Taking a Peek at the 2011 Schedule

We're going to presume, for the sake of this exercise, that the NFL will be playing football the weekend after Labor Day. That all the rhetoric and vitriol being spewed will end sometime this spring and summer and both the owners and players will come to their senses and keep America's favorite sport open for business.

As Super Bowl champs, the Pack will open the season at Lambeau on the Thursday night before the first Sunday. What this means for me and "Packer Preview" listeners is that we will be reviewing the opener on Sunday, September 11th--unless I can convince Dan Barreiro to go home early and the Fan braintrust allows us a special Thursday night edition before kickoff.

First let's take a look at the 2011 opponents:

Home: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Denver and Oakland.

Away: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, N.Y. Giants, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City and San Diego

So the NFC North gets the NFC South (maybe the strongest division in the NFL) and the AFC West, one of the weaker divisions but one that's improving quickly with the turn-arounds in KC and Oakland. The Pack catches a break in getting two of the tougher NFC South teams at home, but they have to play the two better AFC West teams, KC and SD, on the road. It would be nice if we could play the Chargers in the first four or five weeks, when they typically struggle, before finding a groove and making their patented run late.

By virtue of the second place finish in 2010, the Pack gets the Giants and Rams, instead of the Eagles and Seahawks--that seems like a wash to me.

The Packers' opponent for the opener will likely either be the Bears or the Saints. My hunch is it's the Saints. A matchup featuring the two most recent Super Bowl champs is a bit more unique and nationally satisfying than a rematch of the NFC title game--though it is a divisional and rivalry game.

The Pack will undoubtedly have four prime time games in 2011, maybe two Sunday nights and two Monday nights. Figure on the Saints and a Bears home game. Other two possibilities: at Atlanta, at New York, at Kansas City or at San Diego.

Expectations will be for at least a 12-win season: win the home games and do no worse than split on the road. Figure if you lose one divisional road game, you need to go 2-3 in the others at worst. Atlanta looks like the toughest game on the schedule, in light of what the Pack did to them in their house last month. Splitting road games in Carolina, KC, SD and NY should be no problem, barring catastrophic injuries to key players.

So the very early read, before the draft, before resigning players, before any dust gathers on the Pack's 4th Lombardi Trophy, is a 13-3 record for the defending Super Bowl champs and one or two real live home playoff games--something its fans crave and something the team will be expected to earn.


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