Must-Win? Week 1 Has Been Crucial for Packers

What's the link between a Week 1 win or loss in last 25 years for the Packers? Success (or failure) in the season-opening game has a strong correlation to the team's playoff fate. That and more Kickoff Weekend notes.

Sunday's season-opening game against San Francisco is just one of 16. The Super Bowl won't be won at Lambeau Field that afternoon, and the season won't go down the drain with a loss.

However, for the Green Bay Packers, there's an overwhelming connection between Week 1 and their playoff fate.

Going back over the last 25 years, the Packers are 15-10 on Kickoff Weekend. Of the 15 teams that won in Week 1, 12 seasons ended in the playoffs. On the other hand, of the 10 teams that lost in Week 1, only two seasons ended in the playoffs.

Going back over the last 10 years, since the NFL went to eight divisions and added a second wild-card team for each conference, the Packers are 7-3 on Kickoff Weekend. Of the seven winning teams, six ended up in the postseason. Of the three losing teams, only one ended up in the playoffs.

Under coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers have lost in Week 1 only once. That was his first season, a 26-0 throttling at the hands of Chicago at Lambeau Field. That team opened 4-8 before winning its final four games.

Since then, the Packers have won five consecutive season-opening games. In 2007, the Packers beat Philadelphia 16-13 on then-rookie Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal. That team went 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship Game. In 2008, the Packers beat Minnesota 24-19 in Aaron Rodgers' debut as the starting quarterback. That team, however, lost five consecutive games down the stretch and finished ¬6-10.

In 2009, a Rodgers-to-Greg Jennings touchdown sent Green Bay to a 21-15 win over Chicago. That team went 11-5 but lost an overtime shootout to Arizona in the wild-card round. In 2010, the Packers overcame Ryan Grant's season-ending injury to win at Philadelphia 27-20. That team went on to win the Super Bowl. And last season, the Packers got three touchdown passes from Rodgers and a saving goal-line stand to beat New Orleans 42-34. That team went 15-1 but lost in the divisional round to New York.

-- In the 10 seasons since the NFL went to an eight-division format, the Packers are tied for third with five division titles, trailing only New England (eight) and Indianapolis (seven). Chicago (three) and Minnesota (two) have claimed the other five NFC North titles. In all, 27 of 32 teams have won a division crown, with Detroit not among that group.

-- The Packers also are tied for third with seven playoff berths in the last 10 seasons. That's also as many as the rest of the division combined, with Chicago and Minnesota having three apiece and Detroit one.

-- Last season, there were seven new division winners, with Green Bay supplanting Chicago in the NFC North. The others: Baltimore replacing Pittsburgh, Houston replacing Indianapolis, Denver replacing Kansas City, the Giants replacing Philadelphia, San Francisco replacing Seattle and New Orleans replacing Atlanta. The only repeat champion was New England in the AFC East.

-- Norm Van Brocklin has the most passing yards in a Week 1 game with 554 for the Los Angeles Rams against the New York Yankees in 1951. Frank Clarke has the most receiving yards in a Week 1 game, with 241 yards for Dallas against Washington in 1962. No Packers are in the top 10, but Drew Brees ranks eighth with 419 yards against Green Bay last season and Tim Smith ranks ninth with 197 yards for Houston against Green Bay in 1983.

-- The Packers' Week 1 individual records aren't readily available. However, in the aforementioned 1983 game, Lynn Dickey threw for 333 yards and tied the franchise record with five touchdown passes in a 41-38 loss at the Astrodome. The touchdown record was broken when Matt Flynn threw six vs. Detroit in last year's regular-season finale. James Lofton had eight catches for 154 yards.

-- Against San Francisco, Charles Woodson will play in his 200th career game. Jeff Saturday enters the season having played 197 games and Donald Driver enters the season having played 192 games. For Driver, he's four games behind Bart Starr for second-most in NFL history. Brett Favre is the only player to compete in 200 games for the Packers; he leads the way with 255.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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