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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How will the bye help the Packers?

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

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on. The bye week is here, so let's see where this chat goes.

What did the Seahawks tell us about the 49ers?

If you can get them to turn the ball over, they're very mortal. But that can be said about any team.

Big plans for the bye week?

Nope. Lotta rest and sleep. Weeks ago my plan was to get all my yardwork done, but the snow and freezing temps have taken care of that. Spring, I guess.

What can the Packers' defense do better to prevent big plays from tight ends?

That's the question everyone is asking. I've never coached so I don't know the answer. Sometimes there have been miscommunications on assignments, other times guys have bit too hard on play-action, other times the QB has made a really good throw. Pettine said yesterday it isn't just one thing. I'm curious to see if Campbell's role as the hybrid player becomes more focused on the tight ends.

Hey Mike, It looked like J.K. Scott had a tough day on Sunday. Can that be attributed to the weather?

Perhaps. Scott's game started to decline late in the season last year as well, and he talked in the offseason about being in better shape and managing his workload. His last two pooch punts on Sunday were excellent, but his early swing-away ones weren't very good. He knows what he has to do.

What can the Packers' do to improve Special Teams play?

The blocking has to improve in the return game, first and foremost. The Packers' defense also could help by getting some more stops short of midfield, because the punt-return team always has to be on the alert for fakes around midfield, and that takes away the opportunity to set up for returns.

You may have been asked this already (several times) and I missed it, but what may the Packers do differently in logistics/travel that may support a faster start in San Francisco, versus the sluggish 1st half in Los Angeles? Will the Bye week play into their preparation in that regard?

I don't know. We'll see if LaFleur decides to change up the travel schedule, and whether the kickoff getting flexed to the evening will play into his thinking.

Two major things that Packers need to clean up are Penalties and Special team.

The presnap penalties on offense are definitely piling up too high. This far into the season, those shouldn't keep happening.

Hi Mike - Is MVS dinged up or in the doghouse ? Only 11 snaps in the Carolina game.Lowest total by far this season. Lazard seems to be a target a lot lately. Coincidence ?

LaFleur mentioned he's been playing through some injuries. I don't think he's in the doghouse by any means. Lazard has played well and has deserved more snaps. MVS also missed a block early in the run game and that might have played into the other guys playing more, because they really wanted to run the ball vs. Carolina.

Isn't it time to update intro to unscripted to include video of some of the new players?

I'll pass that along.

Hi Mike. Do the players get any game-plan instructions or coaching prior to taking off for the break?

Not really. They're told to keep working out, stay in shape physically, not just lay around all week. But it's a break from the football stuff, and everyone needs to get away from that grind for a few days.

I still think that Marcedes Lewis could be a bigger part of the run and pass game- he's caught a lot of huge passes for the Jaguars- do you think that he should be utilized more?

He's being used plenty in the run game. Graham is still your best pass-catcher in the group, and we'll see now if Tonyan comes back from his injury and if Sternberger's role starts to expand any now that he's gotten into a game. I don't think it's necessary to force-feed passes to Lewis.

It probably helped the Packers a little that the Niners lost, but I just can't bring myself to ever enjoy watching the Seahawks win.

I was thoroughly entertained by that game, but I watched it with absolutely zero emotion whatsoever. I just figured one way or another the result would help the Packers in some way.

Mike, how's your racquetball game? I just got back into it after a 25 year break. You up for a game or two when I make the 2,102 mile trip back to my birthplace Dec 14-17?

Played last night, but sorry, I'll be a little busy that weekend with my son coming home from college and the home game vs. Chicago.

Hey Mike, hopefully you enjoy your week off. Nice to not stress for one Sunday. How ever, as someone who usually only watches the green and gold, what game do you recommend I catch this Sunday? Good matchups / important to the packers seeding?

As I mentioned in Inbox this morning, the one I'm most curious to see is Bears-Rams. Two division champs from last year who are both still trying to find themselves this season. Big game for both teams.

On unscripted you mentioned 12 missing a couple open receivers. It looked to me that him underthrowing a few passes led to incompletions or shorter gains than spot on throws. Did you see that in your film review?

Mostly I was referring to the sequence at the end of the first half when he overthrew Lazard in the end zone and then missed, I think it was Allison, cutting across the middle at the goal line wide open. With the way it ended, it was just a bad sequence for the Packers all around.

Will GB bring Greene back this season?

I'm sure they'd love to if he gets healthy, but I've seen no indications his return is on the horizon.

