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Offseason strength-of-schedule rankings mean nothing

There's always a bigger picture to free agency


Dick from St. Cloud, MN

With Randall's interception, I thought Martinez's hit enabled the takeaway. Did anyone else see the same?

I went back and looked at it again after seeing your note, and I agree with you. The hit by Martinez was definitely a factor. Nice teamwork.

Casey from Salt Lake City, UT

I find it funny how we analyzed the schedule to death during the offseason. Many of us fans were excited to hear to we had the "easiest schedule" in the NFL. All of a sudden the Philly and N.Y. games are huge. Hats off to the NFL, their scheduling system really makes things fun.

That strength-of-schedule stuff in the offseason means nothing. Wes and I have talked about that a lot. The main reason Green Bay's opponent winning percentage was so low was the NFC East was a collective 26-38 last year (.406), plus Jacksonville and Tennessee were a combined 5-27. The AFC South is not off to an overwhelming start, but the NFC East is currently 8-4, and 5-1 outside its own division. It'll all change again by midseason, too. It's not who you play, but when you play 'em.

Jason from Fargo, ND

The Vikings play the Giants Monday night in Minnesota, and the following Sunday the Giants play at Lambeau Field. I see what the schedule makers did there.

No team escapes a gauntlet or two.

Lonnie from Denver, CO

Insiders, in the absence of a Packer game this weekend, I'm really looking forward to the Wisconsin-Michigan game Saturday afternoon. Any thoughts or predictions on that game?

I think it's going to be a tough game for the Badgers to win, but I love their defense and I'll be watching the Pride of Platteville's team intently. Paul Chryst is from my hometown. When I was in sixth grade, I watched him quarterback our high school football team to its first and only state title in 1983. The UW narrative is that he's a Madison native, but it's not accurate. He played for Wisconsin but grew up in Platteville and might have become a great Badgers QB if not for coach Dave McClain's sudden and unfortunate passing. The new coaching staff brought in the veer offense and switched him to tight end midway through his career.

The Green Bay Packers hosted their annual Green & Gold Gala on Saturday. Many former players and coaches attended. Photos by Evan Siegle,

Justin from Platteville, WI

Hey Mike, I know the Wisconsin-Michigan game looks appealing but how about No. 2 Whitewater squaring off with No. 8 Platteville on Saturday?

Chryst's father has to be smiling down from above that his UW-P Pioneers are in the D-III rankings now. That's cool.

Wesley from York, UK

With the growth in big receivers (pun intended), do you imagine that the average cornerback height will increase? I think cornerbacks will have to be taller to match the increasing catch radius of big receivers.

This has been discussed for years, and as soon as someone can breed a 6-foot-3 player who can run backward as fast as one can run forward, then we'll see it.

Matt from Verona, WI

I'm not sure if it's what you're going for, but the "lonely helmet on the field" picture that goes with all of the "player was released" stories is powerful imagery. Well done.

Empty helmets anticipate being filled.

Jeffrey from Onalaska, WI

Good morning, Insiders! If the Vikings keep this up, the Packers will be underdogs for the division title the rest of the way. I for one love the mindset that goes with it. The truth is the Vikings have never been to the top of the mountain. The pressure that comes with the expectation of winning can cause a team to press too much and force things.

I don't see that being an issue with Mike Zimmer's team. They did everything required to beat a good Seattle team in the playoffs last year except make a chip-shot kick. To me, these guys aren't new to the expectations and pressure.

Adam from Laurel, MD

Say Bradford remains on this trajectory for the next month, and Bridgewater's knee is then magically healed. Who do you start if you're the Vikings? Could Bradford be more than a stop-gap for them?

If it's a problem for the Vikings a year from now, they won't complain. What intrigued me about your question is Bradford's trajectory. How do we know what that trajectory is? He was considerably less impressive at Carolina than vs. Green Bay. It's only been two games. Let's wait and see.

Nathan from Fargo, ND

Seems like offenses are having a good amount of luck converting fourth-down plays against the defense. Where do we rank with the rest of the league in that stat?

The Packers rank 24th in fourth-down defense, allowing a 71.4 percent conversion rate (5-of-7). That's two more fourth-down attempts than any other team in the league has faced. Six teams in the league have yet to stop a fourth down, having seen between one and four attempts. The sample size is awful small after three weeks.

Ed from Henryville, IN

I'm curious if Gilbert Brown's "Gravedigger" celebration would be considered an illegal gesture in today's game. Nick Perry's gesture wasn't any worse really.

I'm not trying to take sides on this, but I think, right or wrong, the throat slash is specifically outlawed because of its association with gangs.

Jim from San Antonio, TX

I think most of the readers demanding full consistency did not experience the 20 mostly losing years of the '70s and '80s. Treating the probability of making the playoffs in a bubble, with no regard to talent and coaching, each team has a 37.5 percent chance of making the playoffs each year (12 out of 32). The probability of doing it seven years in a row becomes 0.1 percent. If the coaching and talent aren't the reasons, I guess the Packers should book a flight to Vegas during the bye week.

I love the math nerds even more than the dipsticks.

PB from Minneapolis, MN

Why do byes begin so early? How did the system come to be? I propose byes take place Weeks 7-10. Eight teams per week, for four weeks, in the middle of the regular season.

You aren't the only one to suggest something similar. I don't know the reason for the current system, but perhaps it has something to do with sorting out a 17-week schedule with pre-determined matchups. Maybe Jim from San Antonio can figure out mathematically if having four fewer games each week for four weeks in the middle of the season would mess up the scheduling formula.

