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Favre tries to snap spell

Pigskin Pick 'Em

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007

Records are meant to be broken.

Just ask Brett Favre.

At 38-years young, the veteran continues to break every mark within reach.

He became the all-time career leader for touchdown passes earlier this season when he surpassed Dan Marino's record of 420.

That very same game, he eclipsed Marino's mark for most career pass attempts with 8,394.

And then in last week's Thanksgiving day victory over Detroit, Favre set a new Green Bay standard when he completed 20 consecutive passes in leading the Packers to a 10-1 mark for the first time since 1962.

Now, when Green Bay takes on the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys today in a possible preview of the NFC Championship game, a contest fewer than 40 percent of American households will see as it's being aired exclusively on the NFL Network, which is another story all together, Favre has the tall task of breaking perhaps his most dubious mark, an 0-8 record at Texas Stadium.

On the short end of a total of six regular season and postseason matchups from 1993-95, he dropped a regular-season game in 1996, when, coincidentally, the Packers went on to win their first Super Bowl since the late 1960s, and then one more tilt in 1999.

"Troy (Aikman) and I talk about that every time he does one of our games," Favre said. "Most of the times we lost down there it was in the playoffs. Good thing was, they went on to win the Super Bowl in all those. We hope that that's different this year. I know they're playing as well as they were back then."

But so are the Packers.

Despite featuring the worst rushing attack in the NFL, amassing a pedestrian 81.8 yards a game, Favre and Co. have now won 14 of their last 15 games, including six straight, while exceeding any expectations even the most optimistic Green Bay fan could have held at the start of the season.

Coming off a 4-12 year in 2005 and an 8-8 campaign last season, Favre contemplating retirement following both, another .500 season this year was within reach, but a playoff berth was a long shot.

With Favre playing like he's 30 years old again, having thrown for 3,356 yards, 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, owning the highest passer rating (101.5) of his illustrious career, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is certainly on the line and could be determined by how well Dallas' secondary can contain Favre's constantly-improving stable of receivers.

Donald Driver (two TDs), the hard-nosed go-to-guy for the last few years, is still making clutch grabs, but it's the play of Favre's other weapons, Greg Jennings (nine TDs), James Jones (two TDs), Ruvell Martin (three TDs), Koren Robinson and tight end Donald Lee (four TDs), that could cause mayhem for the Cowboys as Green Bay consistently lines up five-wide.

The recent success of rookie running back Ryan Grant, who's averaging 93.4 yards over the last five games, has taken some of the pressure off of Favre and the passing game, too.

Like he needs it, though.

Emulating him on the other side of the ball is fresh-faced Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo, a Wisconsin native who grew up a Packers' fan and has tied the Cowboys' franchise mark with 29 touchdowns this season while also throwing for 3,043 yards.

The comparisons between the two have been debated ad nauseam, even though Romo has started a mere 21 games, compared to Favre's superhuman streak of 268 in a row.

Favre even sees a little of himself in the 27-year old kid.

"To a certain degree, his rise to where he is now is some ways like mine: a virtually unknown and all of a sudden has success," Favre said. "You go, 'Who is this guy? What is he about? Where is he from? What is he like?' Last year it was like, 'Flash in the pan, or can he keep it up?' I think he has proven that the guy is legit."

For the time being, he certainly has. Though, having Terrell Owens to throw to probably helps a little.

The two have already connected 64 times for 13 touchdowns this season, and not an utterance of frustration has emerged from the normally outspoken wide receiver as the Cowboys, who lead the all-time series 14-12 and are favored by a touchdown, are off to their best start ever.

But while the Dallas secondary will have to contend with Favre and his talented receivers, Romo and his offensive line will be tested by the Packers' gritty and surprising defense.

With defensive end Aaron Kampman leading the league with 11 sacks and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila tied for fourth with 9 1/2, the Packers boast the most-feared pass-rushing duo in the NFL while also owning the 12th best defense.

No matter, though.

The story line, and even the game, will always revert to Favre and Romo.

Openly admitting that he rooted for John Elway in the 1998 Super Bowl when the Broncos defeated Favre's Packers, Romo wasn't about to fool himself regarding his hometown's allegiances.

"Anytime I go back home or talk to people back home, they're real supportive and it's a neat thing to see, just that Packer country can somewhat care about the Cowboys a little bit," he said earlier this week. "But I'm not kidding myself. I think I know where their loyalties lie."

Speaking of loyalties, the three-time MVP will, no doubt, sort through similar feelings of calling it quits again after this, his 17th season.

Whether or not the Packers advance to the Super Bowl, as the playoffs, at this point, are nearly a foregone conclusion, could go a long way in Favre's decision process.

A victory at Texas Stadium, however, would be a sweet start toward saying goodbye.

PACKERS, 31-28.

Atlanta (plus 4) at St. Louis

One of the worst games of the season. RAMS, 27-10.

Buffalo (plus 5 1/2) at Washington

Both teams have suffered unimaginable heartbreak this season, most recently with the untimely death of Redskins safety Sean Taylor. Football means nothing. REDSKINS, 31-25.

Detroit (plus 3 1/2) at Minnesota

Adrian Peterson returns. Unfortunately, so do the Lions of old. VIKINGS, 35-24.

Houston (plus 3 1/2) at Tennessee

Houston rallied in first meeting, scoring 29 fourth-quarter points but lost on the strength of an NFL-record eight field goals by Rob Bironas. The way the Titans are playing, they'll need nine this time. TITANS, 27-24.

Jacksonville (plus 7) at Indianapolis

A bye in the playoffs is on the line. JAGUARS, 28-27.

N.Y. Jets (plus 1 1/2) at Miami

The 1976 Buccaneers can finally crack the champaign! They're still officially the only professional sports team in history to complete a winless season. DOLPHINS, 13-10.

San Diego (minus 5 1/2) at Kansas City

Chiefs scored 24 unanswered points to win first meeting. Chargers do it this time. CHARGERS, 24-0.

Seattle (plus 3) at Philadelphia

If A.J. Feeley can succeed against New England, he probably can against Seattle, too. EAGLES, 35-29.

San Francisco (plus 3) at Carolina

Trent Dilfer versus Vinny Testaverde. Who injures their hip first? 49ERS, 17-10.

Cleveland (plus 1) at Arizona

At 7-4, the Browns are underdogs? They're playing the Cardinals, people. Not the Patriots. BROWNS, 41-27.

Denver (minus 3 1/2) at Oakland

Doesn't matter who's running against the Raiders. Anybody could rack up 100 yards. BRONCOS, 33-24.

Tampa Bay (plus 3) at New Orleans

Saints inch closer in the NFC South. SAINTS, 33-24.

New York Giants (minus 1 1/2) at Chicago

Not the defense Eli Manning wants to face, even if they aren't at the top of their game. BEARS, 24-20.

Cincinnati (plus 7) at Pittsburgh

Cincy's not out of it just yet. BENGALS, 24-21.

Monday

New England (minus 20 1/2) at Baltimore

Another astronomical spread. Doesn't matter. Pats keep rolling. PATRIOTS, 38-21.

LAST WEEK: 9-7 (spread); 11-5 (straight up)

SEASON: 95-69-11 (spread); 111-65 (straight up)

Matthew Carroll can be reached at at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.



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