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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How will the Packers contain Russell Wilson?

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

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

Hey everybody. Welcome to the playoffs. Thanks for logging on today. Let's get started.

Hey Mike, with an odd start time of 540, do players have meetings in the morning and then come back or is there just a lot of waiting around for players?

There's always a lot of waiting around anytime there's a late kickoff like that. I've always felt that can be more difficult on the road team, because you have no place to go but the team hotel.

No more 49ers or Vikings talk, time to focus on the Seahawks, and the Seahawks only.


Hi Mike! It's cold down here in South Carolina today, what's the forecast look like up there for Sunday?

They're talking mid-20s, not a lot of wind. It'll be a pretty typical winter day in Green Bay, nothing crazy.

There is a lot of speculation as to how we are going to try to contain Wilson. I think we are successful as long as he is not their teams leading rusher. Is there a certain number of yards you think we need to keep him under in order to deem the effort a success?

It's not so much about the total yards but about whether or not he's moving the chains when the play breaks down. Scrambling for first downs on second-and-10 or third-and-8 are killers. Stop him when it matters most.

Hey Mike, with all the attention on Metcalf I feel like a lot of people are sleeping on how big of a playmaker Lockett is. Jaire Alexander has had a few tough games this year and with his physical style he may get exposed once or twice this game. Is this a matchup you've thought about?

Lockett has been doing it for a long time and he's been on plenty of big stages. His speed is always an issue. I'm very curious to see how Pettine deploys Alexander and Kevin King vs. Lockett and Metcalf in this game. I don't know if he's going to match them up or mix things up throughout. We won't know until Sunday.

Mike, how hard is it going to be for the Packers match Seattle's intensity after a week off?

It shouldn't be difficult. This is the playoffs and the Packers are at home. Green Bay should be rested and ready. There's no reason to get caught flat-footed.

Mike, Would a 5 to 10 mile an hour wind affect the game? If not, what would and to who's advantage?

Any kind of wind has a chance to affect the kicking game, but I wouldn't think something under 10 mph would affect the QBs' throws too much. Get above 10 mph and some throws could become more difficult.

Hi Mr. Spofford. I agree establishing the run game is crucial, but to my mind the Packers' fortunes depend on 12's performance, and in a cold weather Lambeau situ I really like our chances. If McCown could do as well as he did, albeit in a losing effort, Aaron Rodgers should be able to absolutely feast on the Seattle secondary, especially absent the injuries plaguing the Philly squad. GPG!!

It's going to take the whole offense and a balanced effort to get it done. Rodgers is very familiar with Seattle's style of defense, but Clowney is a new piece this year and a big one. Seattle had just 28 sacks in the regular season and then racked up 7 last week in Philly, so you never know how games are going to unfold. Balance is the key for GB in my mind.

Is it OK if we still hate the Cowboys?

That's up to you.

While no Lamar Jackson, Wilson is still a highly mobile QB. Will our defense's strategy for containing him change now that we have added talent at the edge position?

You definitely want to rush to contain, not necessarily rush to sack. I think that's always been the approach against Wilson, regardless of personnel. It doesn't mean he's never going to get out and scramble, but you want to limit those opportunities.

Is this finally the week Aaron hits Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the deep shot?

We shall see. LaFleur never has any shortage of explosive plays in the game plan.

Mike, do you see any significant playing time for Tyler Ervin other than PR for this weeks game? I can't help but feel that he's a game changer for us out of the backfield, out wide or returning kicks.

Hard to say. Ervin's snaps went up with Jamaal Williams resting his sore shoulder, but with Williams back, I guess we'll have to see. There's still a place for Ervin in some packages, jet motions, etc. But Aaron Jones and Williams have been a really productive combo and health permitting I would expect them to carry the load.

What do you say to people who say the packers are the worst 13-3 team ever

I remember back in 1998 people said that Badgers team was the worst ever to appear in the Rose Bowl. Then they won it, and won it again the next year. Doesn't matter. Just go win.

Don't think the weather is going to make that much of a difference. It's going to come down to who finishes strong.

Both of these teams have won a ton of close games, which means getting it done in the fourth quarter. I'll be shocked if this game doesn't come down to the fourth quarter as well.

Has the illness that has been running around the locker room burned itself out yet, or are there still sick Packers?

We'll see in a couple of hours when we get to watch the beginning portion of practice. The players hit the field soon.

Does it look like Raven Greene will be added to the 53 by Sunday? If he is do you expect him to play?

I don't know, but if he does get activated, I would think his primary duties would be on special teams, and then another backup option in the defensive sub-packages.

Good morning Mike, do you think our players and staff will have playoff jitters or this game being at home takes that equation out of the game? Go Pack Go

They wouldn't be human if they didn't get nervous. The Packers have a mix of guys who have been in plenty of playoff games, and young guys who haven't been there before. Rodgers has talked about ignorance being bliss with young players sometimes. Some don't feel the pressure because they don't know any better. We'll see how that plays out Sunday. But being at home certainly helps.

