Final Game-by-Game Predictions for the Green Bay Packers' 2012 Season

Brian Carriveau@@BrianCarriveauContributor ISeptember 5, 2012

Final Game-by-Game Predictions for the Green Bay Packers' 2012 Season

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    Week 1 is almost upon us. Football fans have to be grinning.

    This week's season opener is only one game of 16 the Green Bay Packers will play this season, but with each passing week, the Packers will have their sights set on a playoff appearance and even loftier goals than that.

    With the help of Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm, we take a look at the Packers' entire regular season schedule and predict the outcome of each and every game.

Week 1 vs. San Francisco

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    The Packers kick off the season with a visit from the San Francisco 49ers, a team that advanced as far as the NFC Championship game last season.

    Behind head coach Jim Harbaugh and a defense that was among the best in the league last season, the 49ers will provide a stiff challenge for the Packers despite the inhospitable surroundings for the away team at Lambeau Field.

    To bolster the receiving corps in the offseason and provide quarterback Alex Smith with more targets, the 49ers signed Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and drafted A.J. Jenkins, but Eric Edholm doesn't think the new offensive additions in San Francisco will be the difference between winning and losing.

    "You would think that the Packers weakness on defense might be against the pass; it certainly was last year, so you're not too scared," said Edholm. "I don't think their upgrades are going to be that big a difference."

    Prediction: Packers win

    Note: All predictions are the author's.

Week 2 vs. Chicago

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    Following the season opener, the Packers have a short turnaround and will play the Chicago Bears in Week 2 on a nationally televised game on Thursday, September 13.

    There will be a lot of attention on the Bears passing game that has reunited former Broncos teammates Jay Cutler at quarterback and Brandon Marshall at wide receiver.

    But an even bigger story might be the availability of linebacker Brian Urlacher, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in just mid-August and says he'll play in both the season opener and to the Week 2 game against the Packers.

    "It will be interesting to see what his health is like," said Edholm.

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 3 at Seattle

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    After a Thursday game in Week 2, the Packers essentially receive an extra bye week before visiting the Seattle Seahawks for a "Monday Night Football" game in Week 3.

    At one point, all the attention in this game was surrounding the meeting against former Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn. But when Russell Wilson won the starting job in Seattle, the complexion of this matchup changed.

    Whatever edge the Packers may have had in facing in Flynn is now gone, and the challenge of preparing for Wilson might be a little bit more difficult.

    "He presents a tougher challenge with his legs, not having that much film to look at," said Edholm.

    Prediction: Packers lose

Week 4 vs. Saints

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    In Week 4, the Packers return home to face the same team they did in the nationally televised season opener a year ago, the New Orleans Saints.

    Quarterback Drew Brees and a high-powered offense will provide a stiff test, although the storyline of the week will be about the fallout from "Bountygate."

    "With all the Saints problems, you have to consider all the things they've gone through this offseason," said Edholm. "They're still not going to have their interim head coach or their head coach. It's still going to be Aaron Kromer."

    According to information released by the NFL, the Saints allegedly targeted quarterback Aaron Rodgers, so the quarterback's motivation to beat the team that attempted to injure him will be in the spotlight.

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 5 at Indianapolis

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    The Week 5 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts is the first of three consecutive road games the Packers will play, which will be a challenging stretch of the schedule.

    Indianapolis may have had the worst record in the NFL last season, but their biggest offseason addition is someone around whom the Packers will have to game plan.

    "You've got Andrew Luck, a precision guy that can pick you apart," said Edholm. "He's looked really sharp, more mature than your typical rookie."

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 6 at Houston

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    A Week 6 trip to visit the Houston Texans is the sandwich game in a three-date road trip for the Packers, but the matchup's significance goes beyond that.

    "Possible Super Bowl preview for a lot of people," said Edholm.

    The Texans are coming off a successful 2011 season in which they went 10-6 and won a Wild Card playoff game before losing to the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs.

    Their offense revolves around running back Arian Foster and a physical ground game that the Packers will have to be prepared for.

    Prediction: Packers lose

Week 7 at St. Louis

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    The Packers have to prepare against a possible letdown game against the St. Louis Rams in Week 7, because even if they beat the Houston Texans the previous week, St. Louis will still be a third consecutive road game.

    The Rams boast the perennially good Steven Jackson at running back, but the wild card might be new head coach Jeff Fisher.

    "I remember when he was totally outgunned against the Colts, he would pull out every stop: onside kicks, trick plays, everything he's got," said Edholm. "And you can bet this is the type of game he's got circled on his schedule."

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 8 vs. Jacksonville

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    Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has ended his holdout and, barring injury, will be playing against the Packers in Week 8.

    Between Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings, the Jaguars have a pretty good backfield combination, but they still might be a few pieces away from having a playoff-caliber team.

    "People kind of underestimate what the Jaguars did as far as their defense last year," said Edholm, "but this is still a team in transition in my mind.

    "As much as I respect Mike Mularkey, I still think they're a 6-10 to 8-8 kind of team. Still not quite there offensively even if they have a pretty good two-headed rushing attack now."

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 9 vs. Arizona

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    In the last game before the bye week, the Packers host the Arizona Cardinals, a team with plenty of good players but question marks at the most important positions.

