No reason the Packers’ regular-season schedule should cause a stir.
For the better part of a week now, you can hear teeth gnashing throughout Packer Nation.
Hair is being pulled out. Feet are being stomped. Cheeseheads are being flung down in disgust.
The fan base is livid that Green Bay’s schedule doesn’t look like schedules of past years. There is a bye in Week 4, three straight road games in November, and a slate that burns through half of the home games by Oct. 20.
But here’s the rub: this is arguably the easiest schedule in the NFL. And no matter how you arrange a string of patsies, they’re still patsies.
Green Bay’s 2016 foes went a combined 117-139 in 2015. That .457 winning percentage ranks 32nd — dead last — in all of football.
How would you like to be San Francisco or Atlanta, whose foes were 142-114 last year (.555)? Things aren’t much easier for the Los Angeles Rams (141-115, .551) or the New Orleans Saints (140-116, .547).
The Packers should be giddy, not grumpy. In 2015, Green Bay’s foes were 135120-1 (.529) the previous season. In 2014, Green Bay played a group that was 129-127 (.504) the year before. And in 2013, Green Bay faced a murderer’s row that was 136-119-1 (.533) in 2012.
You have to go back to 2012 to find the last time the Packers had a schedule this favorable. That year, Green Bay’s foes had gone a combined 120-136 in 2011 (.469), giving the Packers the NFL’s second-easiest schedule.
If you look at the macro — and not the micro — the Packers should have a fighter’s chance to win the NFC for the first time since 2010.
Green Bay faces just four teams — and has five total games — against foes that reached the 2015 postseason. And if Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers starts all 16 games, don't be shocked if the Packers are favored every week.
Minnesota, Houston and Washington all won their respective divisions last season and hosted playoff games. All three then lost those games, though, including the Redskins who were whipped by the Pack- ers at FedEx Field.
Seattle, the runner-up in the NFC West, is the only team on Green Bay’s schedule that won a playoff game. But the Packers handled Seattle in Green Bay in 2015, and welcome the Seahawks back to Lambeau Field in December.
A closer look at the rest of the opponents should lead to tranquillity, not unrest.
Divisional foe Detroit is headed in the wrong direction. One year after winning 11 games, the Lions slipped to 7-9. And now, they’ll soldier on without the great Calvin Johnson, arguably football’s most dominant receiver this decade.
Chicago — like every other team in the NFC North — won at Lambeau Field last season. And while the Bears are trending upward under second-year coach John Fox, they seem to be at least a year away from challenging the NFL’s elite.
In addition to playing Washington, Green Bay faces the rest of the NFC East. Most years, that would be cause for consternation. But with the trio of Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants going a combined 17-31 last year (.354), Green Bay might have a second bye week after all.
The Packers get the added bonus of facing the dreadful AFC South, which went a combined 25-39 last season (.391). Houston won the division with a quarterback that’s a street free agent today. Indianapolis should be markedly improved if quarterback Andrew Luck is healthy, but still has a putrid defense. Jacksonville hasn’t been to the postseason since 2007, and the drought is almost as long for Tennessee (2008).
The Packers also face an Atlanta team that hasn’t been the same since Aaron Rodgers & Co. lit them up in the 2010 postseason.
Now, add in the fact Green Bay should be substantially better in 2016, and there’s even less reason to fret. The Packers get back No. 1 wideout Jordy Nelson. General manager Ted Thompson woke up from his traditional month-long March nap to sign free agent tight end Jared Cook. Running back Eddie Lacy traded pizza for P90X and could return to the form he displayed in 2013 and ’14.
On top of all that, Green Bay has a bevy of key players entering contract years. The list includes standouts such as guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, left tackle David Bakhtiari, linebacker Nick Perry and Lacy. Those players will have extra incentive for peak performances in 2016.
Add it all up, and it could be a big year in the NFL’s smallest city.
Forget the fact it could be warm in Jacksonville for the season opener. Disregard that Minnesota will be opening a new stadium when Green Bay heads there in Week 2.
And don’t fret about consecutive road games at Tennessee, Washington and Philadelphia. It’s not like the Packers are heading to New England, Denver and Carolina.
No, there’s absolutely zero reason for alarm over next season’s schedule. In fact, if the 2016 Packers achieve great things, the relative ease of that schedule could be a major reason why.
This is arguably the easiest schedule in the NFL. And no matter how you arrange a string of patsies, they’re still patsies.
Despite the fact that many fans were unhappy when the 2016 schedule was released, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy only face four playoff teams from last season.