Who's the X-factor against the Falcons?

Packers.com senior writer Mike Spofford took reader questions in his weekly chat


Hi everybody. Thanks for logging on, and adjusting the time. It's gonna be one of those kind of seasons, with working the chat in based on the media schedule, but we'll do our best. OK, go.

Comment From Dean

Were you surprised it was Gunter?

A little bit, yeah, but these decisions are never clear-cut. I think Hawkins' improvement from last year and Pipkins' potential won out at the moment.

Comment From KD

Any news on A-Rod's health? He looked to be hurting a little bit after the last game.

He said after the game he got stepped on a kicked in the shins a couple of times, which happens often, but he has a hard time getting used to it every time a new season starts.

Comment From Ryan

If there was one player you could designate as the X-factor against the Falcons, who would you pick?

Damarious Randall. The Falcons haven't seen him healthy, and I think he can have a significant impact on this game.

Comment From Chris

Hi Mike, I was really impressed with Blake Martinez last week. I know he'll get lost in the Perrys and Danielses of the world, but he is a big reason we were able to run the Nitro package most of the game. How does he build on that success this week against an entirely different defense?

Martinez played well, but I think that one true ILB in the nitro could vary week to week depending on matchups. With Freeman and the Falcons' running game more of a threat than Seattle's, maybe Ryan plays more in there this week. We'll see.

Comment From Dave in Madison

Please give your impression of Kenny Clark's game, both last Sunday and into the future.

He was clearly a player on the rise down the stretch last year, and his first game did nothing to change that opinion. He's a strong young man, and a great pair with Daniels on the interior.

Comment From Barry

Hi Mike, I know it is part of the game and I'm glad we have a smart QB to take advantage of it but I'm not a fan of the 12 men on the field penalty when the defender is just a couple steps from the sideline - unless of course he is in the way of an offensive player. Refs have to differentiate a QB hit when the defender is a step or 2 away. Seems like they could do the same for these calls. Is there any discussion about limiting this penalty?

Why would they? It's ripe for abuse if they adjust the way it's called. The rules are the rules.

Comment From Sean_C

Super sad to see Gunter get released, especially after he gave his best for us last year after getting thrown into the fire due to injuries. Is there a chance he could get signed to the practice squad?

I'd have to double-check on ps eligibility rules, because they're more confusing now, but my guess is he's not. Either way, he deserves a ton of credit for helping the Packers get as far as they did last year. He was given really tough assignments and battled all the way.

Comment From Ray L

Besides not having a job for Tyler from Fitz Creek, AK, what did you think of his comment on Matthews? I agree that Clay's penetration forced Wilson back inside enabling Daniels to strip the ball.

I saw Clay in the backfield a lot when I looked at the film, and if he keeps doing that, and offenses keep targeting him with extra blockers, it's all good. The Packers have more than just Matthews who can make a big play now.

Comment From Felix

Do you see Bulaga playing against Atlanta?

Couldn't say. Packers hit the practice field in a couple hours, so we'll see where things stand then. We probably won't get a good idea until Friday anyway.

Comment From Will

Didn't see a lot of Joe Thomas on the field last week. Do you think that will change with Hooper on the field next week?

Depends. Maybe the Packers use Burnett on Hooper, like they did with Graham last week. But if the Falcons go more spread and force the Packers to go 4 CBs, then yeah, Thomas is your dime LB.

Comment From Cody

What are you thoughts on the reports Pankey getting promoted to active roster?

If that comes to fruition, it's probably out of necessity due to Spriggs' hamstring injury from the Seattle game.

Comment From Jerry, Erie, Pa.

Hi Mike, who do you think will cover Jones from Atlanta? I hope our rookie gets some time guarding him.

I think the assignment goes to House first, and you go from there.

Comment From Jeff

15 opening games and the home team only won 7 of them. What gives? ...and are you surprised at that?

I've always felt Week 1 is the more unpredictable week in an unpredictable league. Who would have thought the Bears would come 6 yards away from beating the defending NFC champs?

