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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What's the best playoff game to watch this weekend?

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

Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on today and adjusting to the different time. The playoff bye practice/media schedule was very different from a normal Wednesday, so I had to push this to later. Anyway, go ahead and start sending in questions and I'll get started.

Thanks for the chat, Mike.

I loved the article on the top 10 reasons for the #1 seed.

Thanks, that was fun to put together, and pretty easy, really. There were so many memorable moments from the regular season. Kudos to our intern Jen for finding all the video clips and highlights to sprinkle throughout the text. I had the easy part, frankly.

Which playoff game are you most excited for this weekend Mike? Thanks for doing the chat, I'm sure the schedule is hectic

This week isn't as hectic as next week will be by any means, but we'll just keep figuring it out as we go. I think the most compelling game this weekend is San Fran at Dallas. Seeing those 2 in the postseason together will bring back a lot of memories from the Montana/Young/Aikman days for sure. And both of those teams this year are pretty fun to watch, period. The other one I'm really intrigued by is New England vs. Buffalo Part 3, because it sounds like it's going to be really cold in Buffalo on Sat. night.

Is there concern about cohesiveness on the OL....three potential new players scares me a bit.....sometimes you dance with the ones that brought you there...

They count on being able to work on the cohesion in practice. It's always been LaFleur's priority to get the 5 best available guys out there, and it sounds like he'll be taking that approach again. If you think someone is a better player than someone else, it would be hard for me as a coach to leave him on the bench.

Mike how do you go about watching film. What do you look for first? The line play? The ball?

It depends. I usually go into the film looking at a particular player first, and then other things will jump out. Or on a certain play, knowing the result, I want to take a closer look at the pass protection or pass rush, for example.

Which team would scare you the most coming into Lambeau, Coach Spofford?

I wouldn't be scared of any team. Anything can happen in the playoffs against anybody, but this Packers team is equipped to beat anyone. As I said earlier this week in Inbox, when you're the team with the bye, whoever you get is coming to your place off their biggest win of the season. It's just part of the deal.

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the chat. What's the injury situation for the four teams we could face in two weeks?

Sorry, can't say I've studied it that broadly. Once the opponent is known, I'll zero in a bit more.

Hi Spoff! What would you assume takes longer to rehab when a player is off for an extended time? Strength or conditioning? I'm a runner and I know when I miss a month or more of running I get gassed very easily until I get back in a rhythym.

I've never played football, but guys talk all the time about being in football shape -- being able to deal with the play-by-play effort required of the body, recovering quickly for the next snap, and being able to handle 10- or 12-play drives, as well as 60-plus plays for an entire game. The football shape part of it always seems to be the hardest for players to get all the way back.

As a sport writer do you prefer covering a play off game at Lambeau or on the road? Any favorite memory?

I'll take Lambeau Field anytime. It's just such a great venue, especially in winter. That said, most of the top memories of covering playoff games have been on the road. The whole road run in '10 of course, Dallas in '16, the near miracle in Arizona in '15. The most memorable home playoff game I've covered in this job was the snow globe game vs. Seattle in '07.

Of the four different possible opponents, Which team do you think presents our biggest matchup challenge next week?

I don't know. If San Francisco beats Dallas, I'd say they'd be coming in as the hottest team of the potential opponents given how they finished the season. One thing from a prep standpoint that works in GB's favor this week is of the four possibilities, the Packers have played three of them already this year, so they can focus a lot on themselves for now.

Speaking of cold, the forecast is looking mighty chilly for play off weekend in Green Bay

I'm hearing that as well. Should be interesting.

How do you think the team will use Za'Darius Smith? Do you think he takes Oren Burks's reps - i can't see him taking reps away from De'Vondre Campbell, Rashan Gary or Preston Smith

If the Packers get Z back, I would imagine they'd want him in a specific role/package for roughly a certain number of snaps. The Packers aren't super deep at edge rusher so any boost he could provide there would help, and it would give Barry the option to have both Smiths and Gary rushing on some third downs.

Everyone is excited to get Z back to reinforce the outside edge rush and leverage contain, but just as important he can also bring the pressure through the A gap. Something else for opposition o line to have to account for

Definitely. The Packers have used Gary that way here and there, but Z definitely had a knack for that in Pettine's scheme. I guess we'll see.

There could be some crazy weather in Tampa as well this weekend. Strong winds and heavy rain. I'm glad we can all just sit back and watch what happens.

Wow, hadn't heard that. Any kind of bad weather I'd think would help the Eagles and that running game of theirs.

Which of the injured players do you most miss listening to and interviewing? We don't get to hear about that often as fans but who has the best personality for you to cover?

We've all missed a lot only getting to talk to players via Zoom, or through masks in the media auditorium, the past couple years. But personality-wise, guys like David Bakhtiari and Jaire Alexander definitely have been missed. They deal with the media very differently and in their own ways, but I've always enjoyed the interactions.

