A Look at the Schedule, by the Numbers

The schedule has been released and we can all finally work our way, game by game, through the schedule and determine what the Pack's record might be. Never mind the fact that we haven't even gone through the draft and the likely surprise cuts, additions and injuries that will alter things a bit.

So let's take a look at the schedule, by the numbers:

7: Players and coaches will always tell you that the first thing they look at is when the bye falls. For the Pack, it's week seven this year. I'd have to think the sweet spot for NFLers is weeks 7-9, so they have to be pretty happy with a week seven bye. It's also a natural spot the way the schedule falls for the Pack. Barring injury or anything crazy, the Pack will be favored to win its first six games. The next two games after the bye are road games against 2014 playoff teams, Denver and Carolina. The Pack could easily start 6-0, with four home games and road games in Chicago and SF, take a week off ,and then get set for a tough stretch, beginning with those two road tests.

6: An odd quirk about the Pack's schedule is that it features just six noon kickoffs. Call me old fashioned (I prefer to think of it as old school), but I think a perfect schedule would be 12 noon starts and four games under the lights. But in a year where the Pack plays the West in both the NFC and AFC, you're going to get late starts--there are five 3:25 kickoffs on this year's slate. They will play no noon games starting with the epic Thanksgiving night game until the season finale vs. the Vikings.

5: Following that thought, the Pack will once again play the maximum five prime time games this season, including the first two home games, in weeks two and three. The Week 2 Sunday night affair with the Seahawks is the most anticipated game on the schedule. Making it the home opener in prime time just adds some sizzle to a game that didn't really need it. If the Pack can exorcize a few demons and take down the 'Hawks, they can take a deep breath and get down to the business of trying to earn the top seed in the conference. The Sunday night game at Denver should be great theater as well--most likely the second and final Rodgers-Manning duel. As huge as the Week 2 matchup is, most Packer fans would prefer to be at the Bears game, if they had to pick one. A Thanksgiving night dessert at Lambeau between the Pack and Bears and oh, by the way, Favre's number will be retired that night? I'd get in line right now for that one.

4: While the schedule is very favorable early, it toughens considerably after the bye. Once those two road games in Denver and Carolina are over, the Pack will be staring at four straight divisional games. The Pack will come out of this stretch with four games left, with home games against the Cowboys and Vikings and west coast road games in Oakland and Arizona. The way Green Bay has dominated the North in recent years, a record of 3-1 seems likely, splitting the road games and winning the home games. If that happens, they should be set up nicely heading into the final quarter of the season.

3: Woven into those four straight divisional matchups is a 12 day stretch where the Pack will have to play three games, starting at Minnesota, then Bears on Turkey Day and at Detroit. Mike McCarthy is already bemoaning the fact that the team will have only seven days after the Thanksgiving game to prepare for the Lions the following Thursday night. But the Lions are in the same boat, and it is a division game, so you know the team well. They'll come out of it with ten days to get ready for the home game against the Cowboys, a nice little edge.

2: The Week two matchup against the Seahawks will have everything you hope for in a game. Like the Cowboys in the '90s, the Packers seem to always play this team on the road. Now they get them at home. A win here cements any potential tiebreaker scenarios a few months later and will likely do a lot to salve the psyche of the players and coaches, many of whom are still not over it, no matter what they tell us publicly. Most fans aren't over it either. But getting them in the home opener in prime time is just what the doctor ordered. Will the Pack be more aggressive offensively? Can they stop Jimmy Graham? Will special teams step up and hold their own? We'll know a lot about the 2015 team after this one.

1: Finally, here's one guy's ridiculously early attempt at figuring out the Pack's 2015 results, game by game. I think they win the first six. Four home games: those are Ws. The opener at Chicago may be tougher than expected since they have a new coaching staff and the team will have only the relatively meaningless preseason games to use as tape to figure out what they are like this season. Expect an offense led by the legs of Matt Forte, not the arm of Jay Cutler. But the Bears will still be figuring things out as well, so expect the Pack to win this road game, as well as the week 4 game at the Niners. This team has lost too much defensively and the Pack is ready to finally beat them.

So they come out of their bye at 6-0, staring at road games against 2014 playoff teams. I'll say they split those two and enter that tough divisional stretch at 7-1 at the halfway point. As I said earlier, I would think the Pack can go 3-1 in this four game test, winning at home, losing at Minnesota and beating the Lions in Detroit (it's not Thanksgiving Day, so the Pack can handle them).

The final quarter of the season features two gimmes: at Oakland and at home in a revenge game against the Vikes and two toughies: Dallas (seeking revenge for the Dez non-catch) and at Arizona. I'll give the Cardinals, and their tough defense, a win in this one--provided that Carson Palmer is still healthy (a big if).

That computes to a 13-3 record, which should be good enough for the top seed in the NFC. Wanna sign up for that right now?

Coming Monday: my annual seven-round Packers mock draft.


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