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This team gets it

How will Seattle's defense respond to Earl Thomas' absence?


Greg from Branson, MO

Gentlemen, we seem to have found our December game. I am looking forward to Seattle this week as a true measuring stick. Regardless of how the game goes, I think we need to be proud of this team for sticking together through the season so far. There has not been any finger-pointing within our team and all have been accountable. From AR to MM to TT, all have said that we need to look ahead. One game at a time and the next game is Seattle. We win or lose this week we will know where we are at and then look forward to next week. One game/one week enjoy the ride.

I watched a lot of afternoon football last month with the back-to-back late games on the road. I'm not going to name specific teams, but I was sort of taken aback by how much sulking I saw from teams dealing with adversity. I didn't see that during the Packers' four-game losing streak. There was so much positivity. It reminds me of a photo our photographer, Matt Becker, took of Rodgers and Cobb having fun with a Make-A-Wish child before Sunday's game against Houston. It's arguably the biggest game of the season, and they're loose, having fun and making a child's dream come true. Talk about having perspective on things. This team gets it. That's how they stayed upbeat during the four-game skid and aren't taking anything for granted now that they've won the last two games.

Steve from Ramsgate, UK

What is the key to stopping Russell Wilson?

Tampa Bay dialed the pressure up on Wilson two weeks ago, finishing with six sacks in the 14-5 win. It seems like he's finally overcome the knee injury that limited him early this season (he had eight rushes for 80 yards against the Buccaneers). He's also developing a better rapport with Jimmy Graham, who adds another dimension to an already multifaceted offense. The biggest key to victory is stopping the run. If you can slow down Rawls, it limits what Wilson can do in the play-action game. He's up there with Aaron Rodgers when it comes to his improvisational skills outside of the pocket.

Dave from Sparta, WI

How many snaps can we expect Christine Michael to take on Sunday? I knew nothing about him prior to the signing, and he ran with a first-step quickness and drive I haven't seen in some time. We can all dream, but could a productive run game in December at Lambeau be a reality?

Well, he took two snaps in his first game in Philadelphia and 11 last week against Houston, so I'd expect he'll continue to get more opportunities as his knowledge of the offense increases. His biggest test will be staying on the field when the Packers go into their no-huddle. That's when a player truly is tested when it comes to knowing his assignment. I thought he showed some good things against the Texans, though. He looked explosive.

Ryan from Santee, CA

I don't wish injury on anybody but I think the Earl Thomas injury needs to be heard of more. In my opinion that's huge. He is so good. That being said do you think Rodgers will target his replacement? It's gotta be a weakness, right?

Seattle knows what it has in Thomas, but I've always been floored that he doesn't get more national exposure. We're talking about one of the best safeties in the game who's been voted first-team All-Pro in four consecutive seasons. I believe the Seahawks' defense is deep enough to survive his absence over the long haul but I'm very curious to see how it plays in its first full game without him. He has missed only one start since Seattle drafted him in 2010. Steven Terrell has big shoes to fill.

Matt from San Diego, CA

What would be your thoughts on football expanding rosters toward the end of the season, much like baseball? Have your full 53 (and possibly practice squad too) eligible for the final four games. Playoff teams get fortified against injury and struggling teams can start planning for the future.

It's an interesting idea – and one I haven't seen floated yet in the Inbox – but teams already kind of do this in a way. You'll see teams that are out of the playoff picture put more banged-up players on injured reserve in the last few weeks of the season to either promote their practice-squad players or try to nab someone off another team's. Unless the league expands game-day rosters, there really isn't a huge difference between what a reserve player on the active roster and a practice-squad player can do during the week.

Brett from Green Bay, WI

Do you think a snow game at Lambeau on Sunday would benefit the Packers or the Seahawks more?

I'd say the Packers. They've always been a pretty solid home team in December under McCarthy, but this year's offense seemed to find something in the second half against Houston that could help the Packers navigate this upcoming cold schedule. Seattle is built to run the ball but doesn't regularly play in these type of late cold-weather games in the NFC West.

