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What are the matchups to watch vs. Vikings? senior writer Mike Spofford took reader questions in his weekly chat.


Hey everybody, thanks for logging in and sorry for the late notice on the changed day. Strange week with the holidays and Saturday game. Let's get to it.

Comment From Tony C

Let us not underestimate the motivation of recent NFC Conference / playoff game results (SF, NYG, ARZ, and reviled SEA). IMO, that is this teams greatest asset heading into the final stretch. We have been denied before, in bitter fashion. This team will not let it happen again. I believe that with all my soul ....

That's all well and good, but this team has to get in first. I believe they will, but I'm not counting my chickens ...

Comment From KK

Mike, One of the Pack's strengths is the O line, and a strength for the Vikes is their D line. Doesn't that set up a good match-up?

Certainly does. This Minnesota defense is still darn good. The game last week vs. Indy was their only really bad performance this year. They're adjusting without Harrison Smith in the back end, but this is as good a front seven as there is in football.

Comment From BrettGB

OK, Mike, hit me with it. How can the Packers clinch a Playoff spot this week?

Two minutes in and the question is already here. There are a ton of dominoes that need to fall. It starts with the Packers beating the Vikings. After that, here goes: Redskins lose, Bucs lose, Falcons win, Chiefs lose, Texans win, Lions win. That's how the Packers would be guaranteed a playoff spot before Week 17. As I said in Insider Inbox this morning, just beat the Vikings and see what happens.

Comment From Mike

With the benefit of hindsight, what do you think of the trade for Sam Bradford?

I don't blame the Vikings. They felt they had a playoff-caliber team, and I think they do, but other injuries hurt them in the process as well. Plus, with no guarantee Bridgewater could come back in a year, you had to find a QB who could be your guy for a while. They paid a hefty price, but I'm not sure they had a choice, especially moving into a new stadium.

Comment From Marin

Hi Mike! About, on average, how many reporters attend MM's daily pressers? There always seems to be one or two who are there asking questions on a regular basis.

It varies from a handful to dozens. The biggest ones are right after games, when the largest media contingent is in the house.

Comment From Tom

Do you see the Packers playing Burnett inside the box this week to match up against the Vikings' running game & short quick routes?

I see Burnett as a key guy to match up against Kyle Rudolph perhaps.

Comment From tghn

So, no Harrison Smith this week? Will this have the same effect as Seattle without Earl Thomas?

Smith is a big loss for the Vikes if he's still out. He's one heck of a safety, plays all over the place. Rhodes is a tough corner, and the Packers didn't face him in Week 2, but missing Smith is the bigger issue in this matchup I think.

Comment From Mike

You answered a question last week about the WMU Broncos. Sounds like they aren't getting respect from you.

It's not disrespect, I just don't know anything about them. I don't have a lot of time to follow college football, except the Big Ten. I don't even know if I'll be able to watch the bowl game anyway.

Comment From Dan

McCarthy has mentioned that he's giving the players more rest this week. Is that more about physical rest, or emotional?

Physical. The Packers had an early bye and an early Thursday game. Since mid-October, they've been playing every week without a break. They had the short week recently after the Monday night trip to Philadelphia. This is another short week, and McCarthy is using a similar prep schedule.

Comment From Guest

Step 1) Beat the Vikings. Step 2) See Step 1. Step 3) Worry about it after Steps 1 & 2.

Works for me.

Comment From Reggie

Brilliant performance on the ground last week. Is the running game sustainable ??

We may find out this week against the Vikings. What Montgomery did last week was remarkable, and to see Michael come in and bust a big run was the perfect complement. A running game in late-season, cold-weather games is huge.

Comment From Maximus

What do you think is the key to beating the vikings on christmas eve?

Limit the big plays the Vikes got back in Week 2, and protect the football. The turnovers were the difference the first time. I believe GB's only turnover in this four-game win streak was a fumbled snap against Houston. Need to keep it that way.

Comment From JJ

The arrow is pointing up for the Packers offensively. Which way is it trending defensively?

What they're doing in terms of takeaways is big, but the pass rush needs to be more consistent.

Comment From Chris

Most interesting thing I heard from MM had to do with the effectiveness of the "boundary operation." Love that term to describe managing the complexity of sidelines, personnel sets, and game situation. Complicated business with limited room for error with no time outs needing a game winner.

That kind of stuff fascinates me because you don't think about it as you're watching it. Hearing Rodgers yesterday say that McCarthy was telling him through the helmet speaker to get Taylor off the field was interesting. Coordinating all that and getting the clock stopped without a miscue wasn't easy.

Comment From Lori

Are you concerned about the defensive collapse in the 4th quarter of the Bears' game as we go forward?

Yeah, it wasn't good. A 17-point lead shouldn't get away like that, but it happens. The pass rush and coverage are better than that, but the difference was -- unlike the Washington game -- they actually got a stop when everything was going against them. That's worth something.

Comment From Ray L

What is Nick Perry's specific hand injury? Sprain, break, finger, back of hand? What is the forecast on his return, if so, will it be with a club? He is sorely missed.

