Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What are the Packers' goals for Week 18?

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

Team huddle

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on. Sorry to go a bit earlier again today, but LaFleur's Wednesday presser keeps shifting around so we have to as well. Hope that's OK. Go ahead and start sending in your questions and I'll get started shortly.

Thanks for doing the chat, Mike. It's a bitter, blustery day in Dousman today so glad to have this to anticipate.

Yeah, it's not the best weather day in GB either but I know it's worse elsewhere. Wasn't too bad driving in to work this morning but we'll see about later today.

Thanks Mike for making it work, highly appreciated. What's your top concerns for the upcoming game?

Honestly, all I'm focused on is players coming out of Detroit healthy, and whether any of the injured guys are going to be able to get some game snaps in before the playoffs. At this late stage with the playoffs around the corner, I don't have the brain capacity for much else.

Mike, are the Rams/49ers and Chargers/Raiders the two other games you'll be most interested in this weekend?

Absolutely. The Rams-49ers result has big implications for the last spot, and for the 2-5 seeding. There could be a huge domino effect if the Niners win. Chargers-Raiders should be a good win-or-go-home game. That's what the league always likes on the final Sunday night, a de facto playoff game.

What position would you like to see some improvement in for the upcoming game?

I'd like to see the Packers' special teams continue its run of pretty solid play lately. Bojo shanked the one punt Sunday night, and playing indoors Sunday won't prep him for the playoffs at Lambeau, but other than that the special teams have looked much better. I wouldn't mind seeing David Moore get a few more returns, too, if he can be cleared from the Covid list.

Good morning Mike! Thanks for the chat. With Darnell Savage and Dennis Kelly making it through covid protocol so quickly does that imply they had false negative tests? Does that mean they are still subject to testing throughout the rest of the season?

I honestly don't know. Does a positive test one day and a negative one the next day automatically mean the first one was a false positive? I have no idea. I'm just glad they're healthy and ready to do whatever's asked this week.

I agree with the decision to play the vets that are cleared to go. I think many will play only play a half and I'm wondering if you think that might help with the tendency to get off slow starts this season? More of an urgency to get it right from the first drive?

I guess we'll see. But I'm not sure how much of a gauge it will be. Not to be disrespectful, but the Lions are a two-win team that just gave up 51 points to a non-playoff opponent last week.

Mike, frankly, does Za'Darius Smith have any chance to return at this point?

Aaron Rodgers sounded optimistic about that after the game on Sunday, but we've heard little to nothing from LaFleur about Za'Darius for quite a while now. So I really don't know.

I look forward to seeing Jamaal Williams. Such a great guy. I love Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, but Jamaal is special.

Great dude. Always enjoyed him.

Still doing a path to the playoffs this week? or taking a break before road to the superbowl?

We're going to call it Road to the Super Bowl this week now that the Packers' position is determined, but it won't really be about whom to root for, etc., just more about the various possibilities in the NFC.

I'm really looking forward to Jordan Love playing, is he taking 1st team snaps this week?

He's been taking most of them for several weeks because Rodgers has hardly practiced. Rodgers sounded more confident he could practice more this week, but I'm sure Love will still take some reps with the ones.

If you were Mike McCarthy, would you rest any (Cowboys) players this week since you won't get a bye and don't have much control over your seeding?

That's a tough call, especially coming off a loss like they are. But I have to admit I'm not really paying attention to the day to day in Dallas.

Any word on Billy Turner and how his rehab is going?

Haven't heard anything, but he's still on the 53, so his practice participation will have to be listed on the injury report this week. We'll see.

A few months ago Wes shared some of his favorite McCarthy quotes. Do you have any that have stuck with you? Has ML added any to your list yet?

"We're nobody's underdog" was the McCarthy all-timer in 2010 heading out to New England. I'll never forget that. He also talked many times about how important it is in this league to handle success, whether it be team success or individual success, and it's so true. I had never thought about it in those terms but it's a valuable perspective. With LaFleur, I get a kick out of him saying things like, regarding close games, trying to "pull this sucker out." He has to be formal and diplomatic at the podium, it's part of the job, but it's fun when he just talks like any other guy.

I thought I read that since A Rod had covid that he does not have to be tested the rest of the way? Is that true and if so the rest of the players that have had it recently would not have to be also. So they would all be available for the playoffs no matter what as far as covid is concerned?

Once a player has tested positive and been cleared to return, they have a 90-day holiday from getting tested. Rodgers' 90 days expires between the NFC title game and Super Bowl, but anyone who's tested positive since mid-November is clear the rest of the way.

I'm concerned about David Bakhtiari coming back in a game. Since he was activated off PUP list he's only had a few limited participation practices and none listed as full practice. Seems like a recipe for reinjury or a bad performance.

The concern is understandable, but I think everyone just has to trust the Packers' medical staff and Bakhtiari himself to do what's right. He and they will know whether he's ready or not.

With talk of LeRoy Butler's chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the past few weeks. It made me think of other potential cases. What are your thoughts on Mike Holmgren eventually being elected? Would his name be on the Lambeau facade?

