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They all build character in their own ways

Tampa Bay has big-time weapons in the passing game


Tim from Charlotte, NC

"Spoff is a faster writer than I am." I knew it took me less time to read the column on Spoff's days.

As my dad used to say, "And we're off, so we might as well get going."

Ryan from Madison, WI

In the last two days Mike has answered two questions from a Ryan while Wes answered four questions from a Ryan (plus one from a Brian) so it must be our week to get posted. What is the biggest challenge the Packers face against the Bucs? They seem to be the odd man out in the NFC South.

I missed on calling Tampa Bay a sleeper for 2017. I really thought the Bucs were a team on the rise at the end of last season, but their defense has regressed. They're last in the league against the pass with only 15 sacks in 11 games, and opponents have posted a cumulative 98.7 passer rating against them. Winston got hurt as well, which set back an offense that had been scoring some points. It sounds like Winston's coming back now. Will he be rested or rusty? That's the question heading into this one.

Amanda from Villa Rica, GA

What challenges, if any, do you think we face with the Bucs? I haven't paid much attention to them this season.


They have weapons in the passing game. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are polished, big-play receivers, and Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard are both impressive young tight ends. Their running game hasn't been the complement they counted on, but these guys can make plays.**

Richard from Farmington Hills, MI

Mike, poor tackling wasn't the biggest problem the defense had. How about the nearly non-existent pass rush? And as for 2010, my recollection is that the Pack definitely needed help to get in the playoffs. For starters, aren't we out if the Lions don't beat the Bucs with an overtime field goal?

Please, people. As with the DeSean Jackson punt return, the Lions OT field goal to beat the Bucs occurred the afternoon of the New England game. I distinctly remember watching both from my hotel room in Providence before hopping on the bus to Foxboro that night. Yes, the Packers needed help, but they had gotten all that was required before the final two games of the regular season. I agree the lack of a pass rush was a huge problem in Pittsburgh, but they might have survived it without a season-high 16 missed tackles, the number the coaches reported to the media on Monday.

Scott from Sausalito, CA

Chris in West Plains, MO, must have done the New York Times Sunday crossword because Snidely Whiplash was a clue.

I chose his comment because Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls is my favorite of the classic rides at Islands of Adventure in Orlando. You never know what'll get you posted in the Inbox.

Nick from Chicago, IL

Whoa, whoa, whoa – I did not see the TD celebration after Davante's touchdown. Curling! This is Winter Olympics madness. I love it! Guesses on the next Olympic Games TD celebration?

If we can switch to summer, perhaps synchronized swimming?

Mark from Westernport, MD

I don't want to overreact too much, but do you get the sense Rodgers was sending a message with the pregame throws? I get the feeling that he's the type of guy who has a purpose for everything he lets you see. Why come out in front of a national TV audience and throw the football around with some zip if you're not trying to tell the world "I'm coming back"? There's plenty of closed-door practice time to throw the ball. This felt like a statement to Packer Nation and the NFL as a whole. Look out.

Maybe. Or to stay on his rehab schedule, he needed to get a throwing session in on Sunday and the only place in Pittsburgh to which he had access that could accommodate 50-yard tosses was Heinz Field.

Justin from Stephenson, MI

The decision the Steelers made to go for it on fourth down shows me that nobody is afraid of our defense, or offense for that matter. GB hasn't stopped anyone on fourth down yet and I continue to see other teams doing the same. Even if they didn't get the score they're not afraid of the offense. Also the people that are saying to play Brett over Aaron when he is healthy, have you completely lost your minds?

Pittsburgh's decision on the 1-yard line was a no-brainer and it had nothing to do with the perception of Green Bay's defense, in my opinion. I'm sure the Steelers had a short-yardage play from their opening script they were comfortable with. But it was more about, in the case of a defensive stop, putting a young, unproven QB on the 1-yard line for his first snap of the game with the nighttime home crowd in a frenzy. Maybe they make the same choice with Rodgers at QB, but maybe not.

Barry from Hayward, WI

I always thought there was something wrong with fans thinking their team should tank a season to get better draft picks. Then it hit me, don't the men playing the game have a say each week and aren't they going to play as well as possible individually to protect their own jobs?


