Pack must prove worth in prime time

Monday Night road trips haven't been particularly kind to the Packers. They've lost four out of their last five MNF away games, including last year's costly fall at Carolina. Tonight Green Bay travels to Jacksonville with post-season positioning at stake. When the 2001 season is in the books, will we look back on this one as a building block or a road block?<P>

At 7-3, the Packers have a lot to gain -- or lose. A win over a good-but-not great Jacksonville squad keeps GB one game behind the surprising Bears with the Lambeau Field showdown looming next Sunday. A loss sets the Pack back to 7-5 – two games behind Chicago with four to play – and plunges them back into the NFC crowd.

Here are keys for the Packers to prove to the MNF showcase that they are worthy of hanging with the NFC elite:

1. Go Green: It didn't take long for running back Ahman Green to go from Seattle cast-off to one of the most feared RBs in the NFL. Just as it took a while to realize that the game's best QB resides in Green Bay, it takes time to get used to having such a potent rusher in the Packer backfield. The Packers need to use Green (their leading rusher and receiver) to the hilt vs. the Jaguars. Giving Green the ball will achieve several keys for the Packer offense. They can control the tempo and give Brett Favre room to breathe. If the Jaguars have their hands full stopping Green, Favre can unleash the air attack – under one condition, which brings us to key No. 2.

2. Catch a clue: The Green Bay receiving corps must find its rhythm and responsibility tonight. Bill Schroeder, Antonio Freeman and Corey Bradford have shown flashes of brillance, but the subsequent disappearing act has hurt the offense immeasurably this season. Be there for Favre, and big things will happen.

The same goes for the young and talented tight ends. David Martin's strong start has every one talking. So does Bubba Franks' play, but for different reasons as the second-year man still hasn't shaken the drops. If the Packer TEs can get back to catching big passes over the middle, they could set up the wideouts nicely downfield and everyone's job gets easier.

3. Defense must stay tough. While losing veteran safety LeRoy Butler to a shoulder injury is a blow to the defense, the Packers know they have the physical talent to fill the gap. Now Green Bay's D must prove they have enough experience and character to make up for Butler's valuable on-field leadership.

Mike McKenzie, Tyrone Williams and Darren Sharper are young, but they're not rookies anymore. Bhawoh Jue is a rookie, but has shown so far that he embraces this golden opportunity. With the Jaguars running game in neutral after Fred Taylor's injury, the secondary should have plenty of room to work. Look for Brunell to try to go outside early and often.

Meanhwile Green Bay leads the NFL with 37 sacks, but hasn't done so with the ferocity the number implies. The Packers have to capitalize on this chance vs. an adequate but overachieving Jacksonville offensive line to make QB Mark Brunell's night absolutely miserable.

4. Intangibles: Evan at 3-7 and in the AFC Central cellar, the Jaguars are dangerous like a wounded animal – literally. This team has been riddled with injuries to key players such as Tony Bosseli and Taylor. Yet winning out in December -just like the Packers did last year - would give them a winning record. The Packers cannot let the Jaguars get pumped up on the MNF atmosphere and the adrenaline of playing for one's playoff life.

5. Favre Factor: The Atlanta loss hit Favre hard. He rallied with a solid, interception-free game vs. the Lions on Thanksgiving and his leadership never waned. With 10 days off to rest his sore back, the Packers need a classic Favre performance tonight.

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