The 2014 NFL schedule was publically released last Wednesday, and the Packers will once again have a difficult season opener as they travel to Seattle on the Thursday Night season opener extravaganza. What did the organization do to deserve this? Can't we just host the Bills or Jaguars on a random Sunday afternoon for once?! Now, on top of watching Mel Kiper and Todd McShay breaking down what Jadeveon Clowney ate for breakfast and why this makes him a Hall of Famer already, we have to watch highlights of the infamous "Fail Mary" game until September.
The Packers do catch a few breaks in 2014 though:
- No Sunday night game against the Giants for the first time in what feels like forever
- No Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit
- A mid-season bye week (Week 9)
- Only five playoff teams from 2013
At Seattle, Week 1: Any time you have to play the defending Super Bowl champions in their home opener it isn't going to be easy. The Seattle "12th Man" will be rocking as they celebrate their franchise's first Super Bowl title on a nationally televised stage. The offense will face it's stiffest challenge right out of the gates, and the defense will be forced to play "smash-mouth" football. JC Tretter will be baptized by fire in what many assume will be his first career start, but to be the best, you have to beat the best.
At New Orleans, Week 8: While Week 1 will be the offense's biggest challenge, the Packers Week 8 visit to New Orleans will be the defense's toughest assignment. The Packers were lit up by the Saints in their last visit to the Superdome in 2008 (51-29) and will likely have a rookie safety playing crucial minutes (if not starting) in one of the toughest environments in the NFL. All this comes directly after what will likely be a physical battle with the Carolina Panthers in Week 7.
vs. Eagles, Week 11: The Eagles offense made short work of the Packers patchwork defense last season, and that was year one of the Chip Kelly experiment. The Packers defense will need to have a better showing in order to keep Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, and company in check.
Weeks 6-8: At face value, the Week 6 trip to Miami might not seem all that challenging. After having 10 days to prepare for a mediocre Dolphins team, I expect the Packers to win that game, but add up the traveling the team will have to do following that game and it gets a little concerning.
The team will fly back to Green Bay (likely that Sunday night), and then host a physical team in the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. After that bloodbath is over, the Packers travel all the way back down south to Louisiana to take on Drew Brees and the pass-happy Saints. If the Packers were to get upset at Miami, the team could be looking an 0-3 skid right in the face.
The month of November: Obviously the later in the season you go, the more important the games become. Throw in two division rivals and two playoff teams from last season, and you have a challenging stretch for any team. Luckily, three of the four games are at Lambeau Field, and the team will be coming off a bye week heading into this stretch, which consists of the following games: vs. Bears, vs. Eagles, at Vikings, and vs. Patriots.
If the Packers were to go 3-1 or even 4-0, they would likely put themselves in position to wrap up the NFC North division, and put themselves in solid playoff positioning heading into a December slate that appears to be very favorable.