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What will the Packers' roster look like down the stretch?

Be a team on the rise at the right time


Daniel from Copenhagen, Denmark

We all know of Luck and T.Y. Hilton. What other Colt players should the Packers be looking out for?

Don't sleep on Frank Gore. He's been around for a while but is still getting it done. He's averaging better than four yards per carry and has three TDs on pass receptions this season. On defense, former Packers OLB Erik Walden has six sacks.

Ron from Boerne, TX

Can Green Bay make the playoffs with a decimated squad of key personnel?

Yes. As currently constructed, I believe the Packers can survive a while longer, and if they can get some key players back for the stretch run, they'll be a team on the rise at the right time. Starks and Cook both practiced on Thursday.

Brian from Summerville, SC

Insiders, what do you think about this? Since there have been reports that Jordy isn't quite as explosive as he was before the injury, what if we play him out of the slot where speed isn't as big a factor as it is on the outside? He's an amazing route runner and would allow us to put more speed guys on the outside. Maybe give him more one-on-one matchups similar to what Arizona did with Fitzgerald?

Nelson is already playing in the slot plenty, and he did pre-injury as well. He's far more than just a boundary receiver. I'm not writing off the old Jordy, either. In the last two games, he's drawn a 44-yard pass interference penalty and caught a 58-yarder. I'm still willing to be patient.

Art from Marshfield, WI

Do you think Mike McCarthy will get a pass at the end of the year for all the losses as a result of the injuries the team has sustained, or will he be fired for not showing any innovation on offense?

I'm going to pull a Biff here. If you're not seeing any innovation on offense, I've got nothing for you.

Stephen from Long Beach, CA

If the Packers were managed by a collective of those who think they would be better suited than Thompson, then Perry, Peppers, and Adams would not be on this team Week 1 of 2016. Burnett and Datone Jones would also have been cut at the beginning of 2015, too. Thompson's scope and ability to let his evaluations play out is incomparable. How is it that one of the truly great GMs in the NFL remains inconspicuously underrated?

And Crosby would have been cut four years ago, and Gunter would have been cut after the Dallas game, and players like Mike Daniels and Blake Martinez drafted with compensatory picks might not have ended up in Green Bay because the Packers would always be on the wrong side of the compensatory equation. Thompson is not underrated amongst his peers.

Will from Mifflintown, PA

Insiders, has there been a time prior to any game Rodgers has started in the past five years or so where you've really thought beforehand, "The Packers are going to lose"? I haven't had that moment. We are incredibly fortunate. Remember that, folks.

There's that, too.

Dillon from Green Bay, WI

Insiders, after talking with some friends I'm wondering something. What are Aaron Rodgers' career stats in the Georgia Dome? I confess to only remembering last week and the 2010 playoff game, but it sure seems like that place is a second home field for Aaron.

Before last week, he hadn't visited since the 2011 regular season, but he's now played four games there total. He's 111-of-148 for 1,352 yards with 10 TDs and zero INTs for a 125.2 passer rating. He also has 123 rushing yards plus two more TDs in those games. He might be sad to see them demolish it.

Ike from Fernandina Beach, FL

When I first moved to this neck of the woods, I was surprised to find myself surrounded by loyal Packers fans. It turns out they're all actually Georgia Bulldogs fans. Has there ever been any formal dispute between the two teams over the similarity of the logos?

My understanding of the history is the Packers gave Georgia permission to use the logo in the mid-1960s, and Georgia tweaked the shape slightly. Grambling also was granted permission around the same time.

Jim from Palmyra, WI

Mike, if you sat next to Vic for five years, you must have a lot of mustard-stained shirts from Vic waving that terrible towel around with a hot dog in his other hand.

Via different reason and mood, I've got nothing again.

Nate from Geneva, WI

Did you read Tim Keown's long essay for ESPN about Teddy Bridgewater's injury? It was hard to read and it cast a very uncomfortable light on football and the NFL as cultural institutions. With each new life-altering injury, I find it a little harder to justify being a fan of the NFL's glitzy, modern-day gladiatorial combat. I love the drama and the intensity and I would hate to give it up, but is it worth these young men's bodies and minds? You guys must think about this more than I do, how do you cope with it?

