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Packers football was made for December

There are many ways a quarterback can lift his team


Itai from Johannesburg, South Africa

It's almost as if the schedule-makers know what is going to happen every season. Three divisional rivals all vying for one potential playoff spot. While this season has had its fair share of ups and downs, it will be truly remarkable if the Packers nab that spot from the Lions. I hate losing but the drama makes winning even more enjoyable!

The Packers' schedule this year was unique for many reasons, including three consecutive NFC North games to end the season. It's really something how the Packers' regular-season finale has had playoff implications in each of the last five seasons, including two very high-stakes situations against Chicago (2013) and Detroit (2014). The schedule-makers know what they're doing when it comes to Week 17 drama. We'll see if it continues in 2017.

Eric from Leawood, KS

Our friend, December, appears to once again be separating the playmakers from the playfakers. In your opinion, and if you had to identify one, what is the most significant factor in this seemingly perennial cycle – player health, seasoning of young players, coaching, divine intervention, or something else? Inquiring minds want to know.

The Packers' success in December is well-documented, particularly at home where they're 20-3 under McCarthy. I think it's a little of everything that you mentioned. If I had to pick one, I'd say the development of young players. The progress of first- and second-year players through the course of a season is the lifeblood of a draft-and-develop program. The Packers may take a few lumps early in the season, but they usually play their best football when it matters most. From Lambeau to Lombardi to Holmgren to McCarthy, Packers football was made for December.

Joseph from Durham, NC

Ah, yes – Packers vs. Bears – doesn't get better than that. Been watching these two teams go at it since the '60s. The Packers need this game to continue running the table for a 2016 spot in the playoffs while 'da Bears would just love to play spoiler. I'm one of those rare Packers fans who observe the wins and losses of this great rivalry and once again Green Bay is in a position to tie the all-time series for the first time since September 24, 1933. They were in this same position last year on Thanksgiving night – heavy favorites on Bart Starr/Brett Favre night and blew it. Now here the Packers are in a very important game to them. Green Bay has not led this overall series since 1932. That's 84 years! Long wait...

Mike Spofford is going to be writing about this over the weekend, so I don't want to steal his thunder talking about it. What I will say is I was absolutely floored when he told me it had been 83 years since the series was tied. When he asked me the last time I thought it was tied, I told him 1969. I had no idea it went back to the early Lambeau years. Incredible.

Robert from Manheim, PA

How many carries do you think Ty Montgomery gets this week against the Bears?

It could be a busy afternoon for him depending on the availability of James Starks (concussion) and Christine Michael (illness). Mike McCarthy says there's no limit on how many times Montgomery can touch the ball. Still, there are a lot of different looks the Packers can throw at a defense when everyone in the backfield is healthy. Montgomery's move to running back makes a lot of sense, though.

Laird from Yelm, WA

No question, comment. I vote for Ty Montgomery for MVP. He has stepped up and done everything for this team. He deserves to be recognized for all he has done.

He's right there with Davante Adams for the breakout star of 2016 in my book. He's a matchup nightmare and something exciting always seems to happen each time he touches the ball.

JP from Granby, Quebec

I am curious how MM decided to try Ty Montgomery at running back? Was it Ty going to MM to say, "Try me," or MM asking, "Anyone want to try out?" Or something else? Can you go find out?

*As legend has it, McCarthy approached Montgomery to take his temperature about possibly working at the position. Montgomery was open to doing whatever it took to get on the field more. As the past two months have proven, it's worked out for both sides. *

Larry from Green Bay, WI

Do you think Morgan Burnett could be moved to linebacker permanently? He has the size, mobility and moxie to do that as I see it. Comments?

Dom Capers was pretty transparent during his Thursday news conference that the decision to line up Burnett at inside linebacker against Seattle was based on what the coaching staff felt was the best matchup against the Seahawks' personnel. It worked, too. Both Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham were contained. It was a changeup, a slider – not a fastball. Could we see the package more this season? Perhaps, but there also will be situations like this Sunday's game against Chicago that call for two natural inside linebackers and a solid in-the-box safety like Burnett to defend against a back like Jordan Howard. If we've learned anything over the past eight years, Dom Capers always has a trick or two up his sleeve.

Brett from Middletown

Did you notice in the Lego movie of the Seahawks game that Jordy did in fact point to the front of the end zone?

How about that attention to detail? Mike and I agreed that video was the most talked about item in the Inbox today. As a massive Lego fan as a child, I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. All of the hours and effort that gentleman invested into recreating the game was not for nothing.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

My son, 13 at the time, and I attended the '07 game at Soldier Field Mike described. We were in the bathroom by the second quarter so my son could thaw. People were leaving right after halftime. My sunglasses blew off my face and I didn't see where they went. The Bears fans were even worse than the weather.

Cold weather can break the hardest of fans. We'll see how the crowd responds on Sunday. There are die-hards who will sit through any conditions to cheer on their team, but the zero-degree temperatures and 3-10 record could test Chicago's fan base.

Eivind from Nordfjordeid, Norway

Wes, I like your key to beat the Bears. I think since this is a tough division game the Packers need to start fast. A close game only benefits the Bears. I say, get the lead early and force the Bears to abandon the running game. Put the game in the hands of the inexperienced QB and injury-riddled receiving corps.

