Belated Christmas gift puts Favre and Pack in prime time

By Os Davis  |   Tuesday, December 26, 2006  |  Comments( 3 )

Green Bay Packers
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Santa Claus came to Brett Favre's place just over 24 hours late this Christmas season. At 22 minutes past midnight on Tuesday morning, the NFL commissioner's office announced a shuffle to the schedule that will place the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game on prime time, Sunday night, on The Worldwide Leader in [American] Sports.

The NFC Central contest, which may yet be rendered irrelevant to playoff brackets by game time, was rearranged thanks to the new flexible schedule in what will without question put Favre in focus. Already the laments/sighs of relief are ubiquitous, as is the interpretation everywhere in realities virtual and actual that Santa's Little Helper (a.k.a. Roger Goodell) is showcasing The Grizzled One's final performance.

After the quarterback's abysmal performance in his team's ugly but hope-nourishing 9-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Favre is doubtlessly happy for any opportunity at a gift of redemption on a national stage. And surely this sentiment is felt by NFL fans everywhere as well.

Just as in the Week 11 game against the New England Patriots with Favre injured in the second quarter, even the man's detractors felt sorry that after 15 years at the helm, Favre might be going out like that. Only a true Favre hater is hoping he goes out a la Dan Marino, who suffered through injuries while the 1999 Miami Dolphins tanked a 7-1 start to finish 9-7 and backed into the playoffs. With the same "Anything can happen with our guy as quarterback" mentality that is following Favre in December since mathematics showed the Pack still have a shot at a playoff bid, Marino's (and Jimmy Johnson's) last game in the NFL was a 62-7 spanking at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Now that the league has shifted the Sunday night focus onto Favre and the Packers, the only question remaining is what might be better for Favre in terms of personal performance. If the contest is to have no effect on the playoffs, all pressure is suddenly off and Favre will be able to play relaxed. Yes, the man is an old hand in a pressure situation, but he sure looked stiff and tense in the must-win Vikes game on Thursday. Lovie Smith has said that he will play his starters to keep them loose for the playoffs, but surely they won't go the entire 60 minutes with a playoff position well sorted for Dah Bearssss.

First things first, though, before Sunday night. That first thing is the New York Giants. Simply put, the Giants must lose in Washington. Yes, the NFL's official Web site still claims that at 8-8, the Packers could win a "strength of victory" tiebreaker with the Gothams; New York has beaten opponents of a 46-59 record at this point, whereas Green Bay's victories have come against a combined lot of 33-72.

Therefore, assuming both a Giant win and a Packer win on Sunday, by this writer's calculations, the Packers would still lose the tiebreaker under the most favorable possible conditions. If the Detroit Lions (playing at the Dallas Cowboys), Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals (playing at the San Diego Chargers), Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers (playing at the Denver Broncos) all win, the strength of victory mark for Green Bay would be 51-77. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans lose, while the Philadelphia Eagles-Atlanta Falcons game ends in a tie, this lowest-possible strength of schedule mark for the Giants would end at 51-75-2.

So let's say the Giants lose. With the tiebreakers against the Falcons, St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers mostly falling in Green Bay's favor, the pressure is fully on Favre to produce a victory. With a New York loss, all the Cheeseheads would need is a St. Louis loss at the Minnesota Vikings, a Carolina win (at the New Orleans Saints) or an Atlanta win in Philadelphia. All games will be settled before prime time Sunday.

The game, of course, will also be used by many as a barometer of Favre's willingness to return next year. Ironically, should Favre be able to play a devil-may-care style of play in a meaningless game and turn in some nice numbers against mostly second-stringers, many will be clamoring for his return. Should the Packers lose a close one in the clutch, Favre will surely be itching to return to a now-familiar set of young guys who have grown in leaps and bounds since opening day.

And if Favre does carry his boys into the playoffs? What then? Will we see a resurrected 1990s version of Favre? Or the last-year version of Dan Marino?

We'll all be watching then and we'll all be watching on Sunday, perhaps to see the final game of a legend. ESPN wants it that way, Goodell and the NFL want it that way, and you know some small part of Favre wants it that way as well.

Enjoy your belated Christmas gift, Brett Favre, and here's to hoping you go out right.

Good luck.

Insights into the prime-time Favre and the Green Bay Packers at RealFootball365.com.
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to RealFootball365.com in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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