I don't know if it qualifies as a coping mechanism, but I've developed a tremendous respect for what these players put themselves through physically. I'll never forget my second year in this job, 2007, when I was in the locker room as a game ended and the players were entering, before the media were allowed in. Running back Ryan Grant had carried the ball 20 times or so that day, and I watched the equipment guys help him take off his jersey and shoulder pads. His bare torso looked as though it had been subject to prison torture, like in the movies. It was borderline gruesome, and it had been just a typical game. All I could think was, my goodness, he's going to do this again in seven days.

Curt from Locust Grove, GA

What is the difference between the college receiver's game and the pro receiver's game? What does a receiver have to do to adjust to the pro game?

Generally speaking, in the pros, there are more route adjustments at the line of scrimmage and on the fly than in college. Quarterbacks also often throw the ball sooner, before a receiver's break has even been made as opposed to while it's being made, so there's less time to react to the ball in the air. Everything in the pro game is faster and more split-second, physically and mentally.

Eric from Stramproy, Netherlands

Insiders, how about those Cubs! Just goes to show what you can accomplish with belief and hard work in yourself, even coming from behind and having been cursed. What a Great (capital G) story!

That was an epic Game 7. Tremendous drama. I thought it was fitting John Smoltz was in the booth to analyze it, because the only Game 7 in my lifetime that rivals it was Braves-Twins in 1991. I think the baseball gods finally smiled on the Cubs. That 17-minute rain delay couldn't have been timed better.

Jim from South Milwaukee, WI

Why is the Big Ten going to play games on Friday nights? Seems like a bad idea all the way around.

This saddens me, just as it saddened me when ESPN started broadcasting Friday night college football several years ago. I never played high school football, but I sure grew up watching it and I cut my teeth in this business covering it. It's a shame the institution is being disrespected for the sake of money, though I shouldn't be surprised. Given the legitimate medical concerns and the ongoing efforts to make the game safer, trampling on high school football like this does not help the future of the sport.

Haillie from Washington, WI

I disagree with your analysis regarding the two-point play. If the Packers miss that play and the Falcons get a touchdown with extra point as they did, the Packers could only tie with a field goal. I think that was more likely than a missed extra point.

You weren't the only one to counter with that, so let's play it out your way. Packers kick the PAT to go up five. When the Falcons score a TD, they're up one and going for two to get up three to avoid getting beat by a field goal. So, the Packers were going to need to either make a two-pointer, or stop a two-pointer, in order to be in position to win with a field goal at the end. I'd rather put that in the offense's hands, combined with the fact that going up by six forced the Falcons to make a not-as-automatic-as-it-used-to-be 33-yard PAT to take the lead in the first place.

Dave from Lufkin, TX

Might the biggest reason the defense hasn't been getting as many turnovers so far this season be the injury issues to the backfield? I can see the safeties not taking as many chances to jump routes as well as the corners we've been pressed into using.

Clinton-Dix essentially acknowledged yesterday**that’s a factor**. There have been chances to get the hands on the football, but the opportunities are fewer, which magnifies the impact of the misses.

Sam from Indianapolis, IN

Insiders, as a Hoosier I have seen the Colts play for years and it is abundantly clear that their weakness is their offensive line. Andrew Luck has been sacked more than any other QB this season. Would you agree that this game could come down to whether the Packers can deliver a solid pass rush?


Dale from Kansas City, MO

Hey guys, I was just remembering a game from 2010 where we went to New England with a backup QB on a Monday night. We lost that game but the team proved to itself that it can play with the big boys. Didn't lose another game that year. To me, this last game has that same feel to it.

It was a Sunday night, but you're among many bringing that up, and other thoughts like it. I see where y'all are going, but to me it's still awfully early to be thinking in those terms. I want a better feel for what the roster will look like in December.

