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Packers will get Giants' best; count on it


Kelvin from Warwick, UK

Hope you had a hap, hap, happy Thanksgiving! I'm interested to get your thoughts on what the rumor is regarding the talent in next year's draft?

I'm hearing it's a bad year to be at the top. There doesn't appear to be a first-overall-pick candidate at quarterback, nor does there appear to be a dominant prospect at the premier positions. From what I'm hearing, it'll take a lot of underclassmen entering this draft to give it any depth.

Jay from Powder Springs, GA

My brother-in-law argues the Packers aren't nasty enough on defense or patient enough on offense anymore. I tend to agree.

You're both stuck in the past. Today's game isn't about nastiness or patience. Nastiness will get you penalized and fined and patience won't score enough points to win. I asked Packers Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum why coaches are so willing in today's game to risk field position on these "Hail Mary" type field goal attempts, and Slocum said, "because this is a scoring game." This is the new NFL. It's not a field-position game anymore. It's not the game I grew up watching and covering. This is a push-the-envelope, score, score, score game.

Edmundo from Mexico City, Mexico

Nobody believes me that you're half sports writer and half clairvoyant. When the Packers host the Seahawks in the postseason this year, any doubt of my comments will vanish.

It's not clairvoyance, it's fate. It will not be denied.

John from Port Edwards, WI

What is the point to call an unsportsmanlike foul on those mistakes to challenge when they can't be challenged?

It's a broad-based rule intended to deny coaches the right to mistakenly challenge plays for the purpose of delaying the action. John Harbaugh kind of initiated this rule when he challenged a play in a playoff game a few years ago, probably knowing a challenge was not applicable but doing it anyhow for the purpose of giving his defense a much-needed rest with its back to the goal line. I thought Harbaugh's reaction to the referee's explanation gave Harbaugh away; it was too conciliatory, almost as though he was expecting it.

John from Superior, WI

I have been watching Montee Ball for three years now and what I see is a patient running back that waits for the hole to open up, and can lay the boom down, if you know what I mean. What's your take on him?

What you're describing is a cutback runner who would fit best in a stretch-blocking scheme. Wisconsin is more of a road-grading scheme, and that's not a perfect fit for Ball.

Daniel from Evanston, IL

I feel weird saying this so close to an intense playoff race, but I feel like this Giants game isn't particularly important for the Packers. With four of their last five games being division games, is this game really that important? I suppose there's a chance it could make the difference in the competition for a first-round bye.

I think this is what you're trying to say: Should the Packers go to Chicago a game behind the Bears, the Packers would regain the NFC North lead with a second win over the Bears. I think there's still too much of the season remaining to begin thinking like that. We can't predict outcomes or injuries. The real intrigue involving Sunday's game, in my opinion, goes to playoff seeding. This one could decide the No. 3 and No. 4 playoff seeds. Which one would be more favorable? I don't think we can know that without knowing who No. 1 and No. 2 are. I love this kind of stuff.

Keith from Roselle, IL

Was your 1964 story really a prophecy about Notre Dame or about knees being down?

It was about a 13-year-old kid being heartbroken listening to that game on radio, and then finding out when I read about the game in subsequent days that the Irish got jobbed. Then came the Anthony Davis game a few years later, and I've had a distaste for Southern Cal ever since. Irish fans who were around for that game in '64 know what I mean.

Jerry from Plymouth, MN

When will coaches learn that a 40-, 50-yard field goal is no sure thing? Both the Texans and the Lions played for too long of kicks that would have been good from five or 10 yards closer.

Kickers have become too proficient at their craft for their coaches' good. Shawn Slocum told me that everything inside 50 yards should be made; that's the coaching mentality today. The reality is that as the games get bigger and the tension increases, so does the lump in the kicker's throat. Shayne Graham and Jason Hanson missed those kicks because the pressure got to them. They'll make those kicks 10 times out of 10 in pregame. I would not shut down my offense until I reached the red zone. I understand the risk involved with that philosophy, but I think the risk of a missed long field goal attempt and the field position it allows your opponent is greater and more penal. Graham nearly missed the shorter kick that ended the game. Crunch time is the great equalizer in all of sports.

Azad from Milwaukee, WI

Today I came around to your view of the coach's challenge system. Does it really seem OK to anybody else that when Jim Schwartz threw the flag, which the league put in his pocket to throw to correct the officials when they make mistakes, he was punished for throwing the flag for the wrong kind of mistake, and the officials then punished him by not correcting their own mistake, which he wasn't allowed to challenge because it was their responsibility alone to correct it? What a mess. Can we just do away with the whole idea already?

"How Many Times Can We Get It Wrong?" 19.95, Ketchman Press.

