Sun, 23 Jan 2022

The Packers’ defense is different when both Kenny Clark and De’Vondre Campbell are available Wes Hodkiewicz

Hank from Hardscrabble, IN

I'm at my desk getting nothing done because my school has no power. Go Packers!

Well, at least your phone was charged. So, you had that going for you...which is nice.

Josh from Seattle, WA

Insiders, the trend this year going into the playoffs feels very different from last year. At the end of last year, David Bakhtiari got hurt and key pieces on defense were banged up. This year, we are getting so many guys back that we already learned how to win without. Giving us an immediate talent and depth boost. We also have the No. 1 seed, a bye, home-field advantage, the MVP, and COY. We have no excuse. I hope this team can go out and execute its best. If they do, they will win.

The winds finally turned and the Packers seemingly are getting healthier. This past week, they released Ben Braden to make room for Billy Turner's activation. Two weeks ago, Green Bay had like eight or nine spots open on the 53-man roster when Jaire Alexander was activated.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

"The Top Ten Moments..." is a wonderful synopsis of the highlights of the season, so far. What is your favorite moment?

The Rasul Douglas INT in Arizona is my personal favorite for several reasons. One, it was an emotional victory during of a series of last-second wins for Green Bay. Two, Douglas not only made a statement against his former team but it also signaled the Packers might have something special in Douglas. But perhaps most importantly, it's what that win represented. By toppling a previously unbeaten Arizona team, the Packers were the "favorites." That win was both a statement and a turning point.

Lindsey from Minneapolis, MN

If you had your pick, which team would you hope to face next weekend, and why?

I like the way the Packers match up with any of the four. San Francisco is scrappy and could present some problems, especially if they upset Dallas. Beyond that, however, the Packers own wins over both the Rams and Cards. I like Green Bay's chances at Lambeau in late January.

Mark from Geneva, IL

The block by Lucas Patrick on the Josiah Deguara TD was a thing of beauty! It looked like the pin action picking up the 6-10 spare.

Spoff had a good line about how it was reminiscent of Robert Tonyan's block last year against Detroit where he knocked down three guys with a single block. Lucas sent those dudes flying.

Tom from Burlington, WI

Good Morning friends. With Z and Jaire Alexander poised for return, what is the value, if any, of having "unscouted" personnel in the Joe Barry defensive system?

Of course, especially re-inserting a pair of All-Pros such as Alexander and Smith into a defense. There's no exact blueprint as far as how Barry will utilize Za'Darius Smith in concert with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. With how deep the Packers are at cornerback now, your guess is as good as mine where Alexander plays.

Michael from Austin, TX

If Za'Darius makes it back, with the D-line playing so well, will we ever see a package with him, Rashan, Preston, and Kenny Clark rushing at the same time? Who moves inside?

That's the most intriguing aspect of this whole deal. Because the Packers have deployed Gary in that "rover" spot Za'Darius played the past two years. Once Z is back, they could line him up inside again or have him rush from the edge and move Gary around.

Marcus from Midvale, UT

Good afternoon Mike/Wes. Listening to Coach LaFleur, I was caught off-guard when he was talking about Z needing to learn his assignments, since he hasn't played since Week 1. Is this a matter of he doesn't know the new defensive scheme, or the fact that he knows it on paper, but just needs to actually be in it again? I'd think he was in on meetings and things all season and would at least understand the assignments in theory, but maybe I'm missing something?

Z knows the defense. He was here for the offseason program and has been in the meetings. But learning the scheme and applying the concepts on the field are two different things. While Wednesday marked Smith's first practice back, it's important to remember it's only his fourth or fifth practice since training camp started in July. This ain't "Madden." It's not as simple as Player X is cleared and now can play 65 snaps next Sunday. An injured player has to stack days and build his way back.

Nick from Green Bay, WI

What's the big key to a Packers Super Bowl run?

Good health, consistency and big plays. The Super Bowl XLV squad had all three during the final stretch of the year. That's what the Packers will need to mount another chase.

