In this way-too-early-to-be-all-that-accurate prediction, I will attempt to break down the Green Bay Packers’ 2010 season using some of the newly acquired schedule details, draft results, and player signings.
While many details will change between now and Sept. 12 (injuries, acquisitions, cuts, etc.), this projection should serve as a basic model for the most likely results—with a few surprises to keep things interesting.
Week One: @ Philadelphia (Sun., 4:15)—WIN
The Philadelphia Eagles are currently in a pseudo-rebuilding mode. They traded away veteran Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins this offseason and released playmaker Brian Westbrook, who just recently passed a physical with the St. Louis Rams. Plus, they grabbed a whopping 13 players during the draft.
Needless to say, this is not a team that will be ready to face the more refined Green Bay Packers in Week One, even on their home turf. They might have some potential for later in the season, but don’t expect them to be playing as much of a unit on the first Sunday of the regular season.
Week Two: Buffalo (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
Whereas the Eagles are only rebuilding parts of their team, the Buffalo Bills are more than knee-deep in the process. After last year’s complete lack of an offense that not even Terrell Owens could help with, the Bills are scratching their heads and looking for answers to a multitude of problems. Unfortunately, their biggest issue is that they suffer from an overall lack of talent on both sides of the ball.
This should be easy pickings for Green Bay during their season opener at Lambeau Field.
Week Three: @ Chicago (Mon., 8:30)—LOSS
Despite the overwhelming consensus that the Chicago Bears are running third in the NFC North division, it has to be noted that head coach Lovie Smith seems to plan his entire season around beating the Packers.
Considering that Green Bay swept them last season by only six and seven points respectively, this team might come out swinging hard for a prime-time game at Soldier Field. They could very well manage to squeak out a close win against the Packers, though Green Bay will get their revenge later.
Week Four: Detroit (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
For their second division game of the season, the Green Bay Packers get to take on the Detroit Lions, who have been doing a lot of work to (re?)build their team. They’ve made some substantial upgrades across the board and could actually make a decent splash in the winning column this season. Just don’t expect this relatively young team to chalk up a win on their first trip to Wisconsin, even on a short week for the Pack.
Week Five: @ Washington (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
This is the second of a three-game span that will certainly test the mettle of the Washington Redskins. In the week prior to their meeting with Green Bay, the Redskins duke it out with the Eagles, a recent trade partner and division rival. They get two home games to follow, but they are against the Packers and Indianapolis Colts.
Washington picked some offensive tackles in the draft to help secure their line, but McNabb will have a hard time finding enough quality receivers to throw to, and the acquisition of former Pittsburgh Steeler Willie Parker leaves a bit to be desired. The last time Washington defeated the Green Bay Packers was in 1988.
Week Six: Miami (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
After ranking in the bottom third of most defensive statistics last season, the Miami Dolphins spent all but one of their eight draft picks on defensive positions: three linemen, two linebackers, a safety, and a cornerback.
Their offense, however, could continue to be a problem. Their lackluster passing game does nothing to help a fairly solid running game. But this marks the last season before veteran Ricky Williams' retirement, and Ronnie Brown was recently brought up on DUI charges in Georgia (of all places) with a BAC of over twice the legal limit.
With the Packers being No. 1 in rush defense last season, they should be able to secure a win by cutting off the head of Miami’s beast.
Week Seven: Minnesota (Sun., 8:20)—LOSS
It doesn’t get much better than a prime-time football game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, especially when Brett Favre will most likely be involved again. We know how much he loves the extra attention! It’s just too bad that he seems to play better in the limelight.
This game will have almost as much hype as the two games last season, even though the thought of Favre vs. the Pack has had time to settle down. Unfortunately, the Vikings will be fairly fresh off their bye week and fairly well in sync by this point. Also, the Packers’ pride might make them overly confident if they get to this game with 5-1 record.
Week Eight: @ New York Jets (Sun., 1:00)—LOSS
As the second of three consecutive battles against playoff teams from last season, the Green Bay Packers will travel to the New Meadowlands Stadium and face off against the New York Jets.
The headlines for this game will most likely revolve around these two teams being the top defenses in 2009, and the Jets will likely be slightly improved against the passing attack after their first round draft selection of CB Kyle Wilson (Boise State).
In most cases, the Green Bay Packers would be able to eke out a win; however, the Jets will have fresh legs from their Week Seven bye and will be playing at home. The Packers will be worn down some after seven straight games, the last one being against Minnesota.
