Early-season adversity threw the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans for a loss.
Both teams enter Sunday's matchup at Lambeau Field with 5-7 records. Only the Packers, by good fortune of playing in the NFC North, have a shot at the playoffs.
For Green Bay, the defining moment of the season began before the first pass was thrown in training camp, when Brett Favre announced he wanted to return as the starting quarterback. A few days later, Favre was sent to the New York Jets, but the distraction — while diminished at times — has lingered all season. It's impossible to know if the controversy has had any impact on this season — and if it has, it's impossible to say if it's played a role in the team's record.
"The quarterback position is very important. There is no question about that," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week when asked if having Favre would have made a difference in the team's 1-4 record in games decided by a touchdown or less.
"Every game is different. There are different factors. We talk about different factors in here every week. We talk about explosive gains. We talk about turnovers, and we've had five turnovers in the last two weeks. Those all factor in. I don't recall being in three-point games and having minus-200 yards field position, either. I just think it's convenient criticism if you want to just blanket it that, and those are the facts. I think you have to look at all of the elements that have happened throughout the course of a game. Our quarterback position I think has played at a very high level this year. I don't think it's an issue at all."
While the Favre saga took Green Bay storm, Houston was ravaged by an actual storm, Hurricane Ike, on Sept. 8.
"It was difficult, because we didn't know if we were playing that one week, and then that game got canceled," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We opened with three games on the road, which was very difficult. Probably the toughest thing about the whole situation was, life goes on, we had games to prepare for, but guys had problems at home. We went nearly a month with a great deal of our football team without electricity. When your wife's sitting at home and your family's sitting at home in the dark and no cool air in Houston in the month of September, that puts a stress on your family while you're trying to do your job."
The Texans started the season 0-4. On top of that, the NFL was forced to shuffle Houston's schedule. Instead of a Week 2 home game against Baltimore and a well-placed bye in Week 8, the Texans were given their bye in Week 2. Because that Ravens game was the only home game in the first month of the season, Houston didn't play its home opener until Oct. 5 against Indianapolis.
"Probably the overall impact, the toughest thing this season, has been going through an NFL season without a bye week," Kubiak said, alluding to the NFL's schedule revision coming out on the Saturday before the game.
"Because of what happened, we'll end up going 20 straight weeks of playing without a break," Kubiak continued. "I think every team looks forward to that week when they take a break and get some guys healthy and get your frame of mind back right. So, that's something that we're lacking."
Not that the Texans are using Ike as an excuse, but it's easy to see how players can be distracted or preoccupied.
"My mother's roof pretty much collapsed and I had some minor damage at my house," star defensive end Mario Williams said. "It's something we were faced with and something you've got to deal with."
Add it together, and Sunday's game will be between teams who are unhappy with how their seasons have developed but are looking forward to finishing strong in December.
"We're disappointed with where we're at, too," Kubiak said. "We felt like we raised expectations around here last year. We made some good progress. Got a very young group. We came into this season very excited about our opportunity. We got off to a very rough start on the road and also had some Mother Nature issues to deal with, so we buried ourselves in a hole at 0-4, but we've battled and are trying to find our way out of it."
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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