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PETER KING
October 08, 2007
Brett Favre was expected to break Dan Marino's career touchdown mark this year—but not while leading the unbeaten Packers to first place in the NFC North. He'll need help to keep them there
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October 08, 2007

Top Of The Charts

Brett Favre was expected to break Dan Marino's career touchdown mark this year—but not while leading the unbeaten Packers to first place in the NFC North. He'll need help to keep them there

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IT'S ALL SO unexpected—Green Bay undefeated and leading the NFC North, the team's eight-game winning streak dating to Dec. 10, and Favre, who'll be 38 on Oct. 10, turning back the clock in his 17th NFL season. Or is it? Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, given how he rededicated himself to the job after announcing last February that he was not ready to retire. For four months at home in Mississippi during the off-season Favre had a live-in personal trainer, and he arrived at camp as flexible and fit as he'd been at any point in his career. Because Favre, who stopped drinking in 1999, lives a workaday life in Green Bay during the season—"He just doesn't go out, at all, anymore," Deanna says—the game occupies more of his time than ever.

Each Monday he has the Packers' video staff load his laptop with the previous four games of the upcoming opponent. On Tuesday, the players' day off, Favre goes to the offices at Lambeau Field for four hours, to get a head start on the game plan—and to plant a few seeds in coach Mike McCarthy's head. "He'll give me all kinds of ideas and plays, and I'll have to say no, no, no," says McCarthy. "But there's a few every week I really like. I don't want to speak for him, but I think he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. He wants to make sure he leaves nothing to chance. In the last few weeks, all anyone's talked about is the record. Not with him. The big thing with him is January football. You look in his eyes, and you can see the wars he's been through, trying to get to more January football. It's all he cares about right now."

McCarthy has asked him to take fewer chances, and Favre has been happy to oblige. He's thrown only two interceptions this season, after tossing a league-high 47 over the previous two years, and he's completing 65.9% of his attempts, the highest rate of his career. What's more, he remains a compelling figure to anyone who loves the game. "He's still our Michael Jordan," Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard said on Sunday night. "When your game is over on Sunday, you hope you can go home and catch the end of the Packers game, so you can watch Brett."

Green Bay's defense appears to be good enough to help get the team into January, thanks to the pressure brought by ends Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. But the offense will have to do something about its league-worst running game. ("Nonexistent," Favre called it on Sunday.) An astounding 84.2% of the Packers' total yards in 2007 have come through the air. And now, with four games' worth of Green Bay video to watch, opposing defensive coordinators will be figuring out ways to clog Favre's short passing lanes, something the Vikings failed to do in allowing him to throw for 344 yards and, in the fourth quarter, his 422nd TD pass.

For now Favre is the feel-good story of the NFL season. He knows it. As he walked off the field on Sunday, wading through the photographers and minicams and hangers-on, he looked up and waved to the fans, an unabashedly adoring crowd in a stadium that has not been friendly to him over the years. Then, struggling to be heard over the din, he said, "I guess I can still do it." So we see.

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