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Stopping the run in nickel bodes well for Packers

Lots to find out about Lions and Bears next two weeks


Frank from Greenville, SC

Did Vic get out of Edisto? If he needs a place to stay, I am upstate and we can make room for him. I would love for him to experience my winsome spirit.

I'm sure he appreciates it. Dozens of you have asked about Vic, and I can tell you he left Edisto on Tuesday night and now is simply waiting things out.

Braedon from Endicott, NY

Packers go 13-0 to end the year and the Vikings go 12-1, making them both 15-1. Who gets the tiebreaker?

In that highly unlikely scenario, you'd go to the fifth tiebreaker on the list, strength of victory. Which means it would come down to the two different opponents on each's schedule – Minnesota has Arizona and Carolina, while Green Bay has Seattle and Atlanta – and what those teams' records are at season's end, to determine who has the stronger wins.

Tyler from Fitchburg, WI

Is it the two best records get a first-round bye in each division? Or the two best records of the division champion? For example if the Packers and Vikings both won out, they'd finish 15-1. If the next closest record was 14-2, would they get the bye over whoever won the North?

All this 15-1 hypothetical stuff makes me chuckle. The two division winners with the best records get the two byes in each conference, and only division winners can host their first playoff game, bye or no bye. To simplify the thought process, if the Packers and Vikings finish with the two best records in the entire NFC, the winner of the North is getting a bye and the other one is the No. 5 seed, regardless of the records of the other division champs. I hope I've entertained you with all this post-bye nonsense.

Bob from Racine, WI

Are you as disappointed as I am that the celebrated acquisition of TE Cook has been a non-factor to date? Do you think he'll ever recover from his injuries to make an impact this year?

The fact that the Packers are not making a roster move at tight end in Cook's absence would indicate to me they expect him to be able to come back and make an impact.

Josh from Milwaukee, WI

We've seen how players in the NFL can have their level of play deteriorate when they struggle with injuries throughout the season. Often, front offices keep the actual injuries under wraps. My question is, do colleges do the same type of thing, and if so, how does that affect scouting? A potential first-round pick may be playing at a fourth-round level due to a nagging injury, and we might never know.

That's why scouts develop relationships with assistant coaches and other college sources so they can get the real scoop. If they don't publicize that info, they're trusted with it and can take it into account accordingly in their scouting reports.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

I believe the tour guides call it "your very own 14 inches of aluminum bliss." Taking the bleachers out would rank right up there with putting a roof on or banning Johnsonville brats from the premises. Can we please have a top 10 list of things that will never happen in Packerland?

I will never say never with regard to anything in this business, not even at Lambeau Field, not after Nov. 1, 2009.

Justin from Stephenson, MI

Shouldn't we be able to beat the Giants the same way teams beat us last year? Seeing as though our run defense is good, we should be able to drop more DBs on the back end for the pass. Or is our run defense only good because we have extra men in the box?

The Packers are stopping the run for the most part with their nickel defense, with five defensive backs on the field. It's the de facto new base, and if they can keep it up, it bodes well for defending the pass.

Chris from Menomonee Falls, WI

Any reason to worry about Randall Cobb? The thought was with Jordy coming back, Cobb's production would improve. Is the best yet to come?

No doubt in my mind.

Scott from Green Bay, WI

An article on (Wednesday) night's Mets-Giants game contained a description of how the Mets avoided trouble in the sixth inning. It said Brandon Belt hit a 97.9 mph fastball off his bat at 106 mph that 97.1 percent of the time will go for a hit. But Mets center fielder Curtis Granderson covered 102 feet at 18.2 mph to make the catch. We don't need sportswriters anymore.

We never did, but I'll let it be known I'm grateful to readers every day for being able to have this career. Numbers have their place, but the human element is more compelling in the long run.

Bruce from San Antonio, TX

Mike, golf, rugby, soccer, tennis and baseball have been discussed in your column. I've been a Cubs fan since 1969, when they had the big lead and lost the division to the hated Mets. Your opinion on this year's Cubs team and if you think they will go all the way to finally win the World Series after 108 years?

Two of my best friends whom I've known since childhood are the two biggest Cubs fans I've ever met, so I'll be watching intently, but I'm not making a prediction. The shape of the ball and 22 players on the field at once make football a wildly unpredictable game. In baseball, I think it's because the defense has the ball. You just never know.

Taylor from Toronto, Canada

Mike, how come no team has ever attempted an 'onside punt'? The punter kicks the ball to an eligible receiver 10-15 yards downfield. Less risk, more reward. It would completely revolutionize fourth downs in the NFL.

It also gets you into the Insider Inbox Hall of Fame.

Erik from Stockholm, Sweden

With the current scheduling format, how big a percentage of the players in the NFL have played in all NFL stadiums? Has any player on the current Packers roster done this? Rodgers?

