Todd Korth, Managing Editor, PackerReport.com: McCarthy has been good at not allowing the Packers get too high or too low. There have been a few low points this season when the team was 1-4 and 4-8 when the players could have easily quit on McCarthy, but they didn't. McCarthy relates well to the players, keeps his distance as the head coach, and has been getting all he can despite the overall youth on the team.
JC: Let's go ahead and get this out of the way. Do you feel this is Brett Favre's last season in Green Bay? If not, how much could he possibly help this team next season? And if so, is Aaron Rodgers in any way, shape, or form the quarterback of the future?
TK: No, this will not be Brett Favre's last season. He loves playing the game too much. As long as the Bears defense doesn't seriously injure Favre, he will be back in 2007. During one of those aforementioned low points in the season, I felt that the Packers might try to trade Favre away to a different team next season, much like the Titans did with Steve McNair. Now, I am sure that he will return to the Packers, who make lots of money off Favre, and play another season. Aaron Rodgers is itching to play and deserves a shot to be ‘The Guy,' but he's going to have to wait another season.
JC: Ahman Green was one of the better running and receiving threats in the NFL not too long ago, and he's shown flashes of his old self from time to time this season. What is his future with the Packers, and are his periodic struggles more a product of an inexperienced offensive line?
TK: I believe the Packers will try to re-sign Green to a short-term contract this offseason. He came off a major injury (quadriceps) that cut his 2005 season short. Still, he was ready to practice by the middle of training camp and started in Week 1. He has five 100-yard games this season and still runs hard. He'll turn 30 in February, which is a red flag for NFL running backs, but he keeps himself in tip-top condition and likes it in Green Bay. He is 12 yards from 1,000 this season and 116 from breaking Jim Taylor's 40-year-old team record for career rushing yards. If Green doesn't surpass Taylor on Sunday night, he'll be able to get the record in 2007 after he re-signs.
JC: Donald Driver is an underrated receiver and was elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time this season, yet rookie Greg Jennings seems to have Green Bay fans excited about his potential. What has he done well so far, and what does he need to do in order to become an elite wideout?
TK: Driver doesn't get much respect from others around the league, but with his third straight 1,000-yard receiving season, he finally was named to the NFC squad for the first time. He went in 2002 as an alternate. Driver is having a career season, and Jennings is off to a great start for a rookie. He injured his ankle Oct. 22 against Miami and his numbers have taken a hit, but he is the best rookie receiver for the Packers since Sterling Sharpe in 1988.
JC: The Packers have had an awful lot of attrition along the offensive line the last few years. Introduce us to some of the new faces in the trenches, and what other changes do you feel need to be made before this unit can get back to being one of the best in football?
TK: The offensive line was a big concern early in the season for obvious reasons. The Packers started two rookie guards (Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz), and third-year center Scott Wells is in his first season as the regular starter. To the pleasant surprise of many, the line has done well in the new zone-blocking scheme. Veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher sustained a pulled groin Nov. 12 and missed five games. Rookie Tony Moll filled in for Tauscher, and the line struggled, but Tauscher is back. Along with veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, the line will be aiming to run more against the Bears than they did against the Vikings last week.
JC: Along with Mark Anderson of the Bears, A.J. Hawk will be on the short list of possible NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates. Tell me if you think Hawk deserves to win the award, and if so, what has he done to separate himself from Anderson and Detroit's Ernie Sims?
TK: Hawk has lived up to his billing after the Packers selected him fifth overall in last April's NFL draft. He leads the team in tackles with 115, has 3.5 sacks and an interception. More importantly, he has gotten much better at covering tight ends and running backs out of the backfield since Week 1 when Desmond Clark and others ran free around the linebackers and secondary.
JC: Charles Woodson has been labeled one of the more overrated players in football the last few seasons, but he seems to have played pretty well as a first-year Packer. Do those seven interceptions prove he is still a top corner in this league, or are his best years behind him already?
TK: Woodson started the year slow, but he has come on strong, played through a nagging shoulder injury and has shown that he is still a top cornerback in the NFL. His seven interceptions is a career high, and he can thank Al Harris, who covers the opponents' top receiver each week. Woodson and Harris also are a reason why Aaron Kampman has a career-high 15.5 sacks this season. A lot of Kampman's sacks are because of the drum-tight coverage by Woodson and Harris.
JC: Not a lot of casual NFL fans around the country know the name Aaron Kampman, but he just got elected to his first Pro Bowl. Those 15.5 sacks are pretty impressive, but what has he done to get better this year and become a more well-rounded player than Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila?
TK: Kampman focused on losing some weight over the offseason, and that has made a big difference. He played in the low 280-pound range in recent seasons. He said last week that he weighs in the 260-range. With less weight, Kampman has been able to use his newfound speed along with excellent technique and mechanics to consistently sack opposing quarterbacks.
JC: Tell me more about Green Bay's special teams. I know that Woodson and Vernand Morency have been average at best returning punts and kickoffs, respectively, but what about the coverage teams and specialists? Has Dave Rayner done anything to secure his job?
TK: Rayner kicked his first game-winning field goal with less than two minutes remaining last Thursday to lift the Packers past the Vikings. He is in his first season as the main kicker and second season overall. Green Bay has struggled covering kickoffs and punt returns at times this season. The Packers, no doubt, will do their best to limit Devin Hester, who returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown against them in Week 1. Woodson has been reliable at returning punts but far from spectacular. Still, McCarthy probably sleeps better at night knowing that the chance of Woodson dropping a punt or fumbling it away on a return are slim. Morency has been OK at returning kickoffs, but that's about it. The Packers drafted Cory Rodgers from TCU in the fourth round last April to return punts and kickoffs, but Rodgers proved in training camp that he can't field the ball consistently and was cut. The Packers also drafted cornerback Will Blackmon to compete with Rodgers in camp, but Rodgers has been bothered by a broken bone in his foot and missed most of this season. He is currently on injured reserve.
JC: There are rumors floating around that the Bears will give this game away in order to help the Packers make the playoffs because they pose no real threat. But if Green Bay does somehow make the NFC tournament, do they have any chance of pulling an upset or two?
TK: Who knows? In the crazy NFC, anything can happen. Hey, Pittsburgh was the sixth seed last year in the AFC and ran the table. The Packers are nowhere near as good as the Steelers were last year. If the Packers get past the Bears, I would expect them to lose to whomever they play in the first round – probably Philadelphia or Dallas. The Packers have yet to beat a team this season with a winning record.