The Green Bay Packers released their preseason schedule earlier this week. We'll get a good gauge on how Year 2 of the Mike McCarthy-Ted Thompson regime will fare this season by how they compete during a challenging exhibition slate.
Games at Pittsburgh, home against Seattle and Jacksonville and at Tennessee are about as tough as they come, and each game will throw a different challenge at the Packers.
Pittsburgh, of course, is only one year removed from winning the Super Bowl. Assuming Ben Roethlisberger doesn't do something foolish like ride a motorcycle without a helmet, the Steelers will be a difficult all-around test in a challenging environment. The Steelers might have a new coach, but expect Pittsburgh's defense to live up to its usual Blitzburgh billing. Given how little game-planning is done in the preseason, if the Packers' line can protect Brett Favre in this game, that should be a good omen for the rest of the season.
The second game is against Seattle, which lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL. The Seahawks, with the signings of safety Deon Grant and defensive end Patrick Kerney, finally figure to have a defense to match their offense. With Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback and Shaun Alexander at running back, the Seahawks have an enviable tandem. Throw in the free-agent signing of tight end Marcus Pollard, and this team looks like a major challenger to get back to the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars fell apart at the end of last season, losing three straight to miss the playoffs. They have one of the NFL's toughest defenses, though, and they'll provide a huge test to a Packers offense that was mediocre last season. The third preseason game is generally the most important one of the year. It's a dress rehearsal, of sorts, with the starters generally playing deep into the second half. Remember last year, the Packers lost 48-17 at Cincinnati in the third preseason game, and Green Bay went on to start the regular season 1-4, so this game will be telling. Especially on offense. With their young offensive line a year older and wiser, the Packers are expecting to be more productive on offense. We'll see about that. The Jaguars' superb defensive tackle duo of Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are a lot like Minnesota's formidable tandem of Pat and Kevin Williams.
Finally, there's the preseason finale against Tennessee. Probably not much will be gleaned from this one, since the starters will barely work up a sweat before getting the rest of the night off. Still, the Titans' Vince Young is the type of athletic quarterback the Packers will face during the regular season against Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb. The Packers have high hopes after finishing last year with four straight wins. Tennessee won six straight before a season-ending loss, so the Titans also are a team on the rise.
It's hard to get excited about preseason football. Even in April, when the Final Four is over and there's nothing on TV but boring NBA and baseball.
Still, this schedule is exciting. The Packers were downright horrible against the elite teams last season — save for their drubbing of Chicago in the finale. It will be interesting to see how they measure up against these four squads in August.
Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to email@example.com.