Late last night, a friend of mine—fellow Panthers fan and a person who is a brother to me—inspired me to write this article. Thank you bro, and I hope everyone who reads this takes something from it.
It wasn't that long ago—I was 12 years old—but in football years it's an eternity. It's like when my grandfather used to tell me stories about fighting for the Royal British Navy during World War II. That's how distant this night feels to me now.
It was the night of January 12th, in 1996. Twelve years ago, the Green Bay Packers, led by Brett Favre, played host to the two-year-old Carolina Panthers, safeguarding first round draft pick Kerry Collins.
At the time, both quarterbacks had aging but experienced teammates around them, but Collins and Favre's faces were young and fresh; not all gray and haggard, such as they are now.
In the 1996 postseason, Brett Favre was in his fifth season with the Packers, and Kerry Collins was only in his second season out of Penn State with the Carolina Panthers. This, much like Sunday's game will be, was a big game. The Panthers, 12-4, were taking on the beast of the NFL, Green Bay, with a 13-3 record.
The game, on the scoreboard, was a routing of the Panthers, 30 to 13—but when I look at the statistics from that night's game, the Panthers were so painfully close to winning that game. In so many areas the Packers held the slightest edge over Carolina, as their overall record had. The Panthers could not get the break they wanted...needed.
In Sunday's game, it's a sort of step back in time if you will. This time however, history has turned the table and added a twist as two tested and proven veteran quarterbacks, with gray haggard faces meet in an inner-conference game with two young and different teams, still proving who they are—with a lot on the line.
The Tennessee Titans, with an unblemished record of 10-0, look to remain undefeated, while retaining sole ownership over their division.
The New York Jets, with a much improved record of 7-3, really need to win this game to keep a playoff spot or at least a wild card, while maintaining their lead over the AFC East as the division leader.
I love both quarterbacks in this game. Brett Favre is that true grit gunslinger, who is just out there every Sunday playing ball with the boys like it's his own backyard.
Kerry Collins had a different past, and while his career began with some personal problems which led to his getting moved around, he has developed into a very reliable passer, and I have always loved that underdog role he has played. A lot of times I think to myself, the what if's, what might have been's, and if only...if only—but I digress, the Giants, Panthers, and Raiders, respectively, have solid quarterbacks.
So I think of tomorrow as a kind of rematch, for Favre and Collins. We will see these two greats, in their own respect, duke it out with their tried, tested, and true teams tomorrow.
As much as I love and respect Brett Favre—my money, as always, will be on the "underdog."