The NFL schedules were released Thursday night, and with that came the complaints, and some cheers, but mostly complaints from NFL fans. Packers fans mostly have reason to celebrate with a fairly average schedule. Green Bay will face the 20th-most difficult schedule in the NFL with an opponents’ 2016 winning percentage of .480.
Week 1: vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 2: at Atlanta Falcons
Week 3: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 4: vs. Chicago Bears
Week 5: at Dallas Cowboys
Week 6: at Minnesota Vikings
Week 7: vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 8: Bye Week
Week 9: vs. Detroit Lions
Week 10: at Chicago Bears
Week 11: vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 12: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 14: at Cleveland Browns
Week 15: at Carolina Panthers
Week 16: vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 17: at Detroit Lions
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The first two weeks will likely be the hardest two week period of the entire season. Facing a perennially tough Seahawks team might not be as much of a challenge as some think, however, as the Seahawks have been known to get off to slow starts.
In week 2, it is the Packers turn for revenge on the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, who knocked off Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game last season. The Packers will also open the Falcon’s new stadium giving the Falcons an extra reason to play their hardest. This will also be the second year in a row the Packers will open a new stadium on the road in the past two years after opening Minnesota’s last season. Week 2’s game should prove to be one of the hardest.
After the rematch of the NFC Championship Game, the Packers face a pair of very winnable games at home against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Chicago Bears. The Bengals struggled last year to a 6-9-1 record, so a home visitation from them will likely prove no problem. The Bears will also be easy to knock off in yet another rebuilding campaign for them.
The schedule picks up the difficulty from there, however, as they will play back-to-back road games against the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Dallas will certainly be looking for revenge after their divisional round loss to the Packers that ended their season. Sophomores Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will likely be even better than their rookie form making the trip to Dallas undoubtedly a tough one.
The road game in Minnesota, is a bit of a quandary as is the Vikings team itself. After a 5-0 start, the Vikings fell apart and finished well out of the NFC North race. Mike Zimmer’s defense should still prove a challenge for Rodgers but if Minnesota can not put up points the good defense will go for naught.
Before the week 8 bye the Packers will host the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and the Saints passing attack will test the Packers shaky secondary.
A week 8 bye is certainly a pleasant change after the Packers week four bye a season ago.
The bye will give Green Bay plenty of time to prepare for what will likely become meaningful football in Detroit. The Packers beat out the Lions in week 17 last season and a free agent bolstered Lions team could take it that far again. A week 9 win would be huge in securing the NFC North crown.
After facing the Lions the Packers again take on the Bears, this time in Chicago and the Baltimore Ravens at Lambeau Field. The Bears will not present a challenge and the Packers should collect a series sweep. Back home the Ravens will likely provide more of a challenge but in the late November cold, the Packers will have a distinct home-field advantage.
Then the Packers travel to Pittsburgh for a third straight chilly battle. This will be a great game and will likely be heavily involved in playoff implications.
Then come the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are slowly but surely becoming a playoff team so watch for this to be a sneakily good game.
An easy win in Cleveland comes next and then on to North Carolina to face the Panthers.
The Panthers, like the Vikings, could be good or bad. After a dominant 15-1 season in 2015, the Panthers vastly underperformed last season. Even still the Panthers have one of the league’s most dangerous quarterbacks in Cam Newton. The Packers will have to be wary of taking a game off and losing after an easy week in Cleveland.
The final two weeks see games against the Vikings at home and at Ford Field against the Lions. These games might decide the NFC North champion as it came down to the final week of the season the past four seasons. These should be meaningful games especially if the Vikings can play like they did in last seasons first five weeks.
— Patrick Backlas covers the Green Bay Packers as a columnist for cover32 Packers and serves as managing editor for cover32 Ravens. Connect and follow on Twitter @PatrickBacklas
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