The Green Bay Packers have high aspirations for 2017, as the team looks to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010. But to get there, the team obviously has to first take care of business in the regular season.
In addition to their six divisional games, the Packers will face the entirety of the NFC South and AFC North, as well as the NFC West champion Seahawks and the NFC East champion Cowboys.
The 2017 offseason may have begun just a couple of weeks ago, but it is not too soon to look ahead to Green Bay’s opponents for the upcoming season. While the dates and times of next season’s schedule have yet to be released, simply knowing who’s on tap next year can provide a glimpse at which games will be most (and least) anticipated.
Hardest Win- @Dallas Cowboys
The Packers got the last laugh in 2016, knocking off the top-seeded Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Game. But let’s not forget the thrashing that Dallas put on Green Bay, in Lambeau, in the regular season. The Cowboys are legit, and Ezekiel Elliott should continue to tear up opposing defenses. Aaron Rodgers plays well in domes, but Dallas finished 7-1 at home last year. Throw in the fact that the Cowboys will be fired up after going one-and-done in the playoffs, and you’ve got a recipe for a tough win to come by.
Honorable Mention: @Atlanta. The Falcons will be playing in a brand new stadium, and their offensive talent is the best in the league until proven otherwise.
Easiest Win- @Cleveland Browns
Yes, it’s a road game, and the Packers can’t afford to take this game for granted. (After all, they did once lose to a terrible 0-7 Buccaneers team in 2009). But still, the Browns lost 15 games last year, and rarely looked competitive in doing so. They still lack quarterback consistency, and Green Bay should definitely take care of business in Cleveland.
Honorable Mention: vs. Chicago. The Packers are 14-4 in the regular season against the Bears since Aaron Rodgers became quarterback. Division games are always challenging, but Chicago looks to be in another rebuilding year.
Toughest Matchups- @Pittsburgh Steelers/@Atlanta Falcons
The Steelers and Falcons are both offensive juggernauts when they’re clicking. Atlanta’s trio of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman and Pittsburgh’s group of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown are probably the two best QB/WR/RB in football. Green Bay’s offense can match up with anyone when it’s hot, but it’s defense has been unreliable. Both these games will push a young Packers’ defense to its limit–especially if the cornerback situation does not improve.
Chance at History (Individual)- vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Rodgers has beaten 30 teams in his career. Over his nine years as a starter, nearly every NFL team has faced Rodgers and been defeated at least once. The lone non-Green Bay exception: the Bengals, who thwarted Rodgers and the Packers in each of their two previous meetings. A win would put #12 in illustrious company, making him just the seventh quarterback to accomplish the feat. Only Brett Favre and Peyton Manning have defeated all 32 teams.
Chance at History (Team)- @/vs Chicago Bears
The all-time series between these storied rivals all tied up. The Packers and Bears have played each other 194 times. Each team has won 94 times, and there have been six ties. Green Bay has not led the overall series since 1932. If the Packers can win both their contests against Chicago in 2017, they’d end a season with the all-time lead for the first time in 85(!) years.
Chance at Revenge- @Atlanta Falcons
The Packers faced Atlanta twice last season, narrowly dropping a 33-32 decision in Week 8 and getting blown out in the NFC Championship game. The playoff loss was marred with mistakes, and the team couldn’t keep up with the Falcons’ high powered offense. Green Bay is a solid candidate to open the season in Atlanta, where the Falcons will debut a brand new stadium. Spoiling the housewarming party would be a small but sweet form of revenge.
Honorable Mention: @Dallas. Yeah, the Packers won the most recent meeting in one of the most-hyped games in recent Cowboys’ history. But Dallas stomped on Green Bay in Lambeau last year, so another victory in Jerry World–where the Packers are 3-0–would be nice. Oh, and a win would give Green Bay a two-game edge in that all-time series as well.
Trap Game-vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are no slouch anymore, as they finished above .500 just two years after going 2-14. Mike Evans emerged as one of the league’s top young receivers in 2016, and Jameis Winston keeps getting better. The Packers will be the favorites–especially at Lambeau–but there’s a lot of potential for an upset here.
Honorable Mention: vs. Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens struggle on the road, going just 2-6 last year. Joe Flacco can look like a top tier QB one week and below average the next. But the defense ranked in the top 10 in nearly every category, which could throw a wrench into what will be expected to be a Green Bay win.
QB Duel- @Atlanta Falcons
I’d expect the impending contest between Atlanta and Green Bay to look more like the back and forth, 33-32 game from the regular season than the 44-21 postseason blowout. Ryan commands the league’s most dangerous offense, while Rodgers remains the most talented quarterback in football. Add in two subpar defenses, and this game has shootout potential written all over it.
Honorable Mention: vs. New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees is getting older, but he is still one of the best quarterbacks in football. His offense gained more yards than anyone else in football (yes, even more than Atlanta) but the Saints’ abysmal defense held the team back. Sound familiar? The Packers also boast a pass-first offense and can’t stop opposing quarterbacks to save their collective lives.
Notable Streaks- vs. Seattle Seahawks, @Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. Cincinnati Bengals
There are a few opponent-specific streaks the Packers can try to end or keep going in 2017. First up is one they hope to keep alive: a winning streak against the Seahawks. The Packers have won two straight against Seattle. That may not seem like a lot, but neither team has won three straight regular season games against the other since Seattle did so from 1984-1990.
The Packers will look to end lengthy losing streaks against the Steelers and Bengals. Green Bay defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, but the Packers have not won a regular season game against the black and gold since 1995. To find the last time Green Bay won in Pittsburgh, you’d have to go all the way back to 1970, where Bart Starr defeated Terry Bradshaw.
Green Bay hasn’t beaten the Bengals since the ’90s either, when the Packers earned a 13-6 road win with Brett Favre at the helm.
The Packers’ full 2017 schedule will not be released for another two months, but the slate of opponents makes for a number of tough, intriguing math ups on Green Bay’s path to the Super Bowl.
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 .