McCarthy hasn't revealed specifics. He said they're going to see today if he can practice with some type of cast on. Stay tuned.

Comment From Lori

Will we see the Janis end around play against the Vikings? It would be great to see that play go for huge yards and a touchdown from more than 19 yards away from the goal line.

Everyone is going to be prepared for that play from here on out. I think a wrinkle of some kind off that play is coming.

Comment From Brian

We seem to have difficulties whenever our secondary plays zone. Do you think that we might just play man to man from this point forward with the safeties playing back?

It just depends on the opponent every week. The matchups with receivers, who the QB is, the pass protection of the offense.

Comment From Mike

My main concern is the Dbl A gap blitzes and Rodgers' mobility in the pocket. Should be fun to see the battle in the trenches..

Rodgers' mobility against this Zimmer scheme will be a story to watch. If you keep a RB in to pass protect, and everybody is on the same page protection-wise, the center takes one LB and the back takes the other on the double-A gap. But if anyone's signals get crossed, that's trouble.

Comment From Lori

Adams said the gloves were a problem in his missed catches on Sunday. Any thoughts?

Ha. I think shredding those gloves was symbolic more than anything. I don't think Adams was shirking responsibility for his miscues.

Comment From Guest

The offense is getting a ton of credit for coming through at the end of the game, but I don't think the defense is getting enough credit for holding the Bears to a field goal at the goal line in the 4th quarter. Is that a fair assessment given your inbox?

I've written a couple of times this week about Hyde's play at the goal line, plus the holding penalty drawn by Peppers and the run stop up the middle. The defense made something happen when it had to, which no one saw coming given the previous two TD drives.

Comment From Kevin L.

Were you surprised the Bears kicked the field goal instead of going for it?

Yes. I thought they were going to try for the TD. I was surprised, and thankful, when I saw the kicker come trotting in. I liked GB's chances with a minute on the clock in a tie game. On fourth down at the goal line, I'm not sure how much the defense had left in the tank. They were having a good series there, but all it would have taken was one play.

Comment From Max

I also don't think the offense is getting enough criticism for not being able to get first downs to keep the Bears off the field in the 4th quarter. But winning fixes everything.

It was the wrong time for the offense to go into a slump. Two straight three-and-outs there hurt. Contrary to some opinions, the Packers weren't just playing it safe, either. Four of those six plays, Rodgers dropped back to pass. They just lost their mojo.

Comment From Ray N

And Goode, Schum, and Crosby should get a done of credit for flawless execution FG under those conditions ....

Especially how after the FG at the end of the first half, going the same direction, knuckled low and through.

Comment From Dan

We know Aaron's calf is reducing his ability to scramble. I think what's amazing is his other leg is hurting also with the bad hamstring. I haven't heard any recent updates about the hamstring?

I haven't either. It's no longer listed on the injury report next to Rodgers' name, just the calf. At least it wasn't on there last week, so it must not be that big a concern anymore.

Comment From Trying Not To Hate

Mike, Happy Holidays! Why do I have such issues with Minnesota and the Vikings? I really want to be a better, more respectful fan, but no matter how I try, I can't feel anything but enmity towards them. P.S. SKOL is a four-letter word.

Rivals can bring out the worst in everybody.

Comment From BrettGB

Are there any Packers players who didn't make the Pro Bowl who you think should have?

Bulaga and Bakhtiari are the first two that come to mind. Lang probably deserved it last year or the year before, frankly. Those tackles have been walls all season long, but that's how it goes.

Comment From Geno

When will us "out of market" folks know if GB v. DET is flexed ?? And, btw, the map with regional game coverage is fabulous.

The league has to announce which game is moving to Sunday night for Week 17 by Monday, or Monday night at the latest.

Comment From Eljay

I believe this game will come down to Special Teams. The Vikings have a dangerous return game the Pack must contain. Also be nice if our return game can accomplish a good return or two to tilt the field so the Offense plays on a short field. Do you agree?

Special teams are always heightened late in the season with cold weather because you don't have as many touchbacks on kickoffs, it's harder for punters to hit big boomers and control direction, etc. The Packers need to cut down on the penalties on special teams. Those were really hurting in the field position game last week.

Comment From John

There have been reports that the Packers and Lions have been told that, if the Packers win on Saturday, Lions/Packers will be flexed to Sunday Night. Is it typical for the NFL to tip their hand like that to teams?

Word can leak out sometimes, yeah.

Comment From Mike

Fox noted in his press conference that he has seen Rodgers with calf issues before and he looked pretty mobile to him. Is that the plan with most teams- just assume the injured player won't play injured?

The opponent doesn't get to see practice and can only adjust to what they see once the game starts. There's really no other way to approach it.

Comment From Saul

What do you think is going to be different on saturdays game comparing it to week 2?

The Vikings haven't made a lot of big plays down the field lately, and being outdoors in the cold for the first time will make that tough, but the Packers have to be ready for them to attack. Minnesota's short passing game now puts a premium on tackling. Missed tackles are what lead to the Vikes' biggest plays.

Comment From KD

Did I read correctly that Randall was benched last week?