Dan from Dahlgren, VA

Hey guys! I'm a little perplexed by Gunter. I know he was playing without much help at the other corner spots for a while but he's had some really low points this year, and also some impressively high points to match (one of PFF's highest rated corners last week). Is he playing better week by week or is it just a product of the offenses he's against?

I know everyone wants FULL CONSISTENCY, but that's just not how the NFL works, especially when it comes to young players. Gunter has had some really tough assignments this year, but I think those experiences are going to make him better over the long haul. I love his ranginess. His height and long arms allow him to bat balls out of a receiver's grasp like you saw against Houston. All that's missing is that first NFL pick.

Chris from Milwaukee, WI

That gorgeous end-around got me thinking about new ways to use Janis. I have no illusions, he's not Jordy or Montgomery, but what do you think about mixing him in the backfield some? I don't mean for him to run between the tackles, but an occasional off-tackle pitch, screen, or simple checkdown with an LB on him. Could open things up for the other guys downfield. Plus, it's an unscouted look, and the next four defenses we face are super familiar with us.

As soon as the series ended, I leaned over to Spoff and said, "So who's going to be the first to ask whether Janis should line up in the backfield?" It took until mid-week, but you were the first to mention it, Chris. It was a beautiful end-around with terrific blocking. I just don't envision it'll lead to Janis lining up in the backfield.

Eric from Cincinnati, OH

Who in your view could be Seattle's best receiver matchup Sunday and what do you think the Packers might consider to counter it?

Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are equally dangerous. Baldwin has been Wilson's go-to-guy for some time now. He's smart and incredibly competitive. Graham got off to a slow start in his first season in Seattle, but he seems to have found his place in the offense. The Packers did a brilliant job against him last season (one catch for 11 yards), but I don't think you can go into a game expecting to limit him to that extent. He's going to get his touches. You just have to make sure he doesn't extend them into a big play. Outside of Baldwin's three-TD performance against New England, Graham has been Wilson's favorite target inside the red zone.

Josh from Peoria, IL

It is still feasible for the Packers to get into the playoffs as a No. 6 seed if Green Bay wins out, Redskins lose one, and Tampa loses two. Would you rather see them in the No. 6 seed or No. 4 seed with home-field advantage?

You'll take whatever you can get, but I'm sure they'd rather be the fourth seed to ensure at least one game at Lambeau.

Amelia from Omro, WI

For an onside kick, has a team ever had the kicker kick a low line drive directly at the line of blockers to have it bounce off of them? Do you think it would work? Will you recommend this to Mike McCarthy next time you interview him?

Tennessee tried this last month on the opening kickoff and it didn't work. Joe Thomas jumped on it and the Packers started from midfield.

Kelly from Antigo, WI

My humble opinion on the crowd. Totally agree with Matt from Minocqua. Yes the Packers have the most loyal fans in the world, but what has happened is the yearlong season ticket holders are numb. They have been to too many football games and just simply don't get as excited anymore. I've felt for the past several years the crowds are too subdued. The ravenous, crazy, LOUD fan cannot get a ticket anymore. Or at the very least not enough of them. Sometimes Packer fans are "TOO nice," know what I mean?

You don't need to be mean to be loud. I can't speak for the crowd but I know when I was a kid how much excitement I used to feel being at a sporting event. I probably cheered too much for some, but that's what sports are all about. It's about having a good time and doing whatever is needed to help your team. There are some huge home-field advantages across the NFL, but Lambeau Field should always be the greatest.

Braden from Brookfield, WI

What does the loss of Pennel do to this team?

It takes away a big, athletic lineman out of the rotation on the defensive front, but there's still ample depth at the position. There was a lot of panic happening in the Inbox when the Packers were without him earlier this season and the line played fine in his absence. Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Christian Ringo are fully capable of handling the snaps Pennel vacates behind Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion.

Luke from San Diego, CA

If this team is 9-3 instead of 6-6, our offensive line would be considered dominant and the identity of this team. Pass protection has been unreal!

It's arguably been the most consistent unit on offense despite Josh Sitton's departure, and recent injuries to JC Tretter and T.J. Lang. David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga have played lights-out this season at the tackle spots. For all the concern after Sitton's release, the Packers' offensive line has been solid.

