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Packers-Lions could be do-or-die for both teams now

Joe Thomas would not get shoved aside


Thiago from Curitiba, Brazil

Hey Insiders, just can't wait for Sunday. Is it possible that both teams get on the field already in the playoffs fighting for the division?

Yes, it's possible. It's also possible it will be do-or-die for both teams now.

Brian from South Lake Tahoe, CA

The NFC North has been very streaky this year. The Vikings started the season with a five-game winning streak. The Lions had a five-game winning streak in the middle of the season. And now the Packers have won five in a row (and counting). I agree with Vic, it is best to play your best football in December.

The Packers look like a dangerous team no one will want to play, but the perception, and perhaps the playoffs entirely, go out the window with a loss.

Nathan from Scottsdale, AZ

Regarding the possession passing game, it appears not just any QB can run it. The similarity I've noticed between Brady and Rodgers is their quick release. Finding the open man is only half the battle. Then you have to get him the ball. FAST.

Open spaces close quickly in the NFL.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN

Should we be concerned that in the last two games we gave up a lot of passing yards to two QBs who are not among the elite? Who is that guy who had 200-plus yards for Minnesota?

The last two fourth quarters are apples and oranges to me. In Chicago, the Packers didn't close out the win as early as they should have. Against the Vikings, a dink-and-dunk drive (13 plays, 75 yards) was followed by a backup-filled offense going 10 yards in reverse and consuming all of 41 seconds on the clock. The only similarity to me is the final stats. As for Adam Thielen, he's a third-year undrafted free agent from Division II Minnesota State (Mankato) who is the positive story of the year for the Vikings. What a player he's turned into.

Michael from Jacksonville, NC

Out of all the former Packers who have their numbers retired, I'm a little unfamiliar with Tony Canadeo. Is there any particular moments or stories that best define his career?

He was still playing both ways in the early 1940s, and only two players in league history before him had ever rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, Beattie Feathers and Steve Van Buren. Canadeo did it in '49, finishing second in the league to Van Buren.

Brian from Alta Vista, IA

Not only do the Packers get the Sunday night game but they will know their fate if they win or lose. Obviously they will try to win the division title either way, but it will be nice to know if the Packers will make the playoffs if they lose.

Keep in mind the difference might be not just playing on the road vs. at home in the first round, but also playing on a short week vs. a regular week, too. I'm guessing there, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, if you had a choice for the title game, would you rather have the home game (Detroit) or the 55 hours of rest and preparation (GB)?

Contrary to Vic's contention, maybe the schedule-maker knew exactly what he was doing.

Jensy from Santo Domingo, D.R.

Please! Tell Mike McCarthy: Do not defer! Get the lead and then protect it. That's the Packers' identity.

I suspect he's going to want to take the crowd out of the game in Detroit as quickly as possible, but every time I think I have the coin-toss strategy pegged, turns out I don't.

Jensen from Houston, TX

Yesterday you acknowledged "Fans demand accountability from coaches and players," and asked, "When are the fans accountable?" Fans pay up front (equivalent to "invest") with their emotion, loyalty, and money. Accountability is an after-the-fact action. Since fans pay up front in exchange for their "expectations" (e.g., excitement, wins) coaches and players are paid in due based on their delivery of those expectations. It is no different from a bank or a hedge fund or even your local mom-and-pop shop. We pay for goods and services and hold providers of those accountable to deliver. Please explain how "fans can be held accountable" or customers in general.

Nothing generated more submissions to the Inbox yesterday than Vic's fan accountability comment. It's dangerous of me to put words in Vic's mouth, but I think he was referencing specifically those fans last month who wanted to clean house, fire everybody, bench Rodgers, lose for the higher draft pick, etc., before the season had a chance to play out. To mix all the metaphors, I think he'd say something like you can't judge the "snowinator" you buy from the mom-and-pop shop until it actually snows.

Derek from Hendersonville, NC

Many fans have been calling for TT, McCarthy, and/or Capers to be fired at various points throughout the season, citing Rodgers' closing window as the reason. Wouldn't a change in coordinators or head coach require time to adjust and actually take away more years from Rodgers' window?

Funny how that works. For those who read my chats and/or listen to "Unscripted," you know I said all along I thought this Packers team would get it figured out. I just wasn't sure if they'd do so soon enough to be able to make the playoffs. They did. Now they have to finish the deal.

Brian from Cranford, NJ

I know I should root for a win and NFC North title. But I was just looking at next year's schedule. If we are still in the playoffs and lose, we don't have to face the Cowboys or Seahawks next year; the Giants and probably Cards. Do I root for now or future?

You're kidding me, right? There's no reason to care. As a second-place team last year, the Packers this year faced the Falcons instead of the Panthers, and the Seahawks instead of the Cardinals. How'd that look 12 months ago?

Stephen from Toronto, ON

Who is your pick for most undermentioned Packer this year? My vote is Joe Thomas, who doesn't seem to get a mention beyond what his father did this year. He's been remarkably steady in pass protection and against the run these past few games.

If you're talking about the Packers' most improved players on defense from last year to this year, Thomas has to be mentioned. Last year, he was the type of player with his size and niche role that teams are always looking to replace and upgrade, and he would not get shoved aside.

Green Bay faced off against the Minnesota Vikings in a Christmas Eve game at Lambeau Field. Photos by Evan Siegle,

Tony from River Falls, WI

The whole Vikings plane debacle got me thinking. Have you experienced or heard of any other crazy pregame issues in your time covering the NFL?

