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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: Who are the key players in Packers vs. Cowboys?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions in his weekly live chat

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on. Have to start a little earlier today than usual because the media schedule has changed from prior Wednesdays, so here we go.

Should the Packers load the box against Zeke, and allow their backfield to showcase their talent against the Cowboys?

Slowing down Zeke is obviously a big key. How the Packers match up in the back end could depend a lot on whether Kevin King can play. But Zeke had one of the worst games of his career and the world saw what it did to Dallas' offense. He and that unit will be out to prove something.

Neither Tyron Smith or Davante Adams are suiting up this week. Which is a bigger blow to their respective team?

Taking nothing away from a two-time All-Pro like Smith, but missing Adams is more significant simply because the Packers haven't established consistent production from any of the offense's other passing targets through four games. Guys have flashed -- MVS with a couple deep balls, Allison and Graham with two TDs each, etc. -- but if Adams can't go the Packers will need more. It's an opportunity for someone, preferably more than one, to seize.

Mike, at the quarter pole marker, which NFC North team do you see as best set up to compete for the title? Or rather, which division games jump out at you as "must win?"

Well, after next week's Monday nighter vs. Detroit, the Packers won't have any more division games until December. So far the most significant division win posted by anybody was Green Bay at Chicago in Week 1, because it was on the road. Those are the ones that can tip the balance in the end. But all four teams are in this race and I expect all four to be for a long while here.

I know it's early and the offense is learning still but with the injury to Williams and the lack of a run game so far would you think that Gute is taking a look at Jay Ajayi

I have no idea what the personnel department is exploring, but generally moves are made on Tuesdays so any new players can be on the practice field for the first main workout of the week on Wednesdays, and the Packers only made a practice-squad move this week so far. So I don't expect any major roster changes at this point.

Dak has killed the Pack using his legs, who is going to stop that?

The edge rushers have to pressure under control to keep him in the pocket, but Prescott is not as difficult to sack as a QB like Wentz. At least history would say that. Prescott can make plays with his legs, but you build the defensive plan more around stopping the run, which the Packers have struggled with lately.

Does Randall Cobb's familiarity with the Green Bay defensive backs give him an advantage or vice versa?

I don't think so. Maybe if he's matched up with Tramon Williams, because they're both such veteran players, but that familiarity thing cuts both ways.

Should Vontaze Burfict be allowed to play football again? I know he is suspended for the rest of 2019 but at what point is enough enough?

Great question. As I said in Inbox this morning, it's as much on the GMs and coaches who keep giving him opportunities to play.

Any time frame on Adams return?

No, and I don't expect to get one. I'm looking at it as a week-to-week proposition, absent a meaningful update.

What is the status on Kevin King so far? I hate to see him go down he and Jaire Alexander make a formidable pair on the outside

I said all offseason when you look at 2018, the Packers' defense was a different unit the few times Alexander and King were on the field together. Those two staying healthy and playing regularly is a big key for this defense to play its best, in my view. They provide so much in terms of coverage and opportunities for Pettine to mix and match elsewhere.

Who is your player to watch for the packers and player to watch out for on the cowboys?

The key players for the Packers in this game, to me, are Aaron Jones on offense and Kenny Clark on defense. For the Cowboys, aside from Zeke, I'd say beware of Jason Witten. On defense, it's DeMarcus Lawrence if Bulaga can't go.

Is it likely that Oren Burks could play against Dallas? I think that would improve the ability to stop the run and stop Dak from scrambling.

With Burks missing about 7 weeks, I have a hard time believing he'll be ready to play with just one week of practice. I think there's going to be a progression to get him set to go.

Stopping the run on consistent basis requires two middle linebackers.

Generally speaking, yes, but that's all part of the chess game. Two traditional inside LBs can provide a matchup problem in the passing game the offense might want to attack. If the D-linemen up front are holding their ground and the second level players are handling their gap assignments properly, a defensive coordinator has more flexibility.

We stayed pretty healthy up until the eagles game is this more of a case of 4 games in or the quick turnaround from the broncos game? In your opinion

I don't think it's just a coincidence the Packers have been dealt their first run of injuries this year coming off a Thursday night game. Doesn't surprise me at all.

It seems likely Clark will get doubled like vs. philly. Who'll need to step up in that case?

Lowry and Lancaster. I'm not sure what Adams' status will be up front, but if Clark is getting doubled, it's up to the guys getting single-blocked to hold their own. That's easier said than done against the Dallas offensive line. Frederick, Martin, Collins all among the best even with Smith out.

Other than Packers/Cowboys, what is a matchup this weekend that interests you?

Rams at Seattle on Thursday night should be interesting. Also, Vikings travel to the Giants, who have been rejuvenated by their rookie QB, while Minnesota is already 0-2 on the road.

Is it time for Big Bob Tonyan to emerge this week?

It's time for anybody if Adams can't go. We've seen Robert Tonyan's potential and there's a good chance he gets some opportunities.

An effective negotiating point for the players on the new CBA. Drop all exhibition games, move all Thursday games to Sunday and Monday in return for adding Game 17.

The ratings for Thursday night and the mega TV contract the league got from FOX for Thursday night games over the next several years tell us those games aren't going anywhere.

Do you think coaches are more likely to challenge PI calls with the uncertainty regarding "clear and obvious" or more likely?

I assume you meant less likely to be one of your choices, and that's what I would choose. I think we'll see fewer PI challenges in the first three quarters of games unless it's something really egregious, because the clear tendency now is for the calls on the field to stand. If there's a big play in the fourth quarter and a coach feels he has to have them look at it, he's still going to throw the flag, though.

