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To get to the Super Bowl, Packers must stop the run

NFC playoffs loaded with top running backs


Scott from Greensburg, IN

We older Packers fans clearly remember the then UCLA hotshot QB, Troy Aikman, warning the Packers not to lose to Arizona (Dallas had the first-round pick), as he told us "there's no way I'll play in Green Bay." Yes, we went on to win that game against the Cards, earning the second pick behind Dallas, and chose Tony Mandarich. For those of us who painfully remember those lean years, Troy Aikman will never be viewed as being anything but anti-Green Bay. It is part of what made the three straight playoff losses in Dallas so painful. I already dread us having to go there and play next year.

Oh, so that's what this is all about. I get it now.

Mike from Socorro, NM

I just read that Andy Reid spent nine hours interviewing with the KC Chiefs. What gets asked in an interview for an NFL coaching position that takes nine hours? What sort of questions does the potential coach have to answer?

Hiring a head coach is about a lot more than just finding a guy who runs an offensive system you like. He needs to be a good fit for all of the disciplines within your building, including the marketing department. One of the questions he might field might pertain to players signing autographs. Will he make the players available to the fans during training camp? Teams want a head coach that will work with all of the disciplines within a franchise to help make the team successful on all fronts. Teams don't want guys who build walls between the players and the fans. Say the Packers were interviewing a hot head coach candidate and he said, "You can forget about those bicycles." What chance do you think he'd have of getting the job? That's a question that's got to be asked. Every question has to be asked, and it might take nine hours to ask them all.

Tim from Denver, CO

I have never seen a player actually admit to not really wanting home field advantage in a playoff game. What is your take on Jennings' comments? I wish he would have waited until next week so the Vikings wouldn't be thinking these guys don't like the cold either.

Players usually don't make those kinds of remarks unless there's some gamesmanship involved. I'm hoping that's what this is about, because I see absolutely no advantage in telling an opponent coming out of a dome that you don't like the cold weather either. In my mind, the best gamesmanship would be to send the message that you love the cold and the colder it is on Saturday, the more you'll like it.

Patrick from Fort Dodge, IA

There has been much debate on the review and challenge system the NFL uses. What are your thoughts on the NFL adopting the NCAA's policy, where virtually every play can be reviewed from upstairs?

I would be in favor of it. I would also be in favor of reducing the number and kinds of calls that can be reviewed. In the beginning, it was supposed to be about reviewing plays that involved the boundaries, such as the goal line and the sidelines. I think we're reviewing too much now.

Joshua from El Paso, TX

On NFL.com, while talking about the re-signing of Greg Jennings, it was discussed that the Packers draft-and-develop mentality leads them to part ways with players a couple of years too early rather than a couple of years too late. Will this be the case for Rodgers as well?

Not unless they draft another Aaron Rodgers a few years before age causes his game to decline. Quarterback is a sensitive position that's unique in how it's managed. The other positions are all about having a constant flow of young talent moving older players out. That's how you stay young and staying young is how a team remains a playoff contender without experiencing the otherwise inevitable build, rebuild cycle.

Jake from Milwaukee, WI

Maybe the reason AP has so many long runs is because when we stack so many close to the line there's no one out in space to gang tackle. It seems like when we play eight or nine in the box, if the hole opens it's an easy 10 yards. Seems like an all or nothing approach.

There's no one left to tackle Adrian Peterson because everyone is trying to tackle Adrian Peterson?

Lewis from Lewiston, ID

How much longer will the Packers continue to employ you? You are a terrible writer. I question your understanding of the modern sport.

Players, not plays. You hate that, don't you?

Simon from Copenhagen, Denmark

Vic, you scold those people selling their tickets. You scold them good! I would love to go to Lambeau Field someday.

They are free to do as they please, but I hope they understand the downside of selling their tickets. I was stunned last January when I saw Giants jerseys all over the place. It didn't go unnoticed.

Josh from Carthage, TN

The Vikings have four wins in a row with wins against the Bears, Rams, Texans and Packers. Would you put them in the "hot team" category?

