Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What's the outlook for the Packers?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions from fans Tuesday


Hello. Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving weekend, which we all know didn't end as hoped. But let's get to it.

Good morning Mike, I haven't watched much of the Cardinals this season, but whom do you give the edge to in the running game? A. Jones or D. Johnson? I hope it's a cold one, and an even colder next week.

It's been tough sledding for Johnson in the run game (3.7 ypc) because of the Cards' issues at QB, but he still has over 1,000 yards from scrimmage if you include his pass-catching, with eight total TDs. He's still an awfully dynamic player.

Why don't the Packers run the QB sneak on 3rd or 4th and inches? It seems like every other team that does it is successful. The failed 4th down attempt in MN was a killer.

It was a killer, but if you look at the fourth-down play, the Vikings put two DTs tight on either shoulder of Linsley, angled in no less. They were taking the sneak away. I know all that was needed was a few inches, but one block on the outside on Smith likely would have gotten the job done.

Hi Mike, last week you made a comment that I agreed with in regards to defense in today's NFL. I feel as though our defense has been solid all year, but we are missing the big defensive plays that result in a huge field position shift or defensive touchdowns. How can the defense start generating these sorts of plays?

You have to get pressure on the QB more consistently, because that's when you can generate fumbles or force bad throws or get deflections. The Packers had one good stretch of pass rush in Minnesota, on the final drive of the first half, which I highlighted in my WYMM this week, but other than that the pressure on the QB has come and gone.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room. A guy named Vic has said many times a QB's greatest attribute is courage in the pocket. AR is dropping his eyes and looking for the rush. Gotta be the knee injury. Would you agree Mike?

I'm not going to tell a future HOFer how to play QB, but I've been saying all year the knee injury can't just be dismissed. It's affected everything to some degree at different times this season ... mobility, practice time, possible mechanical adjustments. I've also said interior pressure has been the problem in pass protection, and that makes it tougher to get accurate throws off, whether his eyes are looking at the rush or not.

Why is Rodgers not throwing to the middle of the field? Jimmy was brought in for the specific reason and the offense has to adjust without Cobb. The film indicates throwing lanes are there.

I've been surprised the Packers haven't worked the middle of the field more, other than with Graham. I don't know the reason for it. Again, interior pressure makes those throws harder.

If the Packers win out do they make the playoffs?

I think so, because the other teams in the hunt have some tough games. But winning out is no sure thing for a team that hasn't won even two in a row all year or won on the road. They have two straight at home here to check off the first box, then it can be on to the next one.

Regarding the failed 4th down, how about running a play action - fake the handoff to Jones and toss a screen (or short) pass to one of the tight ends.

Whatever you call, you have to make it work. If they had run play-action on fourth-and-inches and not converted, everyone would have been howling about not giving the ball to Jones. McCarthy said he had a second call in mind and felt in hindsight the other call would have been better, but he didn't tell us what it was.

Apparently King was close to returning against Minnesota. Did something happen pregame that was a setback?

Not that I know of, but we'll see how much he practices this week. King and Alexander on the field together at corner makes this defense look different to me, regardless of the injuries elsewhere.

You've mentioned in the past that you meet up with a good friend in Minneapolis every year. Did you have a chance to do that this past weekend, and what did you do with him/her?

I got a chance to see a number of people -- two of my cousins and their combined four kids, plus one of my best friends and my godson. The only positive to a night game on the road is when it's in a city with people I like to see.

I loved the toss play to Jones from the 6-yard line. He went into the end zone untouched. It seems that would be a great short-yardage play. Put him in space, and let him pick his spot to pick up the first down. Agree?

They've run it twice for touchdowns the last two games. It can be a risk in short-yardage because you're pitching the ball so far into the backfield, but it has been effective for other teams. Maybe that's the other play McCarthy had on his mind.

With 69 probably out for this Sunday will the powers that are opt for moving the pocket more or let 33 go for for another 150?

Bakhtiari hasn't been ruled out yet, so we'll see on that. I don't care how they do it or who gets the ball. This team just needs to win. My grandpa always used to say, when he'd sink his par putt on hole No. 1, that you can't par 'em all unless you par the first one. Doesn't matter if you hit the green in reg or get up-and-down from the trap. A par is a par. The Packers just need a win.

The tricky part about getting to playoffs isn't getting some help, but actually winning 5 in a row. I have very little faith in it. Any reason for optimism?

The only team on the remaining schedule that will be a significant favorite over the Packers is the Bears, and they beat them back in Week 1. The Packers have also won plenty in Chicago over the years. But they have to take care of business at home first. Do that, get to Chicago still alive, and see what happens.

I know that winning 5 straight is a tall order. But you have to feel good about 2 warm-weather dome teams coming to Lambeau where GB hasn't lost. Right? Then it's meaningful in Chicago.

Exactly. But the Packers need to be better on third down, clean up the miscues on special teams, and start generating turnovers in order to win. That's a formula you can take with you anywhere.

Which former Packer would you compare Alexander to?

He reminds me of a young Tramon Williams, but Williams took a couple of years to become a legit starter. Alexander is doing it from the get-go, and I can't recall any rookie corners in my time here who have played like him.

How can you have faith when this team has no Defensive line after the injuries, other teams QB's are sitting back playing pitch and catch, easy peezy

The loss of Daniels is big and might be too much to overcome. But I saw some flash plays from Lowry, Lancaster and Adams on Sunday night, all of them. Now they have to start making those plays more often.

Mike, I'll be at the Atlanta game. I'm getting older and a little cold blooded. If I bring the hotdogs and cocoa can I sit in the box with you guys? I'll be quiet.

