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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How do the Packers keep it rolling?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

Offensive huddle
Offensive huddle

Hey there, hope everybody had a Merry Christmas. I see questions coming in already so I'll just get started. Thanks for logging on today.

Live in game, I was thinking when Jarran Reed forced the fumble: Game on, we got this! Then after Rodgers INT, I was thinking, okay, we've gotten this far - come on defense! And on that next play after Ja's INT, I had confidence we'd win that game. Hopefully that confidence washes over into the next game...

As I mentioned on Unscripted yesterday, it felt like a game with constant momentum shifts. Nixon almost takes it to the house, but Packers settle for field goal. Miami stops fake punt, but Packers hold them to field goal. Reed's turnover, Rodgers' INT, then Ja's pick ... back and forth. It was one of those games, and Sunday at Lambeau against the Vikes could be pretty similar.

What has the Vikings performance been like in the cold?

They haven't had a cold-weather game all season. They played at Washington and at Buffalo in early November, but I don't recall those being cold games at all.

Hi Mike, will Jaire Alexander be one on one with JJ this game?

That's what everyone wants to know, and I would suspect he'll be on him some of the time, but not all of the time. It's very rare for a Packers' defense, no matter the coordinator, to match a corner on a specific receiver for an entire game. But in certain situations, yes.

Mike, do you have a spotter while live blogging during the game? I have a mental image of you with binoculars in one hand, feverishly typing with the other.

No, both hands are on the keyboard and everything I observe is with my own eyes. Wes is always sitting next to me, but he's busy doing the quarter-by-quarter written updates for the website. I'll occasionally ask him for a detail if I missed something or didn't see a replay, but that's about it.

After a couple PBUS that Rasul Douglas had on both Waddle and Hill (there were a couple key ones in the second half that he had) I'm a little more confident that he's playing his best ball this season (both he and Ja actually) so I'm not necessarily centered on "Ja lining up against Jefferson" all day.

I agree those two have been playing pretty solid late in the year, and that's a good sign. We'll see what the coaches decide as far as safety -- Ford or Savage -- and nickel if Nixon can't go. There's still some moving parts back there.

Can the rookie LT hold up against Z if Bakh is not ready? TE help needed?

The Packers will have a plan for whoever's playing. We don't know Nijman's status at RT either, and if David Bakhtiari comes back, does Zach Tom move to RT or do they stick with Royce Newman? Still lots of questions. But any game plan has help on the edges available if needed.

Minn Def has been shredded lately, how can ML and AR continue to take advantage?

Stay balanced run and pass, execute the plan, and avoid penalties. The Packers should be able to move the ball Sunday. The question will be how many drives can they finish. They had been doing a little better in that area until Miami, then the red zone and goal to go struggles returned. They'll have to finish drives and maximize on their points.

Any more word on the injuries?

Other than Dean Lowry going on IR, ending his season, no. The first practice this week is early afternoon. LaFleur said Monday Keisean Nixon, Yosh Nijman and Christian Watson were all day to day.

Mike, any thoughts on what has caused the erratic play by Aaron Rodgers this season? I don't recall the tips at the line of scrimmage, the missed throws, or the interceptions in the past. I was hopeful with Tom Clements return that Rodgers would continue playing as he had the past 2 seasons, and maybe even better.

Looking at the season as a whole, the constant personnel changes/availability at receiver and on the offensive line have been a factor, and he's dealt with the thumb and rib injuries, too. I also think the offense was struggling so much early they've changed/adjusted some concepts midway through the year -- especially with Watson emerging and now Doubs coming back -- that there's not a ton of time to rep those during the season and they're figuring it out as they go. That's how this league is. It's a constant battle of adjustments and making them work.

Hi Mike,

Have you noticed the way Devonte Wyatt played? When given the chance he was on the face of the Tua in a heartbeat. He did even pierced double team. Why are we not seeing him more?

He'll likely play more now with Lowry out. Wyatt can be really quick off the ball, which helps with the pass rush, but he's still learning how to anchor against double-teams and be a stouter run defender against big interior O-linemen. There's still a lot of work to do for him, but he's coming along.

Can Mason Crosby still kick off to the end zone or with age and cold weather not an option? Would they bring in the practice squad kicker for kick offs and use a roster slot on game day? Or just not that important?

They haven't done that so far so I don't expect it now. The coverage units have been pretty darn good so I suspect they're rolling with those.

