Predicting the Packers' Most Important Games of 2014-15 Season
The Green Bay Packers will definitely have a very interesting schedule in 2014. The ultimate goal is to reach and win the Super Bowl, but the team has other goals that they have to reach as well.
The Packers will be looking for their fourth straight NFC North crown, as well as the team's sixth straight appearance in the postseason. Besides that, the Packers would like to have home-field advantage in the NFC throughout the playoffs.
The Packers also want to do something that they haven't done since the 2010 postseason. That would be getting deep into the postseason and not bowing out in either the Wild Card round or the divisional round.
Lofty goals to be sure. And the 2014 schedule will be demanding and difficult at times.
I've listed eight games on the 2014 schedule which I believe will be key matchups for the Packers. Divisional games are always big, but so are games against other prominent teams in the NFC.
It all starts on the opening night of the season when the Packers travel to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
Week 1: Packers at Seahawks
A lot of us were hoping that the NFL would make this the opening matchup of the season in 2014. The last time the Packers played the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field early in the 2012 season, Green Bay lost in the infamous "Fail Mary" game.
But now the Packers will be facing a team which went 13-3 in 2013 and went on to win Super Bowl XLVIII in convincing fashion.
Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have done a great job accumulating talent for the Seahawks over the years. Russell Wilson has become one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, plus Marshawn Lynch can hurt you on the ground.
But it's the fast and physical defense of the Seahawks that the Packers need to really be aware of.
This game will be a great test for the Packers to open their season, much like it was when the Packers had to open the 2013 season in San Francisco.
But all eyes in the NFL will be on this Thursday night opening game, and I expect the Packers to come out and play well in one of the toughest environments in the NFL.
Week 3: Packers at Lions
Head coach Mike McCarthy always seems to have his Packers ready to face the Detroit Lions. Since McCarthy became head coach in 2006, the Packers have never lost to the Lions at Lambeau Field in eight games, and are 6-2 in eight games at Ford Field.
But the last memory of playing in Detroit was when the Packers were blown out by the Lions 40-10 last Thanksgiving. The Packers played without quarterback Aaron Rodgers that day, however.
Even after that loss though, it was the Packers who eventually ended up winning the NFC North last season, even though the Lions had a one-and-a-half-game lead after they throttled the Pack on Turkey Day.
The Packers will be looking to get off to a quick start overall in 2014, and winning games against divisional opponents like the Lions are even more important. Especially on the road.
The Packers will once again attempt to force quarterback Matthew Stafford into making mistakes, which he is prone to do.
The Lions will also be coming into this game with a new coaching staff led by head coach Jim Caldwell.
Week 5: Vikings at Packers
The Packers will be playing in their second Thursday night game of the season in this Week 5 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.
Like the Lions, the Vikings will come into this game with a new coaching staff led by head coach Mike Zimmer.
The Packers will also most likely see a new quarterback starting for the Vikings, but his identity is yet to be determined. The key once again will be trying to stop running back Adrian Peterson.
As I mentioned in a previous slide, the Packers want to get off to a quick start in 2014, and especially versus divisional opponents like the Vikings.
Like the opening game of the season versus the Seahawks, this game will have everyone in the NFL watching as Green Bay tries to continue it's dominance against the Vikings at home.
The Packers are 7-1-1(including the postseason) against the Vikings since 2006 at Lambeau Field.
Week 7: Panthers at Packers
The Carolina Panthers shocked some people last season as they went 12-4 and surprisingly won the NFC South.
Led by multi-talented quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers are one of the up-and-coming teams in the league. The defense of the Panthers is also top-notch.
The Packers can't overlook this team, as Green Bay will be starting their most difficult stretch of the season.
Over the next four games starting with the Panthers, the Packers will play three 2013 playoff teams and also a matchup versus the Chicago Bears, who the Packers battled in Week 17 last year for the right to win the NFC North crown.
Week 8: Packers at Saints
The last time the Packers played the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, it wasn't pretty. In that game played in 2008, the Packers were whipped 51-29 by the Saints.
Like then, this game will be a night game. In 2008 it was a Monday night game, while this year it will be a Sunday night game. Night games seem to get the crowds in New Orleans into even more of a frenzy.
The same quarterbacks will be going at it again, as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees will be facing each other for the fourth time. Rodgers leads the three-game series, two games to one.
The Saints were 11-5 in 2013 and were a Wild Card team in the playoffs.
Expect a high scoring game, as the point total over the past three games has been around 70 points a game.
Week 10: Bears at Packers
The last time the Packers faced the Bears at Lambeau Field, quarterback Aaron Rodgers fractured his clavicle. That was in Week 9 last season, and Rodgers didn't return until Week 17, when he faced the Bears again, this time at Soldier Field.
The Packers won that game in Chicago in heart-stopping fashion, 33-28, when Rodgers threw a 48-yard touchdown to wide receiver Randall Cobb with just 38 seconds to go in the game. To add to the drama, the Packers were in a 4th-and-8 situation.
That play gave the Packers the NFC North crown, as they finished with a 8-7-1 record as opposed to the 8-8 record of the Bears.
The meeting at Lambeau in 2014 will also be a night game like it was in 2013, but this time will be on a Sunday night as opposed to Monday night last season.
This will be a pivotal divisional game, as this will be the second time the Bears and Packers will have met next season.
Week 11: Eagles at Packers
The Philadelphia Eagles faced the Packers at Lambeau Field last year, but that game was a week after Aaron Rodgers fractured his clavicle against the Bears.
The Packers had to start veteran Seneca Wallace at quarterback, who injured his groin on the first series of the game. Wallace was replaced by Scott Tolzien, who definitely had some nice moments, but also had some critical errors.
Quarterback Nick Foles took advantage of a Green Bay secondary which had a couple of blown coverages resulting in touchdowns, as the Eagles won 27-13.
Rodgers will be available for the Packers this time around, and the Green Bay should be able to move the ball and score against the Philadelphia defense.
The Eagles won the NFC East last season with a 10-6 record.
Besides trying to make things more difficult for the fast-paced offense led by Foles, the Packers also need to do a much better job stopping running back LeSean McCoy, who had 155 yards rushing last year against the Pack.
Week 13: Patriots at Packers
Anytime two of the better teams in each conference of the NFL square off against each other, you always hear that this game could also be the future matchup for the Super Bowl to be played later that year.
I'm sure you will hear that when the New England Patriots play the Packers in Week 13 at Lambeau Field.
The Pats were 12-4 last year and were once again led by quarterback Tom Brady.
The last time New England played at Lambeau Field was in 2006, when the Patriots whipped the Packers 35-0. Brett Favre started that game at quarterback for the Packers but was injured. No. 4 was replaced by Aaron Rodgers, who also was injured in that game as he broke his foot.
Rodgers finished that game against New England, but was later placed on injured reserve.
Rodgers has never faced Brady as a starter. The last time the two teams met was in 2010, and Rodgers had to sit out that contest due to a concussion.
The game in 2014 will be in late November, and it should definitely be an important gauge for how well the Packers are playing at a critical point of the season.