Mike from Middletown, DE

Tragedy for the Philbin family. God be with him. How does this affect the preparation and play-calling for the Packers?

The first thing this team has to do is grieve. It unofficially began yesterday. I felt it in the hallways yesterday morning before I even knew what had happened. Today will afford the Packers another opportunity to achieve perspective and acceptance of the loss the Philbins and the Packers family have sustained. Wednesday begins the hard preparation for Sunday’s playoff game against the Giants and professional football players and coaches know they have to dedicate themselves fully to their preparation, regardless of the other issues in their lives. Players and coaches are like any of us. They have lives that present all of the little problems that we experience, and sometimes those problems are big ones. Coach McCarthy will guide his team through these tough times. He’s the team’s play-caller but, most importantly, he’s the man that will lead this team through these tough times. Obviously, Coach McCarthy and Quarterbacks Coach Tom Clements will shoulder more of the load this week in Joe’s absence. That won’t be an issue.

Zach from Rockton, IL

With all the success of wild-card teams in recent years, does it surprise you that not one advanced in the playoffs?

No, it didn’t. The playoffs are about hot teams and matchups and I didn’t think either circumstance favored a win by a wild-card team. I think we all knew the Saints were going to score at will against the Lions, the Falcons’ offensive line didn’t match up well at all against the Giants’ ferocious pass-rush, the Bengals backed into the playoffs and the Steelers were a battered lot heading into the postseason, and the news of their running back coach having been severely burned in a house fire late last week was another obstacle for a team that already had too many to overcome. When I looked at the NFC field, I clearly saw four teams that were head and shoulders above the wild cards; in the AFC, I only saw two hot teams, the top two seeds.

Derek from Green Bay, WI

With an elite pass-rushing core and multiple skilled wide receivers and a good QB throwing them the ball, how do we stop the Giants?

The Packers must deny the big play. The Falcons didn’t do that. Eli Manning will throw interceptions; he threw 16 of them this season and he threw one against the Packers that was returned for a touchdown. If the Packers can make the Giants drive the ball, they’ll introduce the opportunity to make big plays on defense. That’s the Packers defense’s trademark – force turnovers – and it begins with denying big plays.

Bill from Wilmette, IL

This Packers team is a passing powerhouse. How often do they need to run the ball to beat the Giants?

The Packers need to run the ball often enough to make the Giants’ pass-rushers play run. That’s how you quiet the pass-rush. You create down-and-distance uncertainty. If they can make you one-dimensional, look out because that’s when they can get into that sprinter’s stance and rush the passer without concern for having to play the run.

Ben from Wauwatosa, WI

What are the three-most memorable playoff games you have covered in your career?

1.) The “Immaculate Reception,” 2.) Super Bowl XIII, 3.) Jaguars’ 1996 playoff win in Denver.

Guy from Billings, MT

Vic, there is a scientific principle known as the “Observer Effect,” which basically states that the act of observation changes the phenomenon being observed. Therefore, when you just watch a game, you are also affecting its outcome.

I like to watch.

Tommy from Albuquerque, NM

I see the BCS just crowned another mythical college football champion. Do you have any suggestions on how we can fix this fictitious winner in college sports? I did not watch the game; I was busy cleaning out my sock drawer.

The fix is easy: Do it like they do it in Division II. That message will start to sink in if future college football seasons are anything like the one just concluded. I have been a college football junkie since I was a little kid, and I’m stunned at how little interest I had in the 2011 season. I had to force myself to watch last night’s game. Yes, I appreciate the talent on the field and I like a good, hard-hitting defensive game, but it wasn’t very entertaining and, frankly, I thought the level of execution was beneath the standard I would expect of a national title game. The product was not good this season, and this comes from a man who tingled with excitement for weeks leading up to the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State game, the 1971 Thanksgiving game between Oklahoma and Nebraska, the 1986 season Fiesta Bowl game between Penn State and Miami, etc. In recent years, however, college football has left me cold; too much spread offense and quarterbacks looking to the sideline as we wait for the ball to be snapped. Last night’s teams didn’t do that, but they also didn’t score much; one touchdown in the whole game, and not until four minutes were left to play and the issue had long since been decided. Major college football needs to take a look at itself. It needs to put a better product on the field and it needs a playoff system, or those empty seats at this year’s bowl games are going to increase in number.

Luke from Des Moines, IA

Vic, aside from screen passes and roll-outs, what else do you think Green Bay will do to negate the Giants’ pass-rush?

Draws, screens, move the target by moving the pocket, play-action, reverses and misdirection plays that force defenders to stay at home, trap plays intended to catch a defender up the field, those are all things you do to quiet the rush.

Matthew from Pomona, CA

Vic, are you satisfied with the new playoff overtime rules? I believe that it should be just like another quarter with 10 minutes on the clock. That way each team gets an even chance and they both play to the clock, down to the last minute.

I liked it the way it was. It was simple and effective. If we’re going to do it this way, which has introduced a high degree of confusion, then I don’t know why they just don’t go to a full overtime period, as basketball employs. Too many rules; the NFL needs fewer rules.

