Ravens vs. Packers is hardly must-see TV

OWINGS MILLS -- Honestly, this isn't the football game that NFL and television executives envisioned last spring while plotting their grand design.

When the Baltimore Ravens (4-9) take on the Green Bay Packers (3-10) Monday evening at M&T Bank Stadium before a nationally televised audience, there are few compelling reasons to tune in other than possibly watching future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre's final appearance on Monday Night Football. There's rampant speculation that Favre might retire.

That's how ABC is marketing this game with scant mention of an underachieving Baltimore team that won't have injured middle linebacker Ray Lewis to match Favre's star power. What if this is it for the strong-armed Mississippi country boy?

"I don't know if Brett Favre is going to retire or not -- I hope he doesn't -- but this could be his last Monday night appearance," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, hoping that the 15,000 empty seats for the team's last home game won't happen again with a large contingent of Cheeseheads expected to attend. "If I'm a fan, I'm not going to miss that game. If you have a ticket and you didn't go, you have no one to blame but yourself.

"Now, you'll lie about it. ‘Oh, I was there, oh I went, yeah, I saw Brett.' You lying dog. If I had that ticket, I'm going to be in that seat watching."

However, Packers center Mike Flanagan bluntly underscored the potential apathy about this matchup when asked if he would watch this game if he wasn't a participant.

"I play football and I don't watch Monday Night Football," Flanagan said. "Obviously, the records of these two teams aren't exactly the most appealing. I am sure the TV networks are chomping at the bit for next year when they can change times and teams.

"You would hope that Monday night games are a little more exciting just for the national attention, but it is what it is."

Beyond all the Favre overload, though, are several motivations.

Of course, there's the fact that the entire NFL community tends to watch the Monday night game.

"Everybody growing up wants to play on Monday night because they know everyone in the country is watching," receiver Derrick Mason said. "If you can't get up for Monday night, you might as well stay in the locker room.

"Yes, it's two teams that have basically underachieved. We're not where we want to be and we're feeling frustrated about the season. It makes for a good game, a very good game."

Job security in Baltimore, and other teams evaluating impending free agents is another matter altogether.

Several Baltimore starters' contracts expire in two weeks, including running backs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor, defensive end Tony Weaver, offensive tackle Tony Pashos, linebackers Bart Scott and Tommy Polley, nose guard Maake Kemoeatu and punter Dave Zastudil.

"It's Monday Night Football, that's the only thing you have to say," said linebacker Adalius Thomas, whose team is 0-2 against the NFC North with losses to Chicago and Detroit. "Monday night takes care of itself, regardless of who your opponent is, because you have a lot of guys that are going to be free agents next year and you are not only auditioning for themselves but for all the other teams."

Plus, there's the potentially tenuous status of Billick and Packers coach Mike Sherman.

Both have been deemed to be on the hot seat, although Billick is acting with the assurance of a man who seems pretty sure he'll be back even though owner Steve Bisciotti has yet to say anything publicly in keeping with his in-season media policy.

Billick has been seen joking with his players and even with reporters before press conferences. It's hardly the actions one would expect from an embattled coach unsure of his future.

Plus, FOX Sports reported Sunday that Billick and his staff were told this past week that they will be retained for next season. Struggling quarterback Kyle Boller hasn't been made any such assurances.

"There is a process, I am being evaluated along with the coaches and the players," Billick said. "And the minute the season is over, those evaluations will come into play.

"That's why I hope everybody can understand why that's not something we will address publicly until after the season. But that process for me, by me and about me is ongoing."

Playing against Favre is a major motivating factor for Scott, who's forging a hard-hitting reputation. If this is indeed Favre's final game on this stage, then Scott feels fortunate to be a part of it.

"Anytime you get a chance to play in front of your peers on Monday night, other than a playoff game, it doesn't get any bigger," Scott said. "It makes it a little bit more special to play against Brett Favre in maybe his last Monday night game ever, and try to make big plays against a wily veteran and see how you match up."
 

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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