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Never take winning for granted

How valuable is home-field advantage?


Milos from Pleasant Prairie, WI

There was a question if there has been a team to start 4-6 and make the conference championship. Vic covered a team, the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars, who started 4-7 before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Well, there you have it. You go, Tom Coughlin!

Maximillion from Newcastle, Australia

I was very moved by Jared Cook's article about his years in the wilderness and then playing for the Pack. How incredible that we make it every year to the playoffs. Can the team do better? There are too many variables on the field to be able to accurately predict the future. All Ted has is an educated guess. So far a pretty good one, but he can't accurately predict the future.

Cook's situation is a good reminder to never take winning for granted. Only 12 teams make the playoffs every year. The other 20 are sent into the offseason abyss. For the last eight years, the Packers have had a seat at the postseason table. It took eight years for Cook to get to this point, but he sure made the most of his first playoff opportunity. It's good to remember the way the Packers look at the Super Bowl is the same way a lot of NFL teams view the playoffs. That's how things were in Green Bay for two decades before Ron Wolf's arrival.

Keith from Lincoln, IL

I saw interviews with Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin in Orlando for the Pro Bowl. The graphics said they both entered the NFL as undrafted free agents. That made me wonder, how many Pro Bowlers were UFAs? Any undrafted free agent becoming a Pro Bowler is a great story, but isn't each of those stories also evidence of the "random" nature of drafting success?

It's not about where you start. The success of Sam Shields and Tramon Williams speaks to that. Wolf hit it on the head in relating the selection of players to a batting average in baseball. You're not going to hit on every one of your picks. It's just not realistic, but it is important to have more hits than misses. College free agency is just another piece to that puzzle in the grand scheme of things.

Trevor from Peekskill, NY

Twenty years ago on Thursday. Where does the time go? Plenty of memories from that game, but I'll always remember exactly what I was doing and how I felt when Favre went deep to Freeman. It was a bullet, but for me, that ball was in the air forever. Do you have a lasting memory or story from that fateful day?

It's incredible to think it's already been that long ago. I remember really being into broadcasting back then, so I placed my recorder up to the television to record Pat Summerall and John Madden from beginning to end. I still have the cassette tapes at my parents' house, I think. It was a different world back then, especially when it came to technology. That was a special season.

Ed from Henryville, IN

I just wanted to say that being a bouncer for a large part of my life I've had broken ribs more than once. What Jordy did was nothing short of heroic in my opinion. It's tough to breathe let alone catch a pass and take any kind of hit. The 2016 Packers are, in my opinion, the best team in the league. I know that they fell a little short but the toughness, determination and brotherhood sets them above any other team to me. I wanted to thank the Packers for a great season and the Cowboys/Packers game was one of the best games I've ever seen.

As I wrote Wednesday, Nelson exuded an incredible amount of toughness in playing through his rib injury. As someone who whimpers if he jams a finger, I can't imagine what he was dealing with. That's how far Nelson and the rest of this team was willing to go to get to Houston. They can hold their head high knowing they did everything they could.

Dan from Twin Lakes, WI

If I hear "drafted a safety to play corner" one more time I'm liable to lose my mind. From what I've read and heard, Randall was a corner that played safety in his senior year only so his coaches could get the best athletes on the field. The Sun Devils had other guys that could play corner but none were physical enough to play safety, so Randall moved to safety. Sounds like a team player to me.

Yeah, I talked to several of Randall's college coaches after the Packers drafted him. Yes, he played safety but he practically was a cornerback with how much he played at the line of scrimmage at ASU. I still believe that experience is one of several reasons why he was able to come in as a rookie and play as well as he did in 2015.

Nathan from Baltimore, MD

Is "better pass defense" this year's big-letters promise?

It won't fit into a headline, but I thought McCarthy's comments were telling about how the team is already planning to spend more time on the pass defense in OTAs. If history has taught us anything, it's that the Packers typically improve the following year in the areas McCarthy emphasizes in the offseason.

Mike from Chicago, IL

Our secondary has been crappy the last few years, is it Capers or the personnel?

The Packers had the NFL's sixth-ranked pass defense in 2015 and 10th the year before that. Green Bay also has more interceptions than any other team since 2009. Do the Packers have work to do in the secondary? No question, but let's not ignore what it's done recently. The potential is still there for these cornerbacks. One season doesn't dictate the next.

Gina from Waukesha, WI

There is a lot to be said about having home-field advantage and I would agree, but with how banged-up and the struggles of the defense this season, do you really think that having HFA would have helped change the outcome? We would still have needed the offense to be able to put up big numbers. This is my first question so go easy on me.

Welcome Gina. We can only speculate about whether it would have changed the outcome, but it undoubtedly would have made things easier for Aaron Rodgers and the offense. You can't underestimate how much easier it makes life on a quarterback to play at home in a friendly environment and comfortable surroundings. It also helps communication on both sides of the ball. The Packers took the long road to the Super Bowl in 2010, but that's the exception, not the rule.

