The Green Bay Packers are 2011 Super Bowl Champions. They have enjoyed the media attention and love from the fans. As long as there is a 2011 NFL season, they will play all year with a target on their backs.
According to Las Vegas, the Packers have the best odds of going to the Super Bowl in the 2011 season. The Steelers have the second best odds. Realistically, only one or neither of these teams will return to the Super Bowl.
The Packers had one of the toughest schedules in the 2010 season. They definitely had the toughest playoff road to Super Bowl XLV.
In 2011, the Packers face a slightly nicer schedule. No game is ever easy in the NFL, but the Packers do have a few games they do not need to worry about as much.
Here is a look at the Packers schedule for the 2011 season. They are ranked from easiest game to toughest game. These are based on right now. The list may change after the NFL draft and will obviously change when the 2011 season begins.
2010 record: 2-14
4th NFC South
Let's face it: the Carolina Panthers just struggled this season. After getting rid of Jake Delhomme, they drafted Jimmy Clausen. He will probably lead the team in 2011.
They have a decent running back in Mike Goodson. Unfortunately, they have so many holes that even the draft and free agency will not help much.
I don't see this team doing much better than 2-14 in 2011, so this looks like an easy game for the Packers. The road game will not be a challenge.
2010 Record: 4-12
4th AFC West
The Denver Broncos struggled in 2010. Kyle Orton, who had a good season in 2009, finished the season with over 3500 passing yards, but only had 20 touchdowns with nine interceptions.
The Broncos drafted Tim Tebow and will look to him for a spark next season. They may use him more than they did this season if Orton keeps producing like he is.
The Broncos will continue to rely on Knowshon Moreno, but he will need to pick up his play next season. Brandon Lloyd and Champ Bailey will provide their usual spark for this team if they remain on the roster.
This game is at home for the Packers against a struggling Broncos team. John Fox and John Elway are heading in the right direction, but they will not be there just yet next season.
2010 Record: 6-10
4th NFC North
Joe Webb and Leslie Frazier tried to create some sparks at the end of the 2010 season. The Vikings managed to go 3-3 under Frazier after Brad Childress was fired.
The Vikings essentially have no quarterback besides Webb as Brett Favre has retired (maybe) and Tavaris Jackson headed to free agency.
They will still have Adrian Peterson, who has been a solid running back, and a tough defense that finished in the top ten for the 2010 regular season.
Unfortunately, if you do not have a good quarterback in the NFL, you will not be looked at as a tough game. Although this is a rivalry game, the Packers will have a big edge at home.
2010 Record: 6-10
3rd NFC North
The Detroit Lions are headed in the right direction. With 2010 Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh leading the defense, they are bound to do better in 2010. Suh has even more experience and will likely have more support in 2011.
The Lions played quarterback-by-committee when Matthew Stafford went down with a season ending injury. Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton both took time at quarterback, which will only help both of them in terms of experience.
Not many people expected Jahvid Best to perform as well as he did for the Lions. This is a young team. In a couple years, they could be serious contenders.
As for next year, they will struggle at Lambeau Field as they usually do, especially if this game is scheduled in December. The last time the Lions beat the Packers in the regular season at Lambeau was in 1991.
2010 Record: 8-8
3rd AFC West
The 2010 Oakland Raiders were in the playoff hunt for some of the season. They took some positive strides as a franchise going 8-8. After acquiring Jason Campbell, they thought their offense would get some help.
Campbell struggled and the Raiders discovered Bruce Gradkowski. Unfortunately, he did not do that well either. Luckily, they had Darren McFadden, who single-handedly won the Raiders a couple games.
This offense needs a big boost in the offseason to be a true playoff contender. With this game at Lambeau, the Packers should not have too much trouble.
This game being a road game makes this game only a little bit tougher. Minnesota just does not look like an NFC North contender at this point. They may even finish in last again next season.
2010 Record: 10-6
3rd NFC South
This team was a big surprise of 2010, just missing the playoffs. With Josh Freeman having experience from 2009, he took over this team and surprised a lot of people. It helped that he had Mike Williams to throw to.
Freeman finished the season with just under 3500 yards and 25 touchdowns. He only threw six interceptions. If this team can continue to improve, they can be tough to face.
