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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What's the key to getting back on track?

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

Giants TE Evan Engram
Giants TE Evan Engram

Hello everybody and Happy day-before Thanksgiving. Let's get started.

Mourning Mike, thanks for the chat. Wondering how close you are to recovered from the trip back from SF. From my own experiences all night return trips that got me home in the wee hours left me exhausted mentally and physically for several days. More importantly how close to recovered is the team?

It always takes me a couple of days to feel normal after an overnight cross-country flight like that but we carry on. The team has a late practice today, so LaFleur is giving the guys as much time as possible to get their bodies back. But there is prep work to do for the Giants and that will include a practice on Thanksgiving Day.

So what games are important for me to digest my turkey meal with?

I think the Buffalo-Dallas game late afternoon tomorrow is intriguing, with all the noise in Dallas over the loss to New England and everyone questioning just how good the Bills are at 8-3. I'm hoping to get done with work tomorrow and get home in time to catch a good portion of that game.

Hi Mike! In your opinion, what would be the most refreshing the to see the Packers execute well this coming Sunday? On either side of the ball (including special teams).

It's all three phases. They have to get back to the offensive rhythm they had vs. Oakland and KC. Those were pretty good offensive games. The defense has to take the ball away. That's when it's most effective and has covered up for its other deficiencies. Special teams needs to stop losing the field-position battle. At least break even. All that would help put together another winning streak.

What from the Giants should the team be most wary of?

Evan Engram. If their dynamic TE returns from his foot injury, I expect Daniel Jones to feed him the ball mercilessly.

Mike, does the lack of trick plays or better creativity, so far this season, at critical moments (game winning drive, 4th and 1 etc) concern you?

I'd rather see the Packers line up and win their battles in the critical moments than try to get creative or tricky. The former has the longer shelf life, and the Packers were doing that plenty in the first half of the season. They were the better team in the fourth quarter of a lot of close games, and it wasn't because of tricks.

What do you thing Matt LaFluer learned from the last game?

I think he learned his team isn't quite there yet, they need a push down the stretch to get to another level, and the coaches need to be better to help provide that push. That's what I took from his press conference Monday.

Aside from your job what is Spoff most thankful for this year?

A happy and healthy family, no doubt.

Concerned with the 2 Huge dud of games this year, even more concerned this one followed the previous when you'd expect nothing but their "A" game

It's definitely a concern that the Packers got whipped in such a big game, coming off a bye and after already playing a clunker on a road trip. It wasn't a good look. But dwelling on it won't get the team anywhere. Everyone can take some ownership in a loss like that, no different than everyone can help get things back on track. It's tough to make wholesale changes at this stage of a season. You do what you do well and get back to it.

Why do you think teams have had so much success exploiting the middle of the field, especially with tight ends against our defense?

If I knew the answer, I wouldn't be sitting here answering questions now, would I? In all seriousness, I think Pettine said it best last week that it's never just one thing or they could fix it. Sometimes it's poor leverage on the coverage, other times it's lack of eye discipline with regard to assignments, other times it's communication. There's a lot to clean up, and because the Packers haven't, opponents keep attacking them where they're weak. It's how this league works.

Should we expect more run plays this week?

I think the Packers have to get back to running the ball and running play-action and other motions off those run looks. That's what they were doing best previously. The Giants have given up a ton of points this season. The offense needs to find itself Sunday.

Mike, what is your take on Special Teams? When we thought it can't get worse after last year, its actually getting worse, negative yards on punt return, JK Scott no more a weapon. What needs to be done? Is there a serious lack of talent? or is it coaching? because per the experts special team is all about coaching (?!)

Scott's in a slump, there's no doubt about that, and it's on him to climb out of it. The struggles in the return game are blocking from what I see. When the Packers are putting two jammers on the gunners, they're still getting beat so the return man has to fair catch it or get tackled right away. They just have to execute better or find guys who can block better.

Any word on Bulaga's status?

Not yet. I doubt we'll know much until later in the week.

The last game, I saw one team ready to play at a playoff level of intensity while the packers were treating it as a regular season game. Thoughts?

I saw a team that got shaken by a rough start on the road against a really good team and couldn't snap out of it. Fast starts are great, but you also have to be able to recover when things don't start well, and the Packers couldn't do that in LA or SF. They have to find something that gets them going in those situations.

December Football starts here! Bring it on sayI. I still think with the way the fixtures have fallen we can nab the No 1 seeding. Run the table? What say you?

Just focus on getting wins and put yourself in position to win the NFC North, then let the chips fall. The NFC is a really loaded conference.

Mike, I can't stand the Seahawks and root against them 99% of the time but we need the Vikings to lose one more game. My question to you is, if the Packers have to travel back to the west coast for a playoff game, would you rather it be in Washington or California?

There's little difference to those challenges, to be honest. Get in position and worry about the details later.

Follow up to exploiting middle of the field... is there a reason Campbell, Burks and/or Jackson were not seen much this past Sunday? Seems like those are the players the packers have acquired to handle these kinds of situations.

Campbell played plenty, but stopping the 49ers' run game had to be the top priority, so that dictated personnel in many instances.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Mike. Regarding the weather this coming Sunday- do you think we'll be more run heavy or balanced vs the Giants?

I say you just do whatever it takes to score points. The Giants' defense has struggled this year. They'll focus on taking something away, probably Jones. If they succeed, win elsewhere. The Packers should be able to. And I don't think they can totally take away Jones anyway.