Let's take it one at a time and get Butler in first. But I said last year when Cowher was inducted that Holmgren should be in, too. With that "coach" category being created, I think his time will come.

I totally get why Vic would retire, but as far as you know is his health ok?

To my knowledge, yes, but I do owe him a phone call. It's been too long since we chatted.

The position were in is obviously advantages and getting backups plenty of gametime may pay huge dividends during the playoffs.

I don't know about this game specifically. I think that's been the story of the season for this team.

Mike, has Larry McCarren ever mentioned writing a book about his time in Green Bay? Would love to read about his time as a player, as well as his time doing sportscasting and media stuff in Green Bay.

He's never said anything to me. It would be a fascinating read, though.

Is it just coincidence that we play the Lions in Detroit in a dome last game of season?

This is the fifth time in the last six years that the Packers and Lions have played in the regular-season finale, so I don't know what you mean by "coincidence."

What are your thoughts about the MVP voting process and certain statements a person with a vote has made taking it from skill/performance to personality. Do you still feel confident that a majority of the voters are still approaching their decision as intended?

I addressed this in Inbox this morning. I think considering off-the-field stuff that isn't legal trouble or suspension-worthy isn't right. It shouldn't matter. I would hope a majority of the voters take this approach, and I think they do.

are the Lions going with the Tim Boyle Laser show for the game ?

It sounds like Jared Goff is going to play, at least right now.

Could Dallas come to Green Bay? Would be an interesting game.

The Cowboys obviously could. If they get the 4 seed and win, that could be the divisional round matchup at Lambeau, if neither the 6 or 7 seed pulls and upset. If Dallas gets the 2 or 3 seed, the Cowboys wouldn't play the Packers until the NFC title game if both teams get there.

I don't think we should worry much about individual awards

I hear you, but they're worthy topics this week and next considering where the season stands.

Wes will be so disappointed if Boyle does not play :)

We all will be. Those of us who know him would love to see him play.

Would you rather have a Saturday or Sunday divisional game? I'd rather have the extra day of rest afterwards if you advance

I think for the team coming off the bye, the Saturday game is better. The players have had enough time off, and like you said, get an extra day before the next one if they win.

Just wondered what your gut feeling is about any help on the way? By that I mean Jaire, #69,77,18 etc. for the playoffs. Do you have any thoughts on it?

Not much. Rodgers sounded very sure Cobb would be back, it's just a matter of when. With the other guys, it all sounds very much up in the air.

With the Monday playoff games, will the NFL be judicious in who plays when the next weekend to be fair to team for days between games ?

I can't imagine the Monday night wild-card winner would be playing the following Saturday. That would just be wrong. They'll have to set up the schedule to accommodate that appropriately. Exactly how remains to be seen.

Which possible playoff opponents coming into the cold and snow would be most adversely affected?

I think there's a potential for adverse effects for any team that doesn't play in this weather, but I would say the one NFC playoff team that would probably be least affected would be the Eagles.

I know as a fan all I can do is watch and enjoy the ride, but being born and raised in WI I've felt that the Packers stand for the midwest in some fashion and represent the little engine that could mentality against the big-market coastal franchises and thus, I can take post season losses a little too personally. Fair or unfair?

I can appreciate the sentiment, but from a resources standpoint and the "little engine" thoughts, the Packers haven't been that franchise since the Lambeau renovation back in 2003, frankly. They've been an upper-half if not upper-third revenue team for almost two decades now.

Given there's a two -and-a-half week break until a meaningful football game for the Packers, how is the cap looking for next year and what are they going to do about the O-Line?

I have no idea. I think they have to figure out what's what with Rodgers and Davante Adams first, and go from there. There will be plenty of time to figure it all out. But it starts with those two, in my opinion.

I noticed in the Inbox you mentioned Rodgers enjoying a scotch during MNF with the Mannings. If that was a scotch, that was a HUGE pour! I thought he was enjoying a beer.

Maybe you're right, but it didn't look like a beer glass to me. I don't know. He's never mentioned drinking beer before. It was Monday night before his Tuesday day off, too.

Do you and Wes ever get sick of one another during the long NFL season?

Ha, no. We get along pretty well so it's all good. It is a grind work-wise, though. I won't lie. That said, the Packers can keep playing as long as they want when it gets to this point.

I sat next to several Vikings fans on Sunday, and I have to say how much I enjoy the opposing fans' take on the Packers. We seem to get nervous about a situation, and they say don't worry, Rogers will come through. It's interesting the respect the opposing fans have for AR's abilities which we sometimes take for granted.

I think that's pretty normal for any fan base looking at other successful teams.

How much does a team dodging the COVID bullet in the next month factor into their playoff success?

It'll factor for sure, but the changed protocols that allow players to come back in five days and sometimes less changes the whole outlook on the ramifications of positive tests.

Who has been your favorite O-Lineman to watch of the guys starting right now? I really like seeing Jon Runyan get up on LBs.

When I watch the film, it's fun to focus on different guys at different times. Runyan has steadily improved all year, and so has Yosh Nijman the more he's played. Kelly is such a big dude at RT he can make the other guys actually look small at times. Patrick is such a brawler in the middle, and Royce Newman has come a long way as a rookie starter.

