Difficult start, lighter finish define Packers’ schedule

The NFL released its 2014 schedule Wednesday, meaning the Packers know when they will have to travel and which teams will have to compete in the frigid Green Bay winter.

Green Bay will face a difficult start to its 2014 campaign, but the scheduling committee gave the Packers a few breaks during the final two months of the season.

First, Green Bay will face some early challenges, as five of its first eight games are on the road. In a rematch of the “Fail Mary” game of 2012, Green Bay will travel to Seattle in week one to play the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

They then play the Jets at home before traveling to both Detroit and Chicago to start division games. Playing three out of four games away to start the season is difficult regardless of the opponent. Adding in the fact that division games have an even higher intensity, these two games could prove to be even more challenging. The Packers have to do well against the Lions and Bears to strengthen their position in the division early.

The Packers play below-average teams in Minnesota and Miami before taking on the Panthers at Lambeau Field and the Saints in New Orleans. The NFC South is a tough division, and both these teams will be difficult contests for Green Bay.

The Packers benefit from having their bye week in week nine, right in the middle of the season. Hopefully for Green Bay, this will allow them to regroup for a late-season run to get back to the playoffs.

Another interesting aspect of Green Bay’s schedule is that they play the Bears for the second and final time in week ten. In recent years, the NFL has put the Chicago/Green Bay game later in the season as a game with possible playoff implications. Having the season series conclude shortly after the year’s halfway point takes away from the potential late-season competition for the division title.

The cost of playing so many road games early in the year has its benefits as the year progresses. Green Bay finishes the season with five of its last eight games at Lambeau Field. This is an even greater asset to the Packers because they will be playing in the true Frozen Tundra.

Green Bay is known for its cold-weather games, and having so many home games during the winter gives the Packers a sizable advantage over its opponents.

The way the schedule played out gives Green Bay a tough start to its season and the Packers must do everything they can to avoid getting off to a slow start. If the team can make it through the early part of the year and come away with victories against the division opponents, they are primed to make it back to the postseason.

Nothing is ever certain in the NFL; teams that were good one year may struggle in the next (like the 2013 Texans), and previously bad teams may start to emerge as legitimate threats (like the 2013 Panthers). But the favorable matchups and home field advantage over the last two months should allow Green Bay to win its late season games and build momentum to head into the playoffs.

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