Travis from Brookings, SD

Which injury hampers Rodgers’ mobility more, his calf a few years ago or the hamstring as of this week?

I really don’t know. Reporters saw very little of Rodgers in practice on Thursday. I guess we’ll have to find out on Sunday.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, I'm impressed with how NFL players battle through injuries. Can you name a time you were amazed by a player who took the field when you had witnessed him during the week and thought, "No way he plays."

Favre in 1995 vs. the Bears is the obvious answer. I also remember watching a Cowboys-Giants game on TV in the early ’90s, and Emmitt Smith, despite a separated shoulder, kept taking handoffs and plowing for extra yards. I couldn’t have cared less who won the game, but I couldn’t turn away from the TV.

Aaron from Wheeling, IL

I think it is amusing that anyone is upset about the Clay Matthews hit by Barbre. These are big men going full speed to make plays. It's what they get paid for and what fans want to see. To suggest that Barbre take something off of his block is insane. Had one of our players made a block like that our fans would be thrilled and fully support it as a legal hit.

All I was trying to suggest is that if the NFL is to be taken seriously regarding player safety – a movement a lot of fans would rather do away with entirely, and I get that – you have to take a look at an egregious hit like Barbre’s to decide if it should be part of the game. Because yes, while legal, it was not necessary. It just wasn’t. I realized the day after writing about Matthews’ comments on the hit that his “quarterback” line must have been a specific reference to the 2014 NFC title game in Seattle, when he laid out Russell Wilson on a Green Bay interception return and was penalized and fined. While I’m sure Matthews understands the protections afforded a QB who’s throwing or running with the ball, in that instance Wilson was chasing a ball-carrier just like he was, so I can understand his frustration.

Michael from Palatine, IL

With 32 teams and 78 games left to play, there are about 302 sextillion ways for the season to end. Not only is it great to find a legitimate way to use "sextillion" in a sentence, but it really helps put the focus on "one game at a time."

Sextillion: A million raised to the sixth power. For those wondering.

Steve from West Palm Beach, FL

When a D-lineman jumps offside, why aren't the O-linemen taught to hold their positions? They all too often jump up and point to the offender, causing the officials to throw a flag and blow the play dead. If they stayed put, the play might be allowed to proceed and AR could take his shot downfield.

But then the defender might get back before the snap. It’s not easy to have your cake and eat it, too. What Bakhtiari did in the fourth quarter in Philly Monday night helped win the game.

Kevin from Hardwood, MI

With all the neutral zone infractions, I can’t help but wonder how long it will take for defenses to deceive offensive lines into false starts.

They’re not allowed to. Any movement deemed intentional by the defense to simulate a snap or cause the offense to move is a delay-of-game penalty on the defense. Clinton-Dix was called for one in Tennessee.

Mike from Somerset, WI

Rollins, Randall, and the safeties are back together providing a solid secondary for the first time since the losing streak. If they’re truly healthy and can hold highly talented Texans receivers to modest stats, the Packers once again become relevant in the playoff race. This week is a good measure whether the team still has enough horses in the secondary to make a run.

I would agree. Randall has a full game under his belt after the long layoff, and McCarthy has mentioned that the injury Rollins was playing through was a bigger deal than anyone let on. Now they have to prove that their games really are at another level.

Rob from Edmonton, Alberta

Insiders, I thought chicks dig the long ball.

They most certainly do.

Amos from Bondurant, IA

Don't sleep on the Vikings. Bradford may not be the best in the league but he doesn't have to be with a defense that held Dallas to just 17 points.

I fully expect the Vikings to be 8-6 when they come to Green Bay on Christmas Eve.

Zach from Marquette, MI

I think we should have been cheering for the Vikings Thursday night. The Cowboys don't play the Lions until Week 16 and now they most likely won't have anything to play for. Does anyone honestly think the Vikings would have run the table?

If the Saints and Giants can beat the Lions, the Packers won’t need the Cowboys to beat them.

Duncan from Fort McMurray, Canada

Would you sign up for the opposite? Up 21-16, Lions’ ball with two minutes left? They have been so clutch at the end of the game.

Yes they have, but I’d still take it.

Joe from Orlando, FL

Correct me if I'm off, but I noticed something that intrigued me last game. Packers had the ball, and it was third-and-1. Michael was in the backfield. Aaron calls a quick audible, and Michael gives Aaron a confused look. AR snaps the ball and immediately throws a WR screen, while Michael ran quickly towards AR as if the ball was going to be handed off to him. This gives me the impression that our new RB is gonna need quite a bit of time to adjust to this offense, and maybe Rodgers and McCarthy aren't given enough credit for the depth of their offensive scheme.

It’s not simple, for sure, but you’re a little off the mark here. Rodgers throws those quick flips to the receivers at the line – which some announcers refer to as “smoke” or “check” routes – on his own all the time, and often the only ones aware are Rodgers and the receivers. He has the freedom to do that. The running back always thinks he’s getting the ball in those instances. The key is to watch the offensive linemen. If they charge out of their stance to run block, Rodgers most likely ran a check. If they stand up to protect, it was a called pass.

