A Fresh Look At The '08 Opponents


QB Aaron Rodgers threw his first NFL touchdown pass against the Cowboys last season.

Now that it's official Aaron Rodgers will be taking over for Brett Favre as the Packers' starting quarterback, it's worth taking a quick look at the upcoming 2008 opponents within that context.

Ranked in order of the most intriguing matchups, here's a glance at next season's foes. (Note: The actual game schedule is expected to be released early next month.)

1. Dallas - As if Rodgers hasn't heard enough already about his solid performance in relief of Favre during the NFC's biggest regular-season game in 2007, it will all be rehashed heading into this one. Rodgers rallied the Packers from a 17-point deficit to within three points early in the fourth quarter before Dallas eventually put the game away, but even Rodgers himself doesn't want to put too much stock in that. He said Saturday during his press conference at Lambeau Field he's out to prove he can perform like that (18-of-26, 201 yards, 1 TD, no INT, 104.8 rating) on a consistent basis.

Another interesting element to this game is the Cowboys are the only team on the 2008 slate that actually has worthwhile regular-season film of Rodgers playing against them. That will make the chess match in this one all the more intriguing.

2. Indianapolis - Should Rodgers be fortunate enough to ever break a record held by Favre, 2008 will be remembered as his true start. But his counterpart in this game, Peyton Manning, is one active player with a realistic chance to break some of Favre's league marks -- for touchdowns, yards, and even consecutive starts, should Manning stay healthy for another six or seven seasons.

Manning will have to respond to questions all week about his pursuit of Favre's career records, and it's a given he'll be keyed up to come into Favre's home, Lambeau Field, and continue to go after them.

3. Division foes - We'll lump Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota all together here, because Favre had notable accomplishments against them all and Rodgers will begin to establish his own NFC North pedigree.

Favre was an amazing 12-2 at Soldier Field in Chicago, and 22-10 against the arch-rival Bears overall. But Rodgers will have a chance to reverse a disturbing trend, namely the Packers' 2-6 record against the Bears since Lovie Smith took over as head coach in Chicago.

Favre never lost to the Lions on Wisconsin soil, so Detroit perhaps more than any other team will be thrilled to enter Lambeau and not have to face No. 4. The Lions' last win in Wisconsin was on Dec. 15, 1991, before Favre came to Green Bay, and 17 losses ago.

The Packers were actually below .500 against the Vikings with Favre until the last two seasons, when Green Bay won four straight. Head Coach Mike McCarthy is actually 8-0 against the Lions and Vikings combined in his two seasons at the helm, and now it's Rodgers' turn to keep that going.

4. At Seattle - With Mike Holmgren announcing this will be his final season with the Seahawks, this game would have had far more sentimental value with Favre playing. But it's still a rematch of last season's NFC Divisional playoff game, during which the Packers rallied from an early 14-0 deficit for a resounding 42-20 win.

Other than the Metrodome, this may also be the toughest road venue Rodgers will have to deal with in his first season as the starter. Seattle's Qwest Field is known as one of the league's loudest stadiums and, win or lose, will provide significant experience for Rodgers.

5. At New Orleans - Back in the heart of Favre country, if there's any chance the retired quarterback would make a surprise appearance to greet his old teammates and coaches, this is probably it. But if Favre is truly taking a year away from football, don't bet on it. And if the game happens to fall during prime hunting season, then forget about it. Still, expect plenty of Green Bay and Favre fans to find tickets and cheer on the new era.

{sportsad300}6. At Jacksonville - This will be billed as a notable matchup between two young quarterbacks for contending teams, the Jaguars' David Garrard and Rodgers. Garrard led Jacksonville to a big road playoff win at Pittsburgh last season, and then gave New England a run for its money in the divisional round. Meanwhile Rodgers' first foray into the AFC comes in the ultra-competitive South Division, whose teams were a combined 42-22 last year.

7. At Tennessee - Rodgers was the second quarterback drafted in 2005 but did not start for three years, while the Titans' Vince Young was the first quarterback taken in 2006 and was starting within a month of the beginning of his rookie season. Unlike most opponents on the 2008 schedule, though, Rodgers and the Titans are somewhat familiar with each other as preseason opponents during Rodgers' first three pro seasons.

8. At Tampa - The other retirement that was a bit overshadowed last week was that of former Buccaneers great Warren Sapp, and even though Sapp left Tampa a few years ago, this will mark the first "Battle of the Bays" played in Tampa without Favre and Sapp on the field together since 1994.

9. Houston - The Texans will be making their franchise debut at Lambeau, and provided he's healthy, this will mark running back Ahman Green's return to Green Bay.

10. Carolina - Known as a valuable mentor to young quarterbacks, McCarthy gets a chance to further that reputation with Rodgers. Already part of McCarthy's legacy in that regard is Carolina's Jake Delhomme, who worked under McCarthy as New Orleans' backup QB for three years before becoming the Panthers' starter in 2003. McCarthy didn't face his old protégé last year because Delhomme was hurt and Vinny Testaverde started at Lambeau Field in his place. Assuming Delhomme is healthy again, this year McCarthy's old protégé will face the new one.

11. Atlanta - For the first time since 1991, the Falcons will be able to play the Packers without looking across at the Hall of Fame quarterback they traded away. For the record, Favre was 4-3 against the team that drafted him, including 1-1 in the postseason.

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