Since the season ended we knew the Packers opponents in 2012. Now we know the order and when we play them. Some instant observations: on paper the Pack has the second easiest schedule in the league (.469 winning percentage a year ago). They face five playoff teams from a year ago (six total games: two vs. Detroit).
Green Bay gets the maximum number of five prime time games, three on Sunday night, one on Monday night (away) and the week two Thursday night game against the Bears. Odd scheduling twist: with two games in the first five days of the season, the Pack will have only six home games between 9/16 and 12/30.
Let’s take a look at each quarter of the season and an early prediction of the team’s record for each quarter. Obviously, once the draft takes place and rosters shake out at training camp things might look a lot different.
1st Quarter: Three of the first four are at Lambeau, beginning with an epic opener, and possible NFC title game preview against the 49ers. It’s a 3:15 start which benefits the Niners, who are crossing a couple of time zones. The Alex Smith-Aaron Rodgers showdown will get a lot of play. But this game features the top offense in the NFC against the league’s top defense and will have playoff implications even though it’s week one. Five days later, the Bears come to town, fresh off their home opener against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Obviously, this one needs no build-up.
The Pack gets 11 days to get ready for their lone appearance on Monday Night Football, at Seattle in what will be billed the Matt Flynn Bowl. The Seahawks are always tough at home and Qwest Field will be rocking, but the extra days of preparation and rest will give the Pack the edge. Of course a Monday night game leads to a short week and the Pack gets the Saints for a 3:15 start (the last one on the schedule). It’s hard to know in what shape the Saints will be in, with interim coach Joe Vitt still sitting out his suspension.
Three home games in the first four, all against potential playoff teams. The Pack should take care of business and start the season 4-0.
2nd Quarter: The three game road trip kicks off this quarter, beginning in Indy with the Pack’s first look at Andrew Luck, a guy who will likely look a lot like Rodgers with his ability to move around the pocket. The Packers hopefully-revamped pass rush should make things confusing for the rookie and the team should breeze to 5-0. Week six is a Sunday night road game in Houston and likely the team’s first L of the season. If the Texans’ defense survives the loss of Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans and remains one of the league’s best, this will be a tough prime time affair against a similarly high powered offense. The third game on the road is in St. Louis and then the Pack finally comes home to play the woeful Jaguars. This team will handle both of them to hit the halfway point at 7-1.
3rd Quarter: The Cardinals come to Lambeau to kick off the second half of the season. They’re improved defensively, but will come in as heavy underdogs. After the bye, the Pack finally plays its second divisional game of the season in week 11 at Detroit. The Lions will have to beat the Packers before I predict that they do it. Having two weeks to prepare gives the Pack the edge and I have a hunch the Lions take a step back this year and are not a playoff team. The Pack is now 9-1. Fortunes change the following week: a Sunday night affair at the Giants. This time the G-men are coming off a bye and get the extra prep time. The Pack has revenge factor working in their favor, but I get the feeling the Giants come out on top again. The third quarter ends with another gimme, the Vikings at Lambeau. They’re 10-2 through three quarters.
4th Quarter: The fifth and final prime time game starts off the final quarter, with the Lions coming to Lambeau on a sure-to-be chilly evening in early December. The Pack sweeps the Kitties. Next up, a third straight division game, at Soldier Field. I get the feeling the Bears somehow get the job done, much as it kills me to type that. They bounce back with a home win against the Titans in week 16 and then head to the Twin Cities to close out the season against the Vikings. No, I’m not going to take a shot and call this potentially the last Vikings game in Minnesota. I absolutely refuse to consider that possibility. I do know this: the Pack will smoke them, finishing the season at 13-3.