Expectations are as low as I can remember for the Green Bay Packers this year. That’s what happens when you trade away your four-time MVP quarterback. But given the Packers’ schedule, I think it’s entirely possible they will win more games than most people expect.
According to CBS Sports, the Packers have the 24th-hardest schedule in 2023. These rankings are based on how their 2023 opponents fared last season. The Packers’ 2023 opponents had a combined .476 winning percentage in 2022. Now, this is just a benchmark because we all know no team is the same as they were the year before. But at least this gives us a general idea of how difficult the Packers’ schedule will be.
But even though they have an ‘easier’ schedule, it won’t be a cakewalk either. So let’s take a look at the toughest opponents on the Packers’ schedule this season.
3. Detroit Lions
I’m trying so hard not to buy into the Detroit Lions hype. But they were the hottest team in the division at the end of the year and they are probably the Packers’ biggest obstacle in the division this year. Last season, the Packers lost both games to the Lions, including their Week 18 meltdown that left them out of the playoffs. The game on Thanksgiving in Detroit is going to be a big game for the Packers. Whether the Lions are legit or not, they are a thorn in the Packers’ side.
Their offense was good last year and will likely be improved this season. They added some playmakers in the draft, including running back Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta. Add in Amon-Ra St. Brown and this is a very potent offense if they can pick up where they left off in 2022.
The other side of the ball, however, is a big question mark. They were just flat-out, not good last year, allowing the most yards and the third-most points in the league. They invested some money and draft capital into their defense this offseason. In the draft, they added Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell and Alabama safety Brian Branch. In free agency, they signed C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Cameron Sutton to help fortify their secondary. I’m not sure how much better their defense will be this year, but it can’t be a whole lot worse than last year.
The Lions’ record may not reflect it at the end of the season, but these games will be some of the toughest games on the Packers’ schedule.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
Playing the Los Angeles Chargers is going to be a big test for this team, particularly the defense. The Chargers have a high-powered offense that is going to be putting up some big numbers in 2023. Justin Herbert will have Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Austin Ekeler returning this season. They added another explosive weapon in Quinten Johnston, whom they drafted 21st overall this offseason.
Defensively, the Chargers were in the middle of the pack in 2022. They ranked 16th in overall DVOA last season. They added a few pieces defensively that should help them improve. Signing linebacker Eric Kendricks will bolster this linebacking corps and they drafted Tuli Tuipulotu out of USC in the second round to join Khalil Mack as edge rushers.
Luckily, the Packers will host the Chargers in the middle of November. The colder weather should aid in slowing down the Chargers’ passing attack.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
When you look through the Packers’ schedule, this game automatically goes to the top of the ‘toughest opponents’ list. The defending Super Bowl champs will be the biggest test for Green Bay in 2023. But like the Chargers, the Chiefs come to Green Bay when the weather is favorable to the Packers. Even without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have plenty of primetime games this season and this is one of them. The Packers host the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football on December 3rd.
The Chiefs are looking to run it back this year. And like every other year, they’ve lost a few pieces but still found a way to reload. Offensively, they lost Orlando Brown Jr. but replaced him with Jawann Taylor and Donovan Smith. They also lost receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman but still have MVS, Skyy Moore, Justyn Ross, and Kadarius Toney on their roster. Jerick McKinnon was also brought back after he became a big part of the offense last season. Oh, and they still have the best quarterback in the league in Patrick Mahomes. Needless to say, this offense is still the creme of the crop in the NFL.
Defensively, the Chiefs were a middle-of-the-pack defense as well. They ranked 17th in DVOA in 2022. They weren’t spectacular but they did enough where they weren’t a liability. This offseason, Frank Clark was released in a cap-saving move. Clark was replaced by the Chief’s first-round pick, Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
As the Packers head into the 2023 season, there are a lot of unknowns. But playing some of the toughest teams in the NFL like the Chiefs and the Chargers will give us a good glimpse of where things stand in the new Green Bay Packers era.
Christian Borman is a lifelong Packers fan residing in the Madison area. He writes for PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter @christianborman.