Comment From Calvin

Max McCaffrey just got signed by the Jaguars. It's nice to see his hard work paying off.

Best of luck to McCaffrey. A hard worker, indeed.

Comment From Justin

Mike- I understand the want and need to run between the tackles. Just curious why you think we didn't see more toss-cracks and stretch-type plays with Ty. MM seemed to love them with Lacy even though they weren't often effective. Maybe it's the new-look oline...Seems like some avoidable abuse on the RB we'll be need all year long.

I think it's a game plan thing that can change on a weekly basis. Seattle's defensive front is active and fast. Running outside was probably a non-starter.

Comment From BenC

Seattle players feel a play or two here or there could have changed the complexion of the game. While I see that, I also see that Packers dominated time of possession and first downs. What's your perspective on this?

Any game has a play or two that could change things if it goes the other way. I think the Packers showed they were the better team on that particular day.

Comment From Mike T

My hope is Vogel will finally help us move on from Jon Ryan. We've been personally reminded for the past 5 years or so...

Ryan can still do it, can't he? But yeah, I thought it was a solid debut for Vogel. That booming punt from his own end zone was a huge play in the game. With Seattle getting a penalty on the return, the Seahawks started that drive on their own 30 or so. You don't see that on punts out of end zones very often.

Comment From Jeff

It's looking like the NFC North is going to be the toughest division this year--and Atlanta has to play all of them. Do you expect 2 playoff teams from our division is likely?

No idea, but the South is a tough division, with Tampa Bay on the rise, Carolina just two years removed from the Super Bowl, and then Drew Brees in New Orleans. The North and South are going to have some good clashes.

Comment From Calvin

When would it take for people besides us to mention Daniels in the same sentence as JJ Watt and Khalil Mack?

With all due respect to Daniels, he's not in Watt's class yet. What Watt has accomplished as a defensive player, he stands alone. He plays a different position, too, as does Mack. Let's just appreciate Daniels for who he is.

Comment From Lori

Were you surprised the Packers kept Seattle out of the end zone?

Yes, but I think it's difficult to keep any NFL team from scoring at least one touchdown. The Packers got very stingy in the red zone, and that's a good trait to have.

Comment From Dennis

I see Spriggs injured his hamstring but he was listed with no plays from scrimmage in the stats. How exactly did he injure himself?

I believe it occurred on a PAT.

Comment From Dean

Hard to say what things will look like after 16 games but these first 2 will be huge when the match ups in January come. What does the urgency in the locker room feel like?

It's as expected. They know these games take on a little extra importance because of the opponents, but everyone knows it's early. It's a long season.

Comment From

Will we see Davon House shaddow Julio Jones this weekend? What can we take away from the Falcons-Bears game that indicates we have a chance to upset the Atlanta stadium opener?

I haven't studied the game, but I'm wondering what the Bears did to keep Julio in check so well. Hooper ended up being the big-play guy in the passing game, and that long TD was basically a coverage bust. Maybe Fangio put something on film the Packers can use.

Comment From JayGB

Mike, remember last year's Seattle game. During the "victory formation" Lane took a shot at Cobb. I think it carried over to this game (the taunting, the ejection). I didn't think players held grudges like that. What is your take on this?

Oh, they hold grudges. They don't forget. You're exactly right about the Lane-Cobb thing. It didn't take long for it to resurface.

Comment From Barry

Hi Mike, what have the Packers learned from opening the Vikings stadium last year that they can take into Sunday a game. No team wants history to note that the stadium started with a loss. This is going to be tough

It is going to be tough, but being in that type of new environment once is experience you just draw from. For everything that went wrong in Minnesota last year in Week 2, the Packers still only lost by 3 points. I imagine the Falcons are going to be raising a banner before the game and all that. The atmosphere will require the Packers to weather the early surge.

Comment From Dogface

As a writer, what's it like going to a new stadium? Do you enjoy experiencing new venues, or does it add stress?

Frankly, it adds stress, because you're not familiar with the press box, or the route from the box down to the interview areas after the game, which you have to navigate quickly. I enjoy seeing a new stadium, but working in a new environment has its challenges.

