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Packers defense has more pieces to its puzzle

Some thoughts on most improved players, Clay Matthews, and Suh's suspension


The regular writer of "Ask Vic," editor Vic Ketchman, is out of the office. Senior writer Mike Spofford is temporarily filling in to answer your "Ask Vic" questions.

Joseph from Newtown, PA

How do you feel about Suh being suspended, when we want the Lions to win over the Cowboys?

Hi everybody. Just to update you, Vic had a medical test scheduled for Monday morning, which is why he didn't do an Ask Vic Live postgame chat Sunday night. He was working on his Monday columns after the game. But after yesterday's test, he wasn't counting on staying for a surgery. He's doing fine, but he's "day to day" and I will be taking over until he gets back (no "Ask Vic Extra" though, sorry). His inbox was loaded with Suh questions, obviously, and I guess I'll say it appears the league office didn't concern itself with the fact that it was a playoff game coming up. A rap sheet as long as Suh's trumped all. We'll see what happens with the appeal, but the already strong odds Dallas would be visiting Lambeau Field on Jan. 11 just got stronger.

Brian from Fond du Lac, WI

Vic, my theory is that Suh is really a nice guy, but the combination of green and gold simply triggers something in his brain that makes him go on a rampage.

If he's your definition of a nice guy, I'd hate to meet your enemies. I don't recall Jay Cutler wearing green and gold when he took that forearm shiver to the back of the helmet a few years ago.

Daryl from Springfield, MO

I guess the 49ers were tired of winning.

The kind of comment that would boost Vic's spirits, to be sure, but the 49ers didn't win this year, and there was a ton of turmoil at the top, going back to the offseason. If it ain't working, it's broke.

Jonathan from Southern Pines, NC

Hey Vic, what are your thoughts on the rest of the playoffs? What matchups intrigue you? Who looks like they are peaking at the right time? Who has the look of one and done?

You have to love Steelers-Ravens in the wild-card round. If Pittsburgh wins that, the Steelers might be the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC, whom I believe are overwhelming favorites. In the NFC, hard to see the Super Bowl representative being someone other than the top three seeds. Dallas has won four straight, Seattle has won six straight and Green Bay has won seven of eight since the bye. The top teams aren't coming in cold.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

True or false: If Houston made the playoffs, J.J. Watt wins MVP.

False. He'd have a stronger case, but I still think it's Rodgers.

Trevor from Madison, WI

Is there anyone in the NFL in their contract year that has earned a new contract more than Randall Cobb? Heck of a season.

I haven't studied the league enough to make any comparisons, but Cobb did exactly what any player in his position hopes to do.

Maxwell from Daytona Beach, FL

Now that the season is over, I'd like your thoughts on this year's free-agent and draft class. Specifically Richard Rodgers and Julius Peppers. How much value did we get?

The season's over? The Packers have gotten major contributions from four draft picks – Clinton-Dix, Adams, Rodgers and Linsley. In free agency, Peppers and Guion have been everything Green Bay could have hoped for. I don't see how anyone would view this past offseason as anything but a home run.

Greg from Spooner, WI

Time to give Capers some love. His defense has been lights out aside from the second half of the Falcons game. Lack of injuries has helped, but his schemes are making the difference in plugging the right guys in the right situations.

Lots of love for Dom Capers in the inbox today. The difference is he has more guys to plug in, which means he has more schemes to use. In the previous answer, I just listed three defensive players who weren't on this team last year. Add in that a year ago at this time, Matthews and Hayward were out while Neal and Shields went down with injuries on the first series of the playoff game, and it's clear Capers is shuffling a completely different deck.

Jake from Great River, NY

Hi Vic, I was wondering why nobody has commented on that incredible catch Richard Rodgers made on third-and-4 in the fourth quarter. I believe he has shown flashes of being a premiere tight end in this game, and I look forward to seeing him play more in the postseason.

Several sent in comments about Rodgers. He clearly had his best game as a receiver and could be an X factor for the Packers in the playoffs. As for whether he can become an elite tight end, time will tell, and the early returns are encouraging. The Packers will take everything they can get from him in January.

David from Denver, CO

Vic, in your years covering the Packers, do you think this was the best season by Clay that you have seen? Without even looking at the numbers, every game he blows up certain plays. Then you look at his numbers and see they might be the best he has had.

What Matthews has been asked to do this year, and how much he has excelled at it, says all anyone needs to know about how special a talent he is. Dom Capers has said many times he could put Matthews at any linebacker or defensive end position and he'd be a Pro Bowler. Mike McCarthy said last week this is Matthews' best season in his estimation, and then Matthews said, in effect, it shouldn't be his best season as his career continues because he sees room for growth. I think both of those statements say a lot.

Paul from West Midlands, UK

Vic, which Packer would you award 'most improved player' to this season?