Mike, did you see anything from Za'Darius practice?

I only saw he was out there today, but our media viewing area was literally more than a hundred yards from where the outside linebackers were doing their drills, so I really couldn't see him at all.

Do you and Wes "hang out" occasionally away from work or is yours specifically a business relationship?

We're more than just co-workers, certainly. I consider him a good friend. But he's got a 4-year-old at home, and with all the time we spend away from our families with long work hours during the season, we focus our off time at home.

When you and Wes cover the road games from the office, does the team order in a big spread for you? Or do you just grab some McDonald's on your way in?

Ha. It's more than just the two of us that are working from the office on the road games, so there's a takeout food order placed for the entire department from somewhere, often the restaurant right downstairs.

To your earlier comment, a peek at the forecast looks like Aaron will get what he wants with very cold temps for divisional game. In general I can see how it is to the Packers advantage to have it cold, especially playing a warm weather team. However, is there a point where the elements work against the Packers, in particular Aaron's strengths? Too cold, windy, snow or sleet?

Wind and wetness would definitely affect the ball and the passing game, so the Packers wouldn't want those. But seeing how the offense functioned on a pretty cold night against Minnesota a couple of weeks ago, putting up 37 points, makes me think the temperature (barring something extreme) doesn't really have much impact.

Have you gotten a sense on how the team feels Marquez Valdes-Scantling' health is heading into the Playoffs? Can he be continue to be our deep threat?

Wait and see there. MVS wasn't on the practice field today, and everyone knows back injuries can be tricky. Hopefully he can use this week to heal up, feel better, and get back on the practice field next week.

Are the coaches truly unsure when and how Jaire will return, or are they just playing coy?

I think the plan was to play him some at Detroit last week until he went on the Covid list and missed two more practices. He was out there today and it seems they're expecting him to be available for the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers held practice on Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

I imagine the Packers are giddy with excitement over several players on the O-line returning along with Randall Cobb, Jaire Alexander and Z Smith. So much depth.

It sure beats the alternative, such as last year, when suddenly in the last week of the regular season the offense lost Bakhtiari and had to make a major adjustment. The thought of having Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas and Ja all on the field at corner together -- which hasn't happened yet -- is pretty intriguing.

Has Allen Lazard essentially become our TE or is he still playing WR 3 for us?

Lazard has been very much WR2 for the past month or so. He's really playing well.

When does the MVP voting take place? Could the voters be swayed by playoff play?

No, all the votes for those season awards have to be in before the playoffs start, to my knowledge. The results just aren't known until the week of the Super Bowl.

is the roster back to 53? If so, how many more spots need to open up for our guys coming back to be activated?

I believe it's at 53, so spots will have to be created for Cobb, Z, and Ty Summers (who was back at practice today) for them to be activated for the playoffs.

Just curious...while you're spending an hour doing this live chat what is Wes at work on?

He's working on tomorrow morning's Inbox column, as well as a feature story to post in the morning. And right after I'm done here, we have to hop into the studio to shoot a 3 Things.

What is your favorite Ted Thompson story?

Sitting next to him in the press box for Super Bowl XLV. I've told that story before.

This year, just catch those interceptions that hit you right in the hands.

Always a good idea.

It's great that Lambeau Field will be a full house with fans this year. With all the NFL stadiums you have been to, how does the crowd roar at Lambeau compare the other 12th man venues?

In the press box, it's difficult to tell just how loud Lambeau gets. As far as outdoor stadiums, it's not as loud as Seattle or Kansas City, but it's up there. Seattle and KC are definitely the loudest outdoor stadiums I've heard.

Do you think Patrick Taylor will see any action in the playoffs?

Only if Aaron Jones or AJ Dillon gets hurt, most likely. So no offense to Taylor, I hope the Packers don't need him, but he's a heck of a good option if they do. He really ran hard in Detroit.

Has Robert Tonyan stayed in GB for his rehab?

Yeah, we've seen him observing practice from time to time. He's around.

All the home teams are listed as favs, not a surprise. With the number of surprising games in season, why do I feel like there could be several upsets this weekend? 49ers at Dallas, possibly Cardinals at Rams?

I just looked this up to confirm (and I might use it in 3 Things when I sign off), but over the last six years in the NFC, the home teams have swept wild-card weekend only once. And I think it's only two home sweeps in the last nine years. I would suspect at least one road team will win in the NFC this weekend/Monday.

Any news on Kingsley Keke?

He was not at practice today, that I could tell. There's no official injury/participation report until next week.

How did you get your start with the Pack?

I started covering home games for the Wausau Daily Herald, my first newspaper job, in the mid-1990s. Then while at the Press-Gazette, I helped out the Packers beat guys once in a while and often was sent to the home games to covering the visitors' locker room afterward. Then I got this job in 2006 and have been here ever since.

