Green Bay Packers Schedule: Running the Gauntlet
When the NFL schedule was first released back in April, the upcoming three games for the Green Bay Packers were of important interest to head coach Mike McCarthy. Because starting on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers will play three games in just 11 days.
On November 14th, Green Bay hosts Minnesota at Lambeau Field. The following Sunday (November 20th), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to the frozen tundra, and on November 24th, the Packers take on the Detroit Lions in their annual Thanksgiving Day massacre- I mean, showdown.
This means that following the Vikings game, the Packers will be on short weeks to prepare and rest for each subsequent matchup.
But it gets better.
All three teams are conference opponents, meaning the outcomes will be significant in determining playoff rankings. On top of that, two of the three games are division opponents, which obviously has a direct affect on the Packers’ standing in the NFC North title race.
After facing off with the Minnesota Vikings a mere three weeks ago, Green Bay will be taking their second and final shot at the rebuilding team for the season. Last time they helped rookie quarterback Christian Ponder make a laudable debut for the purple and gold, eking out just a 33-27 win at the “Humpty Dump.”
This time, the Packers won’t have to deal with the crowd noise, so a win should be well within reach.
Next come the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are the final NFC South opponent to take on the Green Bay Packers this season, and they are all that stand in the way of Aaron Rodgers and company sweeping that division. (The Packers already beat the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons.)
It will also mark the last NFC North team that the Bucs will face, having already lost to the Lions and Bears, but defeating the Vikings. That said, I’m sure the Packers won’t forget how Josh Freeman and his creamsicle uniform shocked them for a 38-28 loss back in November of 2009.
Finally, Green Bay will travel to Ford Field to finish their three-game gauntlet against the Detroit Lions.
The Lions were the only undefeated team to run alongside the Packers this year until the San Francisco 49ers derailed them in Week 6. Sitting just two games behind the division lead, this matchup could very easily play a determining factor in who takes the NFC North in 2011.
Two factors make this game even bigger, though.
First is the fact that the Packers will be on their shortest week of the season. They will have just three days of rest and preparation, plus they will have to take travel time to get to Detroit.
Second is the recurring notion that the Lions could be the team with the best shot to beat the Packers during the regular season. Their defense ranks sixth in passing yards allowed (193.6), and they have shown an outstanding ability to generate pressure with just a 4-man rush. Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and the infamous Ndamokung Suh are all legitimate threats to the safety of Aaron Rodgers and the timing of his offense.
Fortunately, Green Bay’s Thursday game also means they will get a full nine days to recover before the next matchup. They will need all the time they can get, since they will then be travelling to the New Meadowlands Stadium to take on the New York Giants.
This gauntlet of games during the next couple weeks will really test the mettle of this undefeated – yet imperfect – team of champions.
Will we see the familiar call to arms in the face of adversity? Or will the defensive struggles finally crack under the pressure of this three-game stretch? Will Aaron Rodgers continue his dominating performance, and will Mason Crosby continue to defy the odds and silence his critics?
Only time will tell. But if there’s one team that can withstand the storm to come, it’s the Green Bay Packers.——————Follow @ChadToporski