When the Vikings' bus pulls into Lambeau Field on Saturday, its tires will be smoking. That's how hot the Vikings are. The Vikings represent a major challenge. Nobody should be taking them lightly.

Vincent from Staten Island, NY

My opinion, which is the same as your opinion, is the best team does not always win the Super Bowl. With an unclear best team for most of the season, who do you believe is the best team going into the playoffs and do you see them winning it all?

I don't see a clear favorite in the NFC. The Falcons don't have great numbers. The 49ers don't have a playoff-tested quarterback. The same is true of the Redskins and Seahawks. The NFC is there for the taking. I think the same is true in the AFC. The Patriots were on a roll and then lost at home to the 49ers. The Texans just got clipped at home by the Vikings. If there's one team in the postseason that appears to be a clear favorite, it's probably Denver.

Landon from Coeur d'Alene, ID

Greg Jennings stated he would rather play in a dome than at Lambeau Field. How many of the Packers players feel the same way?

We'll find out tomorrow night. As I wrote in my "10 things" editorial, a major chunk of the Packers' image and mystique is at stake in this game. They lost at home to a dome team when the Falcons and Michael Vick won at Lambeau Field in the 2002 playoffs. They lost to another dome team, the Vikings, at Lambeau Field in the 2004 playoffs. If the Packers lose to the Vikings in the cold at Lambeau Field tomorrow, the "Ice Bowl" image is going to start melting. It's critical on more than one front that the Packers embrace the cold and play to the image that has made this franchise as popular as it is. The Packers are the team of cold. It's time they play that way in January.

Randy from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Vic, I'm actually quite tired of hearing about the greatness we witnessed last week. As Packers fans, we wanted to see three things on Sunday: 1.) A Packers win. 2.) Peterson not get the record. 3.) Peterson held to under 100. When the team we root for fails on two of three, we have the right to be upset and to not be OK with a loss. We want our team and players to be great, not theirs. The difference between a fan and a sportswriter, maybe?

If it is, then I'm glad I'm a sportswriter.

Troy from Stevens Point, WI

Vic, you are a general manager on a team that just fired its head coach. Who do you go after the hardest to get as your head coach: Chip Kelly, Andy Reid, Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt, or perhaps an up-and-coming assistant coach?

I'm not a fan of recycling coaches. I like finding new talent. Kelly is certainly new talent, but he is so married to spread offense and a style of football I don't like, I don't think he'd be my guy. Mike McCarthy was new talent. So were Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren. That doesn't mean a recycled guy can't succeed; Tom Coughlin certainly did. I'm just saying that it's my football personality to keep the roster young and find fresh talent within the coaching ranks. I like the idea of a team and a coach establishing their identities together.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

If we crack the code on stopping AP this weekend, you've got to believe it will be a huge confidence builder in anticipation of the 49ers running attack.

You're absolutely right. The Packers could find themselves facing Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Alfred Morris or Marshawn Lynch in the playoffs. Clearly, for the Packers to make it to the Super Bowl, they will have to stop the run.

David from Campbellsville, KY

I turned to NFL Network and listened for a few minutes. In 10 minutes, I heard one guy bring up run to pass stats and why we were going to lose. I heard another guy talk about how Christian Ponder can't get it done and we're going to blow out the competition and win the Super Bowl. It got me to thinking that some of the players could be possibly watching this rubbish. Do they limit their exposure to the media?

Most of them do because they know the media is performing for the fans, to increase their enjoyment of the game by heightening the drama. My opinion on the game is that the Packers will win because I don't think the Vikings can score with the Packers in Lambeau Field. The Metrodome was the ultimate difference-maker last week. Will I guarantee a win? No. I believe the Packers will win, but I acknowledge that the Vikings are a hot team and should not be taken lightly. With that, I'll watch, but before I do that, I'm going to moderate a conference call today with Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. The call will begin at 1 p.m. CT, and fans wishing to ask Mark a question may do so by calling 1-877-229-8493, beginning at 1 p.m. When you call, enter this ID number: 111346. I'm looking forward to a lot of good questions that'll come from "Ask Vic" readers. It's a great way to get ready for the playoffs.

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