Packers '04 slate is a 'walk on the wild side'

There is nothing old school about the Packers' 2004 schedule.<p> The season begins on a Monday in Carolina, fewer than half of Green Bay's 16 regular-season contests have a traditional Sunday noon start, the 2004 slate stretches into 2005, and the Packers have their first Friday game in 55 years.<p>

Friday?

Yes, Friday – at 2 p.m. -- and did we mention this particular Friday is Christmas Eve? The league is sending the Packers on a holiday jaunt to the Metrodome, a place that doesn't exactly inspire comfort or joy.

Of the eight games on the Lambeau Field slate, half are Sunday noon games, two are Monday Night affairs and one is an inexplicable 3:15 date with Minnesota on Nov. 14.

Three prime-time appearances include the three above-mentioned MNF games plus an ESPN Sunday night game at Houston on Nov. 21.

Conspiracy theorists will enjoy some of the crueler twists of the '04 slate. The Packers finish the season with two road games, at Minnesota on Christmas Eve, then the finale at Chicago on Jan. 2, the only two-game road trip of the season.

Further evidence of the deck stacked against the Pack is a short week on the road (statistically a recipe for disaster, just ask any football pool aficionado) before two key conference games. One short week leads into Philadelphia Nov. 5, and a similar fate awaits before the Detroit game on Oct. 17.

A silver lining is found in what isn't on the schedule this year. Packer brass have expressed relief that they won't be invited to the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving bash this year.

"I'm glad we got away from that this year," Bob Harlan said on an Associated Press report. "I would hope we've fulfilled our obligations in that regard."

Harlan added that no Packers coach during his tenure has ever liked the Turkey Day dates in Detroit.


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