This will be an interesting year for the Bucs as they try to prove the 2010 season was not a fluke. Because this game is at home, I think this will be an easier one for the Packers.
This game is usually a 50-50 game, which is why it ended up in the middle of the pack. The Packers have gone 7-4 at the Lions since 2000.
2010 Record: 7-9
2nd NFC West
Suh completely deserved Rookie of the Year, but if anyone else had a chance to win it, it was Sam Bradford. He took a team that went 1-15 almost to the playoffs. Yes, the NFC West sucks, but the Rams still went 7-9 and almost won the division.
Bradford was not a top-tier quarterback, but he led the Rams team well and gained a lot of experience. They will be a tough team in 2011.
This game fell to the middle because the Rams will be tough, but not stellar and this game is at Lambeau. The edge goes to the Packers.
1st AFC West
The Kansas City Chiefs were a team that you watched and just did not understand how they won games. They did not have stellar numbers, but they knew how to win.
Matt Cassell had just over 3100 passing yards, but protected the ball well, throwing only seven interceptions. Jamal Charles was a pleasant surprise for the Chiefs, rushing for over 1400 yards, but only five touchdowns.
This team, similar to Tampa Bay, will have to prove they did not have a fluke 2010 season. They will falter a little, but expect Kansas City to be tough at home.
2010 Record: 11-5
1st NFC North
The Chicago Bears were called pretenders all season long in 2010. They earned the number two seed in the NFC for the playoffs. The Bears did face three 3rd string quarterbacks and one back-up quarterback during the regular season. In their first playoff game, they faced the first 7-9 team to make the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how the Bears respond in 2011. Jay Cutler has faced a lot of crap this offseason, but the team is supporting their quarterback. This is a good sign.
On the defensive side, Brian Urlacher is getting older. They need to continue to have other players step up to support Urlacher.
This is another 50-50 game, but will be tougher as both teams made the playoffs this year. Both teams should contend for the NFC North title in 2011.
2010 Record: 10-6
2nd NFC East
The 2010 New York Giants just missed the playoffs after losing to Green Bay at Lambeau. They had a top five offense last season, but Eli Manning really struggled with ball control. Manning threw a career high 25 interceptions.
Manning will not have two horrible seasons in a row, so this team will improve next season. Ahmad Bradshaw is a good running back to help Manning.
Defensively, the Giants finished in the top ten for overall defense. If they can improve just a few little things, they will be contenders next season.
This game found the top five because they are a tough team and this game is at the New Giants Stadium.
2010 Record: 11-5
2nd NFC South
The New Orleans Saints fell flat at the end of the season. They really struggled at Seattle in the playoffs. I do not expect them to do that again next season, but I do expect them to make the playoffs.
They are always near the top in offensive categories. They struggled with ball control as the Saints threw 22 interceptions and had 23 fumbles (only nine lost).
The Saints also boasted a top-five defense. The Saints are for real and they will be fighting for the playoffs next year.
Despite this game being at Lambeau, this will still be a tough game for the Packers.
2010 Record: 9-7
2nd AFC West
San Diego plays tough all season, until the end. Depending on when this game will be played, this could fall a little further down the list.
The Chargers will probably be fighting for the top of their division again next season. With Philip Rivers putting up good numbers and getting the support from his running game, the Chargers can be a tough team.
They had the top ranked defense in the 2010 regular season. The Chargers also had the top ranked pass defense with less than 178 passing yards per game allowed and only 18 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions.
Travelling to the west coast is always tough, especially with a team that can contend for the playoffs.
This will be a tough game for the Packers. They went 1-1 last year at Soldier Field, winning the game that really counted. This is a rivalry game against the other top contender in the NFC North.
2010 Record: 13-3
1st NFC South
The Atlanta Falcons earned the number one seed in the NFC in 2010. They had the number 16 ranked offense and number 16 ranked defense.
Michael Turner was solid for this team all season, finishing with over 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Falcons had success with protecting the ball. Turner fumbled only twice and Matt Ryan only had nine interceptions during the regular season.
The Falcons will look to fill some holes on defense. They really struggled against the pass, giving up over 225 passing yards per game and 23 touchdowns on the season. They did have 22 interceptions though.
The Packers took the regular season game down to the wire at Atlanta in 2010. No doubt this will be another one of those games. This will be the toughest game the Packers play all season.