Tue, 19 Jan 2021

The challenge for Green Bay’s offensive line is real Mike Spofford

Ted from Beverly Hills, CA

Forecast for Saturday is 25 degrees with chance of snow. Perfect.

Works for me.

George from North Mankato, MN

Mike, how do you feel about our divisional round draw? Injuries to both sides could be the difference. If Donald, Kupp and Goff aren't 100% we may have caught a break even with David Bakhtiari out.

It sounds like Kupp will be fine. I can't imagine a surgically repaired thumb will be fun to play with in the cold. Donald might be able to play, but you wonder how close he'll be to full strength. Regardless, the challenge for Green Bay's offensive line is real. As Ari from Chicago noted, LA's front continued to dominate after Donald left the game.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

I don't usually get too caught up in analyzing individual matchups, but Davante Adams vs. Jalen Ramsey could be a doozy! Do you think Matt LaFleur will scheme a bit more to make certain Adams gets his usual number of open looks? Or will Aaron Rodgers continue to take what he's given?

Both.

Jamie from Waldport, OR

Upon wild-card weekend viewing, there sure were many faces in pain. A fresher team feels much better. Brees-Brady duel eliminates one HOF QB. I trust our HOF QB. How would you attack that nasty Rams D?

The same way the Packers have succeeded against other tough defenses this year - stay balanced. Run the ball to make play-action effective and help protect Rodgers. The Rams will be focused on exactly the same thing. Goff's success comes from play-action when he's fully healthy. They'll be determined to run the ball more than ever.

Bob from Milwaukee, WI

The Rams only allowed 17 passing TDs all season long, one fewer than Adams had by himself. Their defense is no joke. I think it would be foolish to expect the Packers to have an easy time scoring points on offense. I'm predicting a low-scoring, tight game with lots of punts. What do you expect?

Both teams to move the ball, meaning a game that will be decided in the red (gold) zone. Offensively the Packers have been outstanding in close, and defensively they've improved in that area down the stretch. Those trends must hold for Green Bay.

Kevin from New York, NY

For those who were wondering. It's not rest vs. rust, it's rust vs. health and I'll take health every time.

I think we can put the debate over the value of the bye to bed, if the math didn't do so already. The Rams-Seahawks result was the prime example, on both sides. Many mentioned LA's health. A week ago Seattle had a shot at the No. 1 seed, and seven days later, done.

Jon from Salem, MA

How do you think Green Bay stacks up against LA's offense? Will the similarities to LaFleur's scheme be a benefit?

I expect that to cut both ways, and it should be different from the San Francisco matchups last year because the Packers are defending the run much better right now. They also just added another proven run-stuffer who's ultra-motivated and capable of playing more than the 12 snaps he did in his Green Bay debut.

John from Tulare, CA

So the Rams get to experience an actual winter. What aspect of the game to do think is most impacted by the cold?

It's handling the harder and slicker ball, which means everything from the QB on every play, to receivers catching it, to any ball carriers hanging on when they get hit. Potential wind adds another factor to the passing and kicking games, while snow brings different footwork into play.

John from Ledgewood, NJ

Hello Mike and Wes. Watching the Seahawks-Rams game and Troy Aikman commented that Aaron Donald is a better player than Reggie White. What do you think?

Others mentioned he ranked Donald better than Lawrence Taylor, too. (I didn't hear it. I mostly tune out the announcers.) Strong statements, but Aikman's not crazy. In 15 years, White won two DPOY awards and was named first-team All-Pro eight times. In 13 years, Taylor earned three DPOYs (also an MVP) and eight first-team All-Pro honors. In seven years, Donald might be winning his third DPOY and just got his sixth All-Pro nod. He's on the same level/trajectory and may end up with a more decorated career when it's all said and done.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

"Woodson is without peer as the best defensive player I've ever covered." Does that mean you feel Woodson was better than Reggie White? Or that you never covered White?

I only saw White play in person from the '96 playoffs through the '98 season.

Brian from Schertz, TX

Of the teams that won, which teams impressed you and which performances may have been lacking?

The Ravens had the most impressive win in my book, coming back from 10-0 and dominating the rest of the game. The Rams' running game and Bills' passing game also looked plenty good. I'm not sure what to make of the Browns because the game was just odd from the start, but I give them a ton of credit for that performance after a difficult week.

Brian from Okinawa, Japan

What a crazy start to Sunday night's game. The entire first quarter saw only a single offensive snap from the Browns' side of the 50-yard line.

In their first postseason game in 18 years, and in a stadium in which the Browns hadn't won for 17 years. Who woulda thunk it?

Nate from Sioux City, IA

Mike, what do the Bears do with Trubisky?

Move on. They spent an entire playoff game trying to protect him from making the killer mistake against a tough defense. He never made it, but he made only one impactful downfield throw - off a trick play, which was dropped. You can't build a team and an offense around that.

Sreedharan from Pewaukee, WI

Hi Mike/Wes. The big bully got bullied right back. Derrick Henry totally underwhelmed, and he seemed to have a meltdown as the game went on. It certainly was not a case of, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Baltimore's defense is looking like we expect a Baltimore defense to look. The optics weren't good with Henry, but I can appreciate the frustration. When he finally had a good run, an 8-yarder in the fourth quarter on first down to make it second-and-2 from the Baltimore 40 in a four-point game, the Titans went pass-pass-punt. Multiple head-scratching decisions there.

Tom from Fort Myers, FL

Great rivalries will always have a place in the NFL. What should have no place are the actions by the Baltimore Ravens at the end of Sunday's game. Poor sportsmanship does nothing to advance the game and I hope those participating will be fined by the league office.