Laura from Pittsburgh, PA

Who do you least want to face in the playoffs?

The exit.

Terry from Rockford, IL

How do you think our defensive can stand up to these high-power offensive playoff teams?

Fine, especially with Kenny Clark and De'Vondre Campbell in the middle. This defense is different when those two players are healthy and available.

Dan from Eagan, MN

Do you believe LaFleur when he says our playoff O-line starters will be a "secret"? At what point will the cat come out of the bag?

I'd say so. I didn't see any publication reporting Josh Myers would start at center with Lucas Patrick at right guard against Detroit. The Packers have options and there's always going to be unexpected developments. Shoot, just look at Patrick going on reserve/COVID-19 Wednesday. I didn't see that one coming.

Dan from Morehead City, NC

I remember watching Brett Favre throw interceptions, and it seemed a quarter of them were tipped off receivers' hands. Seeing Jordan Love get one this way made me realize that Rodgers hardly ever had this happen. I know a lot of Favre's were because he threw so hard, but is a Rodgers pass that much more catchable?

Rodgers can throw a pigskin through a brick wall, too, but he's so much more calculated in how he delivers the football to his receivers. He does take chances but they always seem to be in his team's favor. For example, he may throw a perceived 50/50 ball to a receiver but he'll use the sideline as leverage. That's partly a product of how the game has evolved but it's also the beauty of how Rodgers plays.

Sean from Chaska, MN

What is David Bakhtiari's conditioning gonna be like when it's gameday? In his situation, is he just running 10 miles/day or something to get back into shape, or do we just use him as much as we can use him until he's more up to speed?

That's the No. 1 question for any player returning after a long absence. I'm not sure everything that goes into his workouts but Bakhtiari was focusing on conditioning last Thursday for that very reason. All the work Bakhtiari has done is intended to make sure he's ready to play a full game when that time finally comes.

Noble from Washburn, WI

Hey boys, I'm not the overly superstitious type, but the last time I was published twice in the column was 2010, just saying. Any who, there's a lot of focus on the star power returning for the playoff push, but who would your pick for a less likely hero be?

Josiah Deguara. I'm not saying it'll be a big catch like on Sunday. It could be a Kuhn-esque chip block on a free rusher. The offense is tailored to Deguara's strengths and the young man is finally starting to look like himself again.

Paul from West Allis, WI

Do the Packers start preparing a package for attacking a team like the Eagles (not having faced them) vs. the other teams or have they already started?

If Philly prevails Sunday, the Packers will have a plan to handle Jalen Hurts and the Eagles' run offense. But no, I don't expect any new packages to combat Philly's ground game if that's the case. As LaFleur said earlier this week, you gotta be ready for anything in the playoffs but you also can't get too far away from what you do best. You have to trust your training.

Jeff from Gladstone, MI

Any idea/thoughts on what the condition of the middle of the field is going to look like come Jan. 22-23? It was looking a little worse for wear on Jan. 2 during the Vikings game. Hard to believe it could be improved upon given the recent cold weather.

Allen Johnson and his crew have done a remarkable job of taking care of Lambeau Field, but January is January in Green Bay. Ultimately, nature does start to take its course. My front yard has been frozen and snow-covered for weeks now. So, it'll be a challenge but frankly that's a good thing for the Packers. These players and the equipment staff know how to play on this surface. Other teams don't.

Eric from Mequon, WI

We have two coaches being considered for HC positions after three years in Green Bay. I can't remember any McCarthy coaches in GB getting the same consideration. Why?

They did. It took a little more time but Joe Philbin landed the Miami job and Ben McAdoo was hired in New York. Tom Clements was interviewed in Chicago and Winston Moss had an interview with Oakland somewhere in there, as well. I think Nathaniel Hackett is ready, though. He has a distinguished resume and the right personality to lead a team. It's just a matter of when, not if.

Robert from Verona, WI

No question, just a comment. While Allen Lazard's success has been a popular topic recently, I'm hoping we see a resurgence from Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the Packers work their way through the playoffs. It's been a while since we've had a big play from MVS, and it would be great to see him stress the opposing defense deep downfield.