Why have we not heard a word from the nfl office about the helmet to helmet vicious hits by multiple eagle players as well as the horendous officiating that was done we deserve to get some of the feedback or do they think we are just cash cows!

The news on fines and other discipline usually comes out on Fridays. Just because the Packers' game last week was on a Thursday doesn't change that timeline.

How did Thursday get decided for a mid-week game? To me, it makes much more sense to have the game on Friday. It gives players one extra day of rest, more fans would be out in the sports bars purchasing alcohol & food and it would likely mean only one day off of work for those going to the game out of town. To me, it's a no-brainer.

I think the NFL is leaving Friday nights for high school football, as it should be. The league also doesn't schedule Saturday games until late in the year when the college season is in the pre-bowl period.

I think TOP and getting off the field on 3rd down will play a large part in stopping Zeke from bouncing back this week. Do you see more run blitz calls from Pettine to pack the box this week?

You'd like to be able to stop the run without run blitzes, but any play-caller just has to see how the game is going to unfold.

Who's your horse now that the Brewers' season is over? The Braves have some history in Wisconsin, plus they're pretty exciting to watch

I felt at the trading deadline when the Astros got Greinke it was all but a done deal they'd win it all again. But you never know. It seems like it should be the Dodgers' turn with how good they've been the last several years, but never winning a title.

With both Dallas and Green Bay at 3-1, which team in your opinion has more to prove on Sunday?

Realistically I think the Cowboys do because their schedule was really weak the first three games. But the Packers have to prove they can stop the run or opponents are going to start lining up every game to run the ball all day.

Ham and cheese or turkey and cheese?

Ham and cheese, toasted if possible.

Eliminate preseason, 17 game season, each team recieves two byes, and plays Thursday after a bye.

I don't see the preseason going away entirely, but reducing to 2 or 3 games seems reasonable. I just don't know what the owners are going to give up at the bargaining table to get a 17th regular-season game out of the players, though. We'll see.

Do you feel like a late bye week like the Pack has this year is more beneficial to a team compared to early bye weeks?

I think the schedule set up nicely to have an early Thursday game and a later bye week, but you'd like to have gotten through that Thursday game healthier than the Packers did.

Mike, the Packers are 26th in rushing on offense and 26th against the rush in defense. Which do you find the most troubling and which do you see more easily corrected?

Neither is good, but I'd say the run defense ranking is the bigger concern. Though I think it's also easier to fix, because I think the Packers have the personnel to improve. They have the O-line to improve the run game, too, but I think it might take longer with the transition to the new scheme.

Mike... I just have a feeling in my gut that this is the week we find out if our WR room is as good as Gute thinks it is. These moments are "career defining moments" for young players. It comes down to who wants it.

If the players are looking at these as "career defining moments" they're making too much of it. You take each opportunity as it comes. Make a play, build on it. The focus for the players needs to be on the micro not the macro in these situations, in my opinion.

No love for the "Spoffkiewicz" nickname?!

It was certainly very popular in the Inbox submissions I read through yesterday.

Mike, how many carries will our RBs get on Sunday and who leads the way?

Jones will lead the way, but what the Packers do if Jamaal Williams is out is hard to say. Dexter Williams hasn't been active for a game yet. Tra Carson is on the practice squad, though activating him would require releasing somebody. I'm in wait-and-see mode there.

When a starting QB goes down and the backup enters the announcers usually mention the "emergency QB" Who would that be in GB?

I don't know. I honestly don't.

We can disagree agreeably. I can see how you see it that way. I feel that these players are on the roster to perform when key personnel go down. My company won't pay me to "try real hard". I hope that these young players seize the moment with results, as that is why they have a contract in the first place.

I'm not saying they shouldn't seize the moment, and yes, they're on the roster for a reason. I just don't think it helps them mentally to get caught up in these situations "defining" their careers. If you go in with that mindset, one early mistake and you could be in the tank for the rest of the game. That's all I was saying.

Is Mason Crosby OK? I am worried about him.

Now that more information is out there regarding what Crosby was going through with his wife in August, you can't say enough about his professionalism through and through. Glad to hear Molly's good news and it's good to see Crosby kept his job, which I don't think was really in that much jeopardy.

Mike if I had asked you a week ago who had the better D, Packers or Saints? I suspect a week can make a big difference. Are the Packers capable of a Saint like performance in Dallas Sunday?

I think they're capable, but on the road against a big-time back when run defense has been the biggest struggle is about as significant a challenge as you can get.

Dear (Abby) Mike, the buddy I usually watch games with is driving me nuts with his game superstitions. I just want to watch (that's all we fans can actually do) and enjoy the game without all the baloney (and I'm tempted to not say baloney). What should I do?

Do different things every single week and prove to your buddy they have no bearing on the outcome. If he says you have to bring Cheetos, bring Doritos. If he likes brown mustard, bring yellow. He'll eventually snap out of it.

Hi Mike! I just signed on, so I hope this hasn't already been asked, but what did you see as our biggest issues in the red zone & what can we do to improve in this area? It was great to see Aaron playing like his old self, but that red zone offense was brutal.

I thought Rodgers' accuracy abandoned him a bit on some of his red-zone throws vs. Philly, and the receivers also had chances to make the plays. The Packers need to run the ball more and better, but the plays were there to be made, too.

So if we go 3-1 in each quarter, we would be 12-4. Do you think that record would win the division and or create a first round bye? I know it's still early, but fun to project.

Way too early, but any team would take 3-1 each quarter and let the chips fall. With that, I have to sign off and get downstairs for the coach's press conference. Thanks for all the participation, everybody. Talk again next week. Take care, Mike

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