I love me some Lazard! I may be ever so slightly biased being from his hometown, but the moment and spotlight definitely haven't looked too big for him. Do you know how many more years the Packers currently have him under contract for?

I don't but he'll still be an exclusive rights player if his current contract expires after this season, so if the Packers want to keep him, they easily can.

I hope that the league starts taking a closer look at linemen assisting running backs by pulling them forward by calling the penalty and throwing the flag !

It would be nice. A couple of people wrote into Inbox this morning saying Kuhn mentioned on his TV show the rule was changed. If so, it was the quietest rule change ever. It was not listed in the 2019 rule changes circulated to the media over the summer, and it's not listed amongst the rule changes on the NFL ops website, where the current rule book resides. That's what I've been going by, but I'll have to talk to John when I see him again next week.

My wife (a Giants fan unfortunately) was watching the Packers game with me Sunday and after Aaron Jones 3rd I said to her "that one puts him at now total TDs than McCaffrey," and she said "well maybe they should start talking about Aaron Jones for MVP." Proudest moment of my life.

I think it's fun to toss around ideas, but MVP talk this early is a little silly, frankly. Back in '14, no one was really talking about Rodgers for MVP through 10 games. Then when the Packers were in position to get a playoff bye, and he came back out of the tunnel from the calf injury to win the game in Week 17, it all became legit. We've got a long ways to go.

Darnell Savage's close out speed is something special. I have a feeling he's gonna flash out of nowhere and take one to the house one of these days. Do you remember anyone else in packers history being like this?

I've said since the first time I saw him live on the field, the Packers haven't had that kind of speed at safety since Nick Collins. It took Collins a few years to develop the ball skills, but once he did, he became a star. We'll see how things go with Savage.

Snapshots from the Green Bay Packers' Week 10 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field.

Allen Lazard opened a lot, if only Rodgers could hold the ball a little longer. Lazard might becomes the #2 receiver sooner than people think.

It will be very interesting to see how the WR snaps are divided up after the bye and the coaches go over everything. Lazard is a decent blocker, too, so that bodes well for him.

Mike, I noticed in a photo of Aaron Rodgers on the practice field a referee was standing in the background. Are the Packers practice referees active or retired referees or coaches?

The latter.

When 'Packer Alumni' come back to GB, who gets you excited to see?

I don't get to see them all when they come back, but anyone I covered for several years and did a one-on-one interview with a time or two, it's always fun to catch up.

Mike, Thanks for the chat. You think we're serious about D line help or just kicking the tires as usual?

The Packers are always doing their due diligence.

If Rodgers hadn't caught the ref's flag cleanly would it still have been a penalty?

Ha, good one. Not sure I've seen a player catch a flag while flat on his back before. That was a fortunate call, but even Rodgers said after the game, the ledger isn't entirely evened out. A guy who plays QB for a decade-plus is probably always going to feel that way.

What position group is going to benefit most from the bye week?

The secondary. I think the break will help King, Amos and Alexander all get past the stuff they've been dealing with.

The Packers will have a tough task ahead of them against the 49ers. The past two weeks, the Packers have let so many open receivers in the middle of the field. For example everytime Philip Rivers dropped back there was an open man, and DJ Moore was wide open everyother play. What can the Packers D do to not let Jimmy G pick us apart?

It starts with containing the run vs. the 49ers. If Jimmy G doesn't need to throw the ball, Shanahan won't. He loves to run, with all three of those backs, and they do it very well.

What do you think the record in the NFC will need to be for securing the 1 or 2 seed and a bye?

At this point, it's hard to see getting a bye with a record worse than 13-3. Maybe because the top teams are playing each other so much down the stretch, 12-4 might get the 2 seed, but that's as far as I'd go.

Mike, I have been trying to do my own version of self scouting the packers defense. The conclusion I have come to is we would be better playing more man concepts than zone. I feel like our corners are much better at press man and aggression than playing off and covering areas. Maybe play man in between the 20s and go zone in the redzone which has been working. Thoughts?

After studying it all this week, whatever the coaches feel works best is what they're going to lean toward, but you never play one thing in the same situation all the time. And plans are opponent-specific as well, depending on the receivers, the QB's mobility, etc.

