The Green Bay Packers have been known to have sluggish starts in the first month or month and a half of the season. That cannot happen this year, as the Packers appear to have a relatively manageable first six weeks before the bye. They will need to start 5-1 or at least 4-2 before the bye week. Unfortunately, the Packers struggle to come out of the gates quick more often than not.
First of all, like I mentioned, the Packers have a manageable beginning to the year. They also have a relatively easy end to the season. In the first six weeks of the season, the Packers play only two teams that made the playoffs in 2017, and both of those games are at home. Two of the games before the bye are also against teams that had top 10 picks in the draft. And finally, of those six games, the Packers play four games at Lambeau Field.
As I stated, the Packers need to win at least four games in the first six. Following the bye, four of the next five are on the road. All of those places are tough to play, and three of those teams are projected to be three of the best in the league: Los Angeles (Rams), Minnesota and New England. After those 11 games, Green Bay needs to be above .500, and hopefully will be around 7-4 before the “easy” stretch to end the season.
However, the Packers and fast starts normally don’t go together. In Mike McCarthy’s tenure with the Packers, they have started out with four wins in their first five games four times (2007, 2011, 2015, 2017). But there are many other times they started out 1-2 or 2-2 or 2-3. Even in games they won, it wasn’t pretty.
In 2014, the team limped to a 1-2 start, getting blown out at Seattle, and looking lifeless in a 19-7 loss in Detroit. In the win, the Packers had to dig themselves out of a 21-3 lead against Geno Smith and the New York Jets. Yes, Geno Smith. In 2013, Green Bay also started 1-2 after blowing a big lead against Cincinnati. In 2016, it was 3-2, but did not look all that impressive in five games. They would end up at 4-6 before finally heating up.
The slow starts in the past have put them behind the 8-ball. Putting themselves in a bad position at the start of the season has cost themselves on multiple occasions a first-round bye. In the eight straight seasons of making the playoffs, Green Bay played 16 playoff games, but less than a third (5) were played at home. The Packers played three conference championship games in those seasons, but none of them were played at the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.
With New England, in those eight seasons, the Patriots played only two road games. Those road games were at Denver, and they lost both times. Pittsburgh has played in 10 playoff games in that time frame, and half of them were road games. Seattle played in 14 playoff games in that period, and only played six road games. Significantly different than what the Packers have had to deal with.
To their credit, they have been able to fight back in the second half of the season to either make the playoffs or give them a better seed in the playoffs. In six of the eight seasons, they have been at 5-3 at the midpoint of the season or worse. That puts them on pace for a 10-win season, which may be enough to get them into the playoffs, but only good enough for a four seed if they win the division.
Time is running out for Aaron Rodgers, as the quarterback turns 35 in December. He has maybe three or four years of playing at his top level, so the Packers will need to win another Super Bowl soon, and they cannot afford another slow start.——————
Jonathon Zenk is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He is a huge Packers fan, and a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. You can follow Jonathon on Twitter at @jzenk42