The 2012 NFL schedule is out and fans are already blowing up hotel receptionists. As Mike McCarthy likes to point out, it’s not always about who you play, but when you play them. In addition to teams getting hot and cold on their own, some tend to fare better at different points of the season. Under McCarthy, the Packers have been very mediocre in the first half of the season, with the exception of 2007 and 2011.
Last season, the Packers played in five prime time games (including Thanksgiving), a tribute to being both good and an exciting team to watch. Not surprisingly, the Packers received another five prime time games in 2012, including one Monday nighter. One interesting thing to note about the Packers’ schedule is that five of their six divisional games come after the bye week.
Kicking off the season against the 49ers is a treat on several different accounts. It’s the NFC’s best offense versus arguably its best defense. Aaron Rodgers gets to a take a stab at the first competitive San Francisco squad since the club passed on him in the 2005 draft. The 2012 opener at Lambeau will represent the Packers’ sixth home opener of McCarthy’s seven seasons as head coach.
The September schedule stays exciting as the Packers host the Bears in Week 2 and pay a Monday-night visit to Matt Flynn and the Seahawks the week after. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bears will use recently acquired wide out Brandon Marshall early and often in their Week 2 visit with Green Bay. The month concludes with a third home game, this one against the Saints.
Outside of the Week 6 Sunday night showdown in Houston, the Packers couldn’t have asked for a softer October. While they’re on the road three of the four weeks, two of those visits come against the league’s cellar dwellers of 2011, the Colts and Rams. It’s clear that the scheduling committee offset three consecutive road games with a powder puff October schedule.
The Week 7 game in St. Louis should provide Green Bay with a breather after a difficult September, though we shouldn’t underestimate what the Rams might look like under new coach Jeff Fisher. The same goes for the Jaguars, who have next to nothing on offense, but could have a new swag in 2012. Needless to say, the Packers should lose no more than once in October.
The Packers are slated to take their bye week at the second to latest possible point in the season, one week after hosting Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals. The timing of the bye is convenient for the Packers, just by looking at what comes after that. Just as they did last season, Green Bay will go to Detroit, following by New York. It’s a long way away, but I would be surprised if the Packers took both games this year.
Despite speculation that the Packers would open the season on Thursday night in the Meadowlands, they will instead travel to New York a week earlier than they did in 2011. One could argue that an early-season date with the Giants would have been beneficial for the Packers in the sense that revenge would linger stronger as the season begins. In either case, the game will feature two likely playoff teams.
Unlike Decembers of the past, this year’s will truly be a make-or-break month. The Packers face divisional opponents in four of the five games played in the traditionally favorable month for Green Bay. The lone out-of-division opponent is Tennessee, who the Packers get at Lambeau. The Sunday night showdown with Detroit in the middle of the month should be one of the most highly anticipated games of the season.
Two meetings with the Vikings in December make the final stretch slightly less terrifying. However, there will be no running away with the division the way Green Bay did this past season. The Packers will need to be playing their best football that month, something McCarthy stresses each year. That said, it would come as a surprise if the Packers’ trip to Minnesota on December 30th had any meaning to it.