Comment From Lori

Which opening week team surprised you most?

Several. Rams, Jags probably top the list.

Comment From JayGB

Speaking of TB, do you think this week 1 "bye" will come back to bite them? I thought playing the game in a neutral stadium would have been the best option. N-O and Atlanta were free that weekend.

That's a tough break schedule-wise for those teams. Playing 16 straight will be no picnic.

Comment From Ray L

Do you get a walk through on Sunday morning in the new stadium?

I'll get there a few hours early and take a look around. Wes and I will do our Facebook Live/Periscope preview from down on the field, which is always fun in a new place.

Comment From Jonah L

Jordy said that Tay has a "special ability" on his routes in his video interview. Do you have any insight into what exactly he meant?

I've always been most impressed with Davante's footwork at the line of scrimmage. He has really quick feet to make a move and get off the jam. You can see why 2015 was such a struggle when he was playing with a bum wheel.

Comment From Jack

Living in MN as a Packers fan, all I've heard this week is we shouldn't have beat Seattle because that wasn't a block in the back, that player shouldn't have been ejected, Jimmy was being smothered in the back of the end zone, etc. etc. What would you say to them?

I think the Packers caught a break on the block in the back call. The Lane ejection, well, sitting on top of a player with an arm bar across his neck isn't exactly a strong defense. And Graham was just as guilty of PI on that play. There was a ton of contact both ways, and I don't think the pass was catchable, but others will debate it.

Comment From Mitch

What's a good goal for the D this Sunday?

What the Bears did, maybe. 23 points, in that range, and I'll take my chances with Rodgers and the offense.

Comment From Felipe

Any underdog to the Hall of Fame this year, Mike?

I keep wondering if Holmgren is going to get some traction. Took two different franchises to Super Bowls, but only winning one of three in the big game hurts him.

Comment From Mike T

I'm convinced the Packer fans that have such disdain for Buck and Aikman is emotionally tied to their proximity of calling all those playoff heartbreaks. I don't see the "bias" so many fans clamor about. In fact, I've seen just the opposite--continued praise for the players, coaches and organization. Thoughts

I don't listen to the announcers when I'm covering a game from the press box, but I think people who bark about announcers having bias just want to have something to bark about.

Comment From Dano

Who will be the MVP with a Packers win on Sunday?

It's stating the obvious, but the Packers need Rodgers to outplay the reigning MVP in order to win.

Comment From Allan

Hi Mike. Vic used to say "Help is not on the way". I hope Ahmad Brooks recovers from his concussion well. We'll need him late in the season.

Yes, let's hope this isn't a long-term thing and he can get healthy soon.

Comment From Scott

How much leeway do the officials have to give the coaches who don't like a particular call/non-call? Seems like Pete Carroll gets to rant and fume onto the field quite often with no consequences.

It takes a lot for an NFL coach to get flagged if that's what you're asking. I think that's across the board. The officials try to keep an open dialogue throughout the game, as long as the dialogue is respectful disagreement.

Comment From BenC

Are the Falcons built for turf? Grass is a slower surface, but if the Falcons are faster on turf than their opponents, wouldn't they be faster on grass as well?

Honestly, I don't know how that works, but I've never been as impressed with Atlanta's offense on grass, and last week was another example. Maybe it's just hooey, I don't know. Their defense is always going to look faster at home, though, because of the noise/crowd advantage.

Comment From Jonah L

Do you see Matt Ryan slumping from the Super Bowl Disappointment or with renewed confidence for getting out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time and making it all the way to the Superbowl?

I don't see Matt Ryan having any hangover issues, if that's what you're asking. I guarantee he's no less confident now than he was last year in putting together an MVP year.

Comment From Jeff P.

Which NFC North team impressed you the most Sunday?

I didn't see any of the Lions game, but I thought the Vikings were very sharp on both sides of the ball.

Comment From Mitch

Behind Rodgers, is Mike Daniels the best player on the team?

