What's the biggest challenge vs. Carolina?

Packers.com senior writer Mike Spofford took reader questions in Mike's Mid-Week Chat


Hey everybody. Is there any news to talk about today? Let's go.

Comment From Guest

How appropriate that we found out he was a "go" on Aaron Rodgers' day!

Funny how life works sometimes.

Comment From Brian

Hey Mike, do you think the biggest challenge for Sunday is stopping the read-option?

It's stopping Carolina's run game, whether that means Stewart or the read-option. The Packers haven't defended the run very well the last two weeks after a strong stretch against the run through the middle portion of the season. Carolina is a power team and the Packers have to be ready to stand up to it.

Comment From Dan

Assuming the Packers win out, what do you see as the biggest roadblock to the playoffs?

The Packers need some help, though not a ton, and there are 3 weeks to get it. If Seattle beats the Rams this week and the Falcons beat the Saints next week, then it suddenly becomes really difficult to get in.

Comment From Tom

I need to squeal on myself. I have been one of the biggest anti-Randall fans over the past two years. He has been playing some really great football the past couple weeks. Shame on me for not trusting the system.

It's just a matter of not rushing to judgment on young players. There are always high expectations for first-round picks, but no one develops at the same rate. Randall might be the biggest key on defense the rest of the way.

Comment From Marli

Is there any chance Aaron won't be playing on Sunday? or is it a definite

Oh, he's playing.

Comment From Tim

Before it's all Rodgers and the Pack playoff chase all the time... How does the AFC playoff field look like to you?

It's still hard for me to envision the AFC title game not pitting New England against Pittsburgh, but if San Diego beats the Chiefs this week, the Chargers are the other team I'd throw into the mix.

Comment From Guest

Who besides Randall will be lining up at corner this week?

Assuming House can't go, and McCarthy didn't give him much chance this week, your No. 2 is Hawkins. After that, Capers could use backup safeties or corners to fill things out in nickel and dime. Whitehead has received a lot of playing time in recent weeks in the dime.

Comment From Dean

Mike I noticed a sense of joy and happiness in the Inbox today (maybe it was just me). Have the haters gone quiet or did you just edit them out?

I think everybody's excited and there's nothing wrong with that. But as I continue to say, Rodgers can't stop the run or tackle Cam Newton. The Packers as a team have to play better to make a push here, and McCarthy continues to preach that as well.

Comment From Jeremy

Welcome back Aaron! Any news on Davon House? Nick Perry?

We'll see if Perry is back on the practice field here in a little bit. The Packers could really use him out there. Matthews is coming on strong of late, and to get Perry back should only enhance that.

Comment From Jon

Hi Mike, tough to dive into scheme since we aren't game planners, but I would expect the emphasis in the pass game will be heavy on not allowing the big play. That's where Carolina seems to thrive.. and Cam might look to take advantage of young corners. Play the deep ball and hope a few inaccurate throws become turnovers

Pretty much how I see it as well. Newton can make some big plays with his arm, but he can also be erratic. Don't get burned for chunk yardage, and if he makes a bad throw, make him pay.

Comment From JS1

Hey Mike, do you think Rodgers will be fully prepared and ready for this Sunday against Carolina? It's been sometime since he was out, do you think that chemistry with his receivers will be there? I'm ready for Sunday!

It won't be like a normal mid-December in the chemistry department, but his top three receivers have been with him a combined 20 years now, so that's a lot of snaps together.

Comment From Lori

Mike, does Aaron plan to address the press? When?

I'm anticipating the usual Wednesday pow-wow with the media at his locker after practice.

Comment From John G.

Who is the bigger benefactor of Rodgers returning? Nelson/Cobb, Kendricks/Rodgers, Williams/Jones, Defense?

All of the above. The elite players benefit everybody.

Comment From Rodney

With Rodgers return and the mind meld he shares with Jordy, do you see defenses game planning for Davante as the #1 still or would that shift back to Jordy?

I see Adams drawing the most attention, but all it takes is a couple of plays to Jordy to get a defense thinking it needs to shift gears.

Comment From Jim

Cam will take plenty of deep shots ala his rookie year against the Packers when he put up almost 500 yards. Packers will need to get some timely stops and big plays on special teams

If the impact the special teams has had in the last two games can continue, it could go a long way to a big road win.

Comment From Kipp

Do you feel our offense could be even better than before Rodgers' injury? Now that they've been forced to rely on their run game which seemingly uncovered a couple gems of rookie running backs. Now add Rodgers... Seems like this could get fun!