Michael from Winchester, VA

Hey guys, looks like you nailed it last week noting that Gunter was a good physical match for Jones. But T.Y. Hilton is a different matter. Do you think we'll see Gunter on him this week, or do we have someone faster who might be a better match?

I'll be curious to see if Rollins comes back this week and gets that assignment, or if the Packers stick with Gunter. Either way, I think you keep safety help over the top a fair amount because of Hilton's breakaway speed. He has more than twice as many receiving yards as any other Colts offensive player, so you have to tilt your defense that way and make Luck go somewhere else.

Rebekah from Germantown, TN

I read an article today about Sean Payton calling for refs to have full-time jobs with the NFL as officials. I tend to agree with his argument as he made some good points. But it got me thinking. Do refs review game tape specifically to look at the calls that were made and the calls that were missed?

Every call in every game is graded by the league office, and officials receive their grade reports as well as the film to review them. It's a comprehensive, weekly process. Those of you who have read my chats over the years know that I believe what the NFL is asking these officials to do, with the addition of all the safety rules, is superhuman. For a pending collision on a sideline pass, for example, I don't know how anyone is supposed to decipher possession, feet down, in or out of bounds, process of the catch going to the ground, football move, defenseless player, helmet contact and whatever else is in the rules, all at full speed in a fraction of a second. It's not realistic. Yes, there's replay to review certain elements of plays, but then there's this …

The Packers were back at practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday preparing for the Colts. Photos by Evan Siegle,

Tim from Farmington, MN

A thought on the declining television ratings. Too many stoppages of play. Whether this comes from penalty flags, booth reviews or endless commercial breaks, three to four hours is too long for a 60-minute game, especially in today's society.

With the necessity of replay reviews brought on by the intolerance of officiating mistakes, the games drag on. Every score is reviewed automatically. Same with every turnover. We have the technology to get things right, and also try to keep players safe, as much as possible, but those efforts are one reason (of many) fans are tuning out the games. The volume of commercials won't change until the TV contracts are renegotiated because the networks are paying a fancy sum for the broadcast rights and have to make their money, too. But with officiating, replays, safety, ratings and the like, to borrow from George Costanza, worlds are colliding. A sport divided against itself cannot stand.

Morgan from Minneapolis, MN

A short pass is not as good as a run. The running game allows the OL to attack the defenders instead of reacting. Run-blocking hammers speed rushers like Rocky Balboa body blows, which wears them out, keeps the QB safer, especially later in the game and empowers the OL to greater confidence. The running game physically and mentally imposes a team's will over another. Emulating that in the passing game is rare. Gaudy passing stats are meaningless when you lose, 33-32. It's all about human confrontation.

I totally agree, but you need the right running back to have the effect you're advocating. If you don't, you have to make do to create the best down-and-distance situations you can.

James from Silver Spring, MD

Vic preaches that teams like ours should take what they want from the defense. I have been hearing MM saying we have done a good job taking what is given to us. Not sure what the question is that I am asking, just sayin'.

With all due respect to Vic, that "take what you want" stuff is old-school, and it's not how the game is played today. Rodgers, Manning, Brady … all QBs make checks and adjustments at the line to try to run the best play against the defense they see. In deference to Vic's mantra, I think this evolution of the game is why it's harder for teams to be successful killing the clock at the end of games. They can't take what they want at crunch time because that's not how they've played all along, so leads of 10 or 14 points with three or four minutes left are harder to protect.

Anthony from Havelock, NC

I just want to second Wes when it comes to that 2013 comeback at Dallas. My wife (fiancé, at the time) lived in Texas and took me to that game. It was only my second live NFL game (the first one being the game in Charlotte when Nick Collins was injured). There was this drunk guy about two rows back who was enjoying Dallas' lead, very vocally, right up to the start of the fourth quarter. I will never forget that game. Good times.

Only twice in my 11 seasons of covering virtually every game for this team have I texted my wife at halftime from the road and said, "I just want to get on the plane and come home." One was that game in Dallas. The other was Detroit last year. Make of that what you will.

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