So, on this first weekend of December, we will get the first real evidence of whether the Green Bay Packers made the right direction at quarterback.
Will Aaron Rodgers play well enough to salvage something out of what has been a disappointing season for the team? Or, with the pressure rising and the temperature dipping, will he fall on his face?
Meanwhile, half a country away, Brett Favre will be flinging the ball for the New York Jets. Will the Jets, 8-4 and in first place in the AFC East, continue their surprising season? Or, with the pressure rising and the temperature dipping, will Favre do what he did in a few postseasons in Green Bay: self-destruct?
Because, make no mistake about this: When the Packers made the controversial decision to part ways with the iconic Favre early in training camp, cold weather and playoff misfortunes were primary reasons.
Favre's record in cold weather is the stuff of legend. Or, perhaps more accurately, was the stuff of legend.
His career record in games with a temperature of 34 degrees or less at kickoff is a ridiculous 43-6.
But lately, Favre's cold-weather brilliance has melted away. After starting his career 35-0 in 34-or-under games, Favre is just 8-6 in his last 14 such cold-weather games. And that does not include last week's home loss to Denver. With it 36 degrees at kickoff, Favre's passer rating was 60.9 and he failed to throw a touchdown pass in a 34-17 setback.
Among his recent cold-weather failings were in the 2002 playoffs against Atlanta, when the Packers' 13-0 all-time home playoff dominance came to a stunning end. Then there was last year, when he was outplayed by Kyle Orton in blustery Chicago and then struggled miserably in the second half and overtime of the NFC title game loss to the New York Giants.
In his last three Decembers, when seasons are won and lost, Favre's passer rating is just 63.5, with 11 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
"I thought I played pretty well in the championship game last year," the 39-year-old Favre told reporters in New York this week. "I threw an interception to end the game. ... Everyone said all of a sudden, ‘Brett can't play in bad conditions anymore.' The week before, I played one of my better games in a blizzard (glittering 137.6 passer rating, three touchdowns, no interceptions against Seattle). No one was saying anything about it then."
All of which begged the questions: Can Favre not handle the cold, which is a necessity in Green Bay? Has Favre, who has had to work so hard to stay on top of his game as he's gotten older, worn down mentally and physically late in seasons?
Favre, not surprisingly, dismissed both notions, even though he cited burnout during his retirement news conference.
"At some point, I've got to fall apart," he said this week. "I'm not going to lie to you. It's like any car. You drive it long enough, it's going to fall apart. At some point, I'm going to fall apart. But right now, I'm still together. I don't know what else to tell you."
Meanwhile, Rodgers has slightly better numbers this season than Favre, but the Packers are 5-7 and on the brink of elimination while the Jets seem slated to, at the very least, host a playoff game.
If the Packers severed ties with Favre because of the icon's subpar performances in cold weather and in the playoffs, that means its incumbent upon Rodgers to succeed where Favre failed. And that starts Sunday, when it's supposed to reach a nippy 17 degrees at Lambeau.
In a way, the first 12 games of the season mean little when it comes to breaking down the Packers' decision at quarterback. Should Rodgers rise while Favre fall this month, the Packers' braintrust will earn some vindication. And if it's the other way around? You can only imagine the fallout.
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The heat is on Packers, Rodgers, Favre
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