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The NFC is setting up for a wild ride

Keep grinding, with the hope of getting to grind some more


Bob from Madison, WI

Insiders, football is my entertainment, not my life. Hopefully the coaches and players will take care of the issues that need fixing. I, on the other hand, am here to enjoy the sport so I'm moving on. What do we need to know about the Titans?

DeMarco Murray is looking like his old Dallas self, and that type of running game is a good friend to a young, developing QB in Marcus Mariota. Dick LeBeau's defense, predictably, has two quality edge rushers in Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. Four wins was supposedly the Titans' allotment for the season, according to the experts, so they're ahead of schedule.

Chris from Lewisville, TX

Please tell me you got a flurry of emails telling you the Germans didn't bomb Pearl Harbor. Love the call back to a classic.

I had no idea an "Animal House" reference would be such a swing and miss, or foul ball at best. My bad, I guess. To those who at least wondered if they were missing something, thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. To the rest of you, Blutarski had the 0.0 grade-point average, not me.

Rich from El Cerrito, CA

How does the team react to a player getting cut for a clear performance lapse? Does this help refocus some guys? The old guard has talked about how Holmgren and Wolf always cycled the bottom of the roster, and they knew it.

With a handful of exceptions, every player knows he could be next.

Barton from Tulum, Quintana Roo Mexico

I'll tell you three reasons why NFL ratings are down. Two are obvious: commercials after kickoffs ruin the momentum, and stoppage of games (thus more commercials) for replays hurt flow. But perhaps the biggest reason is that officials vary too much in how games are officiated. Turn on one game and it's pass interference, turn on another and it's not! Very annoying.

But the only way to get more consistency with calls like pass interference is to turn those judgment calls over to replay, which exacerbates another of your reasons. When supreme athletes are involved, human judgments at live speed will inherently be inconsistent.

Bob from Suhuarita, AZ

Not a question just a comment regarding TV ratings. Not everybody watches football on TV. There are other devices which aren't being measured as TV viewership. So the audience may not be smaller it's just more fragmented.

Many others have suggested the popularity of watching the action on Red Zone could be a factor, too, which speaks to the fragmentation you mention.

Davy from Chetek, WI

You guys obviously need a refresher in how to please everyone, all the time. When you don't criticize every mistake all the time, then you prove that you're spineless fan boys with no integrity. But don't criticize unfairly or too often, or you'll prove that you are actually Steelers fans in secret, and everyone knows you can't write for the Packers without bleeding green and gold. Hope this helps! Lesson 2 comes tomorrow, so you can learn to write long, well-thought-out, one-word answers.

Can't wait. Shoot, too many words.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Insiders, I think losing a game like this could be just the type of game that gets this team playing mad and with a purpose. Maybe the team gathers for a players-only meeting like they did in 2010 and all will be fine the rest of the way? On the other hand, this loss could dictate a losing season and they just deflate down the stretch knowing nothing will change? Which way do you guys think it will go?

I don't know, but if finding out qualifies as healthy, distracting entertainment, count me in.

Jimmy from Stevens Point, WI

I looked over the NFC standings yesterday. The Packers are within reach of both wild-card spots and the division title. Last time I checked, those were the three ways into the playoffs.

With the NFC East and NFC North both having plenty of division and crossover games left, plus the Saints and Panthers on the rise in the South, it's going to be a wild ride in this conference the rest of the way.

Matt from Minocqua, WI

So you had roughly a handful of teams who were legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl prior to kickoff in '16. Green Bay was in the convo. Throw out the notion that the NFC is wide open halfway through. Would you characterize this team, regardless of injuries, as underachieving?

That's fair to say based on losing two of the last three home games in the fashion they did, but judgment of the full body of work is what matters, not half of it.

Members of the Packers have had the opportunity to meet Presidents of the United States of America through the years.

Adrian from Berwickshire, UK

In the photos of "Packers with Presidents," was Jim McMahon wearing his Bears jersey when he went to the White House with the '96 Packers? Seriously?

The original visit to the White House for the '85 Bears was canceled due to the Challenger explosion, so McMahon wanted his previous Super Bowl squad represented as well. I think that Bears team finally visited D.C. about five years ago thanks to an Obama invitation.

Don from Stevens Point, WI

If a billy goat can inflict 108 years of futility on a franchise, what can we expect vis-a-vis "The Curse of the Squirrel"?

I don't know, but when the Colts visit Lambeau Field again in 2024,**animal security needs to be tightened**.