Teams only visit stadiums from the other conference once every eight years (not including preseason or a Super Bowl trip), so any player in the league fewer than eight years has not been to every stadium as a pro for a regular-season game.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

Everybody is talking about the Vikings for good reason. What about the Lions and Bears? They seem to have started slow. Should we keep an eye out for them?

We'll find out a lot about Detroit the next two weeks, as it hosts the Eagles and Rams, who are a combined 6-1 to this point. The Lions can shake off their slow start and re-enter the conversation, or begin to bury themselves. Chicago plays two struggling teams in the Colts and Jaguars before coming to Lambeau Field on Thursday, Oct. 20. Last week was big for the Bears. Can they build on it?

Tim from Portage, WI

Gents, zone-blocking schemes use cut blocks on the back side to create running lanes to cut back into. To my knowledge, the NFL banned cutting. No cuts, no lanes, no reason to run a zone scheme.

Not true. Cut blocks are not illegal. The league has banned almost all forms of chop blocks now, in which two blockers engage with a defender in different ways, some of which were already illegal before this year. Cut blocks are still very much a part of the game.

Selby from Albuquerque, NM

Thought for the future of the NFL. Do you ever see the NFL starting the season a week earlier and adding a second bye week to each team's schedule? This could help with injuries and player safety.

They won't start earlier, because the NFL doesn't want to start on Labor Day weekend like it used to, and if you push back the Super Bowl another week, you almost have to reschedule the scouting combine and adjust the free agency calendar. It was a long time ago, but a two-bye schedule was tried back in 1993 and it didn't go over well.

Brian from Rochester, MN

I see A.J. Hawk was signed by the Falcons this week. Hawk's reputation among Packer fans is puzzling to me. He led the team in tackles in more than one season and was a reliable, sturdy starter. On top of that, he never did anything of note to warrant negative attention for the team with any off-field issues either. I realize he never lived up to his first-round draft status, but I feel his negative legacy with fans is unfounded. Do you agree? Can you think of any other Packers with a more unfair reputation, either good or bad?

I think Hawk was a solid first-round draft choice and his career reflected that, but because he was a top-five pick – a lofty draft slot Packers fans hadn't experienced for more than a dozen years until 2006 – they expected him to be the next Hall of Famer. Hawk was as level-headed and professional as they come, and I was always impressed by how the expectations he supposedly wasn't living up to never bothered him. I always felt he gave insightful interviews as well.

William from Eau Claire, WI

Does having Montgomery and Cobb make having only two running backs on the roster more stable than it would otherwise be? Do you think the Packers will add another running back?

Yes and no, barring a significant injury.

Bob from Lena, IL

Did John Kuhn ever score three touchdowns in one game for the Packers like he did for the Saints? Seems like New Orleans likes Packer fullbacks. I remember Jim Taylor going there.

Yes, Kuhn had two rushing TDs and one receiving TD in Week 16 of 2010 vs. the Giants at Lambeau Field, though I fail to comprehend what two personnel moves made 49 years apart have to do with one another.

Ben from Radford, VA

I always see the interviews with opposing teams' star players, however I go look for interviews with the Packers on opponents' sites and cannot find them. Do Packers stars do these interviews?

Assuming you're talking about the weekly conference calls, yes, the Packers do them. It's up to the other team's website whether or not some form of the interview gets posted.

Eric from Tomball, TX

Hey guys, in regards to the "concussion protocol," I've always wondered what tests do players go through to determine if they've healed from a concussion? Is it short-term memory tests? Interested to hear some insight.

I've never taken one, but my understanding is it's a series of cognitive exercises to test memory, reaction time and other brain functions. All players have a baseline score from when they took the test healthy, and their performance needs to return to the base level, within a reasonable variance. The cognitive tests are just one part of the protocol, though.

Dan from Long Beach, CA

Insiders, this matchup brings some extra emotion for me as a fan, given what Eli and the Giants have accomplished at Lambeau Field. Do the players or coaches use that history as motivation, even a little bit?

I don't think so, not when Manning's last visit was five seasons ago. Only 11 players on the Packers' current 53-man roster were on the team the last time the Giants played here.

Frank from Fox Lake, IL

I agree when game-planning against a certain player you should always concentrate on that person's strengths. But coaches and players are always looking for an edge, right? OBJ does not play well when frustrated. Should this not at least be acknowledged and part of the game plan?

You frustrate him by covering him and not letting him get the ball. If you take him out of the game statistically, maybe he takes himself out mentally, but trying to play mind games is a waste of time.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Hi guys, you noted the long stretch now after an early bye. Other than Rodgers, give me three guys you want healthy and on the field every week. I'll go with Nelson, Daniels and Clinton-Dix.

This defense needs Matthews on the field every week to be at its best.

Jerry from Kansas City, MO

If I take my eye off the ball at any point Sunday, is there any particular matchup I should keep my eye on?

I thought Olivier Vernon was a tough customer for the Giants in their loss to the Vikings on Monday night, and I wrote about**the first time Vernon and Bakhtiari went head-to-head**two years ago. It's worth a few glances.

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