It’s over. Thank God.
I’m talking about the World Cup, the only sporting event where even the highlights put me in a deep sleep I haven’t experienced since I had to sit through those Bruce Conner movies in college.
I’m talking about the LeBron James free agency hysteria, which contained little actual excitement outside the hysterically over-the-top reaction by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert . I haven’t seen a hissy fit thrown like that since my three-year-old was denied Dum-Dum Pops and fruit snacks for breakfast (which admittedly happens every day).
I’m talking about the first half of the baseball season, another disappointing one for the Milwaukee Brewers, which will get a whole lot worse in the year’s second half if the trade rumors swirling around Corey Hart and Prince Fielder have any truth to them. Yes, that sound you hear is the Brewers’ window of opportunity completely closing.
When things settle down like this in the middle of summer, I think of two things (okay, three things, but this is a clean blog.): CBS’s Big Brother and football.
With the start of NFL training camps under three weeks away and the first NFL preseason game less than four weeks away, it’s not too early to think football.
But even though the NFL has the most significant regular season of any major sport, not every week can be Favre vs. Packers. Here then, are my relevancy rankings for the 2010 Green Bay Packers regular schedule, from the least significant game to the most significant game.
16. Week 2 vs. Buffalo. The good news is that this game, on Sunday, September 19, is the home opener. So, after not being able to witness a meaningful game at Lambeau Field since last December, Packer fans will need little reason to get excited. Which is good, because playing the worst team in football doesn’t normally create much excitement. Aaron Rodgers will enjoy a good chunk of this game from the sidelines.
15. Week 6 vs. Miami. Miami, one of the more disappointing teams from 2009, should be better in 2010 with the addition of Brandon Marshall and the continued growth of quarterback Chad Henne. But this is still a fairly uninspiring interconference matchup for both teams, especially as it comes right before a crucial stretch of games for the Packers and right in the middle of a crucial stretch of AFC games for the Dolphins.
14. Week 13 vs. San Francisco. The 49ers are a potentially dangerous team that hasn’t played up to their potential in several years. Now that we’ve already seen the face-off between the 2005 quarterback draftees (Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers) in 2009, this is a one-time rivalry that has become a one-sided rivalry: Green Bay has won 12 of their last 13 meetings over San Francisco.
13. Week 4 vs. Detroit. It’s a division game and by week four, the Lions shouldn’t be mathematically eliminated from the postseason just yet. As a plus, Daunte Culpepper has signed with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL, so he definitely won’t be in attendance to stink up the field.
12. Week 12 at Atlanta. By week 12, we should know whether this is the surprisingly good Falcons team of 2008 or the surprisingly average Falcons team of 2009, which will determine whether this game has playoff implications for one or both teams.
11. Week 14 at Detroit. By this point in the season, the Packers should be playing for playoff positioning. Also by this point, Lions first-round draft choices Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best should be starting to make an impact for a divisional rival that very well might be looking much more formidable than they did in week four.
10. Week 16 vs. New York Giants. The Giants were absolutely awful at the end of last season. It’s hard to imagine them being much worse, but it’s not hard to imagine them as the odd team out in the NFC East, which means they won’t have anything to play for by Christmas. Packers fans can hope that former Badgers tight end Travis Beckum will be enjoying an impressive sophomore season.
9. Week 8 at New York Jets. The Jets, coming off a surprisingly strong 2009 season, were the most active team during last year’s offseason, signing LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, and Antonio Cromartie, and releasing Thomas Jones, Lito Sheppard, Leon Washington, and Alan Faneca. While they haven’t assembled quite the starting lineup of the Miami Heat, the Jets have quickly become a sexy Super Bowl pick in 2010. The Packers will find out how good they are on Halloween.
8. Week 3 at Chicago. Speaking of offseason roster moves, the Bears made quite a few of their own, acquiring defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Chester Taylor and hiring offensive coordinator Mike Martz as well as former division head coaches Mike Tice and Rod Marinelli. But the team still lacks a quality wide out, and because of that, Jay Cutler will still probably throw too many interceptions. But a Monday Night Football game at Soldier Field is always a welcome sight on the schedule.
7. Week 17 vs. Chicago. In an attempt to make the last week of the regular season more relevant, the NFL has scheduled division games only in week 17. A nice idea in theory, but that still leaves several likely-to-be-irrelevant games between division bottom-feeders (Raiders/Chiefs, Jaguars/Texans). It’s doubtful that both the Packers and Bears will need to win this game, but it’s also doubtful that either Lovie Smith or Mike McCarthy will roll over against historically their biggest rival.
6. Week 11 vs. Minnesota. Like last year, the NFL has diluted the second of the Packers/Vikings matchup by scheduling them too close together (two games in five weeks, one of which is a bye week for Green Bay). But inevitably, the Packers and Vikings play hard-fought games made even more intense by the presence of the player who wears Number 4 for Minnesota. Oh, he hasn’t officially signed on for 2010? Yeah, I’m not losing any sleep over it.
5. Week 15 at New England. New England isn’t anywhere near as scary as they used to be; but unless Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker are all on the PUP list come week 15, you can’t count them out. This Sunday night nationally-televised game has shoot-out written all over it.
4. Week 5 at Washington. Everybody wants to see how much more improved the Redskins will be with the additions of head coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Donovan McNabb, both monumental upgrades from Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell. The Packers will be one of the first teams to find out. Fortunately for Green Bay, even if the Redskins are able to match preseason expectations, this game comes immediately following the first meeting between McNabb and his old team. So it will be virtually impossible for the Redskins to match their intensity from the previous week.
3. Week 1 at Philadelphia. Like the new-look Redskins, people are eager to find out how the Eagles will do in the post-McNabb, post-Brian Westbrook, Kevin Kolb era. Unless the team can perform without going through an adjustment period – which seems highly unlikely – the Packers should expect to hear some boos directed toward the home team in week one.
2. Week 9 vs. Dallas. The two most marketable teams in the league. One of the best rivalries in the league. Two teams very likely to be fighting for divisional titles. Sunday night nationally-televised game. The final game for the Packers before their (late) bye, but something tells me they won’t have any trouble getting up for it.
1. Week 7 vs. Minnesota. Favre returns to Lambeau Field again. Can the Packers get revenge this time around?
Now that I’ve got you drooling for some NFL action, can you wait for two months?
I can’t either.
But to help me through what Tom Petty called the hardest part, I’ll be going on vacation for most of the latter half of July.
See you back here in August, when the Packers and 31 other teams will be in training camp. (Will Corey Hart and/or Prince Fielder be in different uniforms? Will the Brewers be anywhere near .500? Will Brett Favre have made any kind of official announcement regarding his 2010 plans?)
Lots to discuss. Lots to talk about. Can’t wait.