Having won eight of their first ten games and going into their bye week atop the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers have a lot to be happy about in their first season under head coach Matt LaFleur. But with four of their last six games away from the snowy confines of Lambeau Field, the going gets tough for this historic franchise.
Having played six of their ten games before their Week 11 bye at home for sure helped get this team out to a fast start, and by playing the vast majority of their games in November and December away from home, the weather factor cannot become as big of a part of the defense of their home turf.
With only two of their remaining matchups against current above-.500 teams, the schedule looks relatively easy, on paper. But with how teams play when it gets later in the summer, playing spoiler can represent the only thing that underachieving teams can manage to strive for.
Here is a brief look at all six matchups that fill out the remainder of the Packers’ schedule.
Week 12 – at San Francisco
There is a reason that this game was flexed to be the Sunday night contest. A battle between the two heavyweights of the NFC, which already carries heavy playoff implications even though it is only a Week 12 matchup.
With Jimmy Garappolo helping lead the offense, their rushing attack boasting three more-than-capable backs to gash a defense, and an improved receiving core with the acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders, the Niners have a good chunk of weapons on the offense side of the ball. As efficient as they are with running the ball, the onus falls on the Packer defense to make Garappolo beat them through the air, similar to how they kept Christian McCaffrey in check the best they could in Week 10.
On the defensive side, the 49ers pass rush is stymying teams each and every week, with Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and others consistently making the QB’s life a living hell. With the stout offensive line for Green Bay more than holding their own so far in 2019, this may represent one of their biggest tests yet this season.
Their secondary is definitely as an aspect that Aaron Rodgers can pick apart, and their linebacking core can be burned too with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams out of the backfield running patterns.
While the Niners have been very dominant so far this season, they are also very beatable in their own right. If Green Bay can stick to what has gotten them to this point so far, rely on a quick passing attack to keep the pass rushers at bay, and use Kyle Shanahan-esque offensive elements against him with both Jones and Williams, then they can get out of California riding high at 9-2 on the season, with a much clearer path to the NFC’s no. 1 seed.
Week 13 – at New York Giants
Opening up the month of December with a noon affair at the Meadowlands, the New York Giants present an interesting opponent for Green Bay. With a rookie quarterback (Daniel Jones) fully at the helm and beginning to justify why the Giants took him so early in the draft, combined with the injured workhorse that is Saquon Barkley, they can easily push the issue against Green Bay and make this a tougher game than it should be.
On the defensive side of the ball, the league’s 27th-best rated defense boasts no real difference-makers for New York, which can make this game go from a close one to a blowout in an instant. Rodgers has thrived playing the Giants on the road, and this game should represent no difference.
With Barkley not at full strength and the remainder of the weapons around Jones looking a bit rough, their offensive attack is lacking in many areas, especially offensive line. For their defense, it has provided a few stand-out plays so far in 2019, but overall there has not been much to write home about, which should make Rodgers and company lick their chops coming into this matchup.
Week 14 – vs Washington Redskins
Welcoming the Redskins to Lambeau Field for their first home game since Nov. 10, the Packers will be facing off against their second consecutive rookie quarterback, as Ohio State product Dwayne Haskins has been anointed as the Redskins’ starting QB for the remainder of 2019, a burden more than a blessing.
After having just dropped a home affair to the hapless New York Jets, calls for owner Dan Snyder to sell the team have been running rampant throughout that fan base, which just goes to show how poor this team has been doing so far this year. With a 31st-ranked offense and a 21st-ranked defense, this team has been playing for the draft ever since the preseason began.
Besides Haskins, stellar rookie and fellow Buckeye Terry McLaurin has been showing out for this team and looks to be their best wideout moving forward. McLaurin’s impact has been able to push the focus away from the mishandling of franchise left tackle Trent Williams’ injury and contract status.
Defensively, nothing here to actually write home about, as this unit has been pretty disappointing, although the expectations were not high coming into the year. This team’s lone win came over the tanking Miami Dolphins, so that really is just not even worth counting.
In what can hopefully be a nice little tuneup for the remainder of the season, the Redskins come to Lambeau in what can only be described as the big brother picking on the little brother.
Week 15 – vs Chicago Bears
In what can only be described as a treacherous three-game stretch to end the season, the Packers welcome the Bears to Lambeau to finish up their two matchups of the season. With Green Bay having taken the Opening Night victory over the Bears in Chicago, revenge can almost taste better when served to a superior opponent, so the Packers need to be careful in this game.
With the Bears failing to live up to their high expectations for this season, the playoffs are still not out of the question, even with as dominant as the NFC is. Obviously, the playoff picture will be a bit clearer when Week 15 rolls around, so the Bears could or could not be one of those teams in the hunt when this matchup comes up on the calendar.
The Bears defense takes the cake in terms of the better unit on this team, which is to be expected when Mitch Trubisky is the tried and true ‘quarterback’ on this team. With their running back woes plaguing this team on top of poor playcalling of head coach Matt Nagy, this offense is quickly falling into the category of being labeled as ‘putrid.’
Divisional matchups always seem to become tougher in the month of December, and this game follows that trend as well.
Week 16 – at Minnesota Vikings
In what could be the decider for the divisional title, this second-to-last-week tilt against their biggest divisional foe is exactly what December football is all about. The Vikings have looked to be the part of a solid postseason team looking to break into the postseason by beating a worthy opponent, and the Packers easily fit that bill.
With Adam Thielen on the pine due to an injury lately, the Vikings are operating at less than full speed on the offensive side of the ball and still winning games, which is a scary sight for the rest of the NFC. Dalvin Cook has filled the role of the best running back in the NFC this season so far, and with Kirk Cousins finally looking like he has figured this whole quarterback thing out, watch out.
Defensively, their cornerbacks are the worst area of their defense, and both Rodgers and Davante Adams have regularly torched this unit, and that should remain the case in this game. Their defensive line and linebacking core are both very stout, which will make running the ball and giving Rodgers a bunch of time in the pocket both difficult things to follow through on in a game plan.
This game is already set for Monday night, and the kind of lead-up for this game will be incredible, which will help set the table for how this NFC postseason picture will officially look.
Week 17 – at Detroit Lions
This team always seems to face the Lions in the season-ending game, and while the Lions have been struggling this year, they always seem to play the Packers hard. In a matchup that will hopefully see the Packers resting their top starters because of having a bye wrapped up, the Lions may get the edge in this one, depending on if Matthew Stafford is recovered from his back injury.
For head coach Matt Patricia, his defensive mind has not produced a stout defensive scheme so far in his Detroit tenure, which is very unfortunate for Detroit. While this team is improved in certain areas, having traded away defensive captain Quandre Diggs showed that this team was packing it in early this year.
Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. both present matchup nightmares for opposing corners, but Jaire Alexander and Kevin King have been showing every week that they are coming together to form one of the better young cornerbacking duos in the league. With no running back option after the season-ending injury to Kerryon Johnson, this team becomes a one-dimensional team based strictly on their passing output.
In a matchup that hopefully does not need to be won by Green Bay for playoff implications, this could become the Tim Boyle Game that creates his legend in Titletown, a la Matt Flynn.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23