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Favre: This team can be better than '96

The Packers may still be a game behind the Bears, but from Brett Favre's vantage point, the 2001 Green Bay Packers are a championship-caliber team. They just don't know it yet.<p> "The years we went to the Super Bowl, we had an air about us when we walked out onto the field," Favre said. "We knew we were going to the Super Bowl. This team is capable of being better than those teams. I just don't think a lot of the guys realize it yet."<p>

"I've been on some very good offensive teams, but none as good as this one can be," Favre said. "The offensive line, if it stays healthy can be as good as any in the league. By far as athletic as any in the league. We have two great running backs, Seems like we have it all but we still haven't meshed together yet. But we're close. We're real close."

At 7-3, the Packers sit a game back in their own division, yet just one game away from the best record in the NFL. Is that a reflection of a great season for a young team still finding its identity under Mike Sherman? Or will it end up on the scrap-pile of "what-if" seasons like last year's close-but-no-cigar campaign?

"I think 7-3 is a nice record, we're not displeased with it; some guys may be overjoyed with it," Favre said. I look at it a couple of ways. We're a game out of the best record in football, which is a positive thing, but we can be so much better. That's not negative, that's positive.

"When you look at the 7 games we won, there were flashes of brillance in some of those games," he said. "If we can get close to a game like Baltimore, or Detroit the first game or Chicago in Chicago, we're so close to being perfect in those games, it shows you we are capable of being very good. All three phases are not playing well at the same time. When we do play well at the same time, we have a game like Baltimore, and a couple of the other games. We're playing better on the road than we did those two years we went to the Super Bowl. We're showing flashes of being good, but showing flashes and being good are two different things."

The team's three losses were especially costly – all in the NFC, two within the division and even one at Lambeau. That may come back to sting the Packers come playoff time; while they can take care of head-to-head tie-breaker with the Bears on Dec. 9 at Lambeau, Green Bay may find itself at a disadvantage in other log jams which will be decided by conference record.

Looking back, Favre knows the Packers could practically be perfect right now.

"All the things we were lacking last year, it seems like we have, but we're still not quite there," Favre said. "I don't know if it's being young in areas, not quite believing how good we can be. " The numbers look good. Green Bay's offense ranks third in the NFC with 351.2 yards per game. Individual offensive stats are impressive across the board. Favre ranks second in passing with 2,530 yards. Running back Ahman Green sits atop the NFC with 938 yards. Bill Schroeder ranks among the top five receivers with 6 TD receptions.

On the defensive side, Green Bay boasts the NFC's No. 2 defense. That's way ahead of No. 8 Chicago whose defense has been repeatedly compared with the '85 championship team. one of a handful allowing under 100 rushing yards per game. The Packer D has forced 25 fumbles, and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is second in the league in sacks with 11, behind the Giants' Michael Strahan.

According to Favre – who should know – if the Packers can back up their physical talent with a psychological edge, they can count on a return trip to New Orleans.

"You have to go out on the field and be up 7-nothing just by who you are. I don't think we have that. It's obvious when Atlanta comes in here and beats us. There was a time when I was never worried about playing here at home. We were going to win it. II still feel that way but I don't know if everyone else does. That should be a no-brainer.

"Guys have to believe that we are great. You have to practice that way," Favre said. "It's an individual thing – guys have to go home, look in the mirror, look at their playbook and say "I don't care who we play. I don't care what defense we play, I don't care what style of defense we play." "You have to have that air about you," Favre said. "I think we'll get it."

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