A Close Look at the 2011 SchedulePosted:Apr 20th, 2011 1:46 am
Our excitement of the unveiling of the 2011 schedule is tempered by the reality that there is no guarantee the season will start on September 8th, when the Pack is slated to kickoff the season at Lambeau against the Saints.
Assuming the two sides come to their senses sooner rather than later, here are some of the things that jump out to me with the schedule:
The Packers will be the first team in NFL history to play games on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day in the same season...The Pack has only six noon kickoffs on the schedule...There are only five 2010 playoff teams on the schedule: Bears (twice), Saints, Atlanta and Kansas City.
The Pack have three home games in December, closing with divisional home games vs. the Bears and Lions...The Packers will play three games in an 11-day span, beginning with a Monday night game against the Vikings, then another home game against Tampa Bay, concluding with the Thanksgiving game at Detroit...There are five 3:15 starts on this year's schedule.
Let's break down the schedule in quarters: 1st Quarter-The Super Bowl champs always open at home on Thursday night and the NFL chose the Saints, rather than the Bears to open things up. Rodgers vs. Brees, the two most recent Super Bowl MVPs go head to head in a game that should be high scoring. A Packers-Bears game would be a much lower scoring affair. The home team is unbeaten since the NFL wen to the Thursday night opener. The next two are on the road, at Carolina and Chicago. The Panthers are likely to be starting a rookie QB (Cam Newton?) and are bringing in new offensive and defensive systems. This should be the easiest road game on the schedule. The Bears game is a 3:15 start and should be tight, defensive and come down to the final minutes. The Pack returns home in week 4 for a 3:15 kickoff against the Broncos. The two worst teams from 2010 meet the Pack in the first four weeks. At worst, the Pack is 3-1 through four.
2nd Quarter: The bye falls at a perfect time, week eight. So Green Bay will look at the three games heading into the bye: at Atlanta (Sunday night), St. Louis, at Minnesota and should easily win two of three. The Atlanta game figures to be as tough a game as there is on the schedule, with the Birds dying for some revenge from the playoff debacle. The Pack wins the next two to improve to 5-2 at the bye. Then they head to San Diego for another tough road test, but one the Pack should handle: 6-2 at the halfway mark.
3rd Quarter: This quarter begins with home games against the Vikings (Monday night) and Bucs and then road games at Detroit and N.Y. (Giants). The Thanksgiving game is the scariest one in this quarter, but after losing in Detroit last year, figure on the Pack taking care of business this time around, and the extra days to prepare for the Giants should serve them well. At worst, 3-1 this quarter and the Pack is 9-3.
4th Quarter: Three of the final four are at Lambeau--just what the doctor ordered. The only road game is at Kansas City, a playoff team from 2010 that will be challenged to return to the post-season in 2011. The home games are against Oakland and then two divisional foes to end the season: Chicago (Christmas night!) and Detroit. Pack sweeps the final four to finish 13-3.
Obviously, there's a draft to be held and the Pack will lose some veterans to free agency and the waiver wire, so we don't know the precise makeup of this team. But barring any major injuries or labor strife, the Packers are poised to host a couple of playoff games at Lambeau next January.
A faithful reader of this blog reminded us that the Packers always go back to back when it comes to Super Bowls: I & II, XXXI & XXXII, XLV and XLVI? Is it in the cards? It's been more than a decade since an NFC team has gone to consecutive Super Bowls. The Pack appears poised to take a shot at ending that streak.