Without even playing a game, the Packers emerged from the bye week atop the NFC with a 6-1 record. And while they aren't complaining about their view from the top, they aren't celebrating it either.
More times than they probably care to count, the Packers have been reminded this week that they control their own destiny and can secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by winning out the rest of the season. But that's the kind of news that's only attractive when Santa is running on rooftops in late December. When pumpkins still grace porches and there nine more games left on the schedule, it means next to nothing.
"I think it's way too early to be talking about anything in regard to homefield advantage," Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said Wednesday. "We're not even halfway through the season yet. It's not even part of the conversation."
The idea dancing through the imaginations of Packers fans everywhere is that homefield advantage is as good as a ticket to San Diego and the Super Bowl, what with Favre's 6-0 playoff record at Lambeau Field, which is included in his 31-0 mark at home in games where the game-time temperature is 34-degrees or below.
But what that thinking forgets is the lesson many should have learned last week, when the franchise quarterback and three-time NFL MVP appeared to be a whisker away from a season-ending knee injury as a result of LaVar Arrington's tackle.
Simply put, a lot can happen in nine games.
As proof of that, consider all that's happened through seven games.
The Packers started the year as supposed Super Bowl contenders, but after a narrow victory over the Atlanta Falcons and a loss to the New Orleans Saints, there were a lot of empty seats on the Packers' bandwagon.
But since then, the Packers have rattled off five straight wins. And the bandwagon is close to overflowing.
It's for reasons like those that the Packers choose to focus inward, ignoring the circus of predictions going on around them.
Said safety Darren Sharper, "We weren't expected to do anything after we lost to New Orleans. Now that we're at the top of the league everyone's saying, well this team is going to be in the Super Bowl.
"We don't listen to the lows, we don't listen to the highs. We just have to go out there and play and know that it doesn't matter if we're 0-7 right now, teams that come in and play us at Lambeau are still going to play their best game because they're playing the Green Bay Packers."
Of course the Packers do control their own destiny, just like they have all along, in what they prefer to look at as a string of 16 one-game seasons.
Said Sherman, "We just have one thing to do, one game to play this season, and that's the Miami Dolphins."
Old Rival, New Team
After 15 NFL seasons, including 12 with the rival Minnesota Vikings, the Packers thought they'd seen the last of wide receiver Cris Carter. But after announcing his retirement and becoming an analyst on HBO's Inside The NFL this offseason, Carter signed with the Miami Dolphins October 21.
He could see his first game action of the season Monday night at Lambeau Field. If he does, safety Darren Sharper said the Packers won't underestimate the 36-year-old Carter, who is NFL's second-leading receiver all-time in terms of career receptions.
"He's not going to run by you, but he knows how to do little tricks," Sharper said. "We've seen him -- in the past -- push off, do things of that nature. He knows how to get his hands on the ball and get his hands on you also.
"It's good because we've seen him a lot, so it's not anything new for us, he's just playing in a different system, different team."
How quickly Carter becomes comfortable with his new team's system will determine how much he'll play Monday.
"He's been in good shape and we've been putting in the extra time from a meeting standpoint to get him caught up with the offense," Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I don't know how much he'll play Monday night. If he has a good week of practice, I don't want to put a number on it, but we expect him to be involved in some capacity.
"He's a smart player, as everybody knows. He's done a good job of grasping what we're trying to do at this point."
Class Of 2003?
Five individuals previously associated with the Green Bay Packers made the preliminary list of 2003 NFL Hall Of Fame candidates.
Former players on the list are wide receivers James Lofton (1978-86) and Sterling Sharpe (1988-94), defensive end Sean Jones (1994-96) and quarterback Jim McMahon (95-96). Qualifying as a 'contributor' is former general manager Ron Wolf (1991-2001).
A total of 74 players, coaches and contributors make up the preliminary nominees list. From that pool, only 15 will be finalists for possible election into the Hall of Fame.
A special selection committee will determine the Class of 2003 from those 15 finalists, Jan. 25, 2003. Ground rules stipulate that there be between four to seven enshrinees each year.
Earlier this month, a handful of Packers players were asked to name their favorite Halloween costumes as a child. Here are their answers:
Gilbert Brown - Spider-Man
Ryan Longwell - Batman
Marco Rivera - Casper The Friendly Ghost
Darren Sharper - Spider-Man