Mike from Nashville, TN

Mike, when you print in your chats. "OK, I've taken questions for an hour now. I'll take a few more and say goodbye," isn't that the same idea as printing, "I have to go to the bathroom. OK, I'm back. What's the next question?"

No, it means the lunch bell is ringing.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

Regarding the early bye, while it is convenient to say it is coming at a good time due to our current injuries, isn't it also probable that we'll be facing similar nagging injuries each of the next 10 weeks?

For sure, but that's why Mike McCarthy was so happy about all the experience the young players got against Detroit, and the team still pulled out a victory. They're going to be called upon to step in again. Count on it.

Craig from Buffalo, NY

Speaking of the 2013 draft class, since we're on a bye week, I would love to see someone dig a bit deeper into that draft as a whole. Seeing how some of the players selected near our picks have panned out would really put into perspective the masterful work of TT, MM and their staff. We see every team hit on players here and there, but to do it with such consistency is something I have the utmost respect for. It's the reason why we're a championship contender every year.

It would take quite a while to go through it all, but I can provide a sample by looking at the fourth round, which is when the Packers took Bakhtiari and Tretter, two current starters on the offensive line. Eleven players were picked in the fourth round before Bakhtiari (at No. 109 overall), and the only name on the list that resonates with me is Brian Schwenke, who was a starting center for Tennessee before getting hurt last year. A dozen players were picked between Bakhtiari and Tretter (at No. 122), and I don't see any noteworthy names in there other than a couple of backup QBs. In these particular cases, credit offensive line coach James Campen and his various assistants in recent years for their work as well. Draft and develop is a distinct two-step process.

Patrick from St. Louis, MO

With the injuries in our secondary, I can't help but think about what could have been if we still had Davon House and/or Casey Hayward. They have both looked great with their new teams. Keeping just one of those guys on our roster would have alleviated a lot of the stress our secondary is under right now. I know injuries are unpredictable and our young guys have stepped up, but with 20/20 hindsight can you defend the Packers' decision to let those guys go?

This is becoming a convenient argument. Too convenient. You aren't going to pay the kind of money House and Hayward got on the open market to keep players at a position where you spent first- and second-round picks in 2015. Furthermore, after the Packers let House go they re-signed Cobb and Bulaga. Amidst letting Hayward go they've re-signed Daniels, Bakhtiari and Perry (albeit for one year). Now, the rest of the 2013 draft class we've talked about –Jones, Lacy, Tretter and Hyde – are in the final year of their deals, along with a handful of other veterans, including Perry. You can't keep everybody. And if that's not enough, losing House (along with Tramon Williams) in free agency produced the compensatory picks that were used to select Blake Martinez and Dean Lowry this past spring. We'll see what comes in next year's draft from Hayward. Never lose sight of the bigger picture.

Gabriel from Milwaukee, WI

I like the edge we've seen lately, particularly from Mike. We know where players get their edge from, but from where does a sportswriter's edge stem?

You know with whom I worked for five seasons, right?

Zack from Butte, MT

Hey guys, I didn't get to watch the game live, but heard that Trevor Davis got some playing time. How did he look? Could he be a second down-the-field threat along with Jordy?

That 66-yard pass interference penalty is going to give defensive coordinators something to think about. He showed his speed in the open field on the return that got called back, too. He has to catch that pass in the fourth quarter, just has to, but I think we're going to see more of Davis as the season goes on.

Tim from Barrington, IL

I noticed on Sunday at the game, when Davis dropped that fourth-quarter pass, he didn't even get a second glance from Rodgers. Is this something you noticed as well, and is this consistent behavior from Rodgers in practice, or just for a reaction to a rookie dropping a pass at a crucial time in the game?

Rodgers has often said he concedes that physical mistakes are going to happen. It's the mental ones that he gets more upset about. Not to say a dropped pass doesn't bother him, but no receiver needs a stare-down after a drop. He's alone enough in the world at that point.

Josh from Canmore, Canada

How amazing is the improvement in special teams from two years ago? Their returners only made it back to the 25 once in four returns. Fantastic speed and tackling.

Ron Zook's coverage units have been solid, and they're just getting Banjo and Elliott back from injury. Now if they can get something going in the return game, the field-position battle will start to swing Green Bay's way.

Matt from Round Rock, TX

"Ron Zook told us Monday that Goode hit a divot." Apparently Vic will come back to Green Bay to golf. I just wish he'd learn to replace his divots.

What is it with divots and Detroit? Wasn't it a divot on the last-second Crosby field goal vs. the Lions last year that caused the kick to go haywire?

Theresa from Las Vegas, NV

My daughter Allison, 14, wrote this poem over the weekend. I thought it brilliant and wanted to share with other Packer fans.

Pass, catch, touchdown!

We are winning again in Titletown.

On our way to win it all,

Even if our town is small.

After 17 weeks we will make it there,

After playing fair and square,

To the playoffs we will go,

Playing at home even with the snow.

We will always play a good game,

The crowd cheering out our name.

And after we win the NFC,

We will bring back home, The Lombardi Trophy!

I won a poetry contest once when I was around your daughter's age. I wrote a Shakespearean sonnet about baseball, and I wouldn't even have entered it if not for my teacher's insistence. It was before I had any inkling about being a sports writer. You just never know, Allison.

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