OK, you know and I know that it’s patently absurd to predict the outcome of games played in the fall when I look out my window and there’s nine inches of fresh snow on the ground.
But, as I said, there’s nine inches of fresh snow on the ground and what better use of time than to take a quick stock of the 2013 schedule and what the season may have in store? We’ll go by quarters since that’s the way Coach McCarthy likes to do it.
First quarter: There are two ways to look at opening for a second consecutive season against the 49ers. It might’ve been nice to face them on the back half of the schedule, hoping that some young defensive re-enforcements are getting things figured out and the defense is starting to find its groove. Instead, Dom Capers will have to deal with Colin Kaepernick and maybe a healed RGIII in the first two weeks. The opener will feel like much more than the first game; a chance to see if the defense has figured out how to keep that offense under 500 yards. If the Pack is beaten soundly, the whole season will feel like a warm-up to a potential rematch in the post-season.
It’s rare that Green Bay opens away from home: it’s only the second time it’s happened under McCarthy. A win would make a September statement, but I’ll call this one a loss: hopefully a close one, if it happens.
The home opener against Washington will be all about RGIII. If he’s back, it’s likely he’ll be nowhere near the threat he was before the devastating knee injury. Even if he’s AP-like, he won’t be near 100% in week 2, which means the Pack should handle the Skins.
Week three features a road test against the Bengals, the third straight 2012 playoff team on the schedule. The Bengals still have cap space to burn and may look a little different as we get closer to the season, but the Pack should be able to handle this team to improve to 2-1 heading into the bye.
We were due for an early bye week and this year, it’s our turn. The only silver lining is that the Thanksgiving Day game comes nine weeks after the bye and will serve as a mini-bye heading into the fourth quarter of the season. The Pack comes out of the bye with the first division game of the season, against the Lions, who never win in Wisconsin. The Packers finish the first quarter at 3-1.
Second Quarter: This quarter begins with a pair of AFC North games and ends with two divisional games. It starts in Baltimore, against the Super Bowl champs, a team that will look a whole lot different, primarily on defense. Until we see how they’ve replaced two Hall of Famers and a couple of other key front seven guys, I have to believe the Packers can score on them. The Ravens are now a team with an offensive identity. So are the Packers. I say the Pack wins a close one and follows up with a comfortable home win against the improving, but still rebuilding Browns. 5-1.
Next, the Packers head to the Metrodome for the final time for the first prime time game of the season. In an odd quirk, three of the next four games are night games. Also for the first time in team history, there are no back-to-back road games. We used to curse three game trips; this year there aren’t even any two game trips. So in each quarter of the season, there are two home games and two road games.
Last year this was the only divisional loss for the Packers, in a game where the Vikings’ season was on the line and the Packers’ wasn’t (I love firing up Queen fans). The place will be crazy for Sunday Night Football. I’ve got to give the Pack a loss in the division. This one is it again.
The Packers head into halftime of 2013 with a Monday night home game against the Bears. There is nothing better in the world. And the Packers don’t lose these games. They take care of the Bears and head into halftime at 6-2.
Third Quarter: The second half kicks off with Chip Kelly and his magical mystical offense at Lambeau. We have no idea what the Eagles will be like, or who will be their QB, but it’s at home. Even on a short week, the Packers handle Philly to improve to 7-2. Next up, another date with Eli Manning and the Giants at their place on a Sunday night. Tough sledding. I’ll give this one to Eli. The Pack close out this quarter with two division games: the rematch with the Vikings at Lambeau (win) and the traditional Thanksgiving Day game in Motown that we seem to play every four years or so. This one probably won’t be easy, but unless that defense has improved dramatically, I don’t think they can slow Rodgers down. The Packers close the third quarter at 9-3.
Fourth Quarter: Wow, a great four games to close out the season. It starts on a Sunday night at Lambeau with the Falcons coming to town. A Dome team coming to Green Bay for a night game in December? Love the timing of this game for the Packers. They’ll handle Matty Ice, whose nickname has nothing to do with the climate in December.
Next, the Pack travels to Dallas. The Cowboys are the most schizofrenic team in the league year after year. Usually, they dig themselves into a grave early and try to dig out late. This could be a dangerous game, coming on the heels of the big Sunday night game against the dirty birds. But McCarthy travels well in the back half of the season and I expect the Packers to pull out a tight one.
The home finale comes against the Steelers, three days before Christmas. The Steelers are another team in flux, with studs like Mike Wallace and James Harrison among a number of key guys no longer there. The Packers take care of business and dispatch of Pittsburgh to improve to 12-3. The season closes at Soldier Field against the Bears. I’ll give this one to the bad guys. Maybe the Pack will be in ‘rest a few guys’ mode. Maybe the Bears will flat beat ‘em. Either way, call it a loss and the Packers finish at 12-4.
Which takes us back to the evening of Sunday, September 8th. The opener against the 49ers will have just ended and we’ll likely feel one of three ways: jacked up because the Pack sprung the road upset and got some payback from last year’s opener; encouraged, because in a close loss the Pack showed the gap between the two teams is not as big as it looked in the playoffs; or devastated because a sound beat down means that the next four months will serve as a prelude to a potential rematch in January, with not much to prove until that possible rematch.
Only 140 days and change to wait.