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Sacks make Broncos defense for real

Ignore the sign; prepare yourself mentally


Paul from De Pere, WI

Vic, can this one game, since it is after the bye, on the road, against an uncommon opponent, with a top-ranked defense and a Hall of Fame quarterback, tell us any more about this team than any other game on any given weekend?

Is it a measuring stick game? It could be, depending on what happens in the remainder of the season. The Patriots game last year was a measuring stick game, and that is its lasting value. The Broncos are an outstanding team and Denver is a tough place to play. A win over the Broncos on their home field would say a lot about the Packers, and almost certainly the Packers would be measured by that victory. A loss? It wouldn't impact my opinion of the Packers in any way; that's where the measuring would stop. I know what I see. This is a championship-caliber team that has room to grow, and that's what I like best about it. Late in the season, the things on which we are obsessing now will become strengths of this team. I believe that because I've never known a better fix-it coach than Coach McCarthy. Let's enjoy this Sunday's game for what it is, a high-profile event to which fans and media are going to attach too much importance.

Matt from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, you asked where the next generation of QBs are. What if we're simply entering the most disappointing QB era in NFL history?

I don't like what I see in college football, and that's where the next generation of NFL quarterbacks are. If this is the way it's going to be in college football, the NFL will be forced into some kind of developmental program. It's not college football's fault. It's just the college game doesn't translate to the pro game. Christian Hackenberg is the perfect example. As a true freshman in a pro system under Bill O'Brien, Hackenberg quickly developed into a first-overall-pick type of prospect. Since then, in a watered down read option attack, Hackenberg hasn't been the same guy.

Chili from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, do you think this year, more than others in recent memory, there's a large talent gap in the league? It seems there are a handful of good teams that are head and shoulders above the rest, and that scenario has led to the record number of undefeated squads that we currently have.

If you buy into that theory, you're embracing a lie. It's just a topic somebody decided they could sell, but it's not the truth. You're going to see records begin to even out. Why? Because this is not a league of haves and have-nots. Teams rise and fall. That's the ebb and flow of a season. I think we'll begin to see leveling in November. The schedule literally demands it'll happen. Come December, the hot teams will begin to emerge, and those will be the teams to watch in January. Records won't mean a thing then.

Anthony from Harrisburg, PA

I ask every Packers fan if they read your work. You can see your influence all over different message boards and comments sections. What writers influenced you to write?

All writers influence me. I would read something and it would cause me to think of how beautiful the words were. I remember reading the words "a thunderclap in a cloudless sky" – the words belong to James Jones, the author, not the receiver. The words gave me pause. Stephen Crane painted a picture in "Red Badge of Courage" that challenged me. What would I have done? Of course, Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" paints the most vivid picture words could ever allow. That's the essence of writing, in my opinion. It's about the ability to use words to make the reader see what the author is writing. Steinbeck was and always will be my literary hero. His simplicity was overpowering.

Greyson from Shawano, WI

Is this the week all of us fans have been waiting for? Should we attack this pass-rushing defense with screen passes?

This is the week to screen. Oh, the joy!

Darren from Mackinaw, IL

Other than injuries having an extra week to heal, in what way do teams improve most having an extra seven days in the middle of the season?

It's about recovery and focus. There isn't one player or coach on the Packers' roster who was born and raised in Green Bay. They all have family somewhere else. In many cases, they have homes somewhere else. The bye allows them to go home and address issues, put their mind at ease and return to Green Bay with a sharp focus and singleness of purpose: win.

Scott from Wausau, WI

Vic, John Elway was the king of the comeback win. How much of that reputation do you believe can be attributed to the altitude in Denver? Visiting defenses get pretty tired late in games there.

Elway was pretty good in Cleveland, too, but you're right, the altitude can cause a visiting team to wilt. Staying fresh has to be part of the game plan.

Nick from Evergreen, CO

Vic, we know playoff games are big games because they are do or die. Late-season games have implications. What makes Sunday's game a big game? What about this game hypes you up the most?

