In recent seasons the Green Bay Packers have had a difficult time playing the teams in the NFC West. A case can be made that the Packers currently have more of a rivalry with teams like the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers than with their NFC North rivals.
After all, Green Bay has had no problem winning the division over the last four seasons, posting a 20-4-1 record over the Bears, Lions, and Vikings since 2011 (including playoffs). Over that same span, though with a much smaller sample size, the Packers are 3-7 against the NFC West, and are winless against the 49ers (0-4) and Seahawks (0-3).
Included among those losses are a number of postseason defeats. In Aaron Rodgers’ career as a starter, he has made the playoffs six times. Of the five times that Green Bay failed to win the Super Bowl, four of the Packers’ postseason exits were at the hands of an NFC West team: the Cardinals in 2009, the 49ers in 2012 and 2013, and the Seahawks in 2014.
What has made matters worse for Green Bay is that the defeats have often come in heartbreaking fashion. From the Cardinals beating the Packers 51-45 in overtime on a controversial call in 2009 to the Seahawks overcoming a 12-point deficit in the last few minutes last year, the Packers have been left stunned by the NFC West too many times in recent years.
In 2012, the last time the entire NFC West was on the Packers’ schedule, the season started with a loss to the 49ers in Green Bay’s home opener. Week 3 concluded with the infamous “Fail Mary” play in which the Seahawks beat the Packers on a very controversial call by the replacement refs. Green Bay beat both the Rams and Cardinals by double digits, but then got obliterated in the playoffs by the 49ers as Colin Kaepernick ran wild over the Green Bay defense.
The Packers began and ended 2012 with losses to the 49ers, and the same story was told in 2013. Green Bay did not get blown out like they did the previous season, dropping a six-point contest in the season opener and a three-point game in the playoffs, but the overall results were the same. The NFC West made sure that the postseason loss stung once again, as the 49ers kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay’s pattern of beginning and ending the season with NFC West-imposed losses stretched to a third straight year in 2014. The Packers fell flat in the season opener in Seattle, losing 36-16, and then suffered yet another heartbreaking playoff loss after the team collapsed in the last few minutes of the NFC Championship game and blew a double digit lead.
But Green Bay has the opportunity to change their recent fortunes in 2015. The NFC West has once again cycled onto the Packers’ schedule, giving them the opportunity to avenge a number of losses in recent history.
First on the list for Green Bay is Seattle. The Seahawks travel to Lambeau Field in Week 2, and the Packers (as well as their fans) would love to dish out a beating on the team that ended Green Bay’s bid at a Super Bowl. The Packers’ three recent defeats to the Seahawks have all come in Seattle, where the Seahawks enjoy a huge advantage. But Green Bay also has one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL, and the Packers will be fired up for their home opener at Lambeau. The winner of this game, despite it being just Week 2, would be in the driver’s seat for the number one seed in the NFC.
Green Bay then plays the 49ers in Week 4, which marks the first trip for the Packers to Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco is no longer the dominant force it was when the Packers last played them, but Green Bay has had trouble containing Kaepernick in their matchups. Green Bay figures to be the favorite in this game, despite being the away team, and can once again hope to get some payback for the back-to-back playoff losses in 2012 and 2013.
The Packers cannot look past the Rams or Cardinals either in 2015. Arizona was one of the top teams in football before losing Carson Palmer to an injury, and the Rams have a defensive front that rivals the best in the NFL. The Packers should still beat St. Louis, especially at home, but Arizona could be a tough road game late in the season.
Overall, the Packers have a difficult schedule this season, and having to play the loaded NFC West is a big reason why. The mentality of having to beat the best in order to be the best is something that the Packers will likely have to have throughout the season.
Green Bay has the chance to solidify itself as the NFC’s powerhouse if they can beat the Seahawks and 49ers, but doing so will not be an easy task. Earning a head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle could be especially important because the two teams are the early favorites in the NFC. It is very possible that the Packers find themselves up against the Seahawks in the postseason once again, and Green Bay will look to make sure that history does not repeat itself once again if they do.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .