I know the cool thing to do would be to go game-by-game and do a prediction for each one now that the new schedule is out. As I discussed on Tuesday, I’m gonna think out of the box here on PackersTalk.com. If you want to read game by game schedule predictions, Senior Writer John Rehor has already taken care of that for you. Ian has actually ranked the 16 games for the level of excitement they bring into his life.
I, on the other hand, am going to hit you with 5 #hotsportstakes. These are the 5 things that jumped out to me when it was released:
1. The Packers are still a big draw– the NFL had the option of the league’s (currently) best rivalry in Seattle vs. San Francisco. They also could have gone with a Super Bowl rematch. There was also a big reason not to select the Green Bay Packers. The Fail Mary of two seasons ago was the most publicized officiating error in league history. It singlehandedly ended the official’s strike. Though neither of the principal players, WR Golden Tate or S MD Jennings are on either team, one would have to imagine that the league can’t be excited about the 1,000,000,000 replays of that fateful play being shown over and over again.
Despite all their other options and despite the black mark that the Fail Mary was, the league has decided to pit Aaron Rodgers and our Packers against the Seahawks in the opener. The reasons are many. Rodgers is one of the league’s most popular, and in my opinion, it’s best player. Fully healthy, the Packers are one of the best 3 teams in the NFC and by George, they should be fully healthy in week one, though before last season we had already lost a starting left tackle and a starting tailback. The Fail Mary, good story or bad story, is still a story and a powerful narrative for the league. Last but not least, the Packers and their balanced offense actually match up pretty well with the Seahawks, and I believe the league would like to avoid Seattle’s opponent getting steamrolled the way that Denver did in the last nationally televised NFL game. People turning off the Super Bowl in the 3rd quarter was not a good look, and Green Bay has the ability to give a good game.
2. I love everything about the bye week– I think one of the worst things about last year’s schedule, regardless of the fact that the team started 1-2 by giving away a game in Cincinatti was that ridiculous week 4 bye. The premier teams in the league should have a mid-season bye week and this year that’s exactly where the Packers have it. Their bye week will come in week 9.
The great thing that I see is what happens after the bye week. After the bye week, Green Bay hosts 4 of the next 5 games, 3 of which they will definitely be favored in (it’ll be interesting to see where New England and Green Bay are at that point of the season). The only road game really won’t be much of a road game. It’s at Minnesota. The Humpty Dump has been destroyed. The game will be played at an outdoor stadium and the ratio will only be about 65-35 Vikings fans and that’s IF the purple aren’t 2-8 or 3-7 at that point. It’s very possible that the Packers could really get on a roll heading in to the home stretch and if they can get to that stretch with only one or two losses- watch out.
3. There is way too much conern about divisional games– everywhere I look in these game by game predictions there are losses predicted at Detroit, at Chicago and even freakin’ Minnesota. In games in which Rodgers plays the entire time, the Packers are 12-2 against divisional opponents, going 8-2 on the road since 2010. This is Green Bay’s division and the rest of the North does not match up with them well. Assuming Rodgers’ health, I would be shocked to see anything but a 5-1 or 6-0 divisional record.
4. This is a terrible slate of games for out of state Packer fans that like to attend games- Being one of these I had to look at it from this perspective. The Packers are currently slated to play 5 of their 16 games in prime time. 3 of those games are being played on days other than Sunday. Fans that like to come from all over to the games are forced to shirk other work week responsibilities should they want to make the trek to Football Mecca. In fact, if the schedule holds (flex scheduling can now be done in week 5) the Packers will only host 4 games that kick off at noon Lambeau time. Life’s tough, get a helmet.
5. I. Am. So. Excited.- I really do have a special feeling about this season. I just refuse to believe that the team is going to continue to be so snake-bitten by injuries. If a few needs are addressed between now and when camp breaks via the draft or otherwise we could be looking at a very special club. Never in my time as a Packers fan has the team had the potential to be so balanced offensively. This team has the best QB in the league and very well could have a top 5 running back if Eddie Lacy makes a leap in his second year. It’s been a long, long time since Aaron Rodgers didn’t have to play against two-high safeties every snap and that won’t happen this year. As far as a prediction: if the team stays healthy they’re either going 13-3 or 12-4 and they’ll be division champions again. What happens in the playoffs depends on a number of things, but I really do feel good about this team.