Week Nine: Dallas (Sun., 8:20)—WIN
It’s doubtful that many Green Bay fans have forgotten last season’s thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys in what was almost a shutout. Charles Woodson was the player of the game with eight tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, and a critical goal-line interception that put the Cowboys to shame.
Look for Dom Capers to continue to throw pressure in Tony Romo’s direction and secure another defensive victory in front of the home crowd. Just like they did last season, the Packers will snap another two-game losing streak with this victory over Dallas.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: @ Minnesota (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
This will be the first game after the Packers’ much-needed bye week, yet it will be the seventh game for the Vikings after their bye.
Barring any major injuries, Green Bay should come into this game with a renewed vigor and a vow to avenge not only their Week Seven loss, but last season’s sweep as well. Minnesota should also be extra tired after having to face the Jets, Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, Cardinals, and Bears all in a row—and without rest.
Home field advantage will help bolster the Vikings’ confidence, but the Packers should squeak out the win in another match for the ages.
Week 12: @ Atlanta (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
The Atlanta Falcons should be better than last year but will still be an upper middle-of-the-road team. They made a significant draft pick in Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri) to upgrade the linebacker position and nabbed Dominique Franks (Oklahoma) for cornerback, but it remains to be seen how they—and a couple of their questionable selections—will really impact a defense that was 28th against the pass last season.
They have some rather good weapons on offense; however, Green Bay will most certainly be able to put up more points than Atlanta will.
Week 13: San Francisco (Sun., 1:00)—LOSS
Last season, the Green Bay Packers had the San Francisco 49ers all but wrapped up when both Aaron Kampman and Al Harris suffered their season-ending injuries. Their absences left serious holes that San Francisco exploited to come within six points of the Packers after being behind by 20.
Unfortunately for the Packers, the 49ers have made some upgrades to help them improve their game on both sides of the ball—especially in securing their offensive line. San Francisco could be this year’s dark horse, and it wouldn’t be overly surprising for them to give the Pack a run for their money during the first cold-weather game of the season.
Week 14: @ Detroit (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
Ten weeks after their Week Four meeting, the Packers will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions for their second game of the season. Both teams will have a pretty good idea of their chances at the postseason, and Detroit will likely be performing at a higher level than when they last played the Packers. They are still the Lions, though, so all odds are in Green Bay’s favor.
Week 15: @ New England (Sun., 8:20)—LOSS
Scheduling this game for prime time was a no-brainer for the NFL. When the Green Bay Packers travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots, it could be one of the most watched games of the season. Two cold-weather teams will battle it out in mid-December at a venue that has seen more than its fair share of snow.
This will be a tough battle for the Packers, and while they do have a fair chance of winning, it’s safer to say that the Patriots will have the edge in this matchup.
Week 16: New York Giants (Sun., 4:15)—WIN
The New York Giants are not a bad team, but they seemed to have clearly fallen from grace since their stunning Super Bowl XLII victory—and NFC Championship victory. Many of the faces have changed on both teams since then, but the fans and media should give Green Bay players enough incentive to avenge that bitter loss.
The Giants have yet to find the talent to replace what they have lost the past few years, while the Packers have been steadily building their corps of playmakers. In the end, revenge will be served on Lambeau’s cold tundra.
Week 17: Chicago (Sun., 1:00)—WIN
“For the first time in series history, Green Bay will host Chicago in the regular-season finale, set to be game No. 181 between the Packers and Bears” (Packers.com). The Packers will have to wait a full 14 weeks for their shot at redemption, but make no mistake about it: Regardless of their postseason chances, they will play this game to win. And win they will.
FINAL PROJECTED RECORD: 11-5 overall, 4-2 division record
Considering the relative ease of last season’s schedule, finishing with the same overall record is actually a bit of an upgrade when taking into account the caliber of the Packers’ 2010 opponents.
The biggest challenges will be Minnesota (as always), the stout New York Jets, an upgraded San Francisco, and the Patriots with their lingering dynasty.
I expect the Packers to lose only two division games, with at least one of those going to Minnesota. Even though I projected a loss against Chicago in Week Three, I have a strange and completely illogical feeling that said loss could come against Detroit instead. But either way, the Pack should sweep at least one of their division foes next season.
Again, this is way too early to project anything with a lot of certainty, but it should provide at least a realistic view of how things could turn out. (I tried to subdue the homer in me.)
Look for an updated prediction closer to the start of the season.