Sunday, September 26, 1999

Bye Week Comes Just in Time

When I saw the schedule this spring, the thing that I was most unhappy about was the early bye. Who needs a bye in week 4? Certainly it would be a lot better to have a bye week in the middle of the season, or maybe around 2/3 of the way through the year.

I'll tell you who needs a bye week. I do. And so do a lot of other Packer fans. Not since the 1989 "Majik Man" year have the Packers managed to make every game come down to the final two minutes. It is exhausting just to watch Packer games this year, and all of us fans need some time to rest up for the next game.

I have a feeling that the Packers could use the rest, too. Favre's thumb did not seem to bother him today (in the Vikings game), but I am sure that some time without getting sacked or abused would be welcome. And this business of bringing back the team at the end on your shoulders is obviously wearing on Favre emotionally and physically as well, as evidenced by his reactions after the Raider and Vikings games.

So the Packers are 2-1 at the bye, and tied for first place in the NFC Central. But for Brett Favre, they would probably be 0-3 and starting to think about next year. There is some good and some bad in this, very clearly. The good part is that we are witnessing the play of one of the all time great quarterbacks. There is no doubt about it. He is a very special player, who wants to win as much as we want him to win, and who has the talent to be able to make that happen even in situations where they probably ought to lose the games.

The bad part is that it looks like this team is going to have us on an emotional roller coaster all year long. Or are they? The defense is still adjusting to a lot of new starters, and to a new defensive coordinator, and other assistant coaches. Yet they are playing, already, much better than last year, and it is obvious that this year's "Anti-Moss" draft was a success. The new players held Moss to 2 catches, less than 20 yards, and what could have been the game-winning TD. I think that there is reason to hope that the defense is just going to get better and better as the year goes on.

What about the offense? Other than the 4th quarter comebacks, they have not really been that sharp. But they have some things to get used to as well. A new play-caller in Sherman Lewis. The absence of Robert Brooks. And now, sadly, the absence of Mark Chmura for the year and, I'm afraid, probably for his career. If the offense can continue to improve, this whole team might just be a juggernaut by late in the season. At the very least, they ought to be one of the contenders in the NFC. The Vikings are not what they were last year, and the Falcons are all but eliminated from playoff contention given their injury problems. The 49ers are, after an incredible run, done in my view. Despite the Cowboys' 2-0 record, there is no team in the NFC East that seems like a really good team, and in the NFC Central, I refuse to believe that the Lions are for real. So the Packers will be there in the end. With improvement and some good breaks, they ought to be in contention for home field advantage in the playoffs.

Have a great week off!

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