doesn't trade for a player unless they really like the guy. What do you think the packers see in Goodson and what kind of a role can he have in this defense?

He's a run-stopping linebacker from everything I've heard, so we'll see if Pettine wants him in there to help defend Cook. The Packers shut down Chicago's run game with Greene as a hybrid LB next to Martinez, so we'll see if they have success with that approach again, or if Pettine has to adjust.

Rodgers deep ball to MVS was thrown to an open spot on the field with a look off to the safety. Perhaps this is why it was reported as a "duck"?

Rodgers stepped to his left and threw deep down the middle. Hard to throw a perfect spiral that way. The whole point was for it to be a one-on-one ball, and if your tall receiver has leverage, the ball doesn't have to be perfect.

Would you start with the offense or defense this week if we won the coin toss?

I'd put my defense on the field after the way the unit played last week.

Who's the Vikings more dangerous receiver and whou should play him?

Thielen is the most versatile, lining up outside and in the slot. So he might see any of the corners at any given time. I think King matches up best with Diggs, to my untrained eye. But who knows?

Any thoughts/comments on who might have the advantage on special teams this Sunday?

The Vikings started last week with a blocked punt, so that'll get your attention. The Packers have the better kicker and punter, in my opinion.

Hey Mike, it's been a long off-season....any word on what happened to Adams when he left the game temporarily limping off the field? I know he came back which was a good sign but he's a very important guy for us.

I saw that, too, but there was nothing announced. We'll see if he's listed on the injury report at all after today's practice.

I watched the Vikings game Monday and a big thing I noticed when Cook bounced runs outside how often no one was there for outside contain. Were those missed assignments or just good blocking?

Couldn't tell you without watching the film myself. But Atlanta's defense is nothing like it was 3 years ago when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl.

As fans of football it is really easy to see one game and get hyped up, or get completely deflated. As a professional as well as a fan, how hard is it to stay grounded? Who do you listen to or read that you think gives good takes and has a realistic outlook?

I've just been around it long enough to know one game is one game, and the way things are so different in the preseason now, there's just no way to know what to expect the first few weeks of the season. The Saints lost at home in Week 1 last year and look how their season went. The Packers got a huge, uplifting victory but won only five more games. It's a week-to-week league and has been for a long time now.

Good day Mike. Curious if you think Jones or Williams will start in the backfield come Sunday? Seems like Williams was in against the Bears for protection reasons.

The Packers want to run the ball with Jones and get him involved, but they aren't going to wear him into the ground in September, either. Williams is a steady, assignment-sure back who will have a role every week.

Hi Mike: Appreciate the reporting you do on the Pack. My question is on Rashan Gary. For a player with great physical gifts, why are they so careful about getting him more game experience?

It was one game. I'm not going to draw any conclusion on his usage. He was noticeable in the handful of snaps he played. That's how you get more snaps. Let's see how this unfolds.

We heard a lot last year about how easy and simple Pettines defense is to learn for players. Watching it for a year it looks anything but simple. Is one week enough time for an ILB (Goodson) to be ready to play?

That's the whole point is it doesn't look simple to an offense but it is simple to learn for the defense. You can always give a guy a package of plays for him to be involved in and then keep adding as the season goes along.

It seems to me that teams aren't quite so intimidated to play at Lambeau like they once were. What has changed?

Winning. Simple as that. The Packers haven't posted a perfect home record since 2014, and they've won 6 of 8 at home only once in the three years since. Winning creates the mystique and atmosphere in my book, not the other way around.

Did Aaron say it He expected a flag on the the touchdown throw?

There was one, I believe. The official play-by-play of the game lists a declined penalty for 12 men on the field on defense.

I'm less concerned about this game against the Vikes as I am with finally winning a road game at US Bank stadium. It's been the house of horrors for us to this point....plus at that point of the season it'll mean more to our chances I do believe. It feels like this game is getting hyped a little much based on the two strong performances out of the gate. What's your take?

Everyone's excited about football being back, and both teams' fans are fired up for different reasons about how Week 1 went. This game gives someone the target on their back in the NFC North. But not much more than that, really.

Mike, what is your opinion on Raven staying in the hybrid role when Burks returns, maybe even having more snaps than Burks when he returns healthy?

Again, I say that's a game plan thing. It's going to depend on the opponent, the matchups, the success or struggles of certain personnel groups.

I know baseball players are superstitious and often eat the same thing before a game. Do football players do that? Or sports reporters?

I eat whatever is served in the press box. It's a long night of work after any game, so I just don't want to be hungry.

For me, the best thing about week 1 was seeing how excited Rodgers was about the Defense. Seems like we got a small peek into the potential that he sees for this season.

His excitement level, and his vow to LaFleur to play better, were both very telling, I thought.

Mike if Minnesota leave Rhodes on Adams 1 on 1 with no safety should Aaron throw his way more?

Adams got a TD on Rhodes in Minnesota last year when he was left one-on-one in the red zone.

After going to the brutality loud away game last Dec. in Minneapolis, I expect our fans to give the Vikings a taste of their own medicine with some punishing noise. Thoughts?

That would be the idea.

"Vikings safety Anthony Harris named NFC Defensive Player of the Week..." Just saying...

I saw that. Rhodes and Smith have been elite-level players for a long time now, and along comes Harris with two picks of Ryan in Week 1. I thought Ryan made some very poor decisions when he had a chance to get the Falcons back into that game, but the Vikings have been grooming Harris for a few years as an undrafted prospect and are counting on him now.

You were kind enough to answer this comment on II but I still want to know more how you see team chemistry. What I saw on the field and in the locker room seemed different than past years...that this team has developed a bond early that will serve them well down the road. I think they have bought in to ML.

I think so, too, and it helps to win the first game. LaFleur definitely senses something with this group chemistry-wise or he wouldn't keep mentioning it. The tests and adversity will come, but if you're in the right place with the closeness of your team, you can navigate through the rough patches. You can minimize the damage, stop losing streaks, etc. That's how a team succeeds over the long haul.

I could be reaching here, but I thought i noticed a difference in Rodgers' PR approach during and after the game. Owning his mistakes immediately, vowing to be better, positive vibes in general. Thoughts?

I've always felt Rodgers has taken accountability when he hasn't played well, but there are also games he hasn't played well when that's far from the only reason the team lost, so he's not going to take all the blame and make the rest of the locker room think they're doing fine and it's all on him. There was a lot to be positive about from the Chicago game on the other side of the ball, and I think it had been a long time since Rodgers had stood at a podium after a game, felt he didn't play well, and saw the Packers still beat a good team. That's what made it different, not a different PR approach, in my view.

That's story on Mercedes Lewis was awesome,regarding our tight ends do you get the feel that they are going to continue to be a big part of the offense moving forward? And do you think the infusion of young talent has revitalized Lewis and Graham

I think Tonyan's development has stood out, but I don't think it's an infusion of young talent that has revitalized the veterans. It's where they see this offense potentially going with them so involved from the get-go.

All right folks, I've gone about an hour and have to sign off. Thanks for all the participation. See you again next week, same time, same place. Take care, Mike

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