- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

It’s not easy wearing green in the NFL this season.

Green Bay, which hasn’t had a losing season since Brett Favre became its quarterback in 1992, is 0-4. The New York Jets, a playoff qualifier in three of coach Herman Edwards’ four previous seasons, are 1-3 heading into Sunday’s matchup with unbeaten Tampa Bay.

Injuries have a lot to do with both teams’ nosedives.

The Packers lost top receiver Javon Walker to a season-ending knee injury in their opening defeat at Detroit and have played at times without Pro Bowl running back Ahman Green, tight end Bubba Franks and offensive linemen Chad Clifton and Mike Flanagan. No wonder the once-potent Packers had scored just 56 points in 14 quarters until a late 14-point rally in Monday’s 32-29 loss at Carolina.

The Jets, incredibly, lost their top two quarterbacks, Chad Pennington and Jay Fielder, to season-ending shoulder injuries in Week 3 at Jacksonville. Brooks Bollinger started last week at Baltimore and looked like the career third-stringer he is. With Bollinger no threat, the Ravens focused on running back Curtis Martin, who has rung up a record 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons, holding him to 30 yards on 13 carries. The Jets couldn’t score with first-and-goal at the 1.

Vinny Testaverde, who turns 42 next month and had settled into retirement, will replace Bollinger against the fierce Bucs’ defense as the Jets try to prevent falling further behind surprising Miami (2-1) and defending champion New England (2-2) in the AFC East.

“It’s kind of critical you stick with it because there’s no turning back,” Edwards said of making a quarterback change.

Green Bay’s only good fortune so far is its membership in the noxious NFC North. Chicago and Detroit (both 1-2) lead Minnesota (1-3) by a half-game. The division is 1-9 against non-NFC North teams, with the only victory the Vikings’ win over New Orleans.

“The division only has one superstar,” an NFC scout said. “That’s Brett Favre. But the Packers are driving a Cadillac that’s running out of gas. The next time it stops at the gas station, you knock the fenders off, and it’s going to be a Volkswagen.”

The green and gold engine lost two big pieces when guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera departed as free agents. Green, the NFL’s top rusher with 6,848 yards the previous five seasons, is averaging just 51.5 a game and 3.4 a carry, down from his 4.7 career average. Green’s carries also are down since his last 100-yard game Nov. 14.

“They’ve gotten away from turning around and handing Ahman the ball,” Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber said. “He’s the only one of their backs that has a chance to go the distance every time he touches it.”

Three-time MVP Favre is enduring a similar fall despite typically fine stats. Since Dec. 20, 2003, Favre has lost his father to a heart attack and his boyhood home to Hurricane Katrina; helped his wife battle cancer; suffered the first two home playoff losses of his career; traded public barbs with then-holdout Walker; and now is in the midst of the longest losing streak of his brilliant career.

“Guys say when you play long enough you see everything,” said Favre, who turns 36 on Monday. “This is something you don’t want to see.”

Packers fans will see Favre start his record 230th straight game (including playoffs) Sunday against New Orleans. To put that streak in perspective, consider that Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning will tie the retired Ron Jaworski for second place when he starts at San Francisco on Sunday. It will be Manning’s 123rd consecutive start, keeping him more than six seasons behind Favre.

Tom who? — Tom Brady loves Los Angeles because in a city of famous faces a three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback is just another star. But Brady knew something was weird when he was eating in Chinatown there during the offseason and no one seemed to notice.

Weird, that is, until he noticed Yao Ming at the next table.

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