Leading a 1-5 team presents a foreign obstacle for Brett Favre. The 15-year-veteran has never began the season with such a deficit or had a losing season as a starting NFL quarterback.
"It's new to me," Favre said. "I have to encourage myself sometimes ... Wednesday practices are not the most fun practices, but when you're 1-5 they really become difficult."
The most difficult time for Favre followed the 32-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week Four, which dropped the Packers to 0-4. Favre led a furious fourth quarter comeback from 32-13, but it was not enough.
A quarterback with enormous expectations sat at his locker after the game, trying to come to grips with the fact that he could not lead his team to victory.
"I was as disappointed as I've ever been," he said. "It makes me start questioning, 'Do I still have that magic?'"
Favre may have questioned his skills, but no one else does. His opponents know he can produce points in a hurry like he did against the Panthers.
"Everyone respects him," Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said. "Everyone knows what he's capable of and everyone fears him."
Indeed Favre may have lost offensive weapons Javon Walker, Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Robert Ferguson and Terrence Murphy to injury, but he still leads the league in touchdown passes with 14.
"Pretty productive, all things considered," he said.
He also has completed 66.7 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,571 yards for a quarterback rating of 93.1. Last week he completed 28-of-36 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns. Packers head coach Mike Sherman praised that performance.
"He certainly made a lot of plays for us," he said. "I was very pleased and proud with how he played in the ballgame."
But Favre has never concerned himself with statistics, especially during losses, and he will face a greater challenge this week with Donald Driver and Antonio Chatman as the lone holdovers at wide receiver and a cast of new bodies including Andrae Thurman and Taco Wallace.
"A lot of these guys are going to have to learn on the run," Favre said. "I don't know what people are capable of doing or what they should expect."
That uncertainty becomes more challenging against the Bengals' ballhawking defense. They lead the NFL with a plus-16 turnover margin and 15 interceptions.
"What stands out are their takeaways," Favre said. "It's an amazing number."
Putting everything on his shoulders could lead him to force passes and fall right into the hands of the interception-happy Bengals defense. With several new offensive players, Favre will have to avoid doing too much.
"There's only so much he can do," Sherman said. "He's doing plenty right now."
Showing how his 15-year-career has spanned the ups and downs of the NFL, Favre made his Packers debut against a 5-11 Bengals team in 1992. Starting quarterback Don Majkowski injured his ankle in the first quarter of that Sept. 20 game. Favre entered the game and led the team to a 24-23 victory with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Now he leads the 1-5 Packers against the 5-2 Bengals.
"It's funny how time flies," he said.