Though he hasn’t decided about retirement and probably won’t until the season is over, Brett Favre could be playing his final game at Lambeau Field on Thursday night. Tarvaris Jackson hopes it’s the first of many for him.
With both teams clinging to slim playoff hopes, Favre and the Green Bay Packers host Jackson and the Minnesota Vikings in an NFC North matchup of 6-8 teams likely needing to win out to have any shot at the postseason.
Favre felt his team had little hope after the way it played on Sunday in a 17-9 home win over Detroit. The Packers had four turnovers, including three interceptions by Favre.
“We’ll take it. But for us to be thinking playoffs, and I heard that there has been playoff talk, we’ve got a long ways to go,” he said. “I’m pleased that we won the game, but if we think we can get into the playoffs playing like that …”
Minnesota will give Jackson his first NFL start on Thursday, turning the season over to the untested quarterback from Division I-AA Alabama State after a series of inconsistent performances from Brad Johnson.
“I have high expectations for him,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “He’s prepared. He’s ready to go.”
Jackson had remained loyal to Johnson, who served as his mentor, but after the 38-year-old veteran was booed off the field during Sunday’s 26-13 loss to the New York Jets, it appeared Jackson was ready for the challenge of starting.
“Of course,” Jackson said on Sunday. “It’d be fun to go into Lambeau. I’ve never even been there. I always watch guys play there, so it’d be fun.”
There’s been no need for a change over the past 15 years in Green Bay, where Favre has enjoyed an illustrious career that will land him a spot in the Hall of Fame. While the last few seasons have been difficult for Favre, he’s thrown for 413 touchdown passes in his career, seven behind Dan Marino for first all-time, and ranks second with 56,930 career passing yards.
Favre has made a quarterback-record 255 consecutive starts, and he’s been at his best at home, going 88-29 at Lambeau Field. Green Bay is 40-5 under Favre at home when the game-time temperature is below 35 degrees—temperatures are expected to be in the 30s with a chance for rain and snow when Thursday’s game kicks off.
Favre still isn’t sure if he’ll play next season, but also has not thought much about this game possibly being his last at Lambeau.
“It very well could be, but I haven’t made that decision yet,” he said. “I think I’ve treated every game that I’ve ever played here like it was the last. So play as hard as you can and soak it all in, like I’ve always done.”
After throwing 20 touchdown passes and a career-worst 29 interceptions during a 4-12 season in 2005, the worst of Favre’s tenure, he’s bounced back this season to throw only 15 picks as the Packers have rebounded from a 1-4 start to join the NFC playoff hunt.
Green Bay and Minnesota can still make the playoffs as a wild card, but both teams need help. They’re one game behind the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons, who at 7-7 are tied for the NFC’s final wild-card spot.
The Vikings could have made it a three-way tie if they hadn’t stumbled at home to the Jets, their sixth loss in eight games.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Vikings center Matt Birk said. “We’ve been 8-8 before and made the playoffs and won a game. Whether you’re in the playoffs, we have another chance to compete against the best, and that’s a great opportunity to have.”
Minnesota squandered a good opportunity on Sunday. The team took an early 7-0 lead, but gave up 26 unanswered points before Jackson directed a late scoring drive. He finished 14-of-23 for 177 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
“It’s a challenge, because anytime you play a new quarterback, definitely when they’re physically diversely different from the starter, I mean, that’s a challenge in itself,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “(Jackson’s) young, inexperienced, but also he’s got a very strong arm, he’s athletic, so I mean that is a challenge.”
Favre is 9-4 at home in the regular season against the Vikings, throwing 27 touchdown passes to only 13 interceptions. While he hasn’t had as much success in Minnesota, he had a huge game on Nov. 12, throwing for 347 yards and two touchdowns to help the Packers beat the Vikings 23-17.
Green Bay had been blown out in its last two home games—by a combined 73-10 score to New England and the Jets—before beating Detroit.
Favre was 20-of-37 for 174 yards without a touchdown on Sunday, but passed Marino for the all-time completions record and finished the game with 4,974.
The defense held the Lions to 142 total yards and forced four turnovers to secure Green Bay’s second victory in a row and keep the Packers alive for what would be their 11th playoff berth in the last 14 seasons.
“We clearly need to focus on one day at a time,” McCarthy said. “That’s where we are as a football team and I think when we accomplish that good things happen and that is our focus.”
Including one playoff matchup, the all-time series between Minnesota and Green Bay is 45-45-1.