Jordan Howard is a game-changer. You can't let him get going because he'll only gain more momentum as a game wears on. That largely was the formula for success in the first meeting between these two teams. Howard's 22 yards (on seven carries) are tied for the fewest yards he's had in a game this season. He hasn't been held under 77 yards in any of the Bears' last three games. As much as a fast start helps rhythm in any game, it'll be essential with the temperature. That initial blow could be difficult for the 3-10 Bears and their fans to weather (no pun intended).

Deniz from Munich, Germany

Jordan Tripp was placed on IR this season, reached an "injury settlement" (whatever that means), and is allowed to play the same season?

There are two ways a player can return from injured reserve. He can be given the designation to return (Makinton Dorleant this season) or released through an injury settlement. The settlement allows the player to either sign elsewhere once he's healthy or return back to the team that released him six weeks after the settlement expires (Joe Thomas in 2014). After leaving Seattle, Tripp said he returned home to Montana before he received a call from his agent about the opportunity in Green Bay and voila – he's now a member of the Packers. He's an inside linebacker by trade, but his best chance to contribute right away will be on special teams.

Mark from Missoula, MT

As I am also from Montana and a University of Montana alum (where I once was using a bench press that Tripp was in line for), I was curious if one of the Insiders remembers any scout information about Tripp when he was in the draft?

That is an absolutely amazing story. I hope you didn't make him wait too long. Coming out of college, Tripp was widely praised for his competitiveness, intellect, character and overall toughness. Tripp also led all linebackers with a 3.96-second time in the short shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine. On a side note, he also was Montana's long-snapper, and both his father and grandfather also played at Montana.

Travis from Fresno, CA

Do you think that the end-around with Janis for that last TD was in response to Lane's cheap shot on Cobb before the half? I think I would have been tempted to have Hundley throw a bomb at the end of the fourth and point at Lane if I was McCarthy.

I think it was a response to what the Packers saw on the field and an opportunity to get Janis the ball. He showed great vision on the play, but give Jordy Nelson and Adams credit for some terrific downfield blocks. Adams, in particular, really got the better of Richard Sherman on that exchange.

Jay from Arlington Heights, IL

What are Randall Cobb's career stats against the Bears?

He has 45 catches for 617 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 career games against the Bears, including the game-winner in Chicago to win the NFC North in 2013. He also has 49 yards on six carries.

Willie from Hayward, WI

The Bears would love nothing more than to ruin the Packers' season by winning this weekend. Can the Packers' running game be good enough to win the game in what looks to be very adverse conditions for throwing the ball?

I think so. It was last week against Seattle. You don't always need 150 rushing yards and a 5.0-yard average to keep defenses honest. It's about getting the yards when they matter. Plus, Montgomery has demonstrated the ability to break runs both inside and outside of the tackles. Assuming Michael (illness) is good to go, I like the one-two punch those two can provide if Starks isn't cleared by Sunday.

Jeff from Arlington, VA

Rodgers leads the league in TDs and has a fantastic QBR, but he's only averaging 270 yards a game. How important are passing yards to the MVP conversation?

Cam Newton had 3,837 passing yards last season, which was good for 16th among NFL quarterbacks. For the record, the acronym means most valuable player – not most valuable passer. There are many ways a quarterback can lift his team. Rodgers has done it this season in more ways than can be counted.

Nick from State College, PA

What does a day of practice look like during the season in the NFL? Is it two hours? Eight hours? More?

It's usually in the two-hour range, but it varies. Thursday is the longest. Saturday typically is the shortest.

Scott from Janesville, WI

I like to look at the Packers' Instagram during games on occasion and all I have seen is "Fire __!" Whether it be Capers, McCarthy or Thompson. Now that the team is looking good I don't see those chants. What happened to fans watching and supporting their team always? I see way too many fair-weather fans in the NFL.

I'm just relieved the "Fire Hodfwdskfljalkdsfjalkdsfasd!" comments also have subsided. I've learned fans can be reactionary. They get too high when things are going well and too low when things aren't going the direction they want. I get it. They're fanatics for a reason, but it also can be maddening.

Bill from Otsego, MN

Insiders, did any of you know or ever work with Craig Sager? Any thoughts or stories about him?

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sager, but I know several journalists who worked with him. Each one has nothing but good things to say about him as both an individual and broadcaster. He was the ultimate professional. Jayrone Elliott actually informed me that Sager had passed away during the media session in the Packers' locker room on Thursday. I was stunned. It's a huge loss for the basketball community. As someone who watched the NBA religiously as kid, Craig Sager was truly one of a kind. He'll never be replaced.

Mark from West Allis, WI

On hearing of the death of Craig Sager, I was drawn to some of his "instant classic" sideline interviews with Gregg Popovich. Who's the better conference call, "Pop" or Belichick?

Believe it or not, Bill Belichick can be really engaging. He's been terrific the few times he's been on a conference call with Green Bay reporters. I think he sometimes gets a bad rap for being curt or disinterested, but I've only had positive experiences with him. I've also watched plenty of his news conferences and many times they span upwards of 20 minutes.

Trevor from Arvada, CO

As Vic would say, the human element can get lost sometimes. I think about the cold, and imagine being out in bare sleeves and have someone come up and slap me on the arm. I think I would start crying! Gotta respect what these guys do.

I was practically sobbing as I walked back from practice Thursday. Just ask our PR intern Brock Anderson or team photographer Evan Siegle. I couldn't imagine writing in those conditions, let alone trying to be athletic.

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