I couldn't care less about the logo stomping. It's childish, big whoop. It's also not cool to not acknowledge the opponent at all postgame. I agree, be better, be professional. But I don't want the NFL to police sportsmanship.

Jim from Hainesville, IL

Spoff, about 40 seconds to go in the first half, Josh Allen draws Colts offsides on fourth-and-3 in Indy territory, throws INT on the free play. The Indy DB obviously knew the play wouldn't stand so he just steps OB. My immediate reaction was that he had room to return the pick to the middle and upfield. As long as he doesn't fumble, he could have run some valuable time off the clock. Bills end up scoring a TD. Thoughts?

Those were mine exactly when it happened. You can ask my wife. Total lack of awareness of the situation. Might've cost the Colts four points. Fourth-and-goal cost them three more, a clanked field goal three more, PAT decision(s) another point or two. Indy had every chance to win that game.

Jake from Athens, GA

Okay, Mike. Tell us. How hard were you pulling for Washington on Saturday? After everything last week, after everything Alex Smith went through to return, after everything Rivera went through this season, to knock off Tom Brady and the stacked Tampa Bay roster - can you imagine a better story? They sure came close.

No matter the opponent, how could you not root for Taylor Heinicke as that game unfolded? What an effort, darting and dodging around pass rushers, diving for the pylon, returning from the shoulder injury. Amazing performance.

Eric from Stramproy, Netherlands

Brady still knows how to play a good game of football.

Sure, but Tampa Bay's offensive line won that game. It rendered the formidable Washington pass rush a non-factor. I didn't think that was possible.

Michael from Morrison, IL

As someone who works with several people in western New York, I can't help but feel happy for the Buffalo Bills' fan base. It's hard to fathom going 24 years without a single playoff win.

I have to admit, as Rivers wound up to throw that Hail Mary, my mind went to the Music City Miracle against Buffalo 21 years ago. Great work by Hyde to swat that ball down. Fitting he did it after getting boxed out by Hopkins on the Hail Murray in mid-November, which still stands as the Bills' last loss.

Bob from New Britain, CT

Mike, it would really be disappointing to me if we just saw Philip Rivers throw his last NFL pass. He was a great leader and competitor, and it's too bad a player of that caliber never had the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl. He deserved a chance to play on football's biggest stage at least once. Those fortunate few who have must never take that for granted.

Well said.

Mate from Miskolc, Hungary

Hi Insiders! In one of your responses last week you mentioned you consider Russell Wilson as a potential Hall of Famer. Are you sure that he is really HOF-caliber? As it was mentioned several times this season he doesn't even have an MVP vote, let alone an actual MVP, his only SB win came courtesy of the Legion of Boom and he has been above average at most in his playoff appearances. In the last four years, even the Jaguars have more playoff wins than Russ. What makes you think he should be in the HOF?

I'm not saying he's a slam-dunk HOFer, but I think he's deserving and will get in. He's carried that team to the playoffs in recent years with constantly changing (and at times inferior) personnel around him. Those playoff results lately aren't great, but he's still 9-7 in the postseason for his career. I dislike the MVP vote argument. Voters only get to vote for one person each year. It's not a hierarchy ballot like in MLB. If that's the standard, it would disqualify a number of QBs already in Canton.

Daniel from Horsholm, Denmark

Bakhtiari has been a five-time All-Pro. If he retired after this season, is he in the Hall of Fame? If not, what more does he need to do?

The HOF selection committee looks more strictly at first-team selections, and Bakhtiari now has two in eight years. Tony Boselli had three in seven and is a HOF finalist again, on the verge. If Bakhtiari returns to his All-Pro level post-injury, that might lock it down for him.

Brian from Bemidji, MN

I know all of our thoughts on adding another playoff team. I know that this wasn't needed. But after watching "Super Wildcard Weekend" I'm hooked. Three games is better than two. Six games is better than four!

I never said I wouldn't enjoy watching the games. It was an entertaining, relaxing way to spend the weekend. I'm glad the seventh spot prevented an 11-win team in the AFC from getting aced out, but it also allowed an eight-win team in the NFC that clearly didn't belong. There will be pluses and minuses every year.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

How wild was it for the Packers to have three defensive touchdowns in four games during their Super Bowl run in 2010? I don't remember many defensive touchdowns in the playoffs the last few years, so I figured three in four games for one postseason has to be somewhat rare.

It's not the norm. To my recollection, the Packers have had only one since then, Shields at San Francisco in the '12 divisional to open the game. The Rams and Browns sure made theirs count this weekend. Both were tone-setters.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

Why are the Sunday divisional games scheduled two hours later than normal (2:05 and 5:40 Central)? The conference championships are always scheduled for those times in case either game is on the West Coast, but this year, there could have been at most one divisional game out west. Is it more of a ratings decision to let the later game run into prime time?

Ding ding ding. I thought for sure when the Bears lost that Packers-Rams would get the Saturday night slot, but work-wise I'm not complaining about an earlier kickoff.

Ashley from Durand, IL

I'm not sure how it's different, but I watch a game differently when I'm cheering for a team to lose instead of one to win. You know what I mean?

I don't know why, but this made me laugh.

Rick from Trempealeau, WI

You guys do a fabulous job of keeping things fresh. So, my question: Obviously you don't get to choose who you play, but in going 13-3, is it more important that the Packers only beat two teams with a winning record (NO, TN) OR that they only lost to only one team with a losing record (MN)?

It's most important they finished the regular season playing their best football on both sides of the ball.

Eric from Mequon, WI

A 13-3 record doesn't matter. Individual awards don't matter. Season totals in passer ratings, sack totals, and rushing yards don't matter. All that matters? Going 3-0 over the next three games.

You don't listen to LaFleur much, do you? All that matters is going 1-0 on Saturday. Happy Monday.

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