The Green Bay Packers have high hopes going in to 2013.
While they watched Greg Jennings, Tom Crabtree, and Donald Driver all leave their high-powered offense and saw one of their main cogs on defense, Charles Woodson, also leave, they have a wonderful foundation for continued success.
Only two full seasons removed from a Super Bowl win and a year removed from a 15-win season, the Packers know what it takes to be successful every week.
Unfortunately for them, they play one of the toughest schedules in the NFL and every week will be a battle. The Packers were blessed with a schedule that gives them a total of ZERO back to back away games.
Let’s take a closer look at all 16 matchups on the season and try to break down the expected results for the Packers.
Week 1 at San Francisco: The football gods knew what they were doing on this one. Green Bay started and ended the 2012 season in San Francisco, both games being losses. Green Bay will have had eight months to figure out how to stop Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, oh, and a recent Super Bowl champ in Anquan Boldin.
Fortunately for the Packers, there is nothing sweeter than a little revenge. It didn’t come in January, but it will in this one. Green Bay decides there is no way to stop the 49ers' offense so they have to outscore them. Packers go 1-0 on a 41-34 shootout.
Week 2 vs Washington: Green Bay plays two of the most mobile QBs in the league in back to back games to start the season. They will have a tough time containing RG3, but the lack of receiver threats to challenge the Packers' secondary will make the Skins one dimensional; something the Packers can hone in on ad stop. Green Bay wins it 27-24 to move to 2-0.
Week 3 at Cincinnati: The Bengals are my favorite to win the AFC North, but to do it they need to protect their home field (and go at least 4-2 in the division). The Packers will provide them with a huge test, and in this case it will be one that they fail. Green Bay wins it 31-24 and enters their way-too-early bye week at 3-0.
Week 4 BYE: The Packers got the unfortunate placement of having a very early bye. A Week 4 bye stops any momentum to start the season and doesn’t really help with needed rest since it is still early.
Week 5 vs Detroit: The Packers come back from their bye looking to continue their hot start to the season. They get that game at home and take down the Lions in a high scoring game. Packers 37-24 to move to 4-0.
Week 6 at Baltimore: This will be a huge test for the Packers. Traveling to Baltimore to face the champs won’t be easy. My prediction for the Ravens though is that they will have a down year after key losses on both sides of the ball. Packers win a very close game 24-23 on the final drive and go to 5-0.
Week 7 vs Cleveland: The folks at Lambeau get to watch their perfect team take on an improving, but still weaker opponent in Week 7. Green Bay wins it easily, 31-16 and moves to 6-0.
Week 8 at Minnesota: Week 8 gives us a flashback to Week 17 of the 2012 season; a game that cost the Packers a home field matchup in the conference semifinals. Green Bay figured out how to contain AP a week later and will do so again to continue their perfect season in a 27-24 win and improve to 7-0.
Week 9 vs Chicago: The first of two matchups with Chicago will be a close one. Green Bay has found a way to win regularly against the Bears and the Cutler era and things won’t change this week. Packers win again 24-20 and go to 8-0.
Week 10 vs Philadelphia: There is already excitement in Philly for the arrival of a new coach and a new offensive scheme.
When LeSean McCoy says they need another back because no one could keep up with all the running they are doing, you know the pace will be fast.
The Packers can play with that type of speed and may actually prefer it for the turnover opportunities it leads to. If Green Bay can force Philly’s QBs to pass the ball, they will win this one 31-27 and move to 9-0.
Week 11 at New York Giants: There is something about the Giants that the Packers have not figured out.
After starting 9-0, the Packers finally face a team on the road that they just can’t stop. Eli Manning plays a flawless game with over 300 yards and four scores without a turnover and the Packers fall 24-31 and drop to 9-1.
Week 12 vs Minnesota: Week 12 provides a chance for redemption against a division foe. It’s ok to feel bad for the Vikings who will get a ticked off Green Bay offense and defense. Packers win 34-16 and improve to 10-1.
Week 13 at Detroit: Week 13 kicks off a five game stretch that the Packers could struggle with. Three of their final five games are on the road, and their home games are against two of the better teams in the league.
Green Bay will likely need to win three of these five in order to take the top seed in the NFC. They get one of those wins against a Lions team that will finish the year with an eight game losing streak. Packers 37-17 to go to 11-1.
Week 14 vs Atlanta: These two teams will definitely be eyeing the top seed in the NFC with four games left in the season. The shootouts we have seen in Atlanta will now move to the frozen tundra for a December game that could bring the elements into the game. In the home game of the year for the Packers it takes overtime to beat the Falcons. Green Bay wins 37-31 and moves to 12-1.
Week 15 at Dallas: The Cowboys will present a challenge for the Packers in Dallas. Tony Romo has plenty of weapons in the passing game and DeMarco Murray can pound the ball against a Packers' rush defense that has struggled. Green Bay is the better team, but the Cowboys take this one. Packers fall 17-24 and drop to 12-2.
Week 16 vs Pittsburgh: The Steelers will have no trouble playing a cold-weather game at Lambeau in late December. What they will have trouble with is finding a way to keep up with the Packers scoring. Questions remain at running back and Big Ben never finds a true replacement to Mike Wallace. Green Bay knocks the Steelers out of the AFC North race with a 27-17 win and improve to 13-2.
Week 17 at Chicago: After winning 13 of their first 15 games, Green Bay enters this game still needing the win to clinch the top seed in the NFC while the Bears might be looking for their 10th victory and a shot at a wild-card berth.
If that is the case and both teams have something on the line, it is very difficult to pick against the home team.
Green Bay was in a similar situation in Week 17 of the 2012 season and couldn’t get the job done. Chicago does just enough on both offense and defense and Green Bay falls in overtime 20-23 to end the year 13-3.