Terry from New Auburn, WI

The networks do a great job with the fake first-down line on my TV screen. It is always right on. So how come they cannot project a yellow line up into the sky, extending the goal posts for field goals? It would give those old jocks something new to talk about.

You’re serious, aren’t you?

Kevin from Westwood, MA

I'm taking my first trip to Green Bay and Lambeau Field. Besides the game itself, what is the most important thing to experience for any newcomer to Green Bay?

My favorite thing about a game at Lambeau Field is its sense of importance. You know you are at an event that is critical to the people attending it. There are other stadiums where I get the same feeling, but not every place is like that. The Packers truly matter to the people of Green Bay. Packers fans ooze love and concern for their team. There’s a point early in my game-day preparation that I have to move from the press box, where I have started my game-day blog, to the Atrium, where I participate in a pregame show on WTMJ radio. The walk requires me to move from one side of the stadium to the other and I pass thousands of Packers fans as I go. It’s one of my favorite rituals of game day because it allows me to experience the crowd and sense their emotions for the game. Make sure you experience that feeling.

Eric from Toronto, ON

So, if I understand the new overtime rules correctly, let's say the team that takes the initial kickoff in overtime fumbles on a play, a defender picks the ball up, runs, then fumbles. The offense recovers on the same play. In this scenario, the offense can now kick a field goal and win the game because each team has had a possession?

Only if the whistle hadn’t blown, I think.

Carl from Mansfield, OH

I’m reading how the Giants are such a different team than the one the Packers played a month ago. Their players would have us believe we will see the 2007 Super Bowl champions on the field this Sunday at Lambeau. As Coach McCarthy would say, I believe the Giants are what their record says they are, a 10-7 team that has been remarkably inconsistent this season. Your thoughts?

That’s not what Coach McCarthy said on Monday. He said, “That’s the best film I’ve seen of the Giants.” Don’t try to convince yourself that these are the same Giants that were 9-7 in the regular season. These Giants are playing their best football of the season and they will require the same of the Packers for the Packers to win on Sunday. That’s the attitude a team needs to win in the postseason.

Rene from La Habra, CA

Is the weather for this weekend’s game gonna be anything like it was for the NFC Championship between the Giants and Packers a few years ago?

The weather forecast has been changing for Sunday almost daily. As I wrote last week, I’m hearing forecasts for a major drop in temperatures over the next few days. The high in Green Bay today is forecast to be 44 degrees, but that’ll be more than cut in half by Friday. As it stands right now, the forecast is for Sunday’s game to be played in the low-20s, but there appears to be uncertainty with that forecast. As cold as it was for the 2007 NFC title game? No, it was minus-one with a minus-23 wind chill, but don’t go to sleep on Sunday’s weather just yet. I’m detecting a lot of uncertainty.

Keith from Fond du Lac, WI

A few years ago Matt Cassel had one good season and the Patriots put the franchise tag on him. Is this something the Packers could do with Matt Flynn to at least get something in return?

First of all, the Patriots might’ve enjoyed a little security blanket in putting the franchise tag on Cassel. Scott Pioli had just left the Patriots to become the new general manager in Kansas City, so the Patriots probably new they could do a deal with the Chiefs. Even at that, however, they were taking a risk. The risk is that Cassel could’ve signed the tender, rejected a contract from another team and that would’ve left the Patriots on the hook for the franchise fee for a quarterback. That fee is expected to be about $15 million in 2012, and no team can allow itself to get caught paying that kind of money to a backup quarterback. Trading Flynn wouldn’t be any kind of a problem, but you’d have to know he’d agree to a contract or you’re taking a huge risk. Hey, the Patriots only got a second-round pick for Cassel. That’s a big risk for a second-round pick.

Brad from Wonewoc, WI

What do you think is a better system, the challenge system or the old days when the call on the field was the call on the field?

Is there a difference? Either way, we have to live with mistakes. If there is a difference, it’s that we expected mistakes in the old days, so we resigned ourselves to having to overcome them and accept them. The problem with the new system is that it carries with it the expectation that it’ll correct all wrongs. It doesn’t and that has left us with a huge degree of frustration.

Kamal from Novi, MI

In your estimation, who is the best player in NFL history that later went on to become a head coach?

Otto Graham and Bart Starr are certainly candidates. Mike Ditka is in the Hall of Fame, too, and he won a Super Bowl as a coach. Norm Van Brocklin had a long coaching career.

Richard from Madison, WI

What do you think of John Fox this year?

He’s done a fantastic job, especially as it pertains to having installed a spread-option system at midseason. That’s not easy to do. You don’t just flip a switch. I’ll be interested to see what the Broncos do in the offseason. Do they make the spread-option their base offense to accommodate Tim Tebow? If they do that, then they’ll have to find other spread-option quarterbacks as backups. Do they have enough information on Tebow to know he’s “The Man”? It would be a huge decision because it involves huge risk. What Tebow is running is basically the “Wildcat” with a pass option. What if defenses stop it as they did the “Wildcat”? It would be a lot harder switching back to a conventional offense and finding a whole new cast of conventional quarterbacks.

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