Yes, he was pulled in the fourth quarter. They put Hyde in the slot and moved Rollins outside. We're going to hear from the defensive coaches later today, so I'll be curious how they address it.

Comment From Zach

Rules question. Everyone is talking about Rodgers telling Taylor to get off the field. If he had come on, the rules allow the Bears to substitute as well. Are they allowed to waste time getting on the field or does the clock stop for substitutions?

The clock doesn't stop for substitutions there. The officials can hold up play to allow a sub. In that instance, I don't know how long they'd hold things up. It's a good thing we didn't have to find out.

Comment From Lambeau Limbo

Great coaches often gameplan to stop one big playmaker on the other team's offense, and dare someone else to beat you. Would that player be Diggs, Peterson, or someone else?

Given what Diggs accomplished in the first game, you have to prevent his big plays. But Peterson and Rudolph are tough, too. I expect Peterson to get more than the six carries he got last week.

Comment From Lee

A lot of people blaming the D for a close game last week but they don't realized that if Adams caught those two balls at the end, the Bears probably would not had a chance to catch up with the Packers. I know the D and Adams will bounce back this week.

Very true. Those missing eight points on the end zone drops proved huge.

Comment From Hans

It seems that since Cooke has returned to play, receivers are finding openings. Maybe that's my imagination but seems to make sense with a playmaker like him between the numbers forcing coverage underneath to adjust, putting pressure on the backend and the boundary. He's had a major impact on the resurgence of the offense, IMO

As McCarthy said earlier this week, he's a matchup problem. Not having him for such a big chunk of the year definitely affected the offense.

Comment From Ferd

Any sense of how Randall took his benching on Sunday?

He spoke with reporters yesterday briefly and sounded like he's focused on the game ahead.

Comment From Scott LC

Do you think Ty has made a permanent position change?

Sure looks that way.

Comment From Kaleb

Mike, the Vikings game is at 10 a.m. out here on the west coast.... Is it OK to eat buffalo hot wings at 10 a.m.?

Only if you eat an omelette at 4 p.m.

Comment From Jeffeory

Coming up to the Packers/Vikings game on Christmas Eve and ready for some Lambeau hot chocolate. Get out to a 2 score lead, will the Vikings be able to come back with their short pass/protect the ball style?

When they execute that short passing game, they're very good at it, and if they get in a groove, they'll take a shot downfield here or there. Just don't let them get in a rhythm, and that starts by stopping the run and getting after Bradford.

Comment From Picard

Why did MM and Rodgers want Taylor off the field? Was he too slow or what? I recall he was injured

He wasn't in on the long pass but was ready to come back in, but making a substitution, as noted earlier, could have caused more problems than they wanted to deal with.

Comment From Tyler

Who could really benefit on the offensive side of the ball from the Vikings crowding the box to stop the run? Zimmer has to be concerned about what Michael and Monty did last week.

The whole offense benefits when you can run the ball. It's good for Nelson, Cook, Adams, Cobb, everybody.

Comment From Bill

Any more Lego highlights coming? They were fantastic!!

That was pretty cool. I'll have to check on that.

Comment From Joe

Mike, Would it be OK to wear my green and gold bib overalls to Christmas Eve service?

I don't think you'll be mistaken for one of the three wise men if that's what you're asking.

Comment From Brad

Cobb wasn't used much in the offense last week. Anything going on there?

I don't think he's full speed on that ankle. Hopefully it gets better.

Comment From Max

Clay's shoulder has really impacted his ability to rush the passer. I remember a few plays where a lineman got a hand on him and he couldn't fight through the block.

It can't be easy to play through what he's dealing with. I know a lot of folks are asking why they don't just shut him down for a while, but McCarthy said this week they still want him out there in a limited role. If he's not making it any worse, I can see the line of thinking.

Comment From Tom

If the Packers/Lions game is flexed, is the winner guaranteed to play the following Sunday (as opposed to Saturday)?

That's a good question. Quite possibly, yes.

OK, I'm gonna have to run soon. I'll take a few more. Thanks for all the questions.

Comment From Bill

Are you a Christmas Eve present opener or Christmas morning?

I've done both, depending on the football schedule.

Comment From Dan

Mike, any chance Montgomery's #88 gets in defenders' heads and makes them treat him like a wide receiver instead of a running back? Seemed like the Bears were constantly going for the forced fumble or big hit instead of wrapping him up.

I thought so, too. He got a ton of extra yards because they kept trying to strip the ball. I think Montgomery has only fumbled once this year, so I'm not sure why they were so focused on that.

Comment From Leonardo Raupp

What are your impressions about Christine Michael?

He's the quickest running back I've seen in the Packers' backfield in a while. I like what he brings as a change-up.

Comment From dj

Favorite Christmas movie that isn't Christmas Vacation?

Nothing beats the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Comment From Andy

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Holiday Season and to say thanks for all the hard work you do for all of us.

Thank you, and Happy Holidays to everyone else out there as well. Appreciate all the kind wishes, even if I didn't post many of them. Enjoy the rest of your week. Best, Mike

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