    "They have some elite talent at certain positions: Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell, Patrick Peterson and Daryl Washington," said Edholm. "But they have so many holes."

    Among the uncertainties are at quarterback where John Skelton is slated to be the starter to begin the season, but Kevin Kolb could be an option later in the season if Skelton falters.

    There's also some insecurity along the offensive line where the Cardinals have been hit hard by injuries and had to do some shuffling during the preseason.

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 11 at Detroit

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    The Packers return from their bye week by having to travel to Detroit for their first of two meetings this season against their NFC North rivals.

    "That first Lions game is obviously going to be very highly anticipated," said Edholm. "They were 10-6 without a secondary or a run game last year, so they did very well for themselves."

    The defensive backfield and the ground game remain a questionable in Detroit until proven otherwise, but the passing game is a strength.

    The Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson connection is one the Packers will have to contend with.

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 12 at New York Giants

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    The storyline in the Week 12 game between the Packers and the New York Giants is obvious: a rematch from the divisional playoff game a year ago that the Giants won.

    "To me, they had to work through a lot of problems defensively last year early on," said Edholm. "I think they've sorted through that now and have some good depth.

    "We know what Eli Manning is capable of. Unless injuries just ravage them, they're going to be a strong team."

    The Packers will be out for revenge against the Giants, but they'll play in a hostile environment as they have to face them on the road.

    Prediction: Packers lose

Week 13 vs. Minnesota

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    In Week 13, the Packers return home for their first of two games against the Vikings.

    "It's interesting that they get the Vikings twice late in the season," said Edholm. "I'm curious to see whether A) Adrian Peterson is still healthy at that point and B) whether Christian Ponder has really taken a step forward."

    The Vikings will be relying not only on Ponder but on an unusually large group of young players. They'll be starting a pair of first-round draft choices on each side of the football—tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith.

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 14 vs. Detroit

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    The Packers face the Lions for the second time in Week 14 with both appearances coming after a bye.

    Last year, there was a lot of attention on a late-season matchup between the Packers and the Lions on Thanksgiving Day when defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh made headlines for all the wrong reasons after stomping on offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.

    Suh will be out to have a better season than his underachieving 2011, and the Lions' fortunes could depend upon it.

    "They know if they want any chance of making the playoffs, they may have to beat the Packers one time," said Edholm.

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 15 at Chicago

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    For the third week in a row, the Packers face an NFC North opponent in Week 15 when they travel to Chicago to take on the Bears.

    The first meeting between the two was the Packers' only divisional game before the bye, which places a lot of importance on the division late in the season.

    One of the Bears' underrated strengths has been special teams under head coach Lovie Smith, and they boast a trio of talented return specialists in Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Eric Weems. With that in mind, kicker Mason Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and their units will have to be on the lookout.

    Prediction: Packers lose

Week 16 vs. Tennessee

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    The Packers' final regular-season home game comes in Week 16 when they host the Tennessee Titans.

    According to Edholm, it's the type of game that can get the Packers primed for the playoffs.

    "Good physical team," said Edholm. "Young agile quarterback, good test right there."

    Jake Locker is the Titans starting quarterback, and he'll be hungry to help the Titans improve over last season when they had a winning record at 9-7 but did not qualify for the playoffs.

    Prediction: Packers win

Week 17 at Minnesota

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    Assuming the Packers take care of business, the final regular-season game against the Vikings in Minnesota may not mean much.

    "You get the Vikings in Week 17, they're probably staring at fourth place," said Edholm. "They're probably throwing some young guys out there and seeing what they can do."

    The Packers and head coach Mike McCarthy could be faced with the same challenge they had a year ago when they decided to rest their starters in Week 17 instead of risking injury.

    If the game is still meaningful, however, Aaron Rodgers knows where he can attack the Vikings defense.

    "To me, they're really thin up the middle defensively," said Edholm. "I think that's where Rodgers can really attack the tight ends and the receivers and really kill them over the middle."

    Prediction: Packers win

Overall Record

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    Week 1 vs. 49ers: Win

    Week 2 vs. Bears: Win

    Week 3 at Seahawks: Loss

    Week 4 vs. Saints: Win

    Week 5 at Colts: Win

    Week 6 at Texans: Loss

    Week 7 at Rams: Win

    Week 8 vs. Jaguars: Win

    Week 9 vs. Cardinals: Win

    Week 11 at Lions: Win

    Week 12 at Giants: Loss

    Week 13 vs. Vikings: Win

    Week 14 vs. Lions: Win

    Week 15 at Bears: Loss

    Week 16 vs. Titans: Win

    Week 17 at Vikings: Win

    The Packers are predicted to have a 12-4 regular-season record, which will easily qualify them for the playoffs.

    Whereas last year the Packers had wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 15-1 record, they may not be afforded that luxury this season.

    There was a lot of scrutiny on the Packers' decision to rest their starters last season for the final regular-season game, but a bye in the playoffs could still be on the line by the time the Packers face the Vikings in the season finale.

    As the Packers showed in 2010 and the New York Giants did last year, it's important for a team to be playing well late in the season and bring some momentum during the playoffs, so that will be a focus as the season comes to a close.

    But in any case, a 12-4 record should put the Packers among the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.


    Brian Carriveau is a Green Bay Packers featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotations were gathered firsthand.