Of other 7 NFC teams that are already in the Playoffs, or are still vying for a spot (NO), which defense scares you the most?

The Saints' defense is really good, and I think the Rams are always a scary bunch with those veteran stars they have sprinkled all over. I don't think any of the NFC playoff teams have a bad defense, but those are the two that stand out the most to me.

Thanks Mike! Do Wayne and Larry, Wes and you watch all road games remotely, or are you traveling again? Be well!

Wayne and Larry have been traveling to road games this year because the radio broadcast has been on-site, unlike last year when it was remote. Wes and I have not traveled this year (or last).

With the first game 17 this week, is it going to be annoying to put an asterisk on all of the new records?

That won't happen, and eventually we'll all just consider 17 games the norm.

Hi Mike. When I see the incredible productivity of the content that you post plus In Box and pod casts and WWYM and live day blogs, I assume you must be putting in a one hundred hour work week. Thank you so much for all of it.

Appreciate that. It's not quite a hundred, but I do have to manage my time in order to make it all work and still sleep at home, LOL.

Do you know if there's been any change to the run-blocking scheme with the shifts in the OL this year? Are we seeing less zone blocking? Thoughts on the impact in run production versus last year?

I think the Packers have changed it up more, sprinkling in gap concepts to go with the inside and outside zone looks. Inside zone is still their best, most of the time, but they've been effective multiple ways running the ball, and that bodes well.

Thanks to Packers.com I've learned so much more about football. Everyone watches the splash specialist players, but knowing more about both lines and how they truly impact games has given me more to watch.

The longer I do this the more I learn, too. And then when I think I've made progress, I'll overhear a coach or player talking shop, so to speak, and I'll realize how they all just see and play the game on an entirely different level from the rest of us.

Do you have any John Madden anecdotes or memorable sayings to game calls that stick with you ?

Not really, but I did enjoy listening to him call games when I was learning about the game in middle school, high school, etc. He and Summerall were the absolute best back then.

How have your film breakdowns evolved over the years? Do you ever wrangle a coach to sit in with you for his perspective?

I would love to do that sometime, but during the season they're way too busy for that, and in the offseason I need to get away from the minutiae of it all to recharge for the next year.

Hey Mike, love the in-game blog. Whether I am able to watch the game or not, I am right with you the whole time on the blog. Quick clarification on a rule . . . when the Packers throw the quick swing pass/quick out and the receivers are blocking even before the ball is caught, they can do that as long as the pass is caught behind the LOS? If it was caught downfield it would be OPI?

Not exactly. My understanding is they can block a tad early as long as they're within a yard of the line of scrimmage.

Mike, I just wanted to let you know how much you and Wes are appreciated by all of us at II. Reading the II is a part of my daily routine and I love the insight you and Wes provide.

Thanks for the kind words. We wouldn't have a column without an audience.

Great piece by Wes on Allen Lazard. Should our new strategy moving forward be to get him 4 catches on the first drive of the game?

Ha. I thought that was a pretty good stat Wes uncovered. I think it speaks to just how well the offense is functioning as a whole when Lazard is involved to a certain degree.

Considering the Packers playoff spot is locked up, Detroit has no motivation to actually win this game, right? Even if the Packers are resting players, you'd think the Lions would want to preserve their draft position since there is no "spoiler" role available this week.

The Lions will get either the first or second pick, and they can only get the first if the Jags beat the Colts, which is highly unlikely.

Was the game against Minnesota the first game this year where neither the Packers or opponent have had a turnover? I also noticed there were only 3 maybe 4, penalties called the entire game. Maybe the SIX officials were cold and wanted to keep things moving!

It was rare to see no turnovers, especially in those conditions. I commented in Inbox this morning how refreshing it was to see so few penalties. It makes the game much more enjoyable. The game is better when only the penalties that materially affect a play are called.

Besides Wes, who do you work with the closest at GBP?

Duke is our digital manager, Joidon handles a lot of technical stuff on the website, and Jen is our intern. Those are the folks I work with most. Then with the video components, it's several people, beginning with Marvin, our Unscripted producer, and there are rotating folks that handle the cameras for Final Thoughts, etc. It's a great group of people and I can't say enough how fun it is to work with this bunch.

Besides Adams' opportunity to beat Jordy's single-season receiving yards record, and Rodgers' solidifying his MVP resume, are there any other records you're aware of the Packers can break this week?

I haven't looked closely enough at that yet, but I intend to later today or tomorrow.

How does your wife handle you working so many long hours during the season?

Because she's a saint.

does your family read the inbox or the mid-week chat? has any family member submitted a question to you?

Sometimes my son and/or dad are on the live blog during the game. Wife and daughter, nah.

Do you want to travel to away games again? Or does the ubiquity of the COVID virus make you feel better about staying home at present?

When we get back to fully in-person postgame access with press conferences and locker room access, I definitely want to travel to games again. But with so much postgame access being virtual, it's actually easier to do my job from here when the team is on the road.

All right, folks, I've got to sign off and get ready for LaFleur's presser. Thanks for all the questions today and we'll talk again soon.

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