I mean, he had five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in Baltimore before going on the COVID-19 list. MVS came back against Minnesota and then had the back flare up again in Detroit. MVS just needs to get healthy for the playoffs. If that box is checked, the big plays are still there.

Dave from Germantown, TN

If you were offered both the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars head coaching jobs, which would you choose? Working with Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields?

Jacksonville. I think Justin Fields will be a good NFL QB but the Bears are facing another sizeable rebuild, and regardless of how that goes, they'll still have to contend with the Packers on the other side. Trevor Lawrence had a forgettable rookie year but I still think it'll be easier for the Jaguars to engineer a turnaround in their neck of the woods.

Phil from Bettendorf, IA

Wes, for those that put more emphasis on pure stats, as opposed to the other reasons Rodgers should win the MVP award over Brady, I think "Gronk-gate" should be a consideration. Rodgers played another consistent first half of football before coming out at halftime with the lock on the No. 1 seed. With 6 minutes left in the Panthers game, Brady is slinging the ball around so Gronk can pick up $1M in incentives - while padding his stats. Thoughts?

The Buccaneers needed to beat three non-playoff teams to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC and couldn't do it. Brady and Tampa fell on their faces against New Orleans and needed a late comeback to beat the four-win Jets. If the MVP award is about who threw for the most yards, most touchdowns and double-digit picks, then Brady is your guy, I guess. Aaron Rodgers consistently performed at an MVP level this season and was the most important player to the league's winningest team. Case closed in my estimation.

Ryan from Bloomer, WI

Assuming the Packers make it to the Super Bowl, will that be your first "away" game working from the booth in two years?

I sure hope so. It's been a dream of mine to cover a Super Bowl. If the Packers make it, I'd like to be there.

Joe from Hampshire, IL

Wes, with some open GM spots, does Eliot Wolf finally get one? Wonder if the "Belichick coat tails" might help him?

He deserves it. The Packers made the right call hiring Brian Gutekunst in 2018 but Eliot deserves to be an NFL GM. He's incredibly bright and has a keen eye for spotting talent.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

How can a coach be so well respected that he gets the award of Coach of the Year, but gets fired two years later?

That's what I've been saying. These voters need to make sure their art lasts. Because otherwise they're going to look back and see they honored a bunch of flavors of the month instead of the generation's most successful coaches.

John from Bozeman, MT

In 1960 Paul Hornung scored 176 points in a 12-game season. His record was broken in 2006 by L. Tomlinson who scored 186 points in a 16-game season. 16-game season records are all vulnerable now. Time waits for no man!

For the folks who hate the 17-game regular season, you're gonna love what's likely to happen nine years from now.

Adam from Washington, MO

Napkins? I don't need no stinking napkin! I took a picture with Spoff and shook Wes's hand at the Packers pep rally a few years back in Minneapolis. Still one of the most memorable overall Packers experiences I've ever had. Perhaps that picture on my phone will be the new multimillion NFT. I'll send a check towards Spoff if this is the case.

I don't know. I'd say we're still another year or two away from Authentic Spoff NFTs on the blockchain.

Dan from Toledo, OH

I was originally scheduled to work Sunday night Feb. 13, at 6 p.m., but I paid a coworker a pretty penny to take my shift, and the playoffs are now truly Super Bowl or bust for me. Here's hoping for a playoff run and that elusive NFC title victory (and one more after).

The stakes have never been higher...for Dan.

Aaron from Phoenix, AZ

I find I'm so excited that I can barely sit still or wait for the NFL divisional round weekend. I think it's the excitement only a fan of a Super Bowl favorite can feel. A fan of a team with the only first-round bye at the start of the NFL playoffs whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope the Pack can make it to SoFi Stadium. I hope to see Mark Murphy hoist the Lombardi and shake the commissioner's hand. I hope the elation of championship victory is as divine as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

And my work is done here.

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