This game will not at all be what the NFL schedule makers envisioned at the beginning of the season. This was supposed to be a game with potential playoff implications. It was supposed to feature Brett Favre leading a high-powered Packers offense into Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field to face Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and the NFC-defending champion Eagles. The Eagles are still the defending champions, but their wings have been clipped. Like the snake-bitten Packers, they've been hit with many key injuries, including McNabb, who is out for the season with a sports hernia.
Owens is out for the season, too, but for very different reasons. I must say that I applaud the arbitrator's decision to uphold all of the sanctions imposed by the Eagles for Owens' outrageous behavior. T.O. deserves everything he's getting right now. He brought all of these actions on himself. He had plenty of time to show sincere remorse, and I just thought he handled the whole situation the wrong way, going through his agent and not apologizing for himself. You can't have a player be bigger than the league or than any team.
Back to this week's game. Both teams are in similar situations with the injuries and the losing streaks. Philly was favored to win their division, but they've lost four games in a row and are stuck at 4-6. Yet, this will be another game that is still very worthwhile to win. Philly has an outside chance of catching the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. These two teams know each other so well from Mike Sherman and Andy Reid on down. The Eagles have given the Packers such bad memories in the last several games -- including the infamous "4th and 26" playoff fiasco. Reid and Sherman coached together in Green Bay for Mike Holmgren so they know each others' tendencies extremely well.
This game will be another chess match because both teams run the West Coast offense. With the national telecast, it will have a near playoff atmosphere. Both teams are battling through some tough circumstances, and it will be interesting to see how the Packers are be able to re-group after their crushing loss to the Vikings on Monday Night. I'm sure there's concern about how they will react because that defeat is going to sting for awhile.
McNabb's replacement at quarterback is certainly no stranger to the Packers, either. Mike McMahon faced Green Bay when he played for the Detroit Lions. He's a guy who hasn't played a lot in the last several years but I think, given the chance to play, he has an opportunity to just get better. McMahon has a lot of athletic ability and last week against the Giants he passed for 298 yards with one touchdown and he also had 31 yards rushing. He's definitely a guy that the Packers' defense can't take lightly because of his experience.
The Eagles' offense is relying on a lot of younger players right now, just like the Packers. Reggie Brown is a good-looking rookie wide receiver who took over for Terrell Owens, and the Eagles still have a number of other weapons. L.J. Smith is a great tight end, Greg Lewis is a fine receiver and, of course, you always have to watch out for all-purpose running back Brian Westbrook, who had 66 yards rushing last week. He's a very dangerous back especially coming out of the backfield as a receiver. The Packers saw that first-hand last year when he had over 130 receiving yards on 11 catches. Unfortunately for the Eagles, their offensive line is going through major injury problems. They've already lost their starting center Hank Fraley, and both tackle Tra Thomas and guard/tackle Artis Hicks are doubtful for this week. Philadelphia still has a very solid defense under coordinator Jimmy Johnson. He's given the Packer offense fits in the last three games they've played and they still have a lot of great players like Jevon Kearse, Dhani Jones, Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins. They did lose starting cornerback Lito Sheppard, but they still will put up a formidable defense against Green Bay.
As to all the talk about putting Aaron Rodgers in at quarterback for the Packers, I don't even listen to that. Rodgers is not ready to play yet. He'll get his chance next year or whenever Brett Favre decides to finish playing. It's not going to happen until Brett leaves. Throwing Rodgers into the fray right now makes no sense at all. Why set up a guy for failure? The Packers have no consistent running game, and there are so many backups at the wide receiver position. Rodgers wouldn't have the kind of supporting cast that could help him grow into the position. This team needs Brett Favre to have any kind of chance to be successful at this point.
Nobody likes to talk about "moral victories" but every game is worth winning in the NFL. Players and coaches prepare each and every week as if they were undefeated. It doesn't really matter what the record actually is and the Packers are still working and studying hard even though they are 2-8. It's worth winning when you put in this much time and effort. Every player is so competitive. These guys want to win so there is no question that they will give this game everything they've got.
Packers fans expect nothing less.
Don "Majik" Majkowski was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame earlier this year. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packers.com, Majik provides football analysis for WSSP-AM, SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee, WDUZ SportsRadio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan in Green Bay, WTSO - ESPN 1070 in Madison, WDEZ in Wausau, and WIZD in Stevens Point. Visit Majik's Web site, www.majiknetwork.net, for more information.