I don't know how to rank those, but he's certainly one of the most valuable after Rodgers.

Comment From Regular Ol Plumbus

Do you think the turf vs. grass thing is a bit overrated? Did the Falcons really look slow because they were playing on grass? In my mind, it's all relative.

You're probably right, and it's more just the home vs. away thing.

Comment From KD

Ty ran the ball well against a very good defensive front last week, but I'm still interested to see what we have in the rookie Williams. DO you think he'll get a few carries this week?

I would expect Montgomery to still get the lion's share of the work. I thought he ran really hard against a tough front. Those were some difficult yards to get, and a couple of times he moved the chains when it looked like he'd be stopped short.

Comment From Jonah L

What is Nick Perry's best move off the corner?

He's still a bull rusher first and foremost in my mind, but now that he has other moves to mix in, his bull rush is that much more effective. It's like a pitcher who develops a good change-up. His fastball looks faster.

Comment From Regular Ol Plumbus

Here's the X-factor to the game in my mind ... don't miss your opening field goal, don't drop early balls, and don't fumble on the Falcons 5 yard line. That string of miscues is what derailed the Packers in January.

No doubt. The Packers should have had 10 points on the board early and a chance to hang in. The defense has to limit Atlanta's big plays, too. Easier said than done, but those big chunks of yardage are even bigger momentum changers when you're on the road.

Comment From Bob in Maine

Do you think Quinton Dial is activated for Sunday's game?

I would expect so, yes.

Comment From JF

Do you believe one of our corners will shadow Julio all day, or mix it up? If so, would House be the guy?

I don't know if House becomes the full-time match on Julio or if the Packers mix it up a little bit. I'm usually wrong when I make those predictions, but as I said before, I think you start with House on him.

Comment From MichaelC

Any word on Ahmad Brooks concussion?

Nothing yet. First practice of the week in a couple hours.

Comment From Nathanael

Brewers, Cards, or Cubs winning the division? Sorry if it's an off-topic question.

I think the Cards might actually win it, as much as I hate to say it, and would hate to see it. They're the hottest team of the trio right now. Brewers and Cubs seem to keep flubbing chances to build sustained momentum, and the Crew losing a top pitcher at the wrong time really hurts.

Comment From Chad

What current 'contract year' players from the current roster do you see TT attempting to keep (aka core players)?

Linsley is at the top of my list.

Comment From Vic Beasley

How's Bulaga's ankle? Asking for a friend.

Good one.

Comment From Theodore

"Forgive me, but who cares?" I'm gonna go ahead and borrow that one.


Comment From Jonah L

With Geronimo returning for week 2, do Trevor Davis or Jeff Janis even sniff the offensive side of the ball barring injury?

We'll see. Davis only got six snaps at WR anyway, but each week is a new game plan that will use personnel packages differently.

Comment From Ed

Roof open or closed on Sunday?

I hope it's open. I hate coming home from dome games and having my ears ring and head hurt for 3 days.

All right, I gotta go soon. I'll take a couple more.

Comment From Erich

One thing is for sure, this week's matchup will be completely different from last year's NFL championship game. Where do you see the biggest differences that will make the biggest impacts?

The Packers' CB group looks totally different now. That's the biggest change. You have new blood (House, King) and young guys who want a little redemption (Randall, Rollins).

Comment From Dennis

Mike McCarthy said after last year's loss to Atlanta that his team ran out of gas. Was that purely injury-related? Stress from running the table? What do you think will make the difference this year?

The Packers were awfully banged up, and they're much healthier now. Teams always are early in the year. Green Bay made the most of its run, but playing at that level for that long is tough to do. It's a new year and a new matchup. Should be fun.

Comment From Chris

The perennial MVP candidate, the 2016 MVP, Beasley, Daniels, Jones, Nelson, D. Jones, Burnett.... Hard to not be excited for this one.

No doubt, and we'll let that be the last word for today. Thanks for all the participation folks. Keep an eye on the site for the time of next week's chat. Thanks for hanging with me. Later, Mike

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