A few years ago, the bus I was on broke down on the way to the game Sunday morning. I think we were in Cincinnati. It was a bus without any players on it, though.

Jeff from Puyallup, WA

Insiders, in the Locker Room Pass photo segment there is a locker that says "Packers" between Barclay's and Bulaga's. Is there a significance to that?

No, it's just a locker not currently being used, and rather than have an empty nameplate, a "Packers" one is put there until it's occupied by a player.

Andre from Sao Paulo, Brazil

How about Geronimo Allison? I think he has done a heck of a job. You can see there is natural talent, but most of all, the work of the coaching staff. Very nice!

Allison's production vs. Minnesota was significant. His diving catch over the middle on third-and-10 in the third quarter was impressive. Wes is going to have a story on Allison on the site later today in our "Player on the Rise" feature.

Erick from Charlottesville, VA

Do you still have confidence in the depth of our DBs?

If Randall and Gunter can both get healthy, yeah. Rollins and Clinton-Dix both made bad plays on the long TD to Thielen. When that happens and you still win, I always feel it bodes well for next week because players in those situations won't take their preparation and sharpness for granted. Jon from Omaha dropped a line about "humble homework." I like that.

Derrick from Randolph, NJ

Hello Insiders, recently I've found myself getting a little more irritated with what seems to be the new culture of reporting. The perfect example would be the debacle over the DBs of the Vikings and the game plan against the Packers. The headlines changed from them going against the game plan for the entire game, to ignoring the coach for the first half, to them free-lancing the first drive, and now it was just a miscommunication. Reporters are so worried about getting their story out first that they fail to find the facts and it's disturbing. You all seem to do a great job and I appreciate all your hard work. How do you guys feel about this current trend and do you see it changing?

It's not changing, but I'd have to say in this case the headlines changed because the comments from the principals involved changed the next day. Glean from that what you will.

Lyle from Oregon, OH

Great to see the Browns win. But if the Niners lost, both teams would've been tied for worst record, leading me to my question. Two teams (one AFC, one NFC) finish 1-15. For both teams the same is true: only win against non-conference opponent, opponent was last place in respective division, point margin of win was three. Who gets the first draft pick?

The team with the worse strength of schedule. That's the first tiebreaker for draft order before any others would apply.

Darcy from Glenville, NY

Mike, pretty sure you already have a catchphrase. "Yeah, for sure." Every time you write it, I can hear you say it with the trademark Wisconsin accent. It takes moving to another state to really appreciate that accent!

You weren't the only one to mention that. Good to know. If it truly is my catchphrase, it came about organically, and I prefer that.

Paul from De Pere, WI

MM during his press conference gave me the impression that what has changed is the perception of this team from the outside looking in. His perspective from the inside looking out is that what we are seeing from an output ("run the table" win streak) now was there all along. Did you see that from him at 4-6?

One of the most important things I heard McCarthy say during the four-game losing streak was that he believed this team was going about it the right way, and he believed if you keep doing that, the results will eventually follow. Some thingshe said on Mondaywere rather poignant, too.

Michael from Andover, MA

Had a holiday argument with a couple family members concerning next week's Giants-Redskins game. Obviously I want the Pack to win the division, but our only way into the wild card if we lose is if the Redskins lose, too. Since the Giants are locked into the No. 5 seed, my family argued they had nothing to play for and would hand the game to the Redskins. I disagreed. Thoughts?

I don't think the Giants want to head into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak, and having played last Thursday, if they rest players this Sunday, that becomes an awfully long layoff through the holidays. On top of that, keeping your own division foes out of the playoffs if you can is usually a good idea. That's what Lovie Smith thought six years ago, and his approach turned out to be right, even if it didn't work out the way he wanted.

Steven from Las Vegas, NV

Now that the game is flexed, am I correct that, before kickoff, the Packers will know whether the game is "merely" for the NFC North crown, or possibly for their 2016 playoff lives? I'm asking, if the Redskins beat the Giants, the Packers are in a win-or-go-home, right? So what is the scenario if the Redskins lose and the Buccaneers win prior to the Packers-Lions tilt? What will we know going in?

If the Redskins beat the Giants, it's win or go home (for both the Packers and Lions). If the Redskins lose and the Buccaneers lose, the Packers and Lions will be in the playoffs regardless. If the Redskins lose and the Buccaneers win, whether or not the Packers have clinched a playoff spot will depend on the strength-of-victory tiebreaker vs. Tampa Bay. Best I can tell right now, the Packers have a slight lead in that tiebreaker heading into Week 17, and four games could impact it on Sunday. So, that's where things stand. But you know what I'm going to say: Just beat the Lions.

(Update: The NFL has updated the playoff scenarios, and the Packers will have clinched the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Bucs if the Giants beat the Redskins. So, Packers and Lions are both in the playoffs with a Redskins loss; Packers and Lions are playing win-or-go-home if Redskins win. Tampa Bay's only hope is for Redskins-Giants game to end in a tie.)

Mike from Algoma, WI

Who else should we root for this weekend?

I'm going to figure it all out this week and present it in my "Path to the Playoffs" piece on Saturday.

Ray from Michigan Center, MI

Do you really think this team has what it takes to beat a team that's 9-3 in a dome this season with a quarterback at the height of his powers and a fan base that positively hates the Packers and is frothing for its first division title in 23 years?

Yeah, for sure.

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