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Brett Favre has won three MVP awards and a Super Bowl title, and is the NFL’s career leader in touchdown passes and wins by a quarterback.
Yet even with all he’s accomplished in his 17-year career, the 38-year-old Favre may be at his best in 2007.
He’ll try to lead his team to a 9-1 start for the first time Sunday as the Packers host the struggling Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field.
Not much was expected from Green Bay this season even though the Packers closed out 2006 with four straight wins. Favre struggled badly at the end of last season even with his team winning, throwing six interceptions to one touchdown in the team’s final three games.
Nine games into the 2007 season, Favre leads the NFL in passing yards with 2,757, putting him on pace to throw for more than 4,900. Such a total would rank second all-time, behind only Dan Marino’s 5,084-yard season in 1984.
The 38-year-old Favre will make a little more history Sunday, becoming part of the oldest starting quarterback combination in NFL history. He’ll be going up against 44-year-old Vinny Tetaverde, named the Panthers’ starter on Friday.
While Testaverde is fifth all-time with 45,722 passing yards, Favre is second with 60,257—1,104 behind Marino’s league record.
Favre threw for 351 yards - his sixth 300-yard passing performance of the season - and three touchdowns in the Packers’ 34-0 home win against Minnesota on Sunday, Green Bay’s first shutout since 2002.
Favre also made the entire Green Bay sideline, particularly coach Mike McCarthy, wince when he took a hard hit late in the third quarter. Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze caught Favre’s head and jarred his neck as the quarterback tried to slide for a short gain.
“I don’t want to say it was a concussion, I’m not a doctor,” said Favre, who led the Packers to 8-1 starts in 1996 and 2002. “But I was a little woozy when I stood up. I was well aware of what was going on, but I was a little light on the foot.”
McCarthy called for backup Aaron Rodgers, only to have Favre wave him off.
A day later, there was even less cause for concern.
“I just checked on him, he checked out fine,” McCarthy said. “He’s not even on the medical list.”
Without Favre, the Packers would probably be anything but fine. Rodgers has thrown just 33 passes in his three-year career in relief of Favre, and though Green Bay has the best passing offense in the NFL, it ranks last in rushing yardage.
That run game may not be the league’s worst for much longer, however. Ryan Grant, who’s started the past three contests due to injuries and the ineffectiveness of other Green Bay running backs, has gone over 100 yards in two of those games.
“Ryan Grant was someone our personnel department had been watching,” said McCarthy of the undrafted rookie from Notre Dame. “I really liked his running style when he was presented to the offensive staff, and he really fits what we’re doing.”
Apparently Panthers coach John Fox thinks Testaverde fits what the Panthers are doing better than David Carr does.
Both are healthy enough to play Sunday, but Fox picked Testaverde for this game, though he would not name a permanent starter.
“(Testaverde) had a good week of practice and was able to get through the week, and I think that’s good for him and good for us,” Fox said Friday.
Testaverde has started three games for the Panthers (4-5) since signing with them after Jake Delhomme was lost for the season with an elbow injury. With Carr having suffered two concussions in five weeks, Fox had to turn to Testaverde, who is recovering from an injured right Achilles’ tendon from a Week 8 loss to Indianapolis.
Panthers leading receiver Steve Smith, however, has been unable to practice due to a shin contusion and will be a game-time decision.
Carolina might be relieved that it won’t be playing in front of its home fans at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Panthers have lost all four games there this season and have a six-game home losing streak that goes back nearly a year.
“I’d remind all our fans that in only one of those six did our starting quarterback play,” Fox said, recalling two home games Delhomme missed last season with an injured thumb. “I think that’s not an excuse, it’s reality. We deal in reality.”
Home or away, the Panthers have been in a funk lately, dropping three in a row and getting outscored 71-27 during the skid.
The problems at quarterback have resulted in the Panthers ranking 28th in the league in yardage, and the team’s usually formidable defense is beat up, with six members on injured reserve.
Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers is healthy, but has just 1 1/2 sacks and eight quarterback pressures in nine games. Through nine games last season, he had 11 sacks and 23 pressures.
“I can take the criticism and I can take the heat. That’s the position I’m in,” Peppers said. “I’m not going to run away from it. But there’s no excuses for my play or for this team’s play. But we still have games left to get this thing corrected. Hopefully that is what we’re going to come out and do.”
Favre has thrown for 2,167 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions against Carolina in the teams’ eight regular season meetings. Green Bay leads the series 5-3, but Carolina won the last matchup 32-29 on Oct. 3, 2005.
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