The Packers revitalized their running game out of necessity, and the offense should be better for it. They have options as well, with Williams and Jones both experienced as the go-to guy at different times this season. If defenses are sitting back to defend the pass, the run game has to make it count.

Comment From Zach

How healthy is Rodgers? If he gets hit, how easy would it be to reinjure his collar bone. (knock on wood that doesn't happen)

I don't think he'd have been cleared if the risk of re-injuring the collarbone were any significant measure more than any normal situation.

Comment From BuddyG

So what teams am I rooting for other than Greenbay this weekend?

Root for the Rams and Buccaneers.

Comment From Dan

Interesting that Aaron made the announcement via Instagram. Was that how you found out? I guess the media need to be closely following all of the players' social media accounts, eh?

It's all part of the job these days, for sure.

Comment From KD

Now that Rodgers is officially back can we all just take a minute to thank Brett Hundley for a very underrated 3-4 record during the Rodgers-less span. Not an easy thing to accomplish for a young QB with next to no NFL experience. Heck-uva job keeping this team in the hunt.

That was his job and he did it. It would be great if he'd gotten one more win, to give Rodgers a little margin for error, but this is where they are. The two OT wins obviously could have gone the other way, too, and the whole conversation is different.

Comment From Robert

How can the defense rise to the occasion facing three good quarterbacks after two lesser ones and needing overtime to win and one at home?

They're going to have to. There's no other option. Hopefully with Rodgers the offense can be more consistent and limit the number of possessions and amount of time the defense needs to be on the field, and special teams needs to win field position. It all works together.

Comment From John

How good is Carolina's run defense?

Their front seven is tough all around. Kuechly, Peppers, Addison. They're a tough bunch against the run and in the pass rush. They're 9-4, and not just because of Newton.

Comment From Tom

To piggy-back on Kipp's comment I think the Rodgers absence has made the defense a better unit. They have really learned to play with grit - especially towards the end of the game. Now if we can just get a three and out on the opening drive!

Opening drives have definitely been a struggle. Change that and still finish strong and that'll put Rodgers in position to win it.

Comment From Guest

Do you think Kenny Clark is playing as well as he did the first half of the season (which was a very high level)? I know he isn't a rookie, but he is young and I feel he may be hitting a "rookie wall", especially considering the number of snaps he was taking, and that may be the underlying cause of the run defense decline.

That ankle injury to Clark was no simple thing, so I'm sure he's not 100 percent. It looked to me the Packers mis-fit some gaps against the Browns and they just have to play sharper than that.

Comment From Michael in Houghton, MI

Geez Mike, you guys did a nice job keeping everything in check over the last month and a half, thanks. Still one game at a time and I think the best we have will show on Sunday, don't you?

The Packers have to hit their peak now or it'll be all over. Really no way around it.

Comment From Matt

Is it possible that Clay lines up at Inside Linebacker this week to play a spy role on CAM? I know Blake has been great but maybe have Clay inside vs this run heavy team will help contain Cams long runs.

That's a possibility, but Matthews also has five sacks in the last three games or so. Taking him out of the pass rush would be a huge loss. It's a tough call.

Comment From Braden

How come you guys aren't doing a road to the playoffs piece? I know the odds are stacked against us, but what other teams to a root for this weekend besides the Packers?

It's coming Saturday. It's always been a Saturday post. I didn't think it was relevant to do until the Packers got back above .500, and now they are, so it's coming.

Comment From Lindsey

Mike - What are the chances that the Packers pay Davante before the season is over?

Popular question. No idea, really. This late it might be in his best interest not to re-sign now, even though it would be in GB's interest for him to do so. It's always a two-way street.

Comment From Mr. Bill

Regarding Clay, a healthy Perry and Brooks might allow that. Else would it be a Burnett / Jones role?

Maybe. Perry could be the key to what they do with Clay.

Comment From Tony C.

How are we going to fix the problem of getting the defense off the field on 3rd down ?? It is plainly obvious to me that this issue has been around for several seasons but game after game, it is not improved on. Statistically, it is one of the biggest predictors of win / loss.

Pass rush needs to be more consistent. That's how the good third-down defenses make it work.

Comment From Michael

Mike, do you have any departing thoughts on Brett Hundley?

I was impressed with how he played in clutch moments, obviously. I thought bouncing back after the Baltimore klunker to play the way he did the last three weeks said something about him, too. It's just too bad the Baltimore game wasn't better, or the Packers couldn't find a way to finish that upset in Pittsburgh. The outlook would be dramatically different, but so it goes.

