Packers: Quick take on the 2019 regular season schedule
By Jesse Fry
The 2019 regular season schedule has been released and we now know when, where and who the Green Bay Packers will face in 2019.
Like 2018, the Green Bay Packers are set up with a favorable schedule to start the year. Five of the first seven games of 2019 are at home with their first three division games coming during that span. Of those three games, only one is on the road, the season-opener in Soldier Field against division-champ Chicago Bears.
The Bears find themselves in a role they haven’t been in sometime, the hunted. Head coach Matt Nagy proved he can win in his first year, but now he has to prove he can continue to win without former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The Bears defense carried the team for large portions of the 2018 season, but now Fangio is coaching for the team two games away on the Packers’ schedule.
After starting the season on the road in Chicago, the Packers are then set for three straight home games starting with the Vikings followed by the Broncos and then the Eagles on a Thursday night.
The Broncos are retooling but with veteran quarterback Joe Flacco now under center, there’s a chance this team could surprise. The Broncos have a strong defense and with Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, the team from Denver knows how to get after the quarterback.
The Vikings and Eagles are teams that finished with winning records in 2018 and have tough defenses that can make life tough for a brand new Packers offense. The Vikings are expecting better results out of Kirk Cousins in his second year, while the Eagles will look to make the playoffs for three consecutive seasons for the first time since Andy Reid‘s heyday.
That is a tough four-game stretch. But the Packers will play three out of these four games in the confines of Lambeau Field. If Matt LaFleur wants to get a fast start and regain home-field advantage, win three out of those four games and head to Dallas at 3-1.
After a 10-day break, the Packers will then travel to Dallas for the first time since the heroic comeback by Aaron Rodgers in Week 5 of the 2017 season. Dallas’ defense surprised many last season. With Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have as strong as a linebacker corps as there is in the NFL. The good news for the Packers is Rodgers loves playing in Dallas. He won a Super Bowl there and has also broken the Cowboys’ hearts in consecutive games in Jerry World.
The Packers then return home for two more games. The first is a Monday night game against the Lions, a team that is rebuilding yet have taken the past four games against the Packers.
An old friend of the Packers in Jon Gruden will bring his Raiders into town next. Although it is only a late October game and not December, the conditions will still be much different than when Gruden and the Raiders visit Green Bay in August.
This is another rebuilding team on the schedule. The Raiders do have three first-round picks and a large haul of new players on the team. There’s no telling with that group of players how this team could be at this time. They could be one win away from making a serious run at the playoffs or one loss away from complete implosion.
The Packers will then hit the road against two very difficult AFC West opponents. The Chiefs on a Sunday night will be the marquee matchup of the week. Patrick Mahomes vs. Aaron Rodgers is as enticing as a matchup as there will be in 2019.
The Packers’ second quarter of the schedule gets slightly more difficult with two of the four opponents being 2018 playoff teams, and both being on the road. An optimist would say the Packers could still finish 3-1 during that stretch, but I say 2-2 would be a more realistic view.
After a trip to Kansas City, the Packers will travel further west and out to the coast and face the Los Angles Chargers. Yet another playoff team that can get after the quarterback. Philip Rivers proved last year he is far from washed up and the defense continues to improve. This could be the what-we-missed game seeing Derwin James on the other sideline.
The Pack will then return home to face the Carolina Panthers. Much will depend on the health of Cam Newton‘s surgically-repaired right shoulder. Should he follow the path of Andrew Luck, it’s possible we could be seeing a backup and not Newton. But all reports seem to be positive and the Packers should be facing a former MVP.
The Packers splitting these two games seems right. But taking both could be attainable. If there’s one thing we know it’s that Packers fans love to travel to warm places during colder Wisconsin months. We also know the Chargers have had a hard time keeping other teams’ fans out of their stands.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see the tiny Los Angeles stadium taken over by green and gold clad fans. And even if Cam is back and playing, coming back from a torn labrum is tough and he might not be all the way back. I still say the Packers split this section (1-1) and head into the bye at 6-4.
A bye this late in the season could be a blessing. The Packers will have two Thursday games, allowing for two 10-day breaks in the first 10 weeks. The bye this late is following what will be a tough road stretch and allow the Packers to rest up for a second-half surge that starts with two more on the road. The friendly start the Packers had to the season will be the polar opposite in the second half.
The Packers will head west yet again to face the 49ers. A late afternoon start time with two former proteges facing one another for the first time as head coaches. LaFleur will have the quarterback advantage with Rodgers, but Kyle Shanahan will have the edge on head-coaching experience.
Racking up the frequent flyer miles, the Pack will then travel to the other coast and face the Giants. This will be Mike Pettine’s first chance at trying to stop the remarkable Saquon Barkley. The team will benefit from not having to worry about Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. together, but Barkley has proven to be difficult to stop on his own.
Nearly 30 days will pass before home games for the Packers. Two straight on the road after a bye means the Packers’ last home game was on November 10, before returning home to face Washington on December 8.
Washington is a tough team to gauge. Alex Smith won’t be under center and Case Kenum could be back to the bench should Washington draft a quarterback with its first-round pick. Their defense has taken a hit in free agency with one of their best players now on the Packers sideline.
This three-game stretch could be vital to whether the Packers make it back to the playoffs or not. These are three winnable games no matter where they are played. The 49ers and Giants are still a ways off, while Washington will probably be starting a rebuild. Going 3-0 during this run should be the absolute goal before heading into the home stretch of the season.
To say these next three games will be important would be an understatement. The Packers close out the season with three straight division games. It’s kind of a scheduling quirk in that the Packers will play the Bears, Vikings and Lions in the same order as earlier in the season, just home stadiums switched.
The Packers will get a chance at the Bears at Lambeau Field, the place where they ripped out the Bears’ hearts in Week 1 of 2018.
The last Monday night game of the year will pit the Packers against the Vikings in a place Rodgers has yet to win in.
Green Bay will play Detroit in the season finale for the fourth year in a row and for the third time in the last four years on the road.
If the Packers want to retake the NFC North, these final three games could be the ones that decide it. Should the Packers sweep the North, it should be enough to get them into the playoffs if not the division crown. I think the Packers will need to be no worse than 2-1 during this stretch.
A fast start might be needed for the team to make it back to the playoffs, as the first half of the schedule will be filled with home games, while the second half makes up for the abundance of games at Lambeau with plenty on the road, including the final two of the regular season.
I think the Packers should go 11-5 or 10-6. Matt LaFleur can be the coach to break the cycle and make it to the playoffs in his first year. It would be quite the accomplishment but with good health, a determined Rodgers and a leap from Mike Pettine’s defense, the Packers could find themselves back after a two-year break.