This game is about the hype. It's exciting all of us. This game isn't going to mean a tinker's darn when it comes to tiebreakers. Its importance is solely the mark it'll make on each team's win-loss record, but we all like to be excited, and the media is playing to it. The TV ratings for this game will be through the roof. Good! I love big games. The hype is fun. Big games harden teams. Big games prepare teams for the ultimate big games: the playoffs.

Matt from Lynchburg, VA

Vic, what if anything do teams do to prepare for the lack of oxygen in Denver?

It's my understanding there's nothing you can do physically; you have to live there for an extended period of time to adapt to the altitude. Playing in Denver is a mental thing. You have to prepare yourself mentally for what you're going to face, and that's why the Broncos put that sign at the entrance to the visitors' locker room: "Elevation 5,280 feet above sea level." I've often wondered if the Packers strategically position piles of snow near where the visitors' buses arrive at Lambeau Field? I love that kind of stuff.

Dionicio from Albuquerque, NM

Two of my brothers, my dad and I will be making a trip to our first-ever NFL game this weekend. Woohoo! I haven't heard any details on the Packers Everywhere pep rally. What's the deal?

There isn't a Packers Everywhere pep rally in Denver. The next one is scheduled for Arizona.

Kurt from Dubuque, IA

With Raji and Perry returning, I see the front seven getting after Manning, giving the secondary opportunities for takeaways. A long-time offensively led team takes a back seat this week and is carried to victory by an attacking defense.

Whatever it takes.

Russ from Bayonne, NJ

Vic, I certainly don't want to undervalue the Broncos defense, they are clearly one of the best in the league. That being said, do you think they could be overvalued based on the opponents and quarterbacks they have faced so far?

Joe Flacco's not a good quarterback? Matt Stafford lacks talent? No, the Broncos defense is the real deal. They've sacked the quarterback 26 times. That gets my attention.

Justin from Charleston, SC

Vic, with the possibility of a team winning its respective division for the second year in a row with a losing record (last year Carolina and as of now the Colts), do you think the NFL will restructure the divisions as they did in 2000?

It was 2002 and it was leaguewide realignment driven by the expansion Texans becoming the 32nd team in the league. You don't realign divisions based on W-L records. Seattle won its division with a 7-9 record and everybody whined and cried, but the Seahawks have been pretty good since then. Divisions are the NFL's way of providing a regional flavor to a national league. Divisions are about history, tradition, regional identity, etc. If you're going to shuffle the deck based on records, then get rid of the divisions, and I am dead set against that.

Derek from South Point, OH

Vic, how is the player from the opposing team chosen for conference calls? Does the media request a certain player, or is it typically the star player, such as Peyton Manning?

We make requests, and it's usually for the starting quarterback. There's a cap on the number of conference calls quarterbacks have to do nowadays, but Manning has been very accommodating throughout his career. He's from the old school of promoting the game that pays him; I like that. Yesterday's calls were pretty dry, as I expected. Manning didn't want to talk about himself and make it a late-career introspective, which I can understand because this game is about the here and now.

Michael from Dubuque, IA

I'm sure it's quite possible all of the details are already worked out, but could you pass along the suggestion of blasting Rod Stewart's "Forever Young" on the speakers inside Lambeau as Brett and Bart leave the field on Thanksgiving night? I can't think of a better tune to capture the moment.

I love where your heart is, Michael, but I really hope that doesn't happen. I don't see this as a crying event. I see it as a celebration of smiles for being witness to one of the great events in Packers history. I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be one of the memorable nights of my career.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Vic, I really, really like the intro music and video to your "Video Ask Vic" pieces. Did you have any input into that?

I had no input. I hate that song. I can't get it out of my head. Who writes a song like that? It's the worst song in the history of the world.

Caleb from Eau Claire, WI

Coach Vic, given it's players, not plays, what would you try to accomplish at halftime in any given game?

If I had a really good team, I'd tell them bad men take Jane, and then I'd get out of the way.

Robert from Fond du Lac, WI

"Why would I hate a team? It's trying to do to you what you're trying to do to it. Their players were on your draft board. I just don t get it." Were you a Buddhist monk in a previous life?

You're banned. Brian is the only one person in this column who's allowed to be from Fond du Lac.

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