Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What'll it take to beat the Bears?

Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy
Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy

Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on. Let's get to it.

Hi Mike, with all the offensive weapons Green Bay has this late in the season, is there any reason we are not seeing more catches from Jake Kumerow, Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but just a majority from Aaron Jones and Jimmy Graham? Does Aaron Rodgers not trust those other receivers as much?

Those three guys you mentioned are playing fewer snaps lately as Allen Lazard has picked up more and the Packers are running more sets with multiple tight ends. The plans shift week to week and every guy just has to be ready for when his chance comes.

Is the Lambeau field turf heated under a tarp this time of year? Might that be contributing to the slick surface? Any chance you will interview head grounds keeper and equipment manager on this subject?

I think they're a little busy for an interview. I'm sure they're exploring all the time what they can do about the issues. The new surface that was installed last offseason seems to be difficult to get a handle on, for whatever reason.

This would be a good week to put all three phases together, get a strong win, and head to Minnesota with a lot of confidence.

I think a win over a surging Bears team with one of the top defenses in the league, however the Packers get it, will be confidence enough heading to Minnesota. This is going to be a really tough game.

Hey Mike! Did swervin Ervin return kickoffs too? If not do you think he will get those duties, he had a solid start to his packers debut.

Tyler Ervin was back on kickoff return but they were all touchbacks. He is the primary returner on both punts and kickoffs.

What is the status of Tony Brown? Do you see him making a significant difference once he returns?

It's hard to say where he fits in now. Once he's healthy to play, I'm not sure if he just supplants Chandon Sullivan given his solid play in an increased role lately. Josh Jackson held his own as the dime last week as well. We'll see if Kevin King is back this week. He would resume his previous role as a boundary starter, I assume.

Hi Mike.... i'm very worried of a scenario where the Rams win the next 2 weeks. Can we tell Randall Cobb to help us this weekend and right the ship in Big D!

The Packers just need to keep winning. Yes, the Rams are charging and they know what it takes. A lot can change over these last three weeks.

Am I the only one who gets the impression that our offense and defense have been pretty vanilla so far? Do you think the coaches have kept some major tricks up their sleeves for the business end of the season?

I don't anticipate the Packers suddenly getting crazy on either side of the ball. Pettine has mixed up the looks on defense, particularly on third downs, all season. We don't really know how much LaFleur likes tricks on offense, but I doubt he's going to focus on them much with his team 10-3. Nagy and the Bears playing with their season on the line, on the other hand, has my attention in that regard.

Green Bay currently sits as the #2 seed, yet it seems the national media is letting us fall under the radar a bit. I imagine this is ideal as Rodgers and Co seem to thrive once they are considered an afterthought. Agree?

I don't think this team cares what the outside perceptions are. They seem to be an internally tight bunch to me.

who do you see playing the biggest role on the defense vs the bears?

It's going to be the Smiths rushing off the edges, but they have to be careful and make sure they contain Trubisky, because he's taking off and running a lot more lately. The Packers can't give him escape lanes, but they'll want to collapse the pocket to hurry him.

Last year at this time I would have never believed that the Packers would be in control of their own path to a first round playoff bye. A year can change a lot. What one thing do you think contributed the most to this amazing (and fast) turn around?

Major changes in personnel, some freshness on offense, a different vibe to the culture and leadership, and playing well in the fourth quarter. It hasn't been just one thing. But a lot of things have added up to a strong season thus far.

Hi Mike, the quick turnaround of the 49ers from 2018 to 2019 is nothing short of amazing. I remember the 2018 49ers@Packers game that came down to a last second field goal much to the dismay of my fellow packers fans who claimed they should've run them out of the stadium. Which subpar team the packers have played this year do you see making a similar jump next year?

Well, let's not forget the 49ers lost Garoppolo to injury last year or their turnaround wouldn't look so dramatic. But to your question, if Denver has found a QB in Drew Lock, that'll change everything for the Broncos.

Is it just me or are teams starting to avoid throwing the ball in Jaire Alexander's direction? It seems like he has put teams on notice with his ability to man up with just about anyone in the league.

I think Alexander has proven to be a tough matchup, and if the ball isn't coming his way as much, there's a reason for it. McLaurin was a big challenge and I thought both players won their share. He's going to continue getting tough assignments.

I haven't seen many Bears games lately, do you know where their defense is currently ranked? And what aspect of that D may be the weakest that the Packers can attack?

The Bears are fourth in the league in points allowed, giving up 17.8 per game. The loss of Roquan Smith to injury will definitely affect them, but they could be getting Akiem Hicks and Prince Amukamara back this week. I think the Packers can throw the ball on the Bears but that starts with protecting Rodgers from that front, and that's no easy task.

Mike, are you more of a press box or sideline kinda of guy. Does it change if your home or away.

I'm always in the press box because of my job duties. I'm constantly online throughout the game.

Too bad Vic isn't around to fill up your gas tank for you! He loved these temps.

Ha. This is a bit much for Dec. 11, though. Man.

I feel like Rodgers is holding on to the ball longer than he used to. Is he looking for a big play or are the receivers just not getting open?

Some of both perhaps. I don't think Rodgers looks for the big play at the expense of other options, at least not too often, but I do think the offense functions better when the plays are getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

Are there wifi limitations that would prohibit you from accessing internet on the sideline?

