Packers ready for prime time

The television networks that cover the National Football League love Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. That was as clear as a high definition broadcast Wednesday when the league announced the 2005 schedule.<p>

The Packers will play 9 of their 16 games before national television audiences, including games on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The Packers again will play the maximum of three Monday Night Football games on ABC, plus a Sunday night game on ESPN.

"That's a great compliment to this organization and Lambeau Field, but also to Packer fans all across America," said John Jones, the Packers' executive vice president and chief operating officer. "They watch the Packers on TV whenever we're on and that certainly influences the league in their scheduling, and it builds confidence.

"The league wants the best teams to be shown in the national games, and once again they picked the Packers for a lot of them. We're optimistic; we're excited about it."

Just five of Green Bay's 16 games begin at noon. Eight of the Packers' last nine games will be broadcast nationally, including the team's first-ever Christmas Day game. Only two games will be played on Christmas Day, with Minnesota at Baltimore for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff following the Packers-Chicago contest.

"With a 4 o'clock time, I don't think it's too bad," said Packers president Bob Harlan. "People have been to church; they've opened their gifts; they've had their meal. Actually, I know a lot of people Christmas afternoon are looking for things to do. Now, they have a football game to go to. "So, I think with the time and the opponent, it makes it a pretty attractive game."

Brett Favre, who decided to return for another season, no doubt is one of the main attractions for the networks.

"I think (Favre) has that kind of national following because of the position he plays, because he's always playing through injuries and he's always there to lead us," said Harlan. "He enjoys himself and has fun playing, and that appeals to people. I hear from people from other cities and they might be Bears fans, but they always said they admire Brett Favre.

"I hear every fall (from TV executives) that whenever we're on TV, the ratings are great. The networks want us," Harlan said.

In a contrast to the finish of the 2004 season when they played on Christmas Eve, the Packers will be in Green Bay for the holidays this season as they close out with a pair of Lambeau Field contests on Christmas Day (against Chicago, 4 p.m. CDT start) and New Year's Day (against Seattle, 3:15 p.m. CDT start).

One of Green Bay's three Monday Night Football games will be at Lambeau Field, Nov. 21 against Minnesota. The Packers travel to play the Carolina Panthers (Oct. 3) and Baltimore Ravens (Dec. 19) on MNF. This will mark the third straight season and the eighth time in team history that the Pack has played in the maximum amount of Monday Night contests.

Last season, the Packers (10-6 in the regular season) were 2-1 on MNF, opening the season with a 24-14 victory at Carolina, a 48-27 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans, and a 45-17 shellacking of the St. Louis Rams at Lambeau Field, raising Green Bay's record to 9-3 on Monday nights under Head Coach Mike Sherman.

Additionally, the Packers will host the Lions in an ESPN Sunday Night telecast in December. The Packers were victorious in their lone Sunday night outing in 2004, beating the Texans 16-13 in Houston.

Practically spoiled with seven straight season openers in Green Bay from 1997 to 2003, the Packers will open their 2005 season on the road at Ford Field in Detroit against the Lions on Sept. 11.

"That's a divisional rival and it's a very important game right out of the chute," Jones said. "We'll also get to play three of our first five at Lambeau after opening on the road, so we have a chance to get off to a good start before our bye week."

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