NFL schedule due out this week; Green Bay faces impressive foes
By CHRIS HAVEL
The much-anticipated NFL schedule is expected to be released later this week. The avalanche of events it triggers throughout the league – and especially in Green Bay – seems endless. While fans rush to Event USA to take care of the off-the-field accommodations, I will handle the on-the-field aspect.
Here is my preferred schedule, and the Packers’ preferred results:
Monday Night, Sept. 8: Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field
The Packers’ defense might as well see where it rates against one the NFC North’s best offense south of Green Bay. It would mark the return of Julius Peppers against his former teammates. Now, wearing No. 56 and lining up opposite Clay Matthews, Peppers might be able to get reacquainted with Jay Cutler in a hurry. This would be the first of the NFL’s annual twin NFL Monday Night Games to open the season.
Sunday, Sept 14: Packers at Buffalo
The Bills aren’t very good, and come at a time when Green Bay will be fine-tuning the defense. If the Packers must go to Orchard Park, it might as well be coming off a short week and a tussle with the Bears.
Sunday, Sept. 21: Packers at Seattle
Better sooner than later especially against a team coming off a resounding Super Bowl victory. The Seahawks’ defense is good, but it hasn’t tried to stop Aaron Rodgers/Eddie Lacy yet.
Sunday, Sept. 28: Detroit at Lambeau Field
This is a difficult two-game stretch, but the Packers have owned the Lions in Wisconsin and that should continue.
Sunday, Oct. 5: New York Jets at Lambeau Field
If things go well, or as planned, the Packers could roll into the bye week with a 4-1 win-loss record.
Sunday, Oct. 12: BYE
Notes – Too early? I don’t think so.
Sunday, Oct. 19: Packers at New Orleans
The Saints are going to be very good, but Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy happens to be even better out of the bye week.
Sunday night, Oct. 26: Carolina at Lambeau Field
This will be a much-anticipated match-up between two of the NFC’s top teams. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton should be healthy after off-season surgery, and Rodgers should be coming off a big game in The Big Easy.
Sunday, Nov. 2: Packers at Miami
True, it’s a bit early for a second bye week, but if you must travel to Miami it’s apt to be cooler in November than September.
Monday, Nov. 10: Philadelphia at Lambeau Field
The Eagles’ LeSean McCoy tore up the Packers a year ago. This time, armed with Rodgers, Green Bay aims for redemption. This will be a significant mid-to-late season test for the Packers’ defense. Will it be much-improved under coordinator Dom Capers? How will Peppers fit? Does Matthews’ thumb, et al, stay healthy enough for him to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate?
Sunday, Nov. 16: Packers at Tampa Bay
The Bucs are going to be better than many NFL “experts” think. They just aren’t going to be better than Green Bay. This should be the week Lacy begins to threaten 1,000-yards rushing, and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb really make it difficult to know which receiver to resign.
Sunday, Nov. 23: Minnesota at Lambeau Field
Wouldn’t it be great if this were the game the Packers and Brett Favre publicly kissed and made up? It would be affirmation that Favre is no longer and only briefly played quarterback for the Vikings.
Thursday, Nov. 27: Packers at Detroit
Playing the Lions in Detroit is never a picnic anyway, so the Packers might as well take care of business on Thanksgiving Day.
Sunday, Dec. 7: Atlanta at Lambeau Field
Notes – It is better to play the Falcons later in the season. Receiver Julio Jones hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and quarterback Matt Ryan has managed to do little except put head coach Mike Smith’s job on the line.
Sunday night, Dec. 14: New England at Lambeau Field
The later, the better, when it comes to playing the Patriots. New England’s Tom Brady and the Packers’ Rodgers might go a long way toward deciding the question, “So which one is the NFL’s MVP?”
Sunday, Dec. 21: Packers at Minnesota
The Packers will be playing outside at Gophers Stadium and Rodgers is great with playing outdoors, so it’s probably a good division tune-up for the regular-season finale.
Sunday, Dec. 28: Packers at Chicago
I like the symmetry. The Packers open by unleashing Peppers on his former team, and close by watching Lacy dance on the Bears’ defense at Soldier Field.
Packers finish 12-4 to win the NFC North.