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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How will the cold weather impact Sunday night's game?

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

Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field

Hey everybody. Hope everyone had a nice Christmas. Thanks for logging on a tad early today. Have to start sooner and knock off sooner because of LaFleur's Wed. media session. So go ahead and send in your questions and I'll get started.

The forecast is calling for a true Lambeau Frozen Tundra game Sunday. Possibly the coldest in years. The thought warms my heart Mike. How about you?

I don't envy the players having to go to work in those kinds of conditions. I'm thankful I get to watch from the press box. It can't be fun to play in zero-degree weather. It just can't.

Mike, did you ever get an opportunity to talk with John Madden?

Unfortunately, no. Saw him a couple of times at training camp practices toward the end of his broadcasting career, but never got a chance to meet him. That would've been a thrill. Sad to see such a football giant leave us. His impact on the game for multiple generations of fans is immeasurable.

Do the latest Covid rules apply retroactively to, say, Dalvin Cook?

That's a great question and I honestly don't know. I believe the new rules are in effect for players testing positive this week, meaning Monday, but I guess we'll find out. It's honestly hard to keep track of all the rules as they keep changing.

So far the Packers have avoided disaster and it hasn't cost them but when they get a lead they start playing soft on D and take their foot off the pedal on O. Why is ML so reluctant to keep his foot to the floor and finish off an opponent?

Don't confuse lack of success with lack of intent. It's not as though LaFleur didn't want to move the ball and score more points. They had an end-around go badly and lose 10 yards. They had second-and-3 with a sub at LT (Ben Braden) and ran twice unsuccessfully when they were just trying to settle him in. And then Davante Adams lost a third-down pass in the lights. Sure, they could've been more aggressive on second-and-3 and third-and-2, but if Aaron Rodgers gets sacked on one of those plays everybody's screaming why not just run it. Stuff happens.

AJ33 weather or AJ28 weather? Is there a difference?

Not to me. Jones is the game-breaker who could bust a big one when the defense is tired of all the painful hits in the cold. Dillon can grind it out in any weather. Both have tremendous value late in games.

What is the plan for kickoff and punt returns? Any insight why they have not reached out to Tyler Ervin vs a CFL player?

The Packers don't discuss personnel decisions/pursuit or lack thereof, and I doubt they're going to reveal who will be the returner(s) in advance. As I noted in Inbox this morning, my best guesses are Chandon Sullivan on punts and Patrick Taylor on kickoffs at this point.

Crossing my fingers Jaire Alexander gets activated today. Thoughts on how the CB's will be assigned roles once he is back to full speed? Will Rasul Douglas move to the slot?

I don't know. Once Alexander is healthy enough to play, I could see them going different directions. They could leave Douglas and Eric Stokes outside and have Alexander play the slot, since they have three CBs on the field most of the time anyway.

Field goals will be a challenge in the bitter cold correct? 40 yards max???

Maybe longer than 40. Perhaps 45? Depends on the wind, too.

I know you missed the Madden special that aired before Saturdays game. Have you had a chance to watch it yet?

No, but I hear it's being re-run on FS1 tonight a couple of times so I'm going to try to catch it.

Who'd have thunk we would be rooting for Arizona in week 17?

Funny how this works, right? For a while we were wondering if Minnesota missing that kick back in Week 2 to give Arizona a close win was going to hurt the Packers more than it seemed to help at the time. Now GB fans are cheering for the Cardinals to win and break their three-game losing streak. You just never know.

Has the playbook been fully utilized by 12 and ML or holding a few things back for this week or playoffs?

There are always concepts that get used or not used depending on the opponent, and for the playoffs, sometimes you're facing a team you already saw in the regular season, sometimes not. All that factors into how the game plan gets put together.

Quite fortuitously for Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and perhaps less so for the Packers' cap, he seems to be really starting to tap into his potential (route-running, blocking, making big plays, consistency, etc.) Am I misguided in feeling like he could have a Davante-esque emergence if we bring him back next year?

I don't know about that. Adams is on a HOF track now, so I don't think the comparisons are fair. I do see MVS coming into his own, for sure. For Adams, that really started in his third year, in '16. I always like the threat MVS poses when he's out there. Defenses have to respect that.

Will you get to watch any of the early Sunday games, and which ones interest you?

I think the Bengals and Chiefs are playing in the early window. That one should be interesting, with Burrow coming off of 525 passing yards and the Chiefs on a big-time winning streak.

Any idea if that personnel on the Packer covid list is larger than other teams? Seems like everyone is getting hammered right now?

Yeah, everybody is. For some teams, it started more last week. This week it's hitting the Packers. Just a fact of life in the NFL right now.

Aaron Rodgers toe on a bitterly cold night does not sound like a good combination. Any idea if they will do anything differently to protect it? A hard shell over the top on the shoe perhaps? Somewhat restricted mobility but more protection from being stepped on?

If they had some way to protect it from being stepped on without compromising his mobility, they would have done that weeks ago. I don't know what extra precautions if any will be taken regarding the cold.

How long has it been since we went 8-0 at home, and am I the only one believing that is the most important thing to accomplish Sunday?

