Schedule Only a Little Tougher

That fearsome second-half schedule you've heard about isn't really so fearsome, as we detail in this piece. The final eight opponents have a cumulative .500 record, and they face only one top-10 defense the rest of the way.

The Green Bay Packers put themselves behind the 8-ball by emerging with only a 4-4 record through the "easy" portion of the schedule. While the second-half schedule is more difficult, it's not exactly the daunting challenge that you've been led to believe.

The cumulative record of the Packers' final eight foes is 33-33. In those eight games, the Packers play only three teams with winning records (Dallas, Pittsburgh, Arizona), one team with a .500 record (Baltimore) and four teams with losing records (San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle). They face only one top-10 defense (Pittsburgh), two top-10 offenses (Dallas, Pittsburgh) and only two teams that rank in the top 10 in sacks (Pittsburgh, Arizona).

The next three games are huge, no matter how you break it down. Dallas, which leads the NFC East, and San Francisco, which beat Chicago on Thursday night, could be wild-card contenders with Green Bay. The Thanksgiving game at Detroit is a third consecutive conference matchup, and the Packers, who are in eighth place in the NFC standings, are 3-3 against conference foes.

"We really want to win the game this week," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. "There's no question about that. We approach every game the same way. November football is definitely, the importance and urgency has to increase."

That the Packers are feeling a "sense of urgency" is a sad testimony to going 4-4 through the first-half schedule. The cumulative record of Green Bay's first eight foes is 28-37, for a winning percentage of .431. The Packers' "best" win came in the opener against Chicago, which fell to 4-5 on Thursday. The other three victories came over teams that are all 1-7.

"Our message is very clear," McCarthy said. "The head coach has to coach better, the coaches have to coach better, the players have to play better, and we have to win games. That's our focus. ... We're going to pour everything that we have into winning at home against the Cowboys. That's our focus."

Here's a look at the remaining schedule, with their rankings on offense, defense and sacks, and one optimistic note.

Game 9: vs. Dallas (6-2)

Offense: 3rd. Defense: 20th. Sacks: 11th (20). Not invincible: Needed overtime to win at Kansas City (1-7).

Game 10: vs. San Francisco (4-5)

Offense: 27th. Defense: 19th. Sacks: T-19th (17). Not invincible: Had lost four straight, including at home to woeful Tennessee, before beating Chicago 10-6 on Thursday.

Game 11: at Detroit (1-7)

Offense: 25th. Defense: 26th. Sacks: T-24th (16). Not invincible: Detroit has the NFL's fourth-worst point differential at minus-104. Plus, the Lions have lost their last five on Thanksgiving.

Game 12: vs. Baltimore (4-4)

Offense: 10th. Defense: 12th. Sacks: T-19th (17). Not invincible: The Ravens reached the AFC title game last year but are 1-4 after a 3-0 start. On defense, they've allowed at least 24 points in four of eight games.

Game 13: at Chicago (4-5)

Offense: 18th. Defense: 15th. Sacks: T-17th (18). Not invincible: Since starting 3-1, the Bears have beaten only Cleveland and were blistered through the air in losses to Arizona and Cincinnati.

Game 14: at Pittsburgh (6-2)

Offense: 5th. Defense: 5th. Sacks: 4th (23). The Steelers are minus-2 in turnovers and have turned it over at least twice in four of eight games.

Game 15: vs. Seattle (3-5)

Offense: 22nd. Defense: 13th. Sacks: T-11th (20). Not invincible: Their three wins have come over St. Louis, Jacksonville and Detroit.

Game 16: at Arizona (5-3)

Offense: 14th. Defense: 21st. Sacks: T-7th (21). Not invincible: The Cardinals are wildly inconsistent and have a minus-6 turnover ratio, and they've lost at home at Carolina (3-5).


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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