Land­ing a fa­vor­able break

Sched­ule has later bye week

Packer Plus - - Schedule - TOM SIL­VER­STEIN

Af­ter slug­ging it out with Seat­tle, the Pack­ers will play their only road game in the month of Septem­ber against the de­fend­ing NFC cham­pion At­lanta Fal­cons.

Green Bay – If the Green Bay Pack­ers felt the sched­ule they faced last sea­son fea­tured too many gut bombs, then by com­par­i­son 2017 should be eas­ily di­gestible.

The NFL re­leased the full reg­u­lar-sea­son sched­ule last week and the Pack­ers should have lit­tle to com­plain about.

They open at home (against the Seat­tle Sea­hawks) for the first time since 2012.

Their bye week comes right in the mid­dle of the sea­son.

They play only one Thurs­day night game and it’s at home against Chicago.

Eight of their games are at their pre­ferred start time of noon (sub­ject to flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing).

Un­like a year ago when they played their fi­nal two ex­hi­bi­tion games and first two reg­u­lar-sea­son games on the road, the Pack­ers will be at Lam­beau Field four out of five weeks span­ning the fi­nal ex­hi­bi­tion game through Week 4 of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

And they will open with some fa­mil­iar faces.

The Sea­hawks will be mak­ing their third trip in three years to Lam­beau Field and are likely to have former Pack­ers run­ning back Ed­die Lacy in their back­field. Lacy, an un­re­stricted free agent, chose the Sea­hawks over the Pack­ers in part be­cause he wanted to be in an of­fense that runs the ball more.

It should be a good test for an em­bat­tled de­fen­sive unit.

The Pack­ers played the Sea­hawks three times in Seat­tle be­tween 2012-’14 and lost all three, but now have an op­por­tu­nity to re­turn the fa­vor, hav­ing beaten their NFC ri­val at Lam­beau Field in 2015 and ’16.

Af­ter slug­ging it out with Seat­tle, the Pack­ers will play their only road game in the month of Septem­ber against the de­fend­ing NFC cham­pion At­lanta Fal­cons, who crushed the Pack­ers 44-21 on Jan. 22 at the Ge­or­gia Dome for the right to ad­vance to Su­per Bowl LI.

The NFC cham­pi­onship re­match, sched­uled for Sun­day night, Sept. 17, will be the reg­u­lar-sea­son de­but of Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium, the Fal­cons’ new glass-pan­eled, re­tractable-roofed $1.5 bil­lion home. It will be a fa­mil­iar at­mos­phere for the Pack­ers, who were the op­po­si­tion when the Min­nesota Vikings chris­tened U.S. Bank Sta­dium in Week 2 last year.

The new sta­dium’s com­ple­tion was slated for March 1, but now won’t open un­til Aug. 26, when the Fal­cons play their first home ex­hi­bi­tion game. They will play there one more time, open the reg­u­lar sea­son on the road against the Chicago Bears and then re­turn home to face the Pack­ers.

This is the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year Green Bay will travel to At­lanta in the reg­u­lar sea­son and the third straight game that will be played there be­tween the two teams, in­clud­ing play­offs.

Af­ter fac­ing two NFC play­off teams from 2016, the Pack­ers will host the Cincin­nati Ben­gals in Week 3 and the Bears in Week 4 be­fore re­turn­ing to Dallas in Week 5 for a re­match of their 34-31 di­vi­sional-round play­off vic­tory over the Cow­boys at AT&T Sta­dium.

Dallas is one of five 2016 play­off teams the Pack­ers will face this sea­son. The oth­ers are Seat­tle, At­lanta, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

The net­works are ap­par­ently look­ing for­ward to the Pack­ers’ sea­son. They are sched­uled to play in five prime-time games.

The Sun­day night game at At­lanta Sept. 17, the Sun­day night game at Pittsburgh Nov. 26 and the Satur­day night game at Min­nesota Dec. 23 will be broad­cast on NBC; the Thurs­day night game vs. Chicago Sept. 28 will be broad­cast on CBS and NFL Net­work; and the Mon­day night game will be broad­cast on ESPN Nov. 6.

Maybe the thing that will please coach Mike McCarthy the most about the sched­ule will be the Week 8 bye. Last year, the Pack­ers had their bye in Week 4, which was much ear­lier than they wanted, although it didn’t stop them from winning their fi­nal six reg­u­lar-sea­son games and two play­off games.

The Pack­ers will need to be fresh late in the year be­cause they play five of their last eight games on the road, in­clud­ing an­other po­ten­tial NFC Northde­cid­ing game against the Detroit Li­ons in Week 17. The Pack­ers went on the road in Week 17 last year and beat the Li­ons, 31-24, to clinch the NFC North.

The home-field ad­van­tage the Pack­ers en­joy in De­cem­ber won’t be in ef­fect be­cause three of their last four games are on the road.

The Green (Green Bay) and Gold (Mil­wau­kee) pack­ages for Lam­beau Field games are split up as fol­lows: Green – Seat­tle, Chicago, New Orleans, Bal­ti­more, Tampa Bay; Gold – Cincin­nati and Detroit.

JOE NI­CHOL­SON / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Run­ning back Ed­die Lacy will likely be lin­ing up for the Sea­hawks when Green Bay opens its 2017 reg­u­lar-sea­son sched­ule at Lam­beau Field on Sept. 10 against Seat­tle.

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