The Packers went 8-0 at home in 2014. It's important because of what's on the line with regard to playoff seeding, not the 8-0 record in and of itself.

Will ML be looking for a new OC next season? Concerns about Hackett being distracted?

He never struck me as distracted last year when the Falcons were interested and interviewed him. I don't see that as an issue. Whether or not he gets a head job, who knows?

It seems like the field goal operation has gotten a more efficient that past two weeks. MC is putting right down the center pulling towards one of the posts. What is your assessment?

It has definitely smoothed out and it's good to see. It feels like the group is on a roll. Cold temps/cold ball will provide another challenge this week, but Mason Crosby certainly has plenty of experience.

Hey Mike! Is there any word on if Jaire Alexander will be activated off of IR today?

I haven't heard anything, but if they believe there's a chance he can play this season, I would expect him to be activated. If that does happen, it doesn't mean he's playing Sunday, just that they're hoping he will be available at some point.

5 bowl games have been canceled so far and I won't be surprised if more follow. So far no NFL games but I worry COVID is gonna blow up some games in the next month. Do you think the NFL is going to just keep marching forward no matter what or is their a point where they say we just can't play this one?

I honestly don't know. With the new protocol, it should allow a lot of guys who test positive to come back faster and be available to play. The NFL was pretty determined to get the full season in last year and succeeded. The league will have the same determination this time.

Have you been able to watch Mason in practice and is the consistency there from long range? He hasn't really had any long range attempts for quite some time

Agreed, and I've noted that a couple of times, that the group could use a successful long-range attempt. Not sure if that'll happen this week with the weather. We don't get to watch those segments of practice during the regular season, so I have no idea how he's been there.

I know LaFleur said it's just everyone doing their part, but which players most need to step up to improve the run defense?

It's a collective effort. The edge guys need to set the edge, the interior guys need to get off blocks, and the 'backers need to fit in the right gaps. When runs break out, on one play it might be one of those things, on another, another thing. It's not the same thing on every play.

Just saw Dalvin Cook has been activated off the covid-19 list. How does that change the game plan, or do you think the assumption was he was playing?

I would imagine they were preparing for him regardless, and the Vikings weren't just going to abandon the run regardless when they have Mattison and the weather is going to be cold.

Major changes in the run D if Cook plays?

They're going to get tested after what they put on film last week. The Vikes are going to try to run the ball like they did when they came into Lambeau and won last year.

Do you see Yosh Nijman taking over for David B in the near future? He is getting great experience and holding his own, and the chip blocks seem to be needed less and less..

When David Bakhtiari is healthy and ready to go, he's going to play LT. What Nijman has done is impressive, and he's proven he has a bright future in this league. He will have a spot somewhere, I believe, down the road.

At least all players who caught covid recently can't go back on the list during the playoffs, right?

Right. Every player who tests positive gets a 90-day exemption from any testing once he comes off the list. 90 days from now is well past the Super Bowl.

Have you picked up a league wide change in philosophy and going for it more on 4th and one, and two-point conversions?

The numbers show it. Teams are way more aggressive overall in both situations, but that's just the way the game has trended. It's been heading that way for a few years now.

Did 12 keep the record ball, or did he indeed send it to 4's grandson as the Christmas Day talking heads said? He seemed to imply on McAfee that he kept it.

Sure sounds like he kept it to me.

Circling back to the run D answer you just gave. In your opinion why are those issues coming to light now when they weren't issues earlier this year?

It's a long season, and just because you're doing something well for a while doesn't mean you've got it licked. The Packers did a great job containing mobile QBs for a while and then Tyler Huntley burned them in Baltimore. If you don't stay sound in an area, it'll get exposed in this league, and the Packers are getting reminders they need to focus on what was working before.

I know people are worried about Cook this weekend, but the Vikings have a stable of good backs. Is this game about stopping the run by staying true to your rushing lanes and then pressuring Cousins when he has to throw?

The good thing here is Cousins isn't going to scramble and run all over the place. He'll get out of the pocket here or there, but he's not Russell Wilson or Kyler Murray. The Packers have to clamp down on the run up front so the safeties can help on Jefferson and Thielen, if he plays (Thielen was subsequently put on IR and is out). We all saw what Jefferson did in Minneapolis last month. The weather won't help the passing game, but regardless, it starts with containing the ground game.

Only way the game at Detroit gets flexed is if Fox wants to put all the teams with a shot at the bye in the late window next week. Otherwise you get one more noon game.

Typically in the final week, the league puts games related to one another for playoff positioning in the same time slot, so they're going on simultaneously. If the Packers and Cowboys both win this week, I would expect both teams to be kicking off at the same time in Week 18.

Jefferson getting double teamed all day if Thielrn is out?

You're certainly inclined to shade a safety over his direction without Thielen also on the field. Straight-up double-teaming on every snap, no, but you're going to pay more attention to him.

All right folks, sorry to bolt early but I have to get set up for LaFleur's upcoming Zoom session. Thanks for all the questions and Happy New Year. Best, Mike

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