Anything short of a championship is a failed season in Green Bay. The Packers have an immense amount of talent (including arguably the best quarterback in the NFL) and they know what it takes to bring home the biggest prize in football.
Last season’s playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers signaled a need for change, though. The Packers have some work to do this offseason in order to ensure a similar fate won’t befall them in their pursuit of a title in 2013.
Thankfully, Ted Thompson is one of the most forward-thinking general managers in the business, and he’ll no doubt make the necessary changes to keep Green Bay at the top of the NFC in the coming years.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Aaron Rodgers under center, either.
The Packers’ 2013 schedule has been released and there are plenty of intriguing matchups to keep an eye on this season. Apart from the usual dangers of the NFC North, several non-divisional games stand in the way of a Packers postseason berth.
We’ll take a look at three of those and preview what to expect in those contests.
*Full schedule can be found at NFL.com.
Week 16: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The last time the Packers faced the Steelers, Green Bay walked away with its first Lombardi Trophy since 1996. Pittsburgh was left to regroup after that loss, and things haven’t exactly gone according to plan in the following seasons.
But the Steelers are also one of the most well-run organizations in the league, and it’s never smart to overlook them at any point in the season. A lot will change between now and the end of the season, but this Week 16 matchup could easily be a preview for Super Bowl XVLVIII.
While this game will be one of Green Bay’s toughest challenges of the season, it will also be in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field. It’s too early to make any predictions, but every game is a winnable contest with Rodgers under center. Mark this one on your calendar.
Week 11: at New York Giants
The NFC East has the potential to be extremely tough this season, but that’s really nothing new. The Washington Redskins surprised everyone by earning a division title in 2012, the Dallas Cowboys are always capable of providing a difficult matchup and the Philadelphia Eagles mounted a massive rebuilding effort this offseason.
And then there’s New York.
Which non-divisional matchup will be the most challenging for the Packers in 2013?
The Giants finished 9-7 last year, missing out on the playoffs courtesy of three losses in their last five games. It was an uncharacteristically mediocre year for Tom Coughlin’s squad—all the more reason to be wary of New York this season.
The Giants are a well-run organization with a Super Bowl winning quarterback and a ton of talent. There’s no reason to believe they can’t out-duel Washington and Dallas for the NFC East title this year.
Green Bay’s Week 11 matchup with New York falls in the middle of a tough division schedule that includes two games against the Vikings in a five-week span. The Packers are fully capable of beating Eli Manning and the Giants, but the schedule doesn’t get much easier after that.
Week 1: at San Francisco 49ers
Could there be a worse matchup than the 49ers on the road in Week 1? It’s too early to have any idea what will happen when they square off, but this much is certain: The Packers could have gotten a much more favorable draw to start the season.
San Francisco’s remarkable 2012 season ran directly through Green Bay (via a home playoff win), and that lopsided victory may have ultimately signaled a new rivalry in the NFC. The 49ers haven’t given any reason to believe they will fall from the top of the conference this year, and Rodgers certainly won’t be happy with anything less than a second Lombardi Trophy in 2013.
The storylines in this matchup will be endless, but there’s really only one important focus: A win in this opening-week game will set the tone for one of these squads as they set out on the hunt for the Super Bowl.