Mike Are we a season away?

Ask me in January. The playoffs aren't easy to come by, period. Get in and take your chances. Future questions are for the future.

I don't think we've come close to seeing the extent of LaFleurs playbook yet. So much is dependent on other plays working and setting up different plays/looks. Do you thinks he's continued to add more looks as the season has gone on or are they waiting to get what's there operating at full throttle?

I think at this stage it's the latter, and if the Packers can find some concepts to hang their hat on for the stretch run, they can put themselves in good position. The Packers established nothing against the 49ers. If you're fortunate enough to get a rematch later, you focus on what you think you can establish with a second try.

With all the angst about the game last Sunday, and it is all valid, I'm still very pleased with how the season has gone, especially compared to the last two years. It's nice to have our December friend back!

Playing meaningful games in December sure beats the alternative.

Mike what do you think is the biggest contributor to all of our pre-snap penalties?

Lack of focus. These guys are pros. They know they can and should do better.

Possible rain in the forecast...will that change their game planning?

I think you have to go in with a plan to do everything, and you adjust if the weather is a factor. If you don't practice certain concepts, or over-work others in practice, due to anticipating the weather and then it's not the factor you thought it would be, you can really get caught.

The offense seemed to get better every week and in spite of losing Adams they took an even bigger jump in his absence. Since his return it's been downhill. Why? He's by far the best WR and going backword doesn't make sense. How does MLF get the O back on track?

The offense was at its best when it was operating through the running backs, in both run and pass. Get back to that and then build opportunities for Adams off of what you were doing best without him. Rodgers clearly looks for Adams when he has a favorable one-on-one matchup, and you have to give him those opportunities as well, but sometimes those are pre-determined throws and I don't think the Packers have to rely on him to that extent.

Assuming the Packers make the playoffs, when facing teams with good pass rushers, do you think they could go back to 2007 and throw short to the first read, get 3 to 5 yards, which should open up the run a bit?

Those "run solutions," or sideways throws to the wideouts in place of running plays, are tough against defenses with SF's speed. That was by far the fastest defense the Packers have played this year, much faster than Chicago's or Minnesota's in my opinion.

We continue to get demolished on the west coast, 1st east coast trip, means we should dominate, right?

That would be nice. I think too much is being made of the West Coast coincidence. The first one was a clunker. The second one was one of the best teams in the league who knocked the Packers to the canvas on the opening minutes of the game and the other fighter never recovered.

During the PackersPerks conference call yesterday the feed cut out during Mark Murphy's answer about installing handrails in Lambeau Field. Could you summarize his answer?

He basically said if the Packers were to install handrails, they would be required to bring the entire seating bowl up to code (it's not currently up to code but has been given grandfathered exceptions or whatever). So any single change would require a massive ordeal that would actually cost the Packers around 10,000 in seating capacity because the seats would have to be spread out farther on the benches, etc.

I know everybody is bummed out about the way the last game went, but how many of those same fans really thought we would be in contention for the playoffs this year? I think we all need to take a step back and think about how lucky we are and the team turned around as quickly as it did! Sorry not a question just a comment

If you know me and have followed my comments since the offseason, my motto has been optimism without expectations in the first year with a new head coach. Losses aren't fun, especially bad ones, but this team is so much better than the last two years it's not even close.

How much of punting is mental?

I think any specialty like that is plenty mental. You don't get here without the talent, and that talent has been on display in other games. Scott is working through it and LaFleur expressed plenty of confidence he'll come out the other side just fine. Sooner the better, of course.

Mike, who do you see as WR2 now on the team?

There is no clear-cut answer to that. Someone needs to seize the job. Allison dropped a pass on third down, MVS didn't try to drag his feet in the back of the end zone, Graham had a perfect throw knocked out of his grasp as he fell to the ground. Those are the missed opportunities that prevent someone from becoming another go-to guy.

Is this the right thg system for Rodgers?

Rodgers puts up a maximum 158.3 passer rating a month and seven days ago and now you want to question whether this is the right system for him? Please.

No disrespect Mike but I really hope the coaches and players haven't read your "optimism without expectations" comments and optimism and expectations are sky high in the locker room.

It's not a motto for the team. It's a motto as an observer, and a healthy one in my opinion.

Hi, Mike. If Bulaga can't go on Sunday, would the Packers start Light or decide on a different combination of guards and tackles?

I think the choices are either Light at RT, or move Turner out to RT and put Patrick in at RG. Not sure if we'll know what the Packers are doing until game time. LaFleur might keep it under wraps all week.

Who wins? Ravens or San Fran.

I'm going with Baltimore. As good as SF was last Sunday night, I think the Ravens are playing even better right now, and they're at home.

This smells of a trap game for me. Long road game last week, travel to the other coast this week with their tails in their legs, playing a team who may consider this their Super Bowl. Am I nuts?

I hate the term trap game because this is professional sports. But be that as it may, the Packers have to come out firing and not let a rebuilding team think they can make a statement against a contender, and use this game as a jumping off point. Get after it right away and take care of business. With that, I've gotta run. LaFleur will be at the podium shortly and I have to get downstairs. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Take care, Mike

It's hard to make everyone happy. Sometimes we just need to sit back and enjoy whatever we get. Go Pack Go and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

You too, and sorry I lost track of your other comment earlier. I was trying to get it back, but I apologize. Best to everyone.

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