A Quarter By Quarter Look at the Pack's 2014 Schedule

We've known the 'who' and the 'where' for months, but somehow learning the 'when' brings the next NFL season completely into focus. With five prime time games on the schedule, the Pack got more evening love than the Super Bowl champs. But the green and gold better come out of the gates firing, because the first quarter of the schedule is the toughest.

Here's a quarter by quarter breakdown of the Pack's 2014 schedule--with predictions of course.

1st Quarter: Three of the first four are on the road and the Pack would probably accept a 2-2 split. The season opener is the toughest game on the slate, at the world champs on Thursday night. Surprisingly, it's the Seahawks' only home game in prime time (the Pack gets three), reportedly because the league is afraid they'll blow teams out and the games won't be 'must see TV.' The opener will be, as Green Bay returns to the scene of the last game played with replacement refs.

Qwest Field will be rocking as usual: an exceedingly difficult task for whoever wins the job at center. Sometimes teams get too hyped up in their first home game as defending champs, but I doubt the Seahawks will fall into that trap. Ten days later the Pack opens at home against the Jets, in a game that may feature Michael Vick at QB, if he beats out Geno Smith. The offensively challenged Jets have added Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, so they may have a bit more pop than we've seen in recent seasons.

The first quarter concludes with a pair of road division games in Detroit and Chicago. It begins an important stretch of three divisional games in 12 days. A split of these two road games would be acceptable. If you figure on an opening night loss, the Pack would be 2-2 after the first quarter.

2nd Quarter: A Thursday night game at Lambeau kicks off the second quarter, with Mike Zimmer's Vikings coming to town. With a new coaching staff, this figures to be a transition year for the Purple and the Pack will take care of business at home. A trip to Miami follows against the improved Dolphins. The ten day rest should serve the Packers well in this one. They return home for a tough test against the Panthers, a surprise team in 2013, but one that has absorbed some key personnel losses and feels like it's ripe to take a step back this season. Their defense is still elite, though, and it will be a hard-fought home victory.

The Packers will close out the first half of their schedule with a game that's as tough as the opener: a Sunday night tilt at the Superdome. You just don't win prime time games in New Orleans and I don't see anything changing here. A loss drops the Pack to 5-3 as they take some time off for a perfectly timed bye week.

3rd Quarter: Another Sunday night game kicks off the second half of the season, at home against the Bears, who will also be coming off of their bye. You've been watching these games as closely as I have over the years: the Pack doesn't lose big nationally televised home games to the Bears. Julius Peppers has some fun and the Pack improves to 6-3 and the schedule sets them up for a nice streak here. They play four out of five at home during this stretch, the lone road game at Minnesota. I see them winning the home games this quarter: beating the Bears, getting revenge on the Eagles and then taking down Tom Brady and the Patriots in a huge test on a late afternoon at Lambeau. I'll give the Vikes the win at TCF Bank Stadium, begrudgingly. The Pack is 8-4 through three quarters.

4th Quarter: The Pack's only Monday night game kicks off the final quarter, with the warm weather dome team the Falcons coming to town. I have the feeling this is the game the Packers bring back Brett Favre, they kiss and make up and retire #4. It makes sense to do it on the national stage with the team that drafted him across the sideline. Oh, and they're not losing to Atlanta on a December night at Lambeau. The final two road games are in Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Both teams figure to be improved this season--I'll give the Pack the win in Buffalo, but a loss in Tampa, against a team they always seem to struggle with. The season closes with the Lions coming to town in week 17. Enough said.

It adds up to 11-5, enough to win the North, but a playoff bye may once again be out of reach. Obviously, a lot will happen between now and the season opener, most notably the draft and the inevitable injuries. We'll all cross our fingers and hope that the team is due for a year where they don't lose some of their biggest playmakers to injury. If they can stay relatively healthy, they'll be in the mix next January--and maybe February.

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