Reflections, playoff thoughts and predictions

Improved Favre has big numbers in '07; what's the deal with Bigby? Why McCarthy deserved coaching honor

4 the record
Brett Favre has given the Green Bay Packers and their fans quite a ride in his 16-year career as the Pack's signal caller. This year, he really topped it off.

With improved focus from head coach Mike McCarthy, Favre has obviously improved. His completion percentage of 66.5 was the best of his career. His seven 300-yard passing games tied a career high, and his 4,155 passing yards (third-best of his career), 95.7 passer rating (third), 15 interceptions (tied for third) and 356 completions (fourth) were among the best marks of his 17-year career.

Add to that, all of the all-time passing records that fell and now belong to Favre. Favre now has 160 wins as a starting QB, which is now the best all-time mark, 12 games better John Elway's 148. 160 wins over 16 seasons. Think about that for a minute. That means the Packers have averaged double-digit win totals per season while Favre was behind center.

Favre also added to his unbelievable consecutive game started streak by starting all 16 games in 2007 and adding to his astronomical amount of 253 games started consecutively. That's now 273 games if you include the playoffs. Favre started his streak while George Bush was President, the FIRST George Bush. That's George H.W. Bush, not George W. Bush. That was late September, 1992. Paul Molitor and Robin Yount still played for the Brewers then. Unbelievable.

Favre also now has the all-time TD pass record (442) that used to belong to Dan Marino (420). Favre also now is the all-time passing yardage leader as he now has thrown for 61,655 yards in his career, which topped Marino again, who threw for 61,361. Favre is also the all-time leading passer in attempts (8,758) and completions (5,377). Favre actually set the completion record last year, before adding to it this year. Favre has also become the all-time leader in interceptions with 288.

But 2007 brought Favre back to the plateau that Favre conquered in the mid-90's, when he was winning his MVPs. The QB rating was outstanding. The completion percentage was his all-time best. His decision-making was excellent for the most part. Those things will hopefully carry over to the playoffs, where Favre was once 9-3 in his career, but because of a 2-6 slide since then, Favre is 11-9 now in playoff starts.

In the Packers two playoff wins in the Mike Sherman era, Favre posted QB ratings of over 100 against the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. In three losses to the St. Louis Rams, Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings, Favre posted ratings in the mid 50's. It's obvious that Favre has to be on his game for the Packers to win in the playoffs. Based on the track record this year under McCarthy, I expect Favre's performance in the playoffs to be very solid.

What was he thinking?
The Packers began practicing Friday after giving the players four days off for rest and relaxation. Only the injured had to stay in Green Bay and get treatment. Everyone got back in time for practice, except one player - S Atari Bigby.

Coach Mike McCarthy had given the players an extra day off to make sure there wouldn't be travel issues. But Bigby still couldn't make it in time. and now is subject to fines by the team. Maybe the news he got in South Florida on Thursday delayed him. Bigby was named NFC defensive player of the month in December by the NFL.

Either way, although Bigby has played solidly overall in 2007, the season has had it's ups and downs for Bigby. Plus, there is pretty good talent at the safety position. Rookie Aaron Rouse has played very well when given the opportunity and Nick Collins also seems to have played better as the season has wore on.

Bigby better not get too comfortable as a starter, not when you are late for practice. A practice that will be the first practice in a playoff run. I certainly hope McCarthy fined Bigby the maximum amount he can be fined, and Bigby better be more respectful of his fellow players and coaches. In fact, I bet Bigby has already gotten a verbal message from veterans Al Harris and Charles Woodson.

McCarthy deserved coach of the year honors
When it was announced that Bill Belichick had won the NFL head coach of the year this week, I wasn't surprised. The New England Patriots have gone 16-0 in the 2007 season, a GREAT accomplishment. Plus, a lot of the writers that vote on such matters reside on the East Coast. But the Patriots were EXPECTED to make a Super Bowl run.

I think most expected at least 12 to 13 wins this year in New England. The Pats also added Randy Moss. Plus, there was Spygate. Belichick was fined $500,000 by Commissioner Roger Goodall for filming opposing coaches signals after the first game of the 2007 season. How long Belichick had used that practice is speculative.

But Mike McCarthy had inherited a 4-12 football team in 2006. The team went 8-8 in his rookie season as head coach of the Packers. In 2007, most "experts" had the Packers maybe matching their win total from last year, or maybe getting 9 wins. Most said the NFC Champion Chicago Bears would repeat as NFC North champs.

Well, McCarthy proved the "experts" all wrong by leading the Packers to a 13-3 record and the NFC North title. Plus, the Packers are the number two seed in the NFC playoffs. McCarthy also coaches the youngest team in the NFL and he has helped Favre become the player he once was in terms of decision making. Yes, McCarthy did finish second to Belichick. But he should have been first, as the Packers had MUCH less to play with than the Patriots.

Wild card round predictions
Washington 23, Seattle 20
Jacksonville 24, Pittsburgh 20
NY Giants 20, Tampa Bay 17
San Diego 27, Tennessee 13

As you can see, I am predicting three road wins in the wild card round. Based on this scenario, I believe the Redskins will advance to Dallas, while I think the Giants will move on to Green Bay.

I think the Giants-Bucs game will be a great game, and I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Bucs in Green Bay next weekend. I see a field goal winning it, one way or the other. The Bucs defense is exceptional, and could cause QB Eli Manning some issues, so expect a heavy dose of RB Brandon Jacobs running the ball. If the Bucs defense has a weakness, it's defending the run game, especially against big backs like Jacobs.

QB Jeff Garcia of the Bucs is 2-0 against the Giants in the playoffs. Either way, it should be a great game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

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