The NFL released the 2011 NFL schedule on Tuesday evening. Along with the matchup pitting the NFL's last two champions, the schedule features prime-time games at Atlanta in Week 5, home against Minnesota in Week 10 and at home against Chicago on Christmas night in Week 16. Plus, they're at Detroit on Thanksgiving.
"I am excited, No. 1, just to be the team to open the season," coach Mike McCarthy said. "That is always a fun game to watch, and to play the Saints here at home, I think it's a game everybody is going to be excited about. I know our fans will be excited about it and our players will definitely enjoy the competition of an excellent Saints football team."
Two things stand out about the schedule:
First, it's the challenge of a Monday night home game against Minnesota, a Sunday home game Tampa Bay and a Thanksgiving game at Detroit. That's three games in the span of 11 days.
Second, not only do the Packers close the season with back-to-back home games against Chicago and Detroit but they play potentially five cold-weather games in a row to end the season.
"I think that is awesome," McCarthy said. "I think that is a definite plus, to have three at home to end your season in December. I am fine with the five outdoor games. I know offensively, those guys always look to hopefully get a dome game down the stretch."
Nine of Green Bay's 16 games will be played at 3:15 p.m. or in prime time — including four of the first five and seven of the first nine. That's a sign of respect — not that McCarthy wants to hear it.
"To me, this is a lot like paper champions," he said. "I think that is a bad mind-set to fall into. Anytime I think things look really good on paper for our football team, I take a step back because that is not how you win games. It's still about getting better each day and keeping your finger on the pulse of the team because things change. If there was ever a season to illustrate that more than ever, it was our team last year."
The Gold Package games for Milwaukee season-ticket-holders are, as usual, the second and fifth home games of the season. This year, that's Denver and Tampa Bay. Neither team made the playoffs but both games have good story lines, with the Broncos quarterbacked by Tim Tebow and the Buccaneers almost nudging the Packers out of the NFC's last playoff spot last year.
The bye comes in Week 8.
Game 1: at Cleveland. Date and time: Saturday, Aug. 13, 6:30 p.m. TV: State.
Game 2: ARIZONA (Gold). Date and time: Friday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m. TV: State.
Game 3: at Indianapolis. Date and time: Friday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m. TV: CBS.
Game 4: KANSAS CITY. Date and time: Thursday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m. TV: State.
Week 1: NEW ORLEANS. Date and time: Thursday, Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m. TV: NBC.
Week 2: at Carolina. Date and time: Sunday, Sept. 18, noon. TV: Fox.
Week 3: at Chicago. Date and time: Sunday, Sept. 25, 3:15 p.m. TV: Fox.
Week 4: DENVER (Gold). Date and time: Sunday, Oct. 2, 3:15 p.m. TV: CBS.
Week 5: at Atlanta. Date and time: Sunday, Oct. 9, 7:20 p.m. TV: NBC.
Week 6: ST. LOUIS. Date and time: Sunday, Oct. 16, noon. TV: Fox.
Week 7: at Minnesota. Date and time: Sunday, Oct. 23, 3:15 p.m. TV: Fox.
Week 8: Bye.
Week 9: at San Diego. Date and time: Sunday, Nov. 6, 3:15 p.m. TV: Fox.
Week 10: MINNESOTA. Date and time: Monday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m. TV: ESPN.
Week 11: TAMPA BAY (Gold). Date and time: Sunday, Nov. 20, *noon. TV: Fox.
Week 12: at Detroit. Date and time: Thursday, Nov. 24, 11:30 a.m. TV: Fox.
Week 13: at N.Y. Giants. Date and time: Sunday, Dec. 4, *3:15 p.m. TV: Fox.
Week 14: OAKLAND. Date and time: Sunday, Dec. 11, *noon. TV: CBS.
Week 15: at Kansas City. Date and time: Sunday, Dec. 18, *noon. TV: Fox.
Week 16: CHICAGO. Date and time: Sunday, Dec. 25, 7:20 p.m. TV: NBC.
Week 17: DETROIT. Date and time: Sunday, Jan. 1, *noon. TV: Fox.
For games marked with an asterisk, the start time and network may shift due to NFL flexible scheduling.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.