- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

For the second straight December, it’s “Will-he?” or “Won’t-he?” time in Green Bay. Of course, the question is whether 37-year-old Brett Favre will return for a 16th season as the Packers’ quarterback in 2007.

Green Bay is 5-8 with division games left against lowly Detroit, mediocre Minnesota and NFC North champion Chicago. So a second straight losing season is likely. The losing campaigns have taken their toll on Favre, who endured just one non-winning season (8-8 in 1999) during his first 13 years with the Packers, leading them to 10 playoff berths, two Super Bowls and one championship.

While the NFL’s only three-time MVP was stunned by the drop from 10-6 in 2004 to 4-12 in 2005 that prompted the ouster of sixth-year coach Mike Sherman, Favre has been energized by new coach Mike McCarthy, just five years his senior.

“Having the success I’ve had and this team has had in my 15 years, you grow accustomed to winning, especially at home,” Favre said after the Packers — 90-21 at Lambeau Field during Favre’s first 13 seasons — fell to 1-5 at home in a 38-10 rout by the New York Jets on Dec. 3. “Then all of a sudden it just kind of falls apart. It makes you question, ‘Did I make the right decision in coming back?’ … but I believe I did.”

However, the whipping by the Jets completed a three-game losing streak in which the Packers were outscored by a whopping 107-34. Favre’s passer rating in those losses to New England, Seattle and the Jets was 54.5, the first time in his record 253 games as a starter that he was ever below 60 in three straight games.

“I never thought I’d be a part of a season like we had the last two years,” Favre said. “I’m as much to blame as anyone. I really thought I could be a difference-maker. I still believe that. But there are games like this where you go [sarcastically], ‘What a difference-maker you were.’ ”

And yet, last Sunday in San Francisco, Favre was a difference-maker again. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 293 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions as Green Bay improved to 5-8, assuring it won’t finish in the NFC North basement.

Favre has turned around last season’s career-worst 20-29 touchdown/interception ratio with a 17-12 ratio this year, raising his rating to a respectable 78.0, more than seven points higher than the career-low mark he posted in 2005.

“Days like today make me think I could play 10 more [years],” Favre said.

With 413 career touchdown passes, Favre could reach Dan Marino’s record of 420 this month while surpassing Marino’s 4,967 completions. But even returning next year won’t get Favre the 4,606 yards he needs to top Marino’s record 61,361.

If the Packers beat the visiting 2-11 Lions and the 6-7 Vikings lose to the 7-6 Jets on Sunday, Green Bay will own second place in the NFC North, setting the stage for Favre’s two possible swan songs — the nationally televised home finale on Thursday against Minnesota and the season-ender a week from Sunday at Chicago. Favre took most of the offseason to let the Packers know he was coming back this fall. Will he say Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve? Stay tuned.

Ninety-nine squared — Not only is Arizona safety Adrian Wilson the first player in NFL history to have a pair of 99-yard touchdowns in the same season without scoring one on a kickoff return, but Wilson and teammate J.J. Arrington were the first teammates to both go 99 yards for a score in the same game (the Nov. 26 loss to Minnesota) in 44 years.

Miami nice — The Dolphins have had some great receivers over the years — Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, Nat Moore, Mark Duper, Mark Clayton — but they had never had three wideouts with 50 catches in the same season until now. Wes Welker leads the team with 59, followed by Chris Chambers with 55 and Marty Booker with 51. Their 165 combined receptions trail only the 179 by Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry as a wide receiver trio.

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