I am at peace with however this season ends. The Packers have put themselves in the position where winning the final two games, played at home against two dome teams and in which they will be favored, will likely give them a playoff berth. If they can't win those games then they don't deserve to be in the playoffs. If they win the two but still come up short it will likely be to a team they lost to in the regular season. Again, fair. And if they win the two and get in, that too is fair.

To be 4-8 and get to January playing a meaningful game isn't a bad spot to be in. It beats the alternative.

Carson Wentz is the QB1 again. I see that one as a positive change. I do not believe that he can get a w against the browns. What do you think?

As Wes and I discussed on Unscripted, it's a tough call for Rivera. The team overall has played better with Heinicke, but his turnovers have killed them. With the way Washington's defense can clamp down on struggling offenses -- which is where the Browns are right now -- I think Rivera's plan is to let the defense put them in a position to win that game and have Wentz not screw it up. We'll see if it works.

When the refs threw a flag on the opening kickoff in Miami I said to my son, "oh boy, long game coming with bad officiating" I don't understand how officiating can be worse year upon year. anyways, do you know who is officiating this weeks game and what their history is of letting the game play out or interfering with the game?

I heard it's Carl Cheffers' crew, but I haven't looked up any stats or if the Packers have had that crew for any games this year.

Well, in response to AJ - our KR coverage has been much better. Making an opposing team go 80-90 yards in Lambeau in the cold may not be a bad idea.

The Vikes have a returner as explosive as Nixon. Nwangwu had that long TD on Thanksgiving vs. New England and has proven to be dangerous. This will be a big challenge for GB's coverage unit.

Mike, did you ever have an opportunity to interview Franco Harris? So sad about his passing right before his number being retired and the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception game.

That really was a bummer. I never met Harris or had any occasion to talk to him, but from everything I've heard and read he was a beloved figure for good reason. Really wish he could have been part of his number retirement ceremony. The Steelers have retired fewer numbers than the Packers, I believe. They don't do it often. It's a HUGE honor with that franchise.

Just saw a report that Tua suffered a concussion against the packers, and is not starting this week. How can this possibly be missed repeatedly with all the protocols for player safety?

As I mentioned in Inbox this morning, concussion symptoms showing up a day or two later does happen. He showed no symptoms of a head injury during the game, so nothing triggered the protocol. It's an imperfect science. Hopefully the fact that the symptoms were delayed means this isn't a serious concussion for him, but it has been a season with multiple for him now, so that's obviously a concern.

Mike, props to you and Wes for the excellent coverage you have provided this season, and special props for working last weekend over Christmas! I know time away from family at this time of year is difficult for all, so just a big thank you!

Appreciate that. Winning the game on Christmas to stay in the playoff hunt definitely made the sacrifice more tolerable. I would have preferred a warmer press box, though. Man.

What do you make of Savage's regression? The team is "stuck" with him because of the option correct?

Ford and Nixon were playing better than Savage, and the coaches went with who was playing better. The coaches give Savage credit for handling it like a pro and being ready when he had to go back in there, with Ford having a rough game in Miami and Nixon getting hurt. I don't know how to characterize "regression" or explain why this season didn't go as well for him as the last two. He is under contract for next year with the fifth-year option, yes.

There was a little bit wobble at the end of the catch of Marcedes Lewis. Just a little. It surely benefits us but, do you think it was a catch?

I saw one replay and still thought it was a catch, but I didn't get a chance to study it.

Is D. Cook as explosive as previous years or is father time catching up?

I'm not selling him short. Did you see that 81-yard TD he ripped off in Buffalo? He's plenty dangerous.

What are the chances to see Hackett back as a Packer again?

I have no idea. My thoughts are the same as LaFleur's Monday -- you feel for Nathaniel and his family. This is a tough business, and it's not pretty sometimes. He's a genuinely good man and I always hate to see bad things happen to good people.

Mike, I know Miami forecast was for sixty degrees, but it appears you and Wes forgot the Boy Scout motto. "Be prepared".

I was prepared. I had my winter coat with me for the walk to the plane in GB. But down there, I left it on the bus when going into the stadium because I didn't anticipate an A/C vent running over my head when it was only 47 degrees outside. I would've been fine if someone could've just shut off the A/C.

Hey folks, I just got a note that LaFleur's presser just got moved up, so I gotta run downstairs. Sorry to cut short. Thanks for all the questions and we'll talk again soon. Happy New Year. Best, Mike.

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