This Sunday, the NFL season kicks off with the annual Hall of Fame game, where the Dallas Cowboys will take on the Miami Dolphins. That means in about one month, the regular season starts and the Green Bay Packers look to defend their NFC North crown. The first half of the season for the Packers is filled with many heavy hitters from all over the NFL.
Week 1 has the Packers traveling to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in a playoff rematch. In last year’s playoffs, the 49ers ran all over the Packers defense, especially with the read-option. It didn’t matter which Packers player was trying to defend to option, as 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made many of the Packers linebackers, especially Erik Walden, look like they had never seen the option by fooling them into thinking the running back had the ball. That read-option defense is what got many Packers fans to ask for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to be fired.
Week 2 doesn’t get any easier for the defense as the Washington Redskins travel to Lambeau with their explosive quarterback Robert Griffin III. Washington also runs a version of the read-option, and because of Griffin’s speed, that offense can be very dangerous. Granted, Griffin is coming off a torn ACL, but just take one look at how Adrian Peterson did after coming off his.
After games against Cincinnati and Detroit, and the bye week sandwiched in between, the Packers go to Baltimore to take on the defending Super Bowl champs, which won’t be an easy task. Even though Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are no longer commanding the defense, it doesn’t mean the Ravens will be a pushover. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco just got a huge payday and will be ready to show all his critics why he got paid.
After a home game against the Cleveland Browns, the first half of the schedule wraps up against the division-rival Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.
That Vikings game is circled on the schedule for many reasons. The Vikings are picked to be the top challengers to the Packers for the division title. During the previous regular season, Adrian Peterson rushed for a combined 409 yards against the Pack. In the playoffs, Peterson only rushed for 99 yards, which isn’t great, but against Peterson, it’ll suffice.
Former Packer and current Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings has also added fuel to the fire with the trash talking he’s been doing against his former quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jennings has said that Rodgers puts himself first instead of the team and is more concerned about being a celebrity instead of a team leader. My guess is that Rodgers will do his talking on the field against Jennings’ new team.
The eighth game of the season is a Monday night clash against the aforementioned Bears. The oldest rivalry in football gets a new variable as the Bears will have new coach Marc Trestman for the first time in the rivalry. All Bears/Packers games are close, including last year’s, as both games came down to the wire.
Even though I would love to see the Packers win all eight games, I do have to be somewhat realistic with my prediction. I think the first half of the schedule will feature some tough games, but the Packers will hang tough and go 6 and 2 in the first half.