Jon from Kingsford, MI

In the league, is the running game coming back? Seems like more and more teams are trying to be a little more balanced.

Yes, the running game is making a comeback, and it's because everyone wants to throw the ball. Huh? Yeah, everyone wants to throw the ball, which requires pass protection for the quarterback, and protecting the quarterback begins with forcing defenses to play run. Maybe football still is first and foremost a running game.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

I'm watching the Dallas-Washington game and the action is so slow due to challenges and TV breaks it's almost unwatchable. The same thing occurred in the Houston-Detroit game. The league has to revisit some of these reviews and the provisions of the TV contract.

The TV commercials aren't going away, and you need to understand that those commercials are paying your ticket to watch the game on free TV. What needs to be revisited is the replay review system. It's a mess. I don't compliment college football on much, but I'll compliment it on its system for reviewing plays. College football does it the right way.

Andrew from Oglesby, IL

What's your take on athletes going bankrupt?

A long time ago, I was walking with a couple of coaches back to the dorm from the cafeteria at training camp. One of the coaches noticed a player walking ahead of us and asked the other coach, "Didn't we cut him?" The team had, in fact, cut the player a week earlier. One of the coaches called to the player, who stopped and waited for the coaches to approach him. They asked him why he was still there. The young, undrafted player then explained that he had nowhere to go. It's one of the most poignant experiences of my career. Think about it. College football had housed him, fed him and to a large degree clothed him. Football had told him where to be and when to be there. All of a sudden, football exited his life and he was without guidance or support. That's why football players often experience financial difficulties. They're not prepared to protect wealth because they lack life skills. The NFL has been making a huge effort in recent years to prepare its players for real life, but the bigger part of the responsibility belongs to the players' agents. Some are good, some are not. It's very important that the players position themselves with agents who will not only take care of the player's money, but give the player long-term guidance.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Suh is beyond maladjusted, he's dirty. Is there an objective opinion to the contrary?

You can call him anything you want, but he can play on my team any day. If the Lions get the missing piece here and there that they need, look out. Their front four is dominant, and big guys are always the most difficult pieces to find.

Brian from Little Rock, AR

You seem to have a special appreciation for the real characters of this game. On that note, do you have any special memories of John Riggins?

I remember him early in his career when he played with the Jets. We found out what a free spirit and colorful personality he was. I remember his Mohawk haircut. He was a cool dude, especially on a conference call. I'm assuming you saw the TV piece on him from a couple of nights ago. At the end of the piece, when he talked about planting all of those arborvitae trees, I got misty-eyed. Riggo is finding order in his life from planting trees that grow with a tall and strictly defined shape. Beautiful! It makes me want to plant some.

Conor from Milwaukee, WI

What would need to happen for the Packers to obtain any kind of home field advantage in the playoffs?

They'd probably have to win out to have any chance of getting the No. 1 seed. I'm leaning in another direction. Packers go to Atlanta, Giants go back to San Francisco, NFC title game in Green Bay. You know what I mean?

Andy from Calgary, AB

Is the culture of the NFL mainly dictated by the mindset of the commissioner? The guy right now wants less violence at all cost.

I have a view of Roger Goodell that history might record him as having been to football as Kenesaw "Mountain" Landis was to baseball. Landis saved the game by ruling with an iron hand following the Black Sox scandal. Will history record Goodell as having saved football by ruling with an iron hand against the culture of violence?

Nick from Peterborough, Ontario

I just read an interesting column about Ray Rice trading his gloves with a fan for a Terrible Towel last week. The sight of him walking off the field with a Terrible Towel over his head made Steelers fans livid. He has said he did it out of respect for such a great rivalry, something to remember for years to come.

Maybe someone told him what had happened to the Bengals and Titans when they desecrated the Towel. The Bengals then lost at home to the Steelers in the playoffs and lost their quarterback. The Titans lost eight in a row before Jeff Fisher ceremoniously surrendered to the Towel and asked for forgiveness. Maybe Rice decided not to tempt fate.

Joshua from Des Moines, IA

What do you think a win against the New York Giants will do for Green Bay and their momentum?

As storylines go, this would appear to be the Packers' toughest game of the season. The Giants are coming off consecutive losses to AFC North teams. Making matters worse, the bye week likely means the Giants have had to endure two weeks of Tom Coughlin's bad mood that resulted from those losses. Trust me, Coughlin can get in really bad moods. There is zero chance the Giants won't be all in for this game. The Packers will be getting the absolute best the Giants have to give, and the Packers know it. What would a win in New York against the best the Giants have to give do for the Packers' momentum? Let me put it this way: I'd make them the No. 1 team in my all-important power rankings.

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