ROB REISCHEL

No rea­son the Pack­ers’ reg­u­lar-sea­son sched­ule should cause a stir.

Packer Plus - - Fan Mail | Lineup - Rob Reischel

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.

MIKE DE SISTI / MDESISTI@JOUR­NALSEN­TINEL.COM

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.

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