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Who will emerge as Packers' difference-maker?

I better not see a sea of purple on Sunday


A.J. from Sheboygan Falls, WI

Vic, you've said it all year long; it's about personnel and matchups. You play to win the game! This team matches up better against the Redskins and the Panthers than it does playing against the Cardinals and Vikings. With that being said, wouldn't it make more sense to lose this game and play for the matchups that favor your team more? Who gives a hoot about the division championship if we could have better matchups to get to the Super Bowl?

To not play to win goes to a franchise's soul. It's a stain, in my opinion, that's difficult to remove. Even in the case of teams that have clinched everything and are wise and justified to rest key players for the postseason, I don't like it, and I've seen several instances when it hasn't been rewarded. There's something about the integrity of playing all out all the time that feeds the soul of a true winner. You build momentum from victory, not defeat.

Jeremy from Madison, WI

Vic, there's a gap between us and the top teams; we saw this. We need to close the gap. Help is not on the way. We are blessed with an opportunity to close it while others will be sitting at home. The players and coaching staff understand this. Why can't the fans?

They lose control of their emotions.

Patrick from Lakewood, IL

The ticket prices on the secondary market are unusually low for this weekend. Let's not let Lambeau Field become a home game for the Vikings.

Let me say this about that: If I look out over Lambeau Field on Sunday night and I see a sea of purple, as I saw a sea of blue a few weeks ago when the Packers hosted the Cowboys, something inside of me is going to get a little raw. If that happens this Sunday, when this team needs its home fans more than at any time previous in this season, don't come here with that San Diego silent count stuff anymore. Don't come here thumping your chest about how the transplants and non-native Packers fans "travel" to the away games if you won't support your team for a winner-take-all NFC North showdown on the hallowed ground that is Lambeau Field.

Tom from Fairfield, CT

Vic, how do wide receivers of Jordy Nelson's age tend to perform after ACL surgery? I'm not optimistic the old Jordy will return because of the seriousness of this injury and his position as wide receiver.

It's a daunting challenge. He knows that. Your question caused me to do some research on the subject, and I found some medical sites that have done tests on this topic and the results of one such test claims a significant sample saw their careers end as a result of ACL surgery. It is an especially daunting challenge for the guys that play this game with their legs, so to speak. I'm especially talking about wide receivers and cornerbacks. Yet, the game is full of success stories. Darrelle Revis underwent ACL surgery and he's playing as well as he ever has. Jeremy Maclin is said to have become a more explosive receiver following ACL surgery. Guys I've covered? Rod Woodson went on to have a long and productive career. In the '70s, ACL surgery was the death knell of a career. It was bulky and highly invasive surgery that robbed a player of his speed and agility. It turned his leg into wood. Those days are gone. The surgical procedure is much more sophisticated, and players are routinely recovering from ACL surgeries these days, but the results vary, and dedication to recovery is thought to be a main contributor. It sure hasn't damaged Adrian Peterson's career.

Evan from Norwalk, CT

Can the Packers' offensive coaches draw up shorter routes so the receivers can be open, similar to New England, to make the passing offense more effective?

Are we going back to the high-congestion, rub-off routes thing again? That was a mania that would seem to have been rubbed out by defenses that adjusted to the scheme. The Chargers are the poster child for that scheme. When they were here in October, they were the No. 1 offense in the league with the No. 1 passing attack. They're now No. 6 overall and No. 4 in passing yards. The Patriots are also a high-congestion route tree team, but they aren't scoring points now as they were at midseason, when they appeared to be invincible. Defenses adjust to scheme. Adjusting to talent is much more difficult, and that's where I think the Cardinals have an advantage over every other team I've seen. The Cardinals have a lot of talent. I promise you this: The Packers coaches are doing everything possible to find a scheme that'll favor more production.

Carrie from San Jose, CA

I never thought I'd see the day when we'd be talking about the Green Bay Packers needing to get the passing game going in order to open up the running game. The path a football team travels over the course of a season is a bizarre and wonderful thing.

