Heading into Mike McCarthy’s 7th season as head coach of the Packers, few experts regard the Packers anything but one of the best teams in the game. However, Green Bay’s talent-rich roster doesn’t change the fact that win-loss predictions for the league’s oldest franchise are lower than a year ago. It just so happens that the 2013 schedule is significantly more difficult than last year.
In reality, the Packers had more than one bye week last year, getting to face the quarterback-less Jaguars, Cardinals and Titans. This season is slightly different in that Green Bay will have to travel to the homes of both 2012 Super Bowl teams within a one-month span. Below I take a crack at predicting the Packers’ regular season win-loss record by allocating the 16 regular season games to one of three ‘probability of victory’ categories. For simplicity’s sake, each category received a single probability of a Packers win: 85%, 65% and 45%.
Very Winnable Games (85% probability of victory)
The Packers’ first very winnable game ironically comes on the road against the Bengals. While it’s aggressive to predict an easy victory against a 2012 playoff team, nothing jumps out as scary about this Bengals team. After the bye week, the Packers get a one-dimensional Detroit squad that had few things go right last season. The Browns’ visit to Green Bay in mid October appears to be the most winnable game on the Packers’ schedule and one that figures to fetch a double-digit point spread.
Despite the typically-competitive games versus the long-time rival Bears, the Packers should have their way at home on Monday night against a new Chicago coaching staff. In the same light, a normally-tough Eagle team is less likely to pose a threat to the Packers this time around under the rebuilding efforts of Chip Kelly.
More Likely to Win than Not (65% probability of victory)
The Redskins’ Week 2 visit to Green Bay could be more difficult than most imagine, given the Packers’ subpar history against running quarterbacks. Playing in Minnesota on primetime figures to be equally as challenging but still a game in which the Packers are likely to be favorites. The Packers will host Minnesota and then go to Detroit as favorites but winning both of these games consecutively is a tall task. Having only lost to the Lions once during his tenure in Green Bay, McCarthy may be overdue for a loss to Jim Schwartz’s crew.
The entire month of December features games in which the Packers should be favored but could certainly drop depending on playoff scenarios and injuries. Traveling to Dallas and Chicago during a playoff push will be especially challenging as both teams will likely be fighting for postseason life. The Packers will see two good defenses come to Green Bay in the final month of the season: Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Such defensive styles will work to the opponents’ advantage but an allegedly stronger running game for the Packers should give the hometown team a slight edge in December.
Difficult Games to Win (45% probability of victory)
Trips to the homes of both Harbaugh brothers will prove challenging for McCarthy and the Packers, who went 0-for-2 versus San Francisco last season. A Bay Area win to open the season would help balance the out-of-division rivalry with the Niners that has been largely one-sided of late. If the Packers can contain Ray Rice, a victory in Baltimore is more than in-reach.
The Packers would certainly love to seek redemption against the Giants after having been embarrassed in the last two meetings with New York. Green Bay will face a somewhat different Giant team that has seen the departures of Steve Smith, Ahmad Bradshaw, Kenny Phillips and Chris Canty. The key in this late-season matchup is keeping Aaron Rodgers off the ground, which has been a problem for the Packers offensive line against Tom Coughlin’s Giants.
Based on the probabilities laid out, the expected number of wins for the Packers sits at 10.8, which usually translates into a playoff berth. However, the league has regularly seen 10-win teams denied entrance to the playoffs, like the Bears of last season. It’s important to keep in mind that the predictions above are highly speculative and that one injury or blown call could change an entire game. Regardless, it’s clear that the Packers will need to play much better football in 2013 to match the 11 wins recorded in 2012.