Hey Mike, since it's bye week, how about entertaining some off-the-wall ideas. Wouldn't want to load him up with too much, but how about giving Gary some reps at ILB? His combine numbers show he was bit off Matthews in the agility drills, but a bit better in speed, vertical, etc. Might be a way to get him on the field and add a solid body to the run defense

People are suggesting all kinds of things regarding players changing positions. I think a little realism is in order. These types of changes are not easy on the players. It wasn't easy for Matthews back in '14, but he was the special kind of player who could make it work. Not everyone can be looked at the same way.

Does the later start (730 vs 330) help the Packers at all when adjusting to the time change? Does it hurt them the following week?

I think it makes the road trip the following week to the other coast (Giants) a much tougher game immediately. The charter plane won't get back from SF until around 5 a.m. after a night game. Yes, the Packers will have just had their bye, but you can't go full-bore in practice right away on Wednesday when players (and website writers) need Monday just to get some sleep. The prep schedule will be a challenge coming off the night game.

Bak hasn't been playing top notch this season compared to other seasons.. I have a feeling the bye might help him out and he will be perfect the rest of the year.

Nobody is going to be perfect, but if anyone could use a mental reset, it may be Bakhtiari. He's been so steady for so long that I firmly believe he'll get back to that eventually.

Mike, if you just look at the stats the 49ers blow us away, especially on defense. But when you look at the opponents the 49ers have played to get those stats…I like our chances. (Plus, Rodgers > Garoppolo)

That's why they play the games. It's a week-to-week league. Any more cliches I can throw out there?

Mike, who is a player that has not had a lot of opportunities so far that you think will come on after the bye and make a significant impact.

I'm curious about a lot of guys. I already mentioned Lazard on offense and Campbell on defense. Also, Montravius Adams and Kingsley Keke on the defensive line could see more snaps, maybe Josh Jackson in the secondary. I guess we'll see.

Can the Packer coaches use part of the bye week to get a jump on planning for the Giants?

Oh sure, the coaches can always find the time. I'm talking about the challenge of the physical prep for the Giants after getting back so late after a West Coast night game. There's a balance between getting your bodies back and getting ready to play that'll have to be found.

Hi Mike, thank you for your time! Do the coaches get extra time away this week or is there too much to do for the mid-season progress report/across the halls before the 49ers?

LaFleur said the early part of the week would be used for the film review and study sessions, but then the coaches get a long weekend to get away as well.

Are the helmets behind you in Packers Unscripted in any sort of order?

Not really, other than the location of the Packers helmet.

Feels like Saints, Niners, Pack, Vikes and Seattle are primed to make the playoffs(with Dallas or Philly for whoever wins that division). Who would be the most favorable matchup first round if GB has the bye?

C'mon now. Way, way, way, way too early to be asking and discussing something like that. How teams are playing in December matters a ton when it comes to assessing potential playoff matchups, and we aren't even to Thanksgiving yet.

Mike, Why self scout? So much tape of corrections needed based on past 10 games what is there to be uncovered beyond the obvious? Thanks.

You always want to look critically at your own team to see what tendencies you're putting out there, and try to predict how opponents are going to plan for you. Yes, the Packers have plenty to clean up, but you have to make sure you're not making life too easy on your opponents schematically at the same time.

What can the defense do at this juncture to gain some dominance? Last in several categories.

What this defense does best is pressure the QB and take the ball away. You have to do what you do best and then try to get better at what you're not. I thought the return of consistent QB pressure vs. Carolina was a really good sign, and the takeaway opportunities were there -- McCaffrey fumble, Alexander pick -- but not cashed in.

When Green Bay my head to San Francisco what matchups intrigue u the most?

If Kittle is back for SF then, that matchup will be a big one. I already mentioned the front seven against that 49ers run game. Can the Packers run the ball against that SF front to help keep the pass rush at least a little on its heels and protect Rodgers? That'll be a big question in that game.

When does next seasons schedule usually get finalized?

April. But every team knows all it's opponents as soon as the regular season ends. It's just the dates and times that aren't out until spring.

Kyle Fackrell's play has been overshadowed by his fellow outside linebackers, but how does he seem to be doing? We saw on that last play that he is an asset to the team.

I think Fackrell has played solid football in his rotational role. He along with Preston Smith are the two OLBs that Pettine is comfortable having drop into pass coverage, and he's handled that duty fairly well. He's had a couple of near-sacks that just got away. I still don't know how he made that play at the goal line, but it was a heck of a play.

Just for fun, how about a crystal ball season ending prediction?

Sorry, you should know me better than that. Not my thing. And with that, I've gotta call it a chat. Thanks for all the participation today folks. Enjoy your bye weekend. We'll talk again next week. Best, Mike

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