On offense, I'll go with David Bakhtiari. He appears to have made the leap from a promising young left tackle to a franchise one. On defense, I'll say Mike Daniels. He was a big contributor last year, but in more of a part-time role. He had to prove this year he's an every-down player, and he has.

Terry from Pearl, MS

Why not kick the field goal early in the game and get points? We keep going for it on fourth-and-1 at the goal line the last few weeks and get nothing. Those field goals really made a difference in the New England game, so why change now?

Mike McCarthy not only believes in his offense at the goal line, he also is sending a strong message that he trusts his defense right now to prevent possible failure from coming back to bite the team. On Sunday, the Lions didn't even reach the 15-yard line and Hyde ran the punt back for a TD. Against the Patriots, none of the field goals came in a goal-line scenario and the opposing QB was Tom Brady. McCarthy doesn't have a book to go by. He coaches situationally. The best ones do.

Ted from Amherst, NY

Vic, the Lions just played their biggest game of the (regular) season without their starting center due to a stomping incident. They are now going to make their playoff debut against arguably the best running team in the league without their best defensive lineman due to a "stepping" issue. I thought Caldwell was supposed to be a disciplinarian. Does this fall on the coach or two rogue players?

Caldwell inherited those two players. The question now is whether he'd rather disown them.

Daniel from Albuquerque, NM

Vic, like you, I like the division format. With the NFC South placing a team with a losing record in the playoffs, calls to change the playoff format have increased again. But here's why the format makes sense: The teams in each division play nearly the same schedule. For example, the Packers and Lions had 12 common opponents, plus they played each other twice. The Panthers and Eagles, on the other hand, had 2 common opponents (Packers and Seahawks) and played each other once. Comparing the Panthers' and Eagles' records at the end of the year and claiming the Eagles should have made it in is like comparing apples and pears. It's not a fair comparison. Just a thought. Thanks for your column, I enjoy it each day.

I agree. The division format and scheduling format work, and the playoff structure shouldn't be changed unless there's reason to alter the scheduling formula, which I don't believe there is.

JJ from Cape Coral, FL

Who was inactive so we could have three QBs active?

DuJuan Harris was deactivated to make room for Scott Tolzien on the 46 and Micah Hyde was back deep on kickoffs.

Matt from Adelaide, Australia

Hey Vic, stats-based question which I've long wondered about and came up again as a thought with Peppers' forced safety. Is there any reason why forced intentional grounding plays aren't awarded to the closest defender who'd otherwise be awarded a hurry on the play? Forced grounding is at least equally valuable and potentially moreso than the sack since it results in a certain loss of 10 yards and down, or back to the spot of the throw. Just seems that it undermines the impact defensive players have when these aren't credited.

You weren't the only one who wondered about whether a sack was credited on that play. It would have been Datone Jones in this case, but those credits aren't given on plays that involve penalties, just as receivers don't get credited with yardage when the defender is called for pass interference.

Todd from Carson City, NV

What's the story on the "onside punt"? Can a fair catch be used and should Cobb have been granted the fair catch?

Lots of questions and confusion about this play. I'll try to clear it up. It was a free kick, meaning a live ball, and after a safety, the kicking team has the choice of a placekick or punt. Multiple Packers called for a fair catch, and the rule is once any player on the receiving team in the vicinity of the ball calls for a fair catch, it's a fair catch no matter who tries to catch it. After watching the video of the play, it appeared the problem for the Packers was nobody really took charge to catch it, some players who should have been blocking were watching the ball instead, and the ball dropped without being touched. Contrary to popular belief, the Lions didn't interfere with anybody trying to catch the ball, and Shawn Slocum said yesterday he thought the play was called correctly by the officials.

Patches to signify the Packers' captains were sewn to their respective jerseys on Friday, Dec. 19. Photos by Paige Curtis,

Rusty from Lebanon, MO

Vic, I noticed that Aaron Rodgers and Jarrett Bush have a gold color captains' patch. Why is it different than the others?

The captains' patches have four stars underneath the "C," and a star is colored gold for each year that the player has been named a Green Bay playoff captain. Once a player has been elected for a fifth time, the entire "C" turns gold. This is Rodgers' sixth year as a playoff captain and Bush's fifth.

Joe from Leopolis, WI

Approximately how much is a home playoff game worth to the Packers (financially)?

I don't know what it does for the team's bottom line, but estimates are it's worth about $10 million to the local economy.

Ben from Saint Joseph, MI

Vic, we all need to know: Who was that guy with the magical beard that Rodgers tugged on?

I don't know. Ask Dan.

Dan from Schofield, WI

What an exciting game. I chuckled when Aaron mentioned that he tried to put his shoulder pads back on and go back out there after breaking his collarbone just because Jon Gruden said that he was done for the night. Well, I'm just glad that my cousin Jeremy was there to lend his beard for good luck. I think that it makes the outcome that much better.

Whatever it takes.

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