If you were to recommend an up and comer - current Packer Staffer for a GM job - who would be your recommendation and why?

There are a lot of top-notch guys in the Packers personnel department, but it's rather surprising amidst all the GM interviews being requested by other teams that Jon-Eric Sullivan's name hasn't come up yet. He's going to be a GM someday, and some team in need should hire him soon, before they miss out.

A spot would have to open for Turner also, right? Are we in danger of other teams claiming our players if we cut them or does the waiver claim rules change in playoffs?

Turner was never put on IR. He's been on the 53 the whole time. Players released still must be subject to waivers for 24 hours, to my knowledge.

I was rooting for the Ravens-Steelers game to come down to the last play of overtime and see if they would play rugby until someone scored...

That was a heck of a fourth-and-8 conversion by Big Ben to get in position to win that game. The number of down-to-the-wire games the Ravens lost this year is mind-boggling.

Any insight on how the Associated Press became the authority on the MVP (and other) award? Any thought on who else could establish such an award? I always enjoyed the All Madden Team announcement, and I wonder what players would hold in more esteem. Many players spend a significant amount of energy "ripping the media" that I'm surprised that these awards come from the media.

The NFL established that a media panel, coordinated by the AP, would vote for all the major postseason awards decades ago. The MVP goes back to the 1950s and Jim Brown's three trophies. It's only 50 voters, so it's not like every media member that covers the NFL to some degree gets a vote.

Cardinals losing an away game would be an upset. :)

Yeah, how weird is that? Arizona won every road game it played this year ... except at Detroit. Go figure.

If Mike McCarthy ends up coming to GB for a playoff game I wonder if he's ever seen the inside of the visitors locker room. I wouldn't think he'd ever need to go in there as the coach.

I would bet he's seen it.

Will the team practice outdoors at all these next two weeks?

Oh yes. They were outside today, and they'll practice outside as much as they can the rest of the way.

One under the radar guy for Green Bay in terms of draft + develop appears to be Dean Lowry. He's affecting the offense with more regularity and I am here for it.

This has been Lowry's best season, no doubt about it. He got off to a bit of a slow start in September, but then he started to come on in October and hasn't stopped. I get a kick out of how Kenny Clark always tells us that he's constantly reminding Dean Lowry how strong he is, as in, how tough he is to handle with that bull rush. Lowry has been a big-time presence up front for this defense this year.

Do the Packers have any control over where their coaches go? Can we keep them from signing with the Bears or Vikings?

No. Assistant coaches being interviewed for head jobs can't be blocked. If they get the job offer, it's up to them whether or not to take it.

Did you see Charles Woodson's comments last week about how Packers really don't have home field advantage? He said other coaches can easily fire up their teams about coming to Lambeau, The Frozen Tundra, Home of the Ice Bowl. They come in ready to play their best game and we are oh its just another home game...

I can see how he feels that way, having been on teams that suffered two of the most devastating home playoff losses in team history, both to the Giants ('07, '11). But after the Niners beat the Packers here in the wild-card game in '13, GB won four in a row in the postseason at home until the Bucs loss last January.

Who came first? You or Vic? I remember reading your columns on before his.

Yes, I got here in 2006. Vic came in 2011. The website is a lot different than it was 15 years ago, though. For the better. Lots of evolution and Vic was a big part of that, but this business is constantly changing. I've had the same job, and what feels like a million different jobs, over the course of 16 seasons.

Mike, I'm an out of state fan so I hadn't noticed until recently. Those decorations (?) on the field for the players to run through during intros never used to be there. Who makes that call to add/change that stuff?

I don't know whose purview that falls under, but those were a new addition this year. I'm all fine with it as long as Lambeau doesn't go to raging flamethrowers and ridiculous inflated stuff like so many other stadiums.

I thought the Vikings looked miserable playing here in the cold. Demoralized, even

Couldn't agree more. I would say a lot of that had to do with the fact that they were forced to play a backup QB with almost no NFL experience with their season on the line.

I think the Lambeau Field mystique was shattered by Michael Vick and the Falcons.

Obviously, that was the franchise's first postseason loss at Lambeau Field. Ever. The Giants winning here in sub-zero temps for the NFC title in '07 was a stunner, too. Stuff happens. I still say, on balance, getting teams coming here not as familiar with the conditions is a plus for GB.

Reasonably healthy, MVP, possible COY, homefield advantage, cold weather on the horizon, odds on favorites to win it all, team chemistry. They have it all right in front of them. I think I speak for all Packer fans when I say the ONLY thing that might stop us is the black and whites. Please NFL, can we get some fair officiating?

The system is the system, which guarantees nothing other than that at least one playoff game this year will create an officiating controversy. It's practically inevitable.

All right folks, I'd better get going. I think Wes and Larry are waiting for me in the studio. Thanks for all the questions and we'll talk again soon. Enjoy wild-card weekend. Take care, Mike

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