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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: Will the Packers find another gear in the playoffs?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions in his weekly live chat

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

Happy New Year everybody! Thanks for logging on. All right, let's go.

Are there any injury updates?

The Packers don't have to put out an official injury report until next week, but we'll be able to see today and tomorrow who's practicing and who's not.

If we win and the 49ers somehow lose, we would have the championship game in Green Bay right?


What's the mood like where you are, Mike? Excited? Anxious?

Right now it's all pretty calm because the game is still so far away. But come next weekend there will be all kinds of emotions around here. Eight playoff appearances in a row and then two years without the postseason ... very different Januarys.

I like our defense against anyone at this time. I'm glad Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley and Jamaal Williams  have the extra week. That concerns me a bit.

They'll use the bye to get as healthy as possible. We'll have a better gauge on where all of them are next week.

Mike, any insight into why Aaron Rodgers and his receivers aren't connecting? Are they running slower than he's anticipating? Is he throwing differently than before? It seems unlikely that Rodgers, known for his spot-on passes, suddenly forgot how to throw the ball. How do they fix this?

The only way to fix it is in practice. The inconsistencies are obvious. Rodgers has missed plenty of throws we've seen him make easily in the past, and then other times he's making really impressive throws for key plays. It's about having the timing and placement and routes down more consistently and regularly, and the only way to get there is in practice. The Packers will practice six times before the playoff game -- today, tomorrow, Monday, then Wednesday thru Friday. They have time to improve.

Hope you had a good New Year's Day, Mike. Your II column was especially good yesterday. Drew Brees is 4-7 in games under 40 degrees, Russell Wilson has never won at Lambeau, and Pack would be tough to beat at home twice in the same season. I feel no matter the opponent, there is plenty of reason for optimism in the Divisional round.

I think so, too. I'm simply a believer that anything can happen in the playoffs. It's get in and roll the dice. The Packers reduced their requirement to get to the Super Bowl from three wins to two, so that's a good start. But so many playoff games over the years can go either way. It's just the nature of it.

Which team would be the best matchup for the Pack to play, in other words, who should we be rooting for?

I think the Saints are the best of the three possible GB opponents, but anyone who wins on wild-card weekend is going to feel like a hot team. Again, the nature of it.

Hi Mike - Happy New Year, and happy playoff season! I have a general NFL question. Why can only 46 players be active on game days? What's the reasoning behind not allowing all 53 on the roster to play any given game? (barring injuries, of course).

Well, the NFL doesn't have a temporarily injured list like in baseball. So the 46-man game-day roster versus the 53-man full roster is sort of the compromise. You can't put someone on IR in the NFL without being forced to miss him for at least 8 game weeks, but if teams were allowed to suit up all 53 on game day there'd be a greater imbalance between the healthy teams and not-so-healthy teams in terms of available players. I hope that makes sense. That's the rationale behind it to me.

I think our defense will carry us throughout this post season

The defense has played really, really well since the San Francisco game with the exception of the first half at Detroit. The Packers are going to face much better offenses in January, but the defense is riding a pretty strong wave of confidence right now. That counts for something.

Any role player you expect to have a big playoff game(s)? In other words, are you expecting to see more Jace Sternberger, bigger plays by Kyler Fackrell, etc?

Wes and I talked about this today on Unscripted, which will post a little later. I think Darnell Savage could be a key guy in the postseason, as far as the non-stars on the team. I also think Jamaal Williams will have a role in short-yardage and goal-line situations in particular, assuming he's healthy.

Hi Mike, Do you happen to know who the "Tom" is that Aaron Rodgers keeps handy and asking for stats during his podium press conferences? Tom's always Johnny-on-the-spot with his answers and it seems Aaron loves to include him in the mix!

That's kind of a running joke between the two now. Tom is Tom Fanning, communications manager who, among a lot of duties, handles all of Rodgers' media obligations. He's great with stats, and Aaron just likes to have fun with him in that way. Tom actually started here in '08 writing for the website with me and did that for three years before shifting permanently into a communications/PR role.

Do you think it's too late for the offense to "flip the switch" at this juncture? In other words is what we're seeing what we are this year?