Hi Mike - how legitimate is the Lynch return? It seems kind of gimmicky to me and he's been on the couch for more than a year. Thoughts? Thanks

His two TD runs in his two games have been impressive, and Carroll mentioned the other day wanting to feature him more. I think Carroll recognizes that 19 rushing yards from the RBs isn't going to cut it for another round in the playoffs. He has to get that running game going to help protect Wilson and open up other avenues.

All the career INTs that Wilson has thrown in Lambeau, and I feel that this is the best secondary the Packers have presented him. I'm excited to see if the Smith Bros. will be able to force a few ill advised throws.

That would be ideal. Wilson hasn't played well at Lambeau, and this is a different defense than ones he's faced here previously. He's as dynamic as they come and can pull a big play out of his hat at any time.

I sense 12 is going to turn it up a notch in these playoffs with all the questions about performance and almost being slighted because they are not a "real" 13-3 team. Who else do you see turning it up or champing at the bit, thanks

This is where your veteran players who recognize the opportunity in front of them need to come to play, and I expect they will. Aside from Rodgers, that's guys like Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Davante Adams, etc.

How is our O-line more equipped to handle a strong pass rush compared to earlier in the season

I think the Packers have protected Rodgers very well on balance this season, especially at home. The only real rough games in pass protection have come on the road. Clowney is the key, and I think Bulaga will get him for most of the game. Bulaga has had maybe the best season of his 10-year career, even if the outside accolades haven't come his way.

I wish we were playing the early game on Saturday. The winner of that game will have an extra day of rest over Sunday's winner.

Nothing anyone can do about that. It's how things fall. The Vikings got the tough turnaround as far as the NFC bracket goes.

What time today does the injury report come out?

Late afternoon, after both teams have conducted their practices. It can be later in the day when playing a West Coast team because of the time difference.

What do you think is the best personnel to keep Russell in the pocket?

I think there are a lot of candidates who could be used as a spy if Pettine decides to go that route. Kyler Fackrell, Ibraheim Campbell, Adrian Amos. Maybe some others. I don't expect the Packers to have one strategy and use only that for 60-plus snaps.

Not that history dictates future, but just out of curiosity what is the Packers home record in the playoffs? I seem to remember them losing more often than not at home during the playoffs.

The Packers are 16-5 all time in the postseason at Lambeau Field, but 5-5 in the last 10 dating back to the Michael Vick game in the early 2000s.

Both Coach L and Aaron have to be on the same page. That and patient enough to take what the defense gives. Explosives are nice but the majority of the game is grinding it out.

Game situations dictate the approach a lot. Ahead, behind, by how much, etc.

The Green Bay Packers hit the practice field to prepare for their NFC divisional matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

How happy are you to have a late Sunday game at home, and not worry about the travel back?

From a work standpoint I wish the game were earlier on Sunday, but I'm certainly glad it's at home.

With all the talk about containing Wilson and keeping him from picking up key 1st downs by scrambling, it seems people are sleeping on the mobility of the other QB in this matchup. A few key 3rd down conversions by Rodgers' legs will be the difference in this one.

Certainly could. I'm sure a week off doesn't hurt for any QB at this stage of his career.

How impressed are you with watching ML develop right before our eyes? Talk about being in the moment. He is still a "rookie" head coach operating on razor thin margins. I am thrilled for him and glad we are on this side of close games.

For as much as he's developed through the year, he's also remained very consistent in his approach and mentality. That certainly resonates with the players. He's not changing his stripes week to week to fit a certain mood. That matters.

Do you think King and Alexander can contain Metcalf and Lockett?

It depends if they have to guard them for 4-5 seconds or 8-9 seconds. The pass rush, Wilson's scrambling, everything goes together.

I don't believe anyone predicted the Packers would be playing in the playoffs at the beginning of the year—let alone at home. Are we sorta playing with "house money" at this point?

No one in the locker room feels that way, believe me. Opportunity is knocking.

Can I submit a motion for Saturday's Inbox to say nothing but "Just beat the Seahawks"?

You'll have to take that up wit Wes. Saturday is his day.

Mike, it's only been one regular season but how would you rate ML leadership in this organization so far?

The results speak for themselves. He's done an outstanding job. In addition what I already mentioned, he's been willing to point the finger at himself publicly several times. I think that goes a long way with players as well. I'm sure the players are getting their share of the blame in the film room, so he's not exonerating anybody just because he says he needs to do a better job. But he stresses the accountability of everyone.

How do you feel the environment around the players this days, I think after most of them were left out of ProBowl votes, there's like a quiet vengeance coming?

I think the whole Pro Bowl snub storyline is overblown, frankly. The focus is on the playoffs and playing for a championship. It's not about vengeance or proving anything. It's about making the most of what's in front of them.

Do you think we win if Aaron Jones has more than 150 yards from scrimmage?


Hi Mike - Do you think Rodgers and the rest of the team will use the outside noise about them being the "worst 13-3 team" as motivation? Historically, Rodgers tends to play better with a chip on his shoulder, but that hasn't necessarily been the case this season.

