NFC North weekend mailbag

First, a note about our semi-neglected Facebook page. I got a bit behind in recent weeks and, being as popular as I am, encountered a mountain of unopened messages, unanswered questions and, of course, friend requests. I’m doing my best to plow through them and will make it a point of emphasis as the offseason begins. You’ll find a Facebook submission in this mailbag, and we’ll continue that practice moving forward.

It looks like many of you have been carrying on some decent conversation there without me. Want to participate? Click here. You can also follow me on Twitter or send comments and subscription cancellations directly to the mailbag.

OK, on with it.

Nick of Madison, Wis., writes: Just to be fair, in your piece related to who's the best player in the NFC North this season, could you include Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers rushing yards and touchdowns? It may be insignificant for Favre, but Rodgers has a decent amount of them and it made him statistically the best starting quarterback in many fantasy leagues.

Kevin Seifert: I have to admit Rodgers’ rushing totals this season snuck up on me. Through 15 games, he has 314 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Both numbers lead all NFL quarterbacks. (Favre has “scrambled” only eight times and has five net yards.)

There are two moving parts for mobility for NFL quarterbacks. One is the athletic ability to get upfield, either through speed or moves, when defenses afford the opportunity. The other is a more subtle ability to slide or step away from pass rushers while maintaing pocket integrity. I would say Rodgers is further along in the former than the latter.

The biggest impact for the Packers offense is that Rodgers has been able to cash in when defenders chase their receivers deep downfield. Most quarterbacks either don’t have the inclination or the skills to cover ground in the open field. Rodgers has both, and it’s part of the package that makes him the NFL’s most promising young quarterback.

On a related note, I was surprised this week when Rodgers’ election to the Pro Bowl was followed by calls for fans finally to embrace him. I wasn’t aware there was still much of a backlash, but coach Mike McCarthy came forth with a strong endorsement Wednesday.

“Aaron Rodgers is a Pro Bowl quarterback, and that's the facts,” McCarthy said. “Trust me, I fully understand the greatness of Brett Favre, and I had the opportunity to be part of his career, and he deserves everything that comes his way.

“But this is the beginning of potentially another great career at quarterback here in Green Bay, and [fans] should embrace it. That would be my suggestion, if there is any doubt. He's putting up Pro Bowl numbers in both of his seasons. It does come down to winning, winning is important, but he's put together two quality seasons so far.”

I wouldn’t disagree with any part of that sentiment. Are there really many people who would?

Eric of Hugo, Minn., writes: Can we now at least all agree that the ‘96 Packers were much better than this Vikings team ever was? I always thought that argument was premature and now it seems almost ridiculous. Unless the Vikes somehow get it together and win the Super Bowl, which seems unlikely as of late, it just shows how quick people are at making premature statements without waiting for the results.

Kevin Seifert: Boo, Eric! Being responsible, level-headed and careful with the facts is no fun and has no place on this blog.

Seriously, you’re right: It doesn’t look good right now for those who thought the 2009 Vikings would be better. But I will say this: If it was premature to start that discussion in October, then it’s a little early to end it now. I have no special insight suggesting Minnesota will make a deep playoff run. But I will be sure to add this thread to my list of arguments to circle back on this postseason.

Via Facebook, Bill writes: Face it, the Bears seriously need to bring in Jeremy Bates. His playbook helped Cutler become the Pro Bowl quarterback he should still be. Second, the Bears need to call Mike Shanahan and lure him away from Dan Snyder. So far, the Bears orginazation has done nothing for Cutler.

Kevin Seifert: We’ll start with the second portion of your comment, Bill. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last Sunday that Shanahan is not interested in coaching the Bears. It appears to be a done deal that he’ll be Washington’s coach, and it’s always been hard to imagine the Bears paying the top dollar ($8 million-$10 million annually) that Shanahan is likely to command.

But the Bates angle is interesting. He is said to have grown close with Cutler during three years on the Broncos’ staff. He’s currently the offensive coordinator at Southern California, but I’m sure he would like to return to the NFL.

So here’s one scenario to consider: What if the Bears fired Lovie Smith and replaced him with Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, another former Broncos assistant? Heimerdinger could bring Bates as his offensive coordinator. I have no inside knowledge that of a Heimerdinger-Bates-Cutler reunion, but it’s certainly worth chatting about.

Barb of Waukesha, Wis., writes: Is there any chance we could have a playoff game here in Green Bay?

Kevin Seifert: It is possible, but it wouldn’t happen until the championship round.

First, the Packers would have to be the No. 5 seed. Then, they would have to win their first two playoff games on the road. So would the No. 6 seed, whichever team that ends up being. If that happens, the Packers would host the No. 6 seed in the NFC Championhip Game.

Joe of Paterson, N.J., writes: It is painfully obvious to most Viking fans that this team needs to fall in line with the rest of the NFL powers and be a pass-first offense. We have too many holes on defense and teams have figured out how to block [Jared] Allen. If [Brad] Childress doesn't see that this offense must revolve around #4 then we will be making an early exit this season and it will be a shame that we left any of the bullets in graybeard’s rifle.

Kevin Seifert: I’m not sure I’m totally on board with that, Joe. I think it depends on the opponent. Against the Bears, it made perfect sense to open the game passing. That’s what the Vikings did in the first matchup, winning easily. In the Monday night rematch, they didn’t open it up until the second half. You saw the results there.

But there have been some opponents, especially those with defenses more physical than the Bears’, who have been able to slow down the Vikings’ passing game pretty solidly. Arizona and Carolina come to mind. I think it made sense to come out running in those games to try to slow down the aggressive defense linemen on those teams.

One thing we could all probably agree on is the Vikings were slow to adjust Monday night against the Bears. They probably forced their running game for too long before turning to the pass. It was 16-0 by that point, and more than anything, the Vikings were in catch-up mode.