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Packers season at one of its tipping points

Sunday's game against the Vikings at Lambeau Field could go a long way in deciding the NFC North title


Chris from Ely, England

Aside from improved line play and running the football, can the return of Greg Jennings, especially out of the slot, help in unlocking our "cover two" issues?

A healthy Greg Jennings can help unlock any issues. If you can flood the field with pass-catching weapons, you give your quarterback a better chance of finding soft spots in the coverage scheme. The Packers miss Jennings.

Sean from Grand Prairie, TX

Last Sunday saw a very good New Orleans offense stifled by a 49ers team that plays a 3-4. It also saw a very good Packers offense shut down by a Giants defense that plays a 4-3. Players, not plays, right?

There are lots of schemes and ways of achieving the same end. It's up to players to make them work. I prefer the 3-4 to the 4-3 for the advantages the 3-4 offers in drafting and the creativity it allows in scheming and utilizing talent, but if you give me a front four the quality of the Giants', then I would rather play a 4-3 because the 3-4 usually requires five to get pressure on the quarterback. Pressure from four is nearly impossible to beat. The quarterback just doesn't have enough time to survey the field and find open spots in a clogged secondary.

Tom from West Bend, WI

The Packers lost to the Giants. When they beat the Vikes this weekend, the pendulum will swing back the other way. I think this roller coaster ride is part of what makes it fun to follow the team. Remember, this is entertainment, not life and death.

I agree, Tom. It's called drama and I enjoy it, too. The drama of this weekend's game, in my opinion, is that I believe the Packers have reached one of the tipping points in their season. Don't go to sleep on the Vikings. I watched them on Sunday and even though they got thumped by the Bears, that's not the same Vikings team I saw last year. This bunch flies to the ball on defense. They've got energy and a little verve I didn't see last year. They still have Adrian Peterson and all of their rankings are good except one, pass offense, which is to be expected when your quarterback is in his second year as a starter. What happens when Christian Ponder gets it? More importantly, when might that happen? It's time to put the Giants game away and immerse ourselves in this weekend's drama.

David from Laguna Beach, CA

I'm tired of smug, tech-talking, press-box insiders disdainfully assuring me the preseason doesn't matter, individual regular season games don't matter, humiliating drubbings don't matter. It's all about the playoffs, right? Apparently, you've forgotten what it was like to be a fan. For us poor, non-press-carded boobs, every game matters. Your entire livelihood hinges upon the emotional commitment of fans and yet you ridicule us for becoming emotional when our teams lose. Football has no intrinsic value; it's only value comes from the willingness of its fans to pay for it. Instead of channeling H.L. Mencken and deriding the rubes whose desperate lives are comically bereft of your professional detachment, you might want to ask yourself if it's possible that you've been at this too long.

Mencken referred to marriage as "the end of hope." Is that hilarious or what? Hey, there's a beautiful old hotel in Laguna Beach. I had a great dinner there once. Take your wife to dinner, talk about things other than the Packers and relax. Everything will be fine.

Tou from Eau Claire, WI

I think the "lack of emotion" was an excuse. It was an excuse for a defense that played with doubt. I think the young guys got overwhelmed and were suddenly thinking they couldn't compete against the likes of Manning, Nicks and Bradshaw. Plus, the offense didn't help them.

I have always struggled with that lack-of-emotion thing. It causes me to want to ask two questions: Why was there a lack of emotion, and should I expect this to happen again?

Bob from Lexington, SC

Isn't it time for heads to roll? This would show the rest of the team they mean business and light a fire under them.

You could roll a head, but not heads. This isn't a good time of the season to have to replace heads. I think what you're wanting to do represents a classic overreaction to defeat. The Packers won five straight but one loss and heads roll? That's not logical, Bob. It is what it is and it will continue to be that way until the season is over. Week 13 of the regular season isn't a good time for roster building.

Dan from Oak Creek, WI

Why doesn't McCarthy use more tight end help on the ends for the struggling linemen? Block for a second to slow down the ends then hit your route.

It's called chipping and it can be done effectively, but it means the rush is already affecting the quarterback before the ball has even been snapped because you're sacrificing depth to your route tree. Frankly, five should be able to block four.

John from Union Grove, WI

So after watching the Giants playing good football, did you see a weakness?

They have a weakness in their secondary and it's been exposed when opposing quarterbacks have gotten time to throw. That's the key to beating the Giants. It begins with blocking their front four. If you can do that, you can beat them. Go back to the Packers' win in New York in Week 13 of last season. We didn't think then that Aaron Rodgers got good pass-protection, but compared to the last two games against the Giants, Rodgers did get enough time to throw, and the Packers moved the ball with ease and won the game. It all starts up front against the Giants. If you can't block them, you can't beat them.

John from South Lyon, MI

Vic, why does it say "The Duke" on the NFL game ball?

Pete Rozelle had it stamped on the ball as a tribute to Wellington Mara, much as Rozelle named the Lombardi Trophy as a tribute to Vince Lombardi. Rozelle introduced the concept of branding to pro football.

Wes from New Philadelphia, OH

What was your opinion of the Giants going for the fourth-and-goal late in the game instead of kicking a field goal? Was that just running up the score?

If they had kicked a field goal, they would've led by 31, which means the Packers could've tied the game with four touchdowns and three two-point conversions. A touchdown would've put the game out of reach.

Steve from St. Charles, MO

Do we have to watch the best QB in the NFL go down with a serious injury before something gets done?

When I started covering the NFL, there were 17 rounds to the draft, unlimited roster size in training camp and no salary cap. Back then, there was no excuse for getting caught with your pants down. It's not like that now. The draft is only seven rounds, training camp rosters are limited to 90 and the salary cap limits what a team might spend. As a result, nearly everybody is getting caught with their pants down at positions where they have injury. You have to find a way to deal with these personnel voids. It might mean changing how you function. A blitzing 3-4 team that loses its blitzers might have to turn to coverage to get by. A passing team that is having trouble providing pass protection might have to shorten its routes and throw the ball more quickly. We're talking about changing your natural personality and it's not an easy thing to do. It's not as easy as flipping a switch.

Jess from Hemet, CA

As I sit here now watching the Monday night game, I am a little confused on what constitutes a defenseless receiver. Wondering if you could clarify.

A receiver is considered to be defenseless while in the act of attempting to catch the ball. He ceases to be defenseless when he is deemed to have become a runner, which is loosely defined, in my opinion, as having taken two steps following the reception. At that point, you may hit him in the head, I think, as long as you don't like it too much.

Patrick from Short Hills, NJ

I've seen loads of bad games, but Sunday night our guys expressed no interest in confrontation.

Callous disregard for confrontation: I love it. It sounds as though you're channeling your inner Coughlin.

Ryan from Viroqua, WI

Am I right in saying the main reason the Packers can't beat "cover two" is because they can't run the ball with five or six against four?

It's actually nine against seven, which is a time-honored practice drill referred to affectionately as "middle run." Nine-on-seven had long been the defining drill of training camp. It's how you defined your team's toughness on both sides of the ball. It's where you found guys that like to hit, especially in the two-a-days era, when bodies got tired and sore. Who would hit when they were hurt? Well, those days are gone. No more two-a-days and full-pads practices are limited to the point that contact is seldom practiced beyond training camp. Developing a running game is a difficult thing to do in this change-the-culture environment.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN

Can a pasting like this have a cathartic effect on a team?

Yes, because it can level a team. It brings a team right back to now and its next opponent. This Sunday's game is huge. I don't think the Packers have to win all of their remaining games to win the division, but I think they have to win four of them and you don't want to spend that chip right away and at home. The drama is there. This is big.

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