Ha, nice try.

Hindsight being 20/20 but was not keeping Haha a mistake?

I don't think so. He was not in the team's future plans, and Gutekunst wasn't counting on getting a compensatory pick for him because he's going to be more active in free agency, so he got a decent pick for him now. The injuries in the secondary have piled up, but the secondary isn't the reason this team is 4-6-1.

Mike - I realize not all hope is lost for this year, but it is looking bleak. But how different it would be right now if they could have pulled out just one victory over these last 4 road losses. One break, one bounce, one call goes differently and our December friend would be welcomed back with open arms.

Yeah, it's been that kind of year. Everyone knew this would be a tough stretch, but the Packers didn't do themselves any favors heading into these tough road games by playing poorly on the road at Washington and Detroit before the bye. Those games could have changed the equation just as much.

Hi mike! ca you confirm if Rodgers still has the plate on his collarbone? is it something that will be removed this offseason?

Rodgers said when he talked about it last year that he wasn't having any of the hardware removed from his collarbone surgery. I don't think it's having any impact on his play, if that's what you're implying.

Besides the obvious in winning games and finishing one out on the road, what do hear the players focusing on to remain positive throughout such a frustrating stretch of the season?

They have jobs to do, jobs to protect, and they keep fighting, because no matter what your record is, the feeling in a locker room after a win is something you want as often as you can get it. That's all they need to focus on.

Maybe it's me but i just don't recall seeing that much of MVS against the Vikings...what's his status? St Brown looked like he's the real deal.

St. Brown was making some nice plays before his elbow injury. He's been seeing the ball more lately than MVS. Rookies are going to have ups and downs, because defenders will study film and take away what you do best. It's all part of it.

Mike what hits are the guys crankin in the locker room these days? anything to fire em up? some pantera poss?

Whatever they're playing, I don't recognize it. But that's nothing new.

Do you happen to know the percentage of defensive plays Blake has played? He not only seems to be on the field all the time, but is around the ball on nearly every play he possibly could be.

That's his duty in the middle of the defense. I don't have the snap counts in front of me, but it's definitely very high for Martinez. He's an indispensable communicator for Pettine for the entire unit. We've seen very few miscommunications this year, from what I can tell.

For me this season has seemed a lot like 2016, and I really expect to see a much more organized team on Sunday, kind of like that Eagles game. We should always have faith in our Green and Gold guys, always believe!

They went to that well in '16, and it was a heckuva ride. I don't know how often you can go there, but it's all you've got to hang onto right now. It can happen, it just has to get started. It should have started sooner, but they can't worry about that now.

Possibility of 16 making the field this week?

We'll see. They'd have to make another roster move to activate him. We haven't heard on the severity of any of the new injuries.

A little off topic, but what's your take on the Badgers season this year?

A rough one. They were overhyped, but that's stating the obvious. They've had too many rough outings at the QB position, no matter who it is. They need a consistently higher level of play at that position.

I heard a player talk about the team snack. What exactly does a "snack" for the players entail? Do you ever partake?

No. They always set out some food for players at the hotel after the team meeting the night before the game. That's all I know.

What is your honest assessment of Josh Jackson? It is pretty clear he lacks the qualities to play consistent man coverage at this point which is why he fell to the 2nd.

He's a young player with promise who started one year in college, so the ups and downs I've seen have not been all that surprising. I really like his demeanor and makeup. If he needs some time, I'm willing to be patient.

Do you plan on making a list either on II or elsewhere listing which teams we should be rooting for each week in order for the Packers to regain control over their playoff hopes?

I said in Inbox last week I wasn't going to do that until the Packers won two games in a row. So I'm sticking to that for now. We'll see if my boss changes my mind.

I am not giving up on this year yet but it seems we are well set-up for the next few years, QB, Left Tackle, Alexander with the potential to be a shut-out corner and a draft class deep in edge rushers. All of Vic's critical positions, not to mention a couple of young RB and more experienced WRs. Would you agree?

There are plenty of pieces in place, but I'm very interested to see what this roster looks like after another offseason of Gutekunst's drafting and free-agent acquisitions.

What I see in a nut shell is that every team we have lost to has a multitude of weapons both offense and defense . I see BIG change as Gut reshapes Packer

I think that's a distinct possibility.

I know that wild card is our best bet but if the bears and Vikings both end up with 8 wins isn't the North still possible?

Sure, but the only way for the Bears to finish with 8 wins is for the Vikings to beat them in Week 17, which means the Vikings could only win one other game besides that one. I'm not holding my breath on the division anymore.

With the limited practice time during the week, how do the players correct the little fundamental things? I know repetition helps, but do they actually get enough practice time to iron out issues during the week?

Every team deals with the same limitations. Based on the CBA, teams only get three practices in full pads over the last six weeks of the season. You have to have all your fundamentals in place and be able to consistently maintain them without the late-season workouts in pads.

The Packers have lost two games by the score of 31-17, all other losses have been within a possession. It irks me when I see analysts and fans talks about how bad this team is.

Frankly, I thought the Packers looked worse in the four games before the bye than in the five games since. The team improved after the bye, but they haven't been able to finish games in tough venues. That's just reality.

Don't just beat the Cardinals, make a statement in doing so.

I think that's useless talk, especially with a 2-9 team coming to your house. Just win the game and go from there. Win these next two, and you can tell everyone you're still in it when you go to Chicago, but one step at a time. With that, I'm going to sign off. Thanks everybody. Take care, talk again next week. Best, Mike.

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