Lori from Brookfield, WI

Blake Martinez has been a regular Green Bay Tigger, bouncing all over the field tackling people. What do you think of his development on defense this season?

I think we've said plenty about it, but the Tigger reference was too good, and appropriate, to pass up.

Dave from Sheboygan, WI

What was it like covering Charles Woodson and the circumstances concerning his arrival in Green Bay? I've heard he wasn't happy to be here.

He wasn't, at first. I remember watching him have extensive conversations with McCarthy on the field following OTA practices in the spring. He wasn't comfortable, but he eventually settled in, and settled down, and started a family in Green Bay. It became a place he cherished. It was a fascinating evolution of attitude to witness, and Charles will always be one of my favorite Packers to have covered.

Jonnie from Detroit, MI

Wes, when Hundley got hit helmet-to-helmet, it didn't sound like the sharp crack of similar hits from years past. That may be why the refs missed the call on the field. I've been keeping an eye out to see if there were any fines issued for that hit on Hundley, and I haven't seen anything. Did the league miss it entirely, did I miss it, or is it a "no harm, no foul" kind of thing?

Players who get fined find a FedEx envelope from the league in their lockers on Wednesdays, and the league issues the list of the week's disciplinary actions on Fridays. And I'm really proud of myself for correctly using two homophones consecutively in one sentence.

Tony from Colorado Springs, CO

My friend texted me this question, and I'm curious to hear Spoff's take. What's a bigger game for Wisconsin, this Saturday vs. OSU or vs. MSU in Tokyo?


Wow, great question. I think you have to rank the '93 Tokyo game higher. To get to the program's first Rose Bowl in three decades put Wisconsin back on the map, and there's no telling what might have happened had the opportunity slipped away, considering it was another five years before the Badgers got back to Pasadena. As big as this OSU game is, I can't put it in the same category.**

Ron from Mesquite, NV

If Rodgers does make it back from IR, will he play with the plate and screws still in or do those have to come out before he's deemed healthy to return?

When Rodgers spoke with reporters following his surgery, I asked him after the cameras were turned off if the hardware was in there permanently, and he said yes.

Jalonie from West Hills, CA

On the last drive I noticed the Packers blitzed twice on the drive when they got in range for the field goal. I was confused as to why you don't double-team Antonio Brown.

Difficult to have your cake and eat it, too. With the four-man rush not getting home all night, Capers tried a change-up with a six-man pressure after Brown's tip-toe sideline catch. The Packers still had Clinton-Dix shaded over to Brown's side, and Randall had a free run at the QB on the blitz. But once Brown got King to flip his hips, Roethlisberger threw the ball before Brown even broke off his route to the outside, which took the safety help out of the equation and got the ball out in time. Two superstars on precisely the same page.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Watching the Texans-Ravens game, the zebras threw a flag that the defense "had 12 men on the field with the snap imminent" – before the snap. Does that mean Aaron's free play with 12 men on the field is history?

No. If the 12th man is attempting to get off the field, they let it play out. But if not, the officials are now supposed to blow the play dead and call the penalty. The rule was changed after the most recent Giants-Patriots Super Bowl when the Giants had 12 defenders, in formation, late in the game and the Patriots wasted precious seconds running a play at a disadvantage. I got a kick out of the Vikings-Lions play on Thanksgiving when Terence Newman was trying to get off the field and Stafford snapped the ball, so Newman just turned and ran down the sideline to double-cover the receiver. Jones made a great grab on Stafford's throw for the TD anyway, but it was a heads-up move by Newman.

Nate from Ames, IA

If memory serves, Bell was picked just before we drafted Lacy. I sorely wish we would have had a chance to get Bell knowing what we know now about both players.

The Steelers selected Bell in the second round at No. 48 overall, seven picks before the Packers were up. Green Bay then traded back six spots and took Lacy at 61.

Ken from Oceanport, NJ

With seven draft picks and four compensatory picks this year, don't you think this is the year they trade up and get quality over quantity? We have too many young guys on the team as it is. Time to get some playmakers on both sides of the ball.

