After facing the Lions on Thanksgiving, the Packers enter the fourth quarter of their schedule. This mini-bye week ends abruptly as the Packers enter a very tough stretch on their schedule. Each team in the fourth quarter of the Packers' schedule either contended for or made the playoffs in 2013 and none of them should be overlooked. The games break down as follows:
Week 14: vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 15: at Dallas Cowboys
Week 16: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 17: at Chicago Bears
Week 14: vs. ATL
The long rest after Thanksgiving should give the Packers ample time to prepare for this game, against an Atlanta Falcons team which finished 13-3 last year. The Falcons retain much the same roster that went 13-3 but won a lot of close games in the regular season last year. The Packers last went into the Georgia Dome twice in 2011 (once in the 2010 playoffs) and won both times. How Atlanta fares without Michael Turner may be immaterial as their running game still picked up the slack. The game, however, is at Lambeau Field in December, which should give the Packers a decisive advantage.
Week 15: @ DAL
Normally, a trip to Dallas would be worrisome, but the Cowboys have struggled noticeably since their 11-5 record in 2009 (and one of those five losses was at Lambeau Field). The Packers will be aiming for their first win in Dallas since 1989, and it will be of the utmost importance for the Packers to stop the Cowboys' receivers in this one. Despite their firepower at receiver, the Cowboys have struggled with finding consistency in their running game and the Packers should be favored to win this one.
Week 16: vs. PIT
The long-awaited rematch of Super Bowl XLV will occur in the second-to-last week of the regular season. A lot depends on how the Steelers look for this game. Pittsburgh became somewhat one-dimensional last year when Mendenhall (who has now left the Steelers) ran into trouble late last year. Their offense wasn't the same without Mendenhall and his absence will be huge. This, along with Green Bay's home-field advantage, should give the Packers and edge in this game.
Week 17: @ CHI
The NFL's insistence on scheduling divisional games in the final week of the season means Green Bay will face the Bears in Chicago to finish the season. There is no way to tell how these teams will approach this game as everything will depend on what the Packers and Bears' respective playoff situations appear going into this game. As a result, it is difficult to say whether or not the Packers have an edge here.
This end of the schedule will test the Packers to see how they fare against some of the better teams of the NFL. The Packers should finish 3-1, or maybe even 4-0, in this section. If indeed they finish 4-0, they will be primed for a deep playoff run as they will be heating up at the right time of the regular season. The overall record for the Packers should be between 11-5 and 13-3, and I think 12-4 is a good prediction. This will put Green Bay in ideal position to penetrate into the playoffs and contend for another Super Bowl title.
Schedule Reactions: First Quarter | Second Quarter | Third Quarter
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