Christopher from Echo Park, CA

Dear Santa: No. 22, and it's spelled R-I-P-K-O-W-S-K-I. Thanks, milk and cookies to follow.

Good call. Santa is partial toward fellas with beards.

Kirk from Rogers, AR

You can't just call him ‘Rip.’ It will never ring through the stadium like Kuuuuhn. We need to keep the ‘ski.’ I can already hear it...Ripskiiiiiii.

Everyone’s been trying really hard on this, for weeks now. Too hard.

Tom from New York, NY

Guys, I can't take it. The commercial breaks are so intense, the stoppage so severe, that I'm struggling to enjoy football these days. It didn't used to be this bad. I watched a game the other day for a half-hour, 23 minutes of which were commercials. Unfortunately, few people have the time or the patience to spend on this sport we love. Is the league taking this problem seriously?

I think it’s gonna have to. I was sitting next to Mark Murphy in the press box in Philly on Monday night, and he’s certainly aware of the fan dissatisfaction.

Zack from Radford, VA

Who exactly is on the last year of their contract? I know Lacy, and the one-year deals with Perry and Cook. Any other headliners?

Lang, Tretter, Hyde, Jones, Peppers, Michael, and Goode, with Pennel and Elliott set to become restricted free agents.

Robert from Omaha, NE

Regarding the camera view from the umpire, what I really got out of it was the realization of just how fast the game is up close and personal. It certainly increased my appreciation for the athleticism out there.

I watched a Badgers game from the Camp Randall sideline once in the late ’90s and it really made an impression, having spent my reporting career to that point at high school games. A few years later I was on the sideline at Lambeau Field for just a few plays in a fourth quarter, and I felt like I had entered a different world.

Mau from Heredia, Costa Rica

Do domes really need wind flags on top of the goal posts?

If you’re referring to the ones in Minnesota, the Vikings can open one of the end zones in their new stadium to let the elements in. I assume that’s why they put up wind flags.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

With Peppers’ snaps going up with it being late in the season, is there a better chance he gets into nice groove being fresher than others?

I think that was the idea behind not overworking him in the early stages of the season. It’s not a direct comparison, but last year, the Cardinals signed Dwight Freeney six games in and he became a pass-rushing force down the stretch for them.

Paul from Green Bay, WI

Insiders, in the offseason and the beginning of the regular season the comment sections were filled with the mantra that just making the playoffs is not good enough. It is the fault of McCarthy and Thompson and that changes need to be made. Now going into Week 13, the fan base would just be happy to make the playoffs. What can you attribute this change of heart to?

Reality.

Justin from Downington, PA

Mike, I think you are discrediting PSU a little bit. You say you prefer to go by what you have seen, which was OSU losing a “fluke” game and that Clemson should be punished for an overtime win over a sub-.500 team, but shouldn’t OSU also be punished for their “fluke” win over MSU? Let’s not forget PSU beat them by 33. The NCAA needs to find a way to let this all be decided on the field and currently PSU is playing the best football in the Big Ten. I would propose six conference champions and two wild-card teams. This way one loss doesn’t punish a good team, but also rewards the conference champions.

Look, if the process is going to remain as subjective as it is, then my thoughts and observations will be loaded with nuance. I don’t see the OSU-MSU and Clemson-N.C. State games as equivalent. Ohio State stopped a two-point conversion, intercepted the ball if I recall, to win. N.C. State’s kicker missed a chip shot. One was a play made at crunch time, the other was a gift. Splitting hairs? Sure, but isn’t that what we’re all doing? Some people think I’m an OSU fan based on my comments. I most assuredly am not. I was simply saying if OSU’s only loss all season is on a blocked field goal returned for a TD, the Buckeyes belong in the playoff, conference constructs be darned. In evaluating Penn St., the Nittany Lions deserve all the credit in the world for that triumph, and they are without a doubt on a roll, but in studying resumes, 49-10 can’t just go away. That’s not fair to Michigan, not by a long shot.

Regarding your 6:2 thought, everyone in the office is sick of me railing on about this. About 20-25 years ago, when the geniuses at the NCAA came up with the Bowl Alliance (which shortly thereafter became the BCS), they took the champs from the six major conferences plus two at-large teams and matched them in the four biggest bowl games. The most equitable eight-team playoff system they could have devised was staring them in the face, and they ignored it. All they had to do was seed those eight teams, call those four bowls the quarterfinals, and go. Pretty much every school had a realistic shot, with the at-large spots allowing a path to the party for a Notre Dame or Boise State or powerhouse second-place team from a major conference. Just add two weeks and three more games (two semifinals and a championship). But no. Instead, they chose to preserve bowl traditions that had long since become pasee to fan bases tired of seeing voters determine national champions. It was truly unfortunate but willful blindness on the part of everyone involved, and now we are where we are.

All that said, and again, I thank everyone for indulging me throughout my extensive college football commentary this week, I can’t wait to see Wisconsin and Penn St. tonight. It should be a whale of a Big Ten title game.


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