I never say never. Everyone thought it was what you see is what you get after the San Francisco game, but both the defense and special teams have stepped up considerably since then. There's still time for the offense. They've moved the ball and crossed the 50 a number of times in the last month and come up empty. They're one play here or there from scoring a lot more points, in my opinion.

What upsets do you see happening on Wildcard weekend?

I'm not counting out any of the road teams. I think all of these games are going to be highly entertaining.

At first I was screaming at Jaire Alexander  for getting beat, then again for falling down, thinking "Here comes touchdown!" For a millisecond I started to yell about the penalty. Then I realized what an exceptional play that was. Easy for me to do while watching. He made an immediate game-changing decision while on the spot. Amazing! We lose game if he allows TD.

It was incredibly smart. You don't want to make a living playing like that, but when you know the defensive call and the situation and there's no help behind you, you do what you have to.

Any thoughts you have regarding the end of John Dorsey's tenure in Cleveland?

It's unfortunate. I thought Dorsey built a pretty good roster in Cleveland. Their season was highly disappointing, no doubt. I don't know who ultimately had final say on the hiring of the head coach, but that was the mistake that was made. They took a huge risk on a coach with a roster that was borderline playoff-caliber, and bombed. Hard for anyone involved to recover from that.

Thanks to you and the rest of the team for a great ride. No one does it better than you guys! How much of an impact does The Pack bringing the playoffs through town have on the Green Bay area?

The local economic impact of any home game at Lambeau is in the range of $10-12 million. So a home playoff game is a big boost to businesses here. It's also why Mark Murphy is so adamant the Packers will not take a home game overseas. The taxpayers here helped finance the stadium renovation that has put the team and local area in this position economically, so no one wants to do anything detrimental in that respect.

I see from the picture here that you finally got the ball away from Kuhn. Good job!

Ha ha. Good one.

Of all the teams who could go to New Orleans, I would think the Vikings would be the team least affected by the noise.

Valid point. I tell you, that Superdome is the loudest stadium I've ever been in, bar none. I don't know if anything can really prepare you for that place, especially in the playoffs. I've covered two Packers games there, both night games, and it was ear-splitting. Worse than anywhere else for me. Those fans will be amped on Sunday afternoon.

I know it has been well documented about Rodgers struggles but he is capable of winning any game in any location. I think we will see the best of Rodgers this postseason.

If we do, I like the Packers' chances against anybody. He's been through all this before. Nothing will be foreign to him.

In your opinion, where is the best place for Mike McCarthy to land?

Great question, and a popular one. A young QB like Daniel Jones with the Giants would seem to be the right guy to pair with McCarthy in my opinion. The chances there might depend on how well he meshes with Gettleman as GM. I don't know if they even know each other.

Our receivers, as a group, have been maligned by some media as the cause of our passing issues. 12 has been off all season and he isn't hitting the open receivers or placing the ball where it needs to be. We've had almost no hurry up offense all year. Am i way off base thinking we need a lot more hurry up involved to get 12 back in rhythm?

Maybe that's a change-up we'll see in the playoffs, I don't know. I do think not risking the hurry-up and potential fast three-and-outs has helped GB's defense through the course of the year, though. It can be a double-edged sword.

You think Jimmy Graham wants to see his old Saints? It's hard to believe he didn't win the big one with them.

Graham will be highly motivated this postseason. He just missed the Saints Super Bowl a decade ago, and then he just missed with the Seahawks, too.

Hey Mike what is the Packers unscripted schedule for the bye week? I can't get enough of your podcast congratulations on number 500!

We're posting episodes today and tomorrow, and then we'll get back at it on Monday again.

With regards to Rodgers not connecting with his receivers - Were you at all surprised with his demeanor during his post game press conference? He seemed pretty unconcerned about missing a lot of throws, against the 32nd ranked pass defense... In the past, it seems he's been more transparent about owning his mistakes, and using that as motivation moving forward.

I think he was at a bit of a loss for why he was missing. He said a lot of throws felt good out of his hand and he thought they'd be completions. He's been doing this a long time and I don't think he lets one game affect him too much one way or another. He knows he can play better, his teammates can also play better. It's time to find it.