I see the Packers having plenty of needs – both for depth in 2018 and to replace starters down the road – such that quantity of picks will be paramount.

John from Sioux Falls, SD

Insiders, didn't dawn on me until after the game that Spriggs had started and played RT all the way through. Seemed to do pretty well since I don't remember any glaring whiffs. Maybe it's a confidence-builder for a guy who appears to have the athletic ability, but maybe needs to "stack a couple of successes" to help the mental side?

I thought Spriggs held his own, as I outlined in**WYMM this week**, and McCarthy said he's the right tackle going forward this season. With Bulaga's knee injury occurring so late in the year, there's no guarantee he'll be ready for the start of 2018. Spriggs' second season started rough with an uneven training camp and then the Week 1 injury, but now he has a chance to become the front-runner for the job heading into next season. It's a huge opportunity.

Eric from Baker, FL

I'm excited to see Kevin King (hopefully) take the Year 2 jump next year. To be dealing with a lingering injury and still be paired with the top receivers in the game as a rookie tells me the coaches think he has the potential to be special. What's your take?

I concur. He was drafted 33rd overall for a reason.

Howie from Saint Ignace, MI

Were the Packers thinking field goal or running out the clock on their last possession Sunday against the Steelers? Should Williams have tried to stay in bounds on second down?

McCarthy said they switched strategies after the first-down sack, but it wasn't communicated to Williams, and Hundley took the blame for that. In the end, it didn't matter because the Steelers had a timeout left at the end of the game, one they would have used after second down had Williams stayed in.

John from Philadelphia, PA

Not addressing McCarthy's decision to go for that field goal in the day-after Insider Inbox undermines your credibility. I'm sure you received plenty of submissions on that topic.

It was an inadvertent omission, and for that I apologize. I had answered a question about it, but in the bleary-eyed morning it got lost in the final version of Inbox I submitted to post before I signed off to get some sleep. Here's what I had said: McCarthy made a high-risk decision. I'm not sure it's a chance I would have taken, but four years ago, I wouldn't have tried a 57-yard field goal in Dallas, either. Crosby drilled that one in a game the Packers eventually won by one point to save a season on the brink. So, I get it.

Kevin from Park City, UT

Our special teams, aside from Crosby and Vogel, are really abysmal. I realize you are moving guys around on these teams, but so are 31 other teams. Are there any statistics to how we compare against the average? Including penalties? Without Aaron we really needed them to step up and I have not seen it.

I don't have those stats in front of me, but the penalties have to stop. They just have to. I like how Vogel is coming around, but three of these last five games could be big challenges, weather-wise.

Todd from Menominee, MI

The NFC is so good that the potential is there for two 10-win teams to fail to make the playoffs. Meanwhile in the AFC, the potential is there for a pair of 9-7 wild cards. The NFL is crazy this year, I tell ya.

And the craziness makes this year so much different from other years … how exactly? Hey, everybody is sending in their playoff scenarios, computer simulations, projections and probabilities, and it's getting nutty. I'm declaring right now I won't entertain them unless/until the Packers win their next two games and get back above .500. Wes can do what he wants, but I'm calling a Jim Mora-torium on playoff talk in my Inbox. If the Packers are 7-6 in two weeks, I'll get into it with all y'all, and I'll start writing "Path to the Playoffs," too. In the meantime, just beat the Bucs.

Bud from Toronto, Ontario

Hello Insiders, I enjoyed Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh as much as any win this season, including the Dallas win in October. Watching a young QB develop in front of our eyes is a quote that one of the Insiders had here and I remembered it while watching on Sunday night. Do you get a sense of character development from Hundley after seeing how dejected he was after Sunday and optimistic he seemed after previous losses? I see Mr. Hundley developing an edge. What say you?

I think the edge has always been there, but it came out publicly after such a tough loss. These last three weeks have been an education in leadership and self-growth for Hundley. He handled an uplifting victory and a humbling defeat with varying levels of success, and now he has to forge ahead following a heartbreaker. They all build character in their own ways.

Dennis from Rhinelander, WI

Spoff, here come the Buccaneers. Will you be breaking out your "puffy shirt"?

But I don't wanna be a pirate.

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