GREEN BAY, Wis. It's been 10 years since Brett Favre last played in the Super Bowl, and the way the Packers finished the last couple of seasons, it was doubtful he'd ever return to pro football's biggest stage.
But Favre enjoyed a John Elwaylike late-career resurgence this season and is just one win away from playing in his third Super Bowl. Favre and Green Bay can get there with a victory over the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game here today in frigid weather conditions.
"Well, it's been a long one, but you know, it goes without saying how excited I am to be back (in the NFC Championship game)," Favre said at his press conference on Friday. "I think the long layoff makes me appreciate it a little bit more. I've known all along how difficult it is to win in this league, and to get to this point is something special. It's pretty good to be back."
Standing in the way of Favre and a likely dream Super Bowl matchup with the unbeaten New England Patriots are the battle-tested and road-conquering Giants. New York comes into the NFC title game with incredible momentum, winning nine consecutive road games, including victories over Tampa Bay and Dallas in the previous two playoff rounds.
The two teams played in Week 2, with the Packers prevailing 35-13. The score is somewhat misleading because Green Bay only led by one point at the start of the fourth quarter. That game was also in New York, and the Giants have proven to be a much tougher team away from home.
The Packers will have plenty of factors working in their favor today more than 70,000 fans, a legendary quarterback, a reborn running game and an aggressive defense. But beating the Giants will still be an enormous challenge.
"I think it (New York's road success) says a lot about their team," said Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman. "Being a good road team ourselves, I know what that takes, to be able to go out on the road and be successful. So obviously they have a lot of confidence. They've gone the hard road."
Both teams will have to deal with tough elements today. The game-time temperature is expected to be about 3 degrees, and the wind chill will make the temperature feel like it is about minus-8 degrees.
"We'll do whatever it takes to go on that field," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said at his team's final press conference on Friday. "But you know what, both teams are going to be cold. Flat out, we know what the temperature is going to be. You can't fake it. You can't say you're going to be cold. Everybody is going to be cold. It's going to be the team that's more mentally tough and doesn't let that affect them."
The Packers and Giants are completely different teams than they were when they last played. Green Bay has built a strong running game with Ryan Grant. He was acquired in a trade with the Giants in September and had yet to crack the starting lineup in Week 2.
New York is vastly improved on defense since the Week 2 game, with a strong pass rush being the strength of the unit. Quarterback Eli Manning has also been solid in two playoff games, proving he can handle the pressure of playing in elimination contests.
Still, the main storyline of today's game is whether Favre will get the chance to play in another Super Bowl. The Packers were expected to be in rebuilding mode again this season, but they've surpassed everyone's expectations by making it this far."I'm very pleased with where we are, but I'm not content with the fact that we're here and OK, we're just happy to be here and anything that happens after this is great," Favre said. "I mean, it will be a great year regardless, one that we will remember for a long time. But I want to take this thing further."
San Diego at New England, 1 p.m., CBS