The Packers have concentrated a lot of their draft picks in recent years on the defensive side of the ball. Their last four first-round picks have been on defense. In 2012, their first six picks were on defense. This year, their first two picks and three of their first four picks are on defense. We all agreed with the focus on defense, right? When you're a draft-and-develop football team, you are what you draft.

Ken from Eagle River, AK

Vic, I'm hoping you can help me understand something. The last half of the season, the offense line has had trouble protecting Rodgers. I don't know why more screen passes and quarterback rollouts aren't used. If Rodgers rolls out, defenses have to respect his running ability, which may also open up some of his receivers. What am I missing?

You're missing the facts, at least as they pertain to screen passes. I've never covered a team that has thrown as many screen passes as the Packers have in recent weeks. The Raiders were ready for them, and I think the Cardinals were, too, but the Packers still scored on one this past Sunday, though it was kind of after the fact. As for roll outs, that's not something that should logically be effective against man coverage and a loaded box, which is what the Packers have been facing. I've also noticed recently that roll outs don't seem to be nearly as effective for any team. Derek Carr used them against the Packers, and on several occasions he ran out of sideline and had to dump the ball. When you roll out, you cut the field in half. About all you accomplish is to avoid the pass rush.

Josh from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, we don't need a lasting formula right now. We need a flash-in-the-pan, shot-in-the-arm solution to this offense that just might catch some teams off guard long enough to win a handful of the most important games Green Bay will have played all season.

You're right. Maybe the coaches will find something this offense can execute with FULL CONSISTENCY.

Eric from Sauk City, WI

Vic, how many years have you covered this sport? And how many times have you seen the team you cover have a chance at winning their division for a fifth consecutive year?

I've covered the NFL for 44 years and if the Packers win on Sunday, it will be the first time since the 1974-79 Steelers that I've covered a team that's won five consecutive division titles. Those teams won six in a row.

Deniz from Munich, Germany

I know your approach about players before plays, and I mostly agree, but I also believe schemes can help players execute better, if the play is tailored to their skills. What can the coaches do to help the receivers beat their one-on-ones?

Schemes can absolutely assist players in their attempts to win their one-on-ones. It involves using schemes to create favorable matchups, and the Packers coaches, and every coaching staff in the league, is manic to create those matchups.

Bruce from Anaheim, CA

After being at the game and witnessing the beat down in Arizona and seeing the greatest QB I have ever watched taking vicious hit after vicious hit, I couldn't help but think this is a team in decline. What does New England do better to have six Super Bowl appearances in Belichick's 16 years at New England that Green Bay should adopt, as they seem to use free agency to pull in some of their talent vs. relying solely on the draft?

The Revis-type signings are not the Patriots' trademark. The Patriots have done their best work signing players such as Dan Connolly, an undrafted guard cut by the Jaguars. Connolly went on to play eight seasons with the Patriots. That's a shining example of the Patriots' true genius, and I'll tell you who makes it happen: Tom Brady. Brady's the guy. Brady's the answer to everything. Bill Belichick was 5-13 when he made Brady his starting quarterback. Look at the careers Brady has launched: Charlie Weiss, Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels, Scott Pioli, and several more that never achieved the success they achieved in New England. Why not? Because they didn't have Brady. Bill O'Brien might be the exception; we'll see. It's Brady, Brady, Brady. He is possibly the greatest quarterback ever. The Patriots are Brady and Brady is the Patriots.

Luke from La Crosse, WI

Vikings fans loathe the Packers and their fans. It goes way beyond being just a division rival. Any theories as to why?

I love Packers fans, but that's largely because I have gotten to know them, which has allowed me to experience their innocence and passion for the good things about football. If I was a Vikings fan, I might be a little chafed by the Packers' run of success and constant reminders of the Packers' huge fan base and its very long arms. Seeing all those green shirts in the Metrodome and TCF Bank Stadium would also chafe me a might. A lot of Vikings fans would delight in turning Lambeau purple on Sunday.

Azad from Milwaukee, WI

The way I remember it, the 2006 Colts defense rebounded because Bob Sanders came back from injury.

You're right. One guy did that for the Colts. Who's that one guy who'll do it for the Packers? Who will emerge and be the game-changer this team so desperately needs?

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