On the whole, road contests are never easy in today’s NFL and the Green Bay Packers know first-hand in a NFC North that features an annual trip to Minnesota. However, looking ahead to the 2020 season, the Packers will not only head to Minneapolis for a divisional clash in Week 1, but also to several other road venues outside the North against teams figuring to pack some heat in the playoff races.
The first of these trips is to the roaring crowd* of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 3 to face the New Orleans Saints. (*Crowd noise pending COVID-19 provisions, of course.) The Packers have traveled to New Orleans just three times since 2002, but each trip was a disaster with the closest loss being by 15 points. In what could be Drew Brees’ last hurrah, a Saints team still in contention mode will be a difficult early test despite Aaron Rodgers’ success indoors. While Rodgers has not accumulated a terrible stat line against the Saints, with his completion rate being the second-highest against New Orleans among all opponents in his career, he has also thrown 10 touchdowns to six interceptions, one of his lower ratios. And of course, outside of Rodgers, the Saints’ aerial attack along with Alvin Kamara on the ground makes this an unenviable non-divisional game.
Fresh off of a bye in Week 6, the Packers will then head to Tampa Bay. Like New Orleans, Rodgers has posted one of his worst touchdown to interception ratios against the Buccaneers at 8:7. While Tampa has been tough on the Packers with a 2-5 road record since 2000, this matchup should be even rougher with Tom Brady now a Buc. It is bad luck for Green Bay to feature the NFC South on its schedule this particular year after quite a few seasons of mediocrity from Tampa Bay. But with Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and a promising young nucleus in the fold, the Buccaneers are primed to be competitive again already in 2020. This matchup is only the start of a pivotal four-game stretch that should define the Packers’ season, with three of those games away from Lambeau Field.
The very next week is a trip to Houston, where the Texans are coming off of a postseason berth the past two seasons. Although Houston had somewhat of an offensive shake-up in the offseason with DeAndre Hopkins leaving and David Johnson entering, the Texans should again be one of the better teams in the AFC South. DeShaun Watson remains one of the game’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, but Green Bay has not seen him first-hand to this point.
The four-game stretch concludes with San Francisco, a Thursday night game to the West Coast that is a scheduling nightmare. The short week combined with a trip across two time zones is already hard enough. But on top of that, it is the 49ers, who embarrassed the Packers at Levi’s Stadium in January and will once again be the team to beat in the NFC with an explosive offense and stout defense. While there is room to be an optimist, it certainly is hard to see this game going in Green Bay’s favor. The Packers are 1-4 on the road in San Francisco since 2013.
The Packers’ final non-divisional road contest is in Indianapolis in Week 11. The Colts are not a typical Green Bay opponent. But to be blunt: the Packers have never won in Indianapolis dating back to the Colts’ move from Baltimore in 1984. Like Houston, Indianapolis should be in the hunt for the divisional crown with a stingy defense and will benefit from the addition of Philip Rivers at quarterback, a position of weakness last season.
In 2020, the Packers will still have their advantages with a primarily home schedule down the stretch and a weaker non-divisional slate of teams at home. But from a historical perspective, Green Bay faces a hellish road calendar as they try to repeat as NFC North champions.