There will be plenty of time for strategy sessions between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy this season. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Packers 2013 Schedule: A First Look

The Aaron Rodgers to Jermichael Finley connection could play a huge role in the Packers success in 2013.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

I’ll be honest, I’ve been absent from much of the offseason discussion about the Green Bay Packers so far for three reasons: First, I was sickened by the Packers postseason performance – again. Second, the draft speculation while fun to read is just a space filler until the draft actually happens and the real analysis can begin.

No offense to those that do it, it just isn’t my bailiwick. Considering the relatively limited amount of knowledge I have (and to be honest, really don’t want to know) about most college football players, I think we are all better off.

Third, free-agency is never part of Ted Thompson’s larger plan. Greg Jennings’ departure was a virtual lock given his price, age, and injuries. I would have like to have him in another division, but he will learn that while Ponder/Cassel are in the same division as Aaron Rodgers, they are not in the same league.

On to the schedule …

While we knew the who and where at season’s end, the variable of WHEN adds a huge part to the mix. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to when you play who on the schedule. For example, had the Packers played at the Minnesota Vikings week 1 instead of week 17 last year, the outcome would likely have been different.

Pros:
No back-to-back road games …
I guess this can be seen in different ways. Team travel this year only involves changing more than one time zone once and only one team flight will be more than 2.5 hours (SF the notable exception). While this means they won’t be gone multiple weekends in a row, they will be traveling every second weekend with no long home stands. I still look at it as a net positive.

Playing the Redskins week 2 …
This will become more clear as the summer approaches with regard to RG3’s status for the early season. RG3 is a dangerous player both with his arm and his legs, but after what happened at the end of last season, I’d expect the Redskins to be much more cautious with their franchise player. I would also expect RG3 to play it a bit safe. The Packers are the better team either way, but later in the season the Redskins will be more formidable.

Packers get three teams coming off of a short rest (Monday-Sunday) and only play one Monday-Sunday combination: This is sometimes overstated, but the extra day of rest and recuperation can only help the Packers. More importantly, I think, is that it will give the staff an advantage in game prep.

Depending on how far along Robert Griffin III is in his rehab will determine whether he plays against the Packers in week 2 of this coming season.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Ten days rest before Atlanta: This starts the tough December schedule run (see below) and the Packers need to be ready for last year’s number 1 overall seed. This may be the game that decides the 2013 home field advantage.

Cons:
Tough opponents stacked in September and December …
The Packers start tough and end tough with a SOS in September of .656 and a December SOS of .641.
(Overall SOS for 2013 – .533) Looking at this in the off-season is never exact as some teams will improve or decline in 2013, but considering the ‘soft’ games (versus non-playoff teams) in September and December are Steelers, at the Cowboys and at the Bears, the schedule makers did the Packers no favors.

Week 4 bye: I always like to see the bye after eight or nine games. The season can wear hard on guys, especially mentally, and the longer guys go without some time to recover, the less focused they can become. Thankfully the Packers get a kind of mini-bye week after the Lions on Thanksgiving (or does that count as a double bye?).

Here’s how I see it:

The Packers match up with the 49ers once again in the first week of the season.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

@ 49ers : Can the Packers win in the opener in SF? Absolutely! I do expect this to be a good game and depending on which team shows up for the Packers, they can win. Will they? Too hard to say yes. L (0-1)

Redskins: Packers opening the home slate at Lambeau – RG3 probably not 100 percent, but even if he is, the Packers win. W (1-1)

@ Bengals: Definitely not a pushover, but certainly a team the Packers should beat. W (2-1)

Lions: The Lions haven’t won at Lambeau since this year’s NFL draft class was born. W (3-1)

@Ravens They are the Super Bowl champs, but paying Joe Flacco and parting with some major pieces, I don’t think the Ravens will be anywhere as good as the team they were last year. And I’m talking about the team that was 10-6, not the team that made the great Super Bowl run. W (4-1)

Browns Really? W (5-1)

@Vikings The obvious key to this game is stopping Adrian Peterson, but even when they didn’t do that in the regular season finale they lost by only a field goal. The Packers will be better this time. W (6-1)

Bears Another division rival at home and the Bears haven’t shown the ability to beat the Packers recently. The Packers are the better team and should win this one at Lambeau. W (7-1)

Eagles: This could be a classic letdown game, unless the Eagles are better than I expect them to be and impossible to overlook, or the Vikings and Bears are worse. I say this is a letdown after two good division wins, a short week after Monday Night Football and a primetime matchup in the Meadowlands to follow. Besides, I’ll be there with my loud, obnoxious, but fun (Eagles fan) neighbor. L (7-2)

@Giants This is the game the Packers will be looking to if they overlook the Eagles. With that in mind, I expect a good performance in the Meadowlands. Besides, I’ll be there with my less loud, less obnoxious, but no less fun (Packer fan) buddy. W (8-2)

Vikings: Division games are always dangerous, but I expect the Packers to hold the line at home. W (9-2)

@Lions: Another Turkey Day matchup and this one will depend on how the Lions season has gone to this point. I see these Lions around 4-7. W (10-2)

Falcons: This will be a key game for the Pack. Ten days to rest and prepare for last year’s number 1 seed. I think the Pack was a better team last year and I still think so. W (11-2)

@Cowboys A-Rod and the Packers first return to Jerry’s World since Super Bowl XLV. Where the Cowboys are in the standings at this point will make a huge difference. If the Cowboys are out of contention the place will be a sea of Green and Gold, but I’ll say they need the win and get the Packers on another letdown after the win vs the Falcons. L (11-3)

Steelers: The Packers go from Jerry’s World to hosting their worthy opponents from Super Bowl XLV. After the disappointing letdown in Arlington, the Packers lock up a bye with their 12th win of the season. W (12-3)

@Bears If the season gets to this point where I expect it to be, the Bears will need a win to get in and the Pack will have the first or second seed locked up. I’d love to say otherwise, but in that situation with Mike McCarthy at the helm, the Packers will hold starters out. L (12-4)

That’s my take on the Packers 2013 schedule at first glance. There are still 4 -1/2 months to go before a real game is played, so many things can change. I expect the Packers to be in the hunt once again and hopefully finish strong with a win in the frigid Meadowlands in February.

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