Ben from Denver, CO

I know Mike's answer disputed it, but I agree with Matt from Minocqua. Packer fans have to step it up and get loud. Last year I was at the Monday night game against the Chiefs. On the opening defensive series, I stood up and screamed on third down. The guy behind me asked me to sit down. I could not even believe it. I kept standing and said, "I'm absolutely not going to sit down, but you are more than welcome to join me and stand!" I was blown away that he asked me to sit, and honestly, I still am.

That's awesome if that's really what you said.

Jon from Omaha, NE

Will the attending crowd be loud enough to disrupt the offense of Seattle? I know I'll be cheering from the heartland. If you ask my son, he will say that you should be able to hear me from up there. Go Pack Go!

That is completely up to the 78,000-plus that will be at the stadium on Sunday #GETLOUDLAMBEAU

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

So, pull for Dallas to beat New York this weekend so it increases Green Bay's longshot chances at a wild-card spot (since the Packers win head-to-head with the Giants), or hope Dallas loses so there's a greater chance they play their starters against Detroit? This is a great league, isn't it?

If Dallas clinches the No. 1 seed by Week 15, it's the Cowboys' prerogative to do whatever they see fit to prepare for the playoffs. At the same time, I think it would be unwise to sit your starters for three consecutive weeks before the divisional playoffs. There's also only so many guys who can sit with seven inactive spots on a 53-man roster. Not to mention I hear Dallas' backup quarterback is pretty good.

Scott from Hudson, OH

No matter what happens in the playoff stretch, the season will be measured in great part by how the Seattle game turns out for many reasons but most importantly as a barometer of progress. Your thoughts?

I couldn't disagree more. This season will be measured by how it ends. Period. I've been covering games for seven years now. You'd be amazed to see how short memories people have. If the Packers make the playoffs, I don't see many people saying, 'Remember Seattle, guys!' The focus is always on the next game and the last game.

Joseph from East Moline, IL

Wes, for the second consecutive year I feel like NFL Network should be doing a "missing rings" special on my fantasy team, because, despite having the best team in the league, it looks like I'll be missing the playoffs. Since I'm needing a miracle to get in, I'm going to be starting a wild card. Christine Michael or Aaron Ripkowski?

If the league is TD only, I'd say Ripkowski. Otherwise, I'd go with Michael. He should have more opportunities for touches. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Jay from Rosendale, WI

Is there a chance that the Christmas Eve game will get flexed to a 3:25 p.m. start?

Technically it's not a flex game, so it cannot shift to prime time, but under NFL broadcast policy there is a possibility it could change to 3:25 p.m. The league would have to make the announcement at least 12 days in advance, which would be Monday, for any changes to the Dec. 24 schedule.

Paul from Munising, MI

Why did the Packers wait so long to put Goodson on IR if it could make room for another player and he had a significant injury?

What's the rush? I think everyone had it figured out that Dorleant getting activated from IR was going to be the corresponding roster move. He was a healthy scratch on Sunday with Damarious Randall, Quentin Rollins, Gunter and Josh Hawkins all active.

Craig from Cortland, NY

Hey, Wes. I applaud the snarkiness of your "Inbox Purgatory" reference in your response to Jordan's question on Tuesday. Vic would be proud. While I thought you were a Madden guy, I loved your reference to "electric football figurines" in describing Lane Taylor. Did you have a set? While I enjoyed all kinds of football simulation games, my electric football game was my prized possession. My dad had to repeatedly repair the switch as I flipped it on and off all the time while watching the play "develop." My set featured Fran Tarkenton's Giants and Leroy Kelly's Browns. Oh how I wanted my parents to buy the Packers' figurines for me. But alas... Your reference flooded my mind with many wonderful childhood memories. I enjoy my lunchtimes spent with the Insiders. Go, Pack!

Oh heck yeah. I totally was an electric-football guy. I got my set when I was about six or seven. I didn't get my first PlayStation for another three or four years, so I did a lot of damage on the electric football field. I believe it's still in my parents' basement.

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