Kevin from Savage, MN

Overtime question. Team A kicks off, Team B takes over with ball on the 1. They run the ball gaining 2 1/2 yards every play, going for it on fourth down. Clock running continuously. They drive the field and call timeout with 1 second left. Kick a field goal which expires the quarter. Team A never has the ball. Is this a legal win? Inquiring minds want to know.

Rule 16 (overtime procedures), Section 1, Article 4a: There shall be a maximum of one 15-minute period, even if the second team has not had an opportunity to possess the ball or if its initial possession has not ended.

Garrett from Gilbert, AZ

A strange thing happened in the MNF game this week. The visiting team scored an immediate touchdown after a special-teams blunder. But the difference between how Seattle and Green Bay handled their early deficits dictated the remainder of their respective games. Packers seemed to let the early score affect them the entire first half, while the Seahawks rolled with it and went into the half with a 28-17 lead. Do you think this GB team is easily rattled? Do they lack that killer instinct to take a mistake and let it motivate them instead of dwelling on it?

I think that's why Rodgers said after the game, "We all need to be mentally tougher."

Rich from De Pere, WI

Insiders, I am looking for something positive to turn things around like everyone. But I don't understand why some (many?) think that once James Starks returns, everything will get better. Before he got hurt, he was averaging 1.8 yards per carry! What am I missing?

Your skepticism is logical. I don't know anything for a fact, and players aren't apt to reveal such things … but when the statistics are that far outside a player's career norms, we have to account for the possibility that his knee injury was a factor before it was determined surgery was necessary, don't we?

Scott from Silver Lake, WI

Hi guys, I've noticed almost all college linemen wear knee braces. I'm sure it's an attempt to keep them on the field more. Why don't pro lineman wear braces? Are they too restrictive or are the guys too proud to wear them on a regular basis?

The linemen I've heard address the issue feel limited in a brace, and would prefer to wear one only when absolutely necessary.

Josh from Toronto, Ontario

Vic preaches crunch time execution as key. The Packers' D has been anything but good in crunch time recently. They couldn't stop Luck twice on third down (and gave up a TD drive to end the first half), they couldn't stop the Falcons last week, they committed a game-ending PI on third down against the Vikings, and disappeared off the face of the earth after one of the most remarkable plays in franchise history against the Cardinals in the playoffs last year. I'm not going to write them off completely yet, but come on, this defense needs to start playing up to its talent level when the game is on the line.

To be fair, the defense closed out the Washington playoff win last year and the Jacksonville opener this year, but your point is well-taken. Forgive me, though, if I'm not going to remind Mike Daniels over breakfast.

Dennis from Edina, MN

The Packers have been losing by 30 points a game yet you feel they're only one play away. Really.

If you're referring to my "one play" subhead from Tuesday's column, the full context was later, in reference to a question about the Packers throwing it deep so often. The opportunities were there, and I said everyone would have felt differently about the offense if one of those deep chances had connected. By the way, the Packers' four losses this year are by a combined 23 points. Only one was by more than five. Really.

Dan from Chino Hills, CA

It appears that the league has caught up to the Vikings. Same as last year for the Pack. How do you get ahead without a major change?

You just keep grinding. That's what this league is, a grind, and after 16 games it spits out a dozen teams that get to grind some more.

Rick from Knoxville, TN

One thing I read about Vince was that everybody in the league knew that they were going to run the sweep, and they planned for it, and still couldn't do anything about it. Think about Jordy a couple of years ago. Defenses knew that Aaron was going to throw that back-shoulder throw to the sidelines, and they still couldn't stop it. Nowadays, there's no "sweep," there's no "back-shoulder fade" that the defenses know is coming, but still can't stop. What's it take to get over the hump?

Given the Packers' current injury situation, I don't worry about finding an identity. Do whatever it takes to win each week, and if it develops into a run, maybe an identity will find you.

Ryan from McKinney, TX

I stayed up all night Saturday night smoking 18 pounds of pork shoulder for pulled pork BBQ for a game day party I had planned. Well, the party got rained out, the Packers lost, and I now have 16 pounds of pulled pork in my refrigerator. Any suggestions for when I get tired of pulled pork sandwiches? Seriously, I don't understand what all the panic is about. It's football season! Enjoy the ride! Could it be worse? It could be the offseason waiting for a new season to start. Or you could be a Browns fan! We have had a lot of good football to enjoy and this franchise is built to be competitive for a long time.

Did you eat the two pounds of pork all by yourself?

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