So now we know precisely when each of the Packers’ 2018 games will be played. We still don’t know what this team will look like. Next week’s draft will answer most of those questions, but there will still be some roster tinkering between now and the start of training camp.
What will the right side of the offensive line look like? Who will line up opposite Davante Adams at WR? What will the back end of Mike Pettine’s defense look like? Who will emerge as the starter at running back? And on and on. So there will be no game by game predictions yet, that will come in early September.
For now, let’s look at the rhythm of the schedule and what it means for the 100th edition of the Green Bay Packers.
For the 13th straight year, the Pack and Bears will play in prime time–this time in the coveted week 1 Sunday night spot: an homage to the Pack’s 100th season. While the Bears are likely to be improved, with offensive free agency acquisitions to make things easier for Mitchell Trubisky, this is a perfect opening game for the Pack to begin to get their swagger back and prepare them for the Vikings in week 2.
Long time readers of this blog know that I look at the season in quarters, and the Pack’s first quarter includes three home games, against the Bears, Vikes and Bills–with a road game in Washington in between. The Pack couldn’t have asked for a more desirable way to get the defense acclimated. It stands to reason that it will take a little time for that unit to get comfortable with Pettine’s system. Facing Trubisky, Cousins, Smith and McCarron is about all they could ask for–compared to some of the QBs and offenses they will face later.
The Pack’s second quarter includes three road games, beginning with a division game at Detroit. Next, the 49ers come to town for a Monday night game. Jimmy G fever has already reached fever pitch–the Niners have the maximum five prime games on their schedule, as the Packers do (the Vikings only have four…hmmm). With road games looming on opposite coasts at the Rams and Patriots, the Pack will need to take care of business on Monday night. It’s their only home game between September 30th and November 11th. And they’ll have the bye following this game, a chance to heal up and brace themselves for the toughest stretch I can ever remember: the four toughest road games on the schedule over a five week stretch.
The Sunday night game in New England will be one of the most anticipated of the season: just the second matching Brady and Rodgers. As tough as finishing this two game stretch will be, it kicks off a brutal stretch of three prime time games in four weeks–all on the road. I’ve never seen anything like that: New England, Seattle and Minnesota, with a home game against the Dolphins in the middle. If the Pack can steal one of those (Seattle seems the most likely), they’ll set themselves up for their five December games to close the season.
If the Pack can get through November above .500, say 6-5, they’ll be in good shape for a return to the playoffs, because barring injury, they’ll be favored in all five December games. They will all be cold weather games, three Lambeau games: Cards, Falcons and Lions and two road games, in Chicago and at the Jets. It’s nice to finally close the season at home–something that hasn’t happened in a while.
So to summarize, September and December seem to set the Pack up for success, while October and November are brutal, with their four toughest road tests of the season. The notoriously slow starting Packers can’t afford to slip up early this year. If they take care of business early, they should be able to withstand some Ls in the middle and be where they want to be when they enter the home stretch.
My seven round Packer mock draft will be posted on Tuesday. Please come back and check it out.