Packers 2013 primer: The schedule
The Packers begin 2013 where they left off in 2012: a road date against the San Francisco 49ers. If you had your fill of the read option offense then you won't like how the Packers start the 2013 season. After facing San Fran the Packers play their home opener against the Washington Redskins. While there's no official indication as to when read-option quarterback Robert Griffin III will return, his offseason progress from a torn ACL has been astonishing. Certainly the schedule makers did no favor to the Packers for scheduling the 49ers and Redskins to open the season however it will provide a stiff, early test to a defense that has much to prove this season. And there's been a recent benefit to having the Redskins on the schedule.
After a Week 3 road against against Cincinnati the Packers get their bye week, which may not come at a good time. The Packers face the possibility of playing 16 straight games without a break. While that is not ideal, it also is not impossible to navigate. In 2008 the Baltimore Ravens played 18 straight games on their way to the AFC Championship game that year.
When the Packers return from the bye they face Detroit at Lambeau Field where Green Bay holds a nine game (10 if you count the postseason) winning streak against divisional opponents. Next comes a very tricky and challenging stretch of games. In consecutive weeks the Packers face blue chip running backs Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy. For a defense that gave up 4.5 yards per carry this stretch of games will be the ultimate test.
The schedule gets a bit compressed with a Sunday night tilt against the New York Giants followed by a home game against Minnesota and a Thanksgiving Day date at Detroit. From there the Packers gets a long weekend off before embarking on one more stretch with Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh and the season finale at Chicago.
For just about every NFL team every week appears difficult. This is no different for the 2013 Packers. Home dates against Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia all appear very winnable. Beyond that, who knows. While predicting wins and losses is tough, it's not hard to see where the Packers might struggle. Two early doses of the read option and a midseason stretch of workhorse running backs should provide enough of a look to know if the Packers defense is ready to be Super Bowl-worthy.
And as always, it's all about putting yourself in a position to succeed. Last year the Ravens struggled down the stretch, ending the season 1-4. However, thanks to a 9-2 start the Ravens were already in position to make the postseason prior to December and from there they took care of business in January. The Packers may not take the same route but in the final eight games they face six non-playoff teams from 2012. Assuming the Packers survive the early challenges they too can put themselves in position to make the postseason by December.