2014 Schedule Presents Rough Road To Postseason For Packers
By Ryan Minnigh
If you watch college sports, especially basketball, you hear so much about how strength of schedule affects a team and its chances of making the final tournament. You are less likely to hear how strength of schedule affects an NFL franchise, but sure enough, teams are in fact looking ahead to see what will be their weaker and stronger parts of the season.
Last year, the Green Bay Packers looked at the schedule thinking they would have a tough game to start off the season, and then need a strong stretch to end the season. Considering the injury to QB Aaron Rodgers, the entire second half of the season was a tough stretch. The Packers fully anticipate no such injuries in 2014. But as we all know, nothing can be fully predicted.
WIth 2013 out of the way, 2014 is just on the horizon. The schedules have been released and it's time for teams to start looking ahead to their tougher matchups of the season. Green Bay finds itself in nearly the same position as last season to begin this year.
Last season, the Packers took on the Super Bowl XLVII runner-up San Francisco 49ers to start the year and came up short. This season's schedule does no favors for Green Bay in Week 1 either, as the Packers will travel to Seattle to take on the reigning Super Bowl Champion Seahawks on Thursday night. The Seahawks are known for their great home crowds and the last time the Packers visited Seattle, they were subjected to one of the strangest plays in NFL history, the "Fail Mary."
Despite opening up the 2014 campaign in Seattle, the Packers come back home in Week 2 to face the New York Jets. However, the schedule again works against the Packers the following two weeks, as Green Bay must travel to Detroit and Chicago in consecutive weeks. The Packers were 1-1 against both of these division opponents in 2013 and starting the season traveling to both locations is not the ideal scenario for the Packers.
Green Bay will then return home after the two game road trip, but the Minnesota Vikings will be in town for the team's third straight division game. This could either be great or horrid for the Packers - the team can gain an early lead on other teams in the division, or it could fall behind early.
After the Vikings leave town, the Packers travel to Miami, come back home to take on Carolina and then travel to New Orleans before heading into their bye week. Both the Panthers and Saints were playoff teams in 2013, while the Dolphins narrowly missed the postseason. Green Bay has many chances to win statement games early in 2014. Winning six or seven of these games would put the Packers in great position to jump out to an early lead in the division and the conference. However, the team will have no easy wins during the first half of the season.
The second half of 2014 will start off daunting as well. Despite having both games at home, the Packers take on the Bears and Eagles in back-to-back weeks. Again, both games are great opportunities for Green Bay to jump out to a commanding lead, but neither team is a lightweight.
Another division game will await the Packers in Week 12 when they to Minnesota. Directly after that, the Packers host Tom Brady and the always-dangerous New England Patriots. Green Bay closes out the season against four consecutive teams that finished under .500 in 2013 in the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Lions.
No stretch of the season, except the final four games, seems to be ideal for the Packers. However, with a team that is now returning to full strength, the Packers are always contenders. Opponents already know the name Aaron Rodgers, and now they must familiarize themselves with Eddie Lacy as well. Green Bay has also revamped its defense for 2014 and looks to be much better on that side of the ball. No favors were done for the Packers with their 2014 schedule - they could arguably have one of the toughest roads to travel in the league this year. However, to be the best, you must first beat the best.
The Packers will look to once again regain their status as the best in 2014.