Comment From Nicolas

Pretty sure the Panthers know the Packers have struggled in recent weeks to cover the screen game. How is the defense going to try to contain a playmaker like McCaffrey on screens? Do you think it will be a point of emphasis this week in practice_

The Packers are going to get screened to death until they start consistently stopping them. McCaffrey could play a huge role in Carolina's offense on Sunday.

Comment From Zach

Do you have a massive list of questions in front of you during this? Or does someone pick the questions for you?

There are literally hundreds steadily flowing in. I appreciate all the participation.

Comment From Jim

The way we played Pittsburgh tough on the road was not an easy thing. Do you think that game told the players we can play with anybody? If we do our job and with Aaron back we will be tough to beat.

I think this team believes it can beat anybody with Rodgers, and the way it has performed late in games the last three weeks says they'll be ready for whatever the fourth quarter brings.

Comment From Bongo

This O-line and running game has been impressive the last few weeks and it seems like the only way to stop them is by putting 8 in the box. How dangerous will this team be with AR back, spreading teams out and threatening with both the run and pass

Bongo! That's what we're waiting to find out. Rodgers is a master at getting the offense into the best possible play based on the defensive look. If he checks to a run against a light box, as I said before, the Packers have to make it work and gain significant yardage on the ground.

Comment From Bob

I know it would be highly unlikely, but is there a chance the Pack gets into the playoffs with one loss in the next three weeks?

I might take something like a winning lottery ticket to make it happen.

Comment From Tyler

If somehow the Vikes lose to the Bengals this weekend and we win in Carolina, imagine the storyline for the game in Lambeau Christmas weekend (Division up for grabs with Minnesota loss week 17, payback game for Rodgers, etc..)

The division remains very much in play if the Bengals can surprise in Minneapolis and if the Packers win. But the Packers have to win or it doesn't matter at all.

Comment From GMAN

Shouldn't we root for the Bears, too? Lions still in the thick of it and we need them to lose.

If the Packers win out, they'll be handing the Lions their 7th loss in Week 17, so it's sort of irrelevant.

Comment From Maggie

Which current "in the hunt" team (you can exclude the Packers if you'd like) do you think has the best chance at making a deep run into the playoffs?

The interesting thing that's developing in the NFC is you could end up with the top two seeds -- Philly and Minn -- with QBs who haven't done it in the playoffs before, with all the lower seeds from the group of New Orleans, Carolina, Seattle, GB, Atlanta, etc., all with QBs who have been there, done that. It could be really interesting.

Comment From Diego

Mike, i think Damarious Randall will play a huge role these next 3 games. He has to deal with Funchess, Thielen and Tate and i believe he will deliver. What can we expect from the Packers Secondary this week?

It's going to be a mix and match thing with who's playing slot corner, who comes in if (heaven forbid) there's another injury, etc. The Packers are shorthanded in the back end again, just like last year. As McCarthy said earlier today, you just line up and play.

Comment From Hunter

Do you think Trevor Davis is hungry for more?

Why wouldn't he be?

Comment From Skolastica

So, Mike...been giving any timely advice to Biff about his impending fatherhood?

In bits and pieces, but I think he'll be fine.

Comment From Adam

I know a lot of focus is on timing between Aaron and WRs, but is there more concern over timing with two rookie RBs who's vast majority of snaps have been with Hundley?

Aaron Jones played with Rodgers for a bit before he went down. Williams has less experience with 12. I don't think it'll be that big a deal, though. Maybe just being more ready for changes at the line of scrimmage.

OK, I've gotta run soon. I'll take a few more.

Comment From Larry

You mention a consistent pass rush. Without the LB's blitzing there is none. Lack of talent or scheme?

You can't scheme your way to pressure all day or you'll eventually get burned. Beating the man across from you will always carry you farther.

Comment From Hunter

In regard to Tony's comment, Capers switched to more man coverage in the second half against the Browns. It worked well pitting Randall up against Gordon. Do you think we'll see more of the same ths week?

You knew after the first drive the Packers had to ditch the zone idea against a guy like Gordon. It's a long game, and if your personnel allows for adjustments, you make them.

Comment From Joe

Oh my, can´t wait for the Final Thoughts segment... player to watch.

We'll have to avoid picking the obvious.

Comment From Nate D.

What time would we be able to expect locker room interviews to be uploaded today?

Open locker room will close around 4:30, so shortly after that we should be getting everything up. OK, folks, I've got to call it. Thanks for all the questions. Take care, Mike

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