With Tony Brown being waived is there a possibility that Raven Greene gets activated off of IR?

There's a roster spot available, and LaFleur suggested a couple of weeks ago that Greene might be able to help in the postseason. Wait and see on that one.

Any opinions on the "worst 13-3 team" slander?

Couldn't care less. 13-3 means nothing now. Just as 9-7 means nothing for Philly. You go from here.

Piggybacking off the Tony Brown question, was there a specific reason why he was released? Or was he just low man on the depth chart?

Wes just got back from practice as we speak and said Raven Greene was practicing today. So there's the answer.

The Green Bay Packers were back on the practice field inside the Don Hutson Center on Thursday.

It feels like the Packers tried imposing their will against the Lions by throwing deep, and when that didn't work they took what they were given underneath. Should we expect more of that in the playoffs?

This offense is very week-to-week and opponent-specific as far as the game plans. So there's no way to answer your question. LaFleur decides how he thinks it's best to attack an opposing defense. They go after it and adjust from there.

Going back to the hurry-up offense. I have agreed that it helps with timing. I also wonder why so many of the West Coast offensive principles have been forgotten by newer coaches. 5 yard passes with 3 yard YAC's seem to be a great way to improve timing and it seems to be a dying art mainstream.

Defenses are more sophisticated now. They shift at the last second pre-snap to take certain things away, or make it look like they are. Everyone asks why Rodgers takes the play clock all the way down so much ... it's because he wants the defense to declare what it's doing. As frustrating as that can be to watch as a fan, he's also thrown a lot of TD passes this year on snaps with the play clock winding down. You take the good with the bad.

Should we expect to see Tyler Ervin continue to be involved in the offense? He seems to be a real weapon

I think the offensive coaches really like his speed and the wrinkle he brings. I see no reason to stop using him split out, jet motions, etc.

Mike, has there been any interest in interviewing any of the packers assistant coaches for any of the head coaching vacancies? I have seen Mike Pettines name come up a bit. I certainly hope not.

I haven't seen any reports of anyone getting interviews.

Rashan Gary, Savage, and Elgton Jenkins. It doesn't seem like the game is too big for them. Can you remember when the first 3 picks made a difference their rookie year?

Probably have to go back to 2013 and 2014 on that one ... Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy and David Bakhtiari in '13; Clinton-Dix, Adams and Richard Rodgers in '14.

Have we always had this week to week game plan or is this something new that LaFleur has put up since coming here. As you said we are a week to week offense. Is this because the NFL is a week to week league?

That's definitely been the evolution in many respects. Defenses are starting to behave the same way. We've heard LaFleur and Hackett multiple times this year mention an opposing defense doing things vs GB not regularly seen on previous game films.

Thanks for explaining why AR seems to run the clock down frequently. I have seen other teams break their huddles earlier than the Packers, which leaves more time to survey the defense. DO you think that getting out of the huddle faster could improve our offense?

I think that's definitely helpful more often than not, but even LaFleur has admitted some of his play calls are rather verbose and can take a long time to spit out to Rodgers, who then has to spit them out in the huddle. That's something he's already said he's going to look at closely in the offseason.

Do you think Lamar Jackson will be unanimous MVP?

I don't know about unanimous, but I do think he'll win easily.

With Raven Greene coming back to practice do you see him being able to come and be effective at the hybrid safety position despite missing most of the season? Would it be wise to put him in there during such a big game?

I don't know if he's going to suddenly play 50 snaps. Ibraheim Campbell has a similar role, but now this gives Pettine another option for that role in certain personnel groupings.

What is your food of choice in a bye week while you watch other games?

Good beer.

The Packers have won almost every 4th quarter this year. Is the difference vs. last year the defensive intensity, or reversion to the mean?

It's making plays when they matter most. That's how this team has won so many close games. Either you make them or the other guys do. This year the Packers are making them.

And with that, folks, I have to sign off for now. Thank for all the participation today and we'll talk again next week when we know GB's opponent for Jan. 12. Enjoy wild-card weekend and take care. Best, Mike

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