No, but there isn't really a spot to set up a laptop. It wouldn't be very productive to try to live blog the entire game from my phone.

So with this last game Eli Manning now has a losing record for his career. Do you think that will effect how history views him, or his ability to get into Canton?

I think Manning's Canton case will be very interesting. Two Super Bowl wins and two Super Bowl MVPs, but a very pedestrian career as far as the regular season goes. I really don't know how the committee will look at it.

2 burning questions continue to vex me; first, why doesn't Wes cover the Inbox on Wednesdays when you're going to be busy doing the Mid-week chat (you ARE the senior writer, after all) & second, what 2 team helmets are missing from the backdrop on the "Unscripted" wall?

I write the bulk of the Wednesday morning Inbox on Tuesday, so it's at least a change to answer questions this way on Wednesdays. I think the Titans are one of the missing helmets. I can't remember the other one off the top of my head.

Do you and Wes exchange Christmas presents, or is his lunch good enough?

Ha, good one. Remember that old NFL helmets lunch box I mentioned in Inbox a couple of weeks ago? A reader sent one to me. Big shout-out to Charles from Omaha. Awesome present. It's prominently displayed on my desk now.

Has Billy Turner or Elgton Jenkins left any part of any game due to injury, even if they subsequently returned?

Not that I can recall.

Hi Mike - Personally, I'm thrilled that the Packers are 10-3 right now, but I have to admit I'm pretty surprised with their record, given the way they've been playing. Fortunately, they've found a way to get it done when they need to most games, but it's concerning that both the offense and defense have looked really off for large portions each game, even against sub .500 teams. What do you think it will take for the Packers to put together a complete game?

You just keep working at it to get more efficient. One third-down conversion by the offense or third-down stop by the defense here or there and things start to look really different. The special teams made a nice, positive impact on Sunday, so that's a good sign. I was just never a believer the Packers were going to blow out these last two NFC East teams, because it rarely works that way in this league. Look at what the Giants did, with Manning returning after two-plus months off, against the Eagles in Philly the other night. Washington had won two in a row coming into Lambeau. It's never who you play, it's when you play 'em.

Have you noticed a difference in how Rodgers leads the team behind the scenes when they they get a win or a loss? Is he the same guy everyday or does a leader need to put some pressure on guys at certain times?

We don't see what goes on in the meeting rooms or at practice during the 11-on-11 segments. That's where a lot of leadership happens so I can't really speak to that. But he clearly has the respect of the locker room, and often this year he has spoken out about all the other leaders who have done their part in that realm as well.

Who has the biggest office at Lambeau?

The three biggest I've seen are the ones you'd expect -- the president/CEO, the head coach, the GM.

Hey Mike, How have you seen the progression for both Robert Tonyan and Jace Sternberger over the season? Do you think these guys can take over that room next season?

I don't know about take over, but they've definitely shown promise. Unfortunately, both would have progressed more this year if not for injuries, but they'll potentially be key pieces to what the Packers are doing down the stretch here.

Hey Mike, I noticed some of the starters out there blocking for Tyler "swervin" Ervin on punt return. I like the commitment to improve that facet of the game. Do you see this being a consistent part of the return game for the remainder of the season and going into the postseason?

The Packers would certainly like it to be. What I noticed is Ervin was able to get solid returns when the gunners were being double-teamed, and when they were being single-blocked. That's important. Ervin gets what is there first and then sees if he can dart and dodge for more.

You can't remember the helmet off the top of your head?

Ha, I'm live here. You have to cut me some slack.

A high of 15 for Sunday? Good thing it wasn't flexed to the evening!

Yeah, sounds like it's going to be a chilly one. Both teams will know what that's all about.

Kenny Clark looked great On Sunday. Do you think he just back to full health or is simply playing better?

I think being closer to full health has a lot to do with it. When he's getting single-blocked, he's taking advantage.

Tougher out in the playoffs at home Minnesota or Green Bay?

I don't see any venue in the NFC as an "easy" place to go in and steal a playoff victory. Lambeau has the weather, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Seattle have a ton of noise, San Francisco fans have been waiting to get back to the postseason. Dallas and Philly are tough places to play, too, regardless of what the NFC East champ's final record will be.

Do you think a 4 TE look will work against the Bears?

I don't know if the Packers are going to put all four TEs on the field at once. That means one running back or receiver, but not both. They got good mileage out of using three TEs vs. Washington, but whether LaFleur feels that's a good way to attack the Bears, we'll have to wait and see.

I think it was optimism with realistic expectations for this year, as an optimist, I'm there, my thought was 9-7 or 10-6. It is amusing to me fans seem to want quick fixes, make Aaron throw and play like 2011, always use the run game, don't use time outs recklessly, the list is endless. Fans want what they want, know how to "fix" the Packers, me, I'm older, just beat da Bears.

Look, I get it. Most folks didn't expect the Packers to be in this position, but the opportunity is here and no one knows when it'll come around again. There are no guarantees in this league. The Packers are right there in the mix. Get in the playoffs and take your chances. I think this team can reach another level. So does LaFleur. Will they do it? That's why we'll be watching. With that, I have to sign off. Thanks again folks and talk soon. Best, Mike

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