Judi from Caledonia, WI

Insiders, my question pertains to Rodgers' statement regarding getting home-field advantage. I would think a fast start would certainly help that chance. I think the starters need to play more in the preseason to achieve that. I know you don't want injuries, but these guys need to get sharper before the first game in my opinion.

The Packers had a 6-0 start to the 2015 season and a 6-0 finish to 2016. Maybe 2017 is the year they achieve full consistency. Wait, did I do that right?

Mike from Boston, MA

Peppers is absolutely transcendent. Every year you're waiting for him to slow down a bit, every year he doesn't. Clearly it takes more work and preparation the older and older you get. The real point here though...the splashes the Packers do make in free agency always seem to be money well spent. We should sit back and let the talent get evaluated at the high level it has been in free agency rather than just hoping for everyone and missing.

That was the point I was trying to make. The Packers have picked their spots well when it comes to outside free agency. Thompson's decision to sign Peppers three years ago will go down as one of his greatest moves. In addition to his 25 sacks over three seasons, Peppers has been an invaluable leader to the young players on that roster.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

What is your guys' favorite part of the offseason? Free agency? Draft? Training camp? Preseason? Somehow I always get really excited when the schedule comes out even though the season is still several months away, but training-camp battles are my favorite to watch.

I like the draft. In my opinion, that's where championship teams are built. Look back at any Super Bowl champion over the last 10 years. Nearly all of them had a really talented draft class about two or three years prior to their title run. Everyone loves free agency, but the draft is where it's at.

John from Big Lake, MN

Here's an idea on a way to fairly schedule the bye weeks: Have them all in Weeks 8 and 9, 16 in each week. The other 16 teams would play all national coverage games that week – one on Thursday night, two on Saturday, one on Saturday night, two on Sunday, one on Sunday night, and one on Monday night.

I don't know what the answer is, but I have some pretty strong feelings about Week 4 byes. There were a lot of things that were strange about the Packers' 2016 season, but getting the early bye for the second time in four years probably takes the cake. Again, I don't know how you solve that, but I think it's pretty apparent that it's a disadvantage.

Balint from Budapest, Hungary

What happens when a fair-catch kick is missed and the ball goes out of bounds without a chance for returning it? If there's still time on the clock does the opposing team gain possession at the spot of the kick or at the 20-yard line?

It's spotted where the ball went out of bounds. If it's a kickoff and the player didn't touch it, then it's placed at the 40-yard line if it didn't go in the end zone. Either way, the returning team maintains possession.

Joe from Pittsburgh, PA

I got the impression that essentially playing nearly two months with no margin for error finally caught up to us, and the team hit the proverbial wall in Atlanta. You can only go to the well so many times before it comes up dry, and I think we left it all on the field in Dallas.

It's difficult to be perfect, especially in a win-or-go-home format like the NFL. I can't say it any better than Aaron Rodgers did after the game. As captivating as that eight-game winning streak was, the game against Atlanta reiterated the importance of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Kelly from Oakland, CA

Will we see Eddie Lacy in green and gold next season?

As McCarthy said Thursday, Lacy's situation is different from most of the Packers' other pending free agents since he finished the year on injured reserve. We'll have to see how the offseason plays out. First and foremost, Lacy has to get healthy.

Matt from East Troy, WI

Why did we keep six safeties on the roster after the cutdown to 53?

If you're asking why the Packers didn't keep more cornerbacks, I'll remind you they also kept six corners on their first 53 (Shields, Randall, Rollins, Gunter, Hawkins and Dorleant). Green Bay kept six safeties because they're useful for special teams and a few also had the flexibility to play slot cornerback. Oh…and they earned it.

Rich from De Pere, WI

The Packers carried John Crockett on IR the entire season, yet we don't hear anything about him as we talk about next year. Is he still in their plans?

Crockett is still on the roster. I saw him in the locker room a few times throughout the year. Nobody has asked McCarthy about him, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens this offseason.

Nathan from St. Thomas, WI

Mike and Wes, how often do you find yourselves learning new NFL rules? And, has a fan's question ever given you an idea for a story?

First, I learn new NFL rules by asking Mike. And yeah, I've had a few story ideas come out of answering Inbox questions. The story I wrote about Morgan Burnett's versatility started with a question from a reader inquiring how rare it is for a safety to play the amount of positions he did this year.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

I went to the Pro Bowl practice Thursday. Only one player stayed after practice to sign autographs. He made a lot of kids very happy. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix represented the Packers perfectly. Thanks Ha Ha.

That doesn't surprise me. There are a lot of Packers who are great with the fans, but I don't think I've ever seen Ha turn down an autograph request.

David from Brantford, Ontario

Alright, Wes. Time for some real talk. Who's winning the Royal Rumble, and who do you have pegged as surprise entrants?

Finn Balor and Finn Balor.

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