The Green Bay Packers face a challenging schedule in 2015.
Green Bay’s opponents for the upcoming season went a combined 135-120-1 last season. That .529 winning percentage makes for the 14th-toughest schedule in the NFL.
On paper, of course.
Given the yo-yo nature of the parity-laden, salary-cap driven NFL, good can turn bad and bad can turn good in the blink of an eye. Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, at least four teams that failed to make the playoffs one season reached the postseason the next. In each of the past two seasons, five teams stepped into the playoffs (or fell out of them, depending on your perspective).
Nonetheless, Green Bay’s path to the playoffs should be tougher simply because of the luck of the schedule draw. Last season, the Packers played the NFC South and AFC East. The best team in the NFC South was Carolina, which went 7-8-1 and was outscored by 35 points — including a 38-17 rout at Lambeau Field. The AFC East has had two teams win 10-plus games just once in the past six seasons.
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This season, the Packers will face the rugged NFC West as well as the AFC West. The NFC West went a combined 37-27 — only the AFC North’s 38-25-1 was better. And the AFC West had three teams with winning records. Along with the usual home-and-home vs. the NFC North, the Packers face first-place teams from the NFC East (Dallas) and NFC South (Carolina).
The home schedule looks particularly fierce, with their eight opponents going a combined 71-57 last season. That .555 winning percentage stands as the ninth-toughest. Dallas (12-4), Seattle (12-4), Detroit (11-5), Kansas City (9-7) and San Diego (9-7) had winning records last season, Minnesota (7-9) and St. Louis (6-10) look like teams on the rise and who knows about Chicago (5-11) after a coaching change. The Packers, of course, went 8-0 at home last season. Those eight teams went 62-65-1 for a .488 winning percentage. Repeating that success could be difficult.
Then again, free-agent transactions could have the Cowboys and Lions taking sizable steps back and Green Bay will have the unquestioned best quarterback on the field.
All of this should come with the caveat of “for entertainment purposes only” in light of these lookaheads from the previous five seasons:
— The Packers’ 2014 opponents went 128-126-2 in 2013 for a .504 winning percentage that ranked 13th. In reality, the Packers’ opponents finished last season with a .482 winning percentage.
— The Packers’ 2013 opponents went 136-119-1 in 2012 for a .533 winning percentage that ranked sixth. In reality, the Packers’ opponents finished with a .453 winning percentage.
— The Packers’ 2012 opponents went 120-136 in 2011 for a .469 winning percentage that ranked 31st. In reality, the Packers’ opponents finished with a .508 winning percentage.
— The Packers’ 2011 opponents went 120-126 in 2010 for a .508 winning percentage that tied for 16th. In reality, the Packers’ opponents finished with a .457 winning percentage.
— The Packers’ 2010 opponents went 125-131 in 2009 for a .488 winning percentage that tied for 22nd. In reality, the Packers’ opponents finished with a .520 winning percentage.
— The last time the “before and after” winning percentages wound up on the same side of the .500 ledger? The Packers’ 2009 opponents had a .428 winning percentage that ranked 30th. In reality, the Packers’ opponents finished with a .441 winning percentage.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.