Again, I think that kind of stuff is fun to talk about on the outside, but it gets overblown, because inside that's not really the case. Individuals are motivated by different things, so maybe some latch onto that. Whatever it takes I guess.

Did you make a New Year resolution to not take Wes' lunch :)

Ha, never.

With the talk of missed opportunities over the last few weeks, what signs are you looking for in practice to see if the offense has put those lapses behind them and are bringing their A game this week?

We don't get to watch any of the 11-on-11 work in practice, only individual drills, so I can't speak to that.

Mike, any concerns as this is ML's first playoff as head coach?

Not really. He coached in a Super Bowl with the Falcons three years ago. Yes, the head job is different, but he knows what these environments are like.

Do the Smiths have the agility to sack a mobile quarterback like Wilson?

Sure they do, but they have to be smart in how they attack him.

I think its been said that the Packers are going to focus more on the offensive plays that have worked this season. What type of approach to the gameplan chnages in that regard? A shorter playlist?

It's more about certain concepts, or segments of the playbook, that have produced success. You zero in on those and then maybe find more plays to run that are based on those concepts.

Can we contain Russell Wilson on the broken plays, and will our cornerbacks and defense not give up the long ball yardage as we have this year more than a few times?

The Packers have done a great job late in the season cutting down on the explosive plays allowed. There were a couple in the first half at Detroit, but otherwise over the last month they've been minimal. It's been a huge improvement, and the unit has to keep that going. Pettine pointed to communication across the entire defense as the most important element to get that fixed.

All the focus seems to be on Metcalf and Lockett, what other receivers/TEs could be a challenge?

Wilson certainly looks to Hollister plenty. He's gotten a lot of action in their last two games, which I watched pretty closely.

Mike, what do you feel is the identity to this 2019 Packers team?

Being the better team in the fourth quarter and finding a way to win.

How does the health of the offensive line look at the midpoint in the week?

Definitely better than last week. Everyone except Elgton Jenkins (illness) was practicing in some capacity on Monday after four starters sat out the two practices last week.

Mike, I remember as a young man the worst football season I was a part of. We had a very talented squad but everyone was playing for themselves. Not a lot of "team" mentality. How much of this has contributed to the Packers success this year?

It's been significant. You don't hear the Smiths talking about who has more sacks except in the playful sense. Adams didn't get as many touchdowns this year because a lot more were going to Jones, but he didn't care. No one got too worked up about the Pro Bowl or All-Pro stuff. They're just focused on winning.

More of a comment, but I am happy to see this team playing for each other and getting back to complementary football. Seeing Alexander fired up on the sideline as the offense made the comeback against the lions gave me a smile.

If LaFleur has said it once he's said it a thousand times this year -- these guys care about each other. They want each other to do well, and they want to win.

I'm looking for Dean Lowry and Kenny Clark to get a batted ball or two due to Wilson's height.

Wilson likes to make a lot of those pop-fly throws because of that. He's been doing that his whole career and he hasn't had a huge amount of passes batted down at the line given his height. He knows how to find his throwing lane, even if it means going "vertical" for a 20-yard pass.

Do you think another playoff game against the Seahawks is ripe for another historical moment?

I've had that feeling all week.

PS you should probably take Wes out to lunch more often

Yeah, you're probably right.

There has been a lot of talk about Za'Darius Smith. Do you think that could free up Preston Smith for a lot of one on ones? I feel like he could be a huge piece to post season success

I talked about that on Unscripted last week. The more Z moves around and defenses have to counter that uncertainty, it should keep Preston in one-on-one matchups that he has to win.

I read the Seahawks haven't won at Lambeau since 1999. Over the last decade, we haven't done too well in Seattle. Do you see home field advantage playing that big a role on Sunday?

That's a great question. 13 of the last 14 games in this series have been won by the home team, dating back to 1999, when Holmgren first took over the Seahawks and brought them here on a Monday night, and got a win. Seattle is 8-1 on the road this season. That's really impressive. The Packers' only home loss this season was by one score with the ball on the goal line in the final seconds vs. Philly. Regardless of all the stats, I'd just always rather be at home in the playoffs.

Mike, Clowney lowered his helmet and initiated contact, the contact was helmet to helmet, and Wentz was already down. If the league does nothing about this their player safety campaign is a joke, or worse, a ruse. Your take?

I said in Monday's Inbox I expect Clowney to get fined, but it won't go beyond that.

This would be a opportune game for the Packer D to get their first 'pick six' this season.

Indeed. And Al Harris will be at the Saturday night pep rally, of all people.

Do you have a dark horse candidate who could play a big role in the post season that we may not expect?

I said last week I expect Darnell Savage to have a chance to make a big play in the playoffs. Just a hunch.

Do you think the divisional round will be just as exciting as wild card weekend?

Yes I do. It should be a great weekend of football, and with that I have to sign off. Thanks for all the participation today folks. Take care and enjoy the big games. Best, Mike

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