GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ Week 13 bye could be good news. It might get the team refreshed just in time for the stretch run. Or, with games on 12 consecutive weeks to open the season, it might come too late to do any good.
While Green Bay is 1-5 coming out of its last six regular-season byes, including blowout losses to San Francisco in 2019 and Tampa Bay in 2020, a football-free week should be a blessing.
Before their Week 13 siesta, the Packers will be coming off a grueling stretch of games: at the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9, home against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10, at the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 and home against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12. Three of those teams reached the playoffs last season. The other, Minnesota, plays in one of the toughest venues in the NFL. The bye will set the table for a manageable final stretch: home against Chicago, at Baltimore, home against Cleveland and Minnesota, and at Detroit.
Coming amidst that long season-opening stretch, Green Bay will be at a bye-week disadvantage twice. The Seahawks will have a bye in Week 9 before coming to Green Bay for Week 10, and the Rams will have a bye in Week 11 before coming to Green Bay for Week 12. Seattle and Los Angeles are high-quality teams under any circumstances and could be challenging the Packers for a playoff spot or playoff positioning.
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Aaron Rodgers and Corey Linsley made a combined 289 regular-season starts for the Packers. To be sure, defenses will attack an offense piloted by Jordan Love and Josh Myers much differently.
“Every year has new challenges,” coach Matt LaFleur told Packers.com. “There's so much that changes throughout the course of a season. There's different variables, whether who's available and who you're going up against. I think the main thing we have to do is focus on ourselves and make sure our preparation is on point.”
The Packers will have an edge for their Week 9 game against Kansas City. In Week 8, the Packers will play at Arizona on Thursday night while the Chiefs will host the Giants on Monday night. That’s four bonus days to get ready for the Super Bowl favorites.
Here are four more noteworthy nuggets.
2. Toughest Stretch of the Packers’ Schedule
Green Bay is the only team to play 10 games against teams that reached the postseason last year. By 2020 winning percentage, its 2021 slate of games is the fourth-most difficult in the NFL.
The toughest stretch begins in Week 8, with a short week and a long flight to Arizona for a Thursday night game. Then, it’s a Week 9 clash against the powerhouse Chiefs. In Week 10, the Packers will host the Seahawks, who are coming off a bye. In Week 11, it’s a trip to Minnesota to face the Vikings at raucous U.S. Bank Stadium. Finally, it’s a home game against the Rams, who also will be coming off a bye.
3. Easiest Stretch of the Packers’ Schedule
If Aaron Rodgers returns to the lineup, the Packers have a chance to start fast – critical considering the overall difficulty of the schedule. The opener at New Orleans won’t be the same without Drew Brees. In Week 2, it’s a home game against the rebuilding Lions. The Week 3 game at San Francisco – on a short week, no less – will be a huge challenge.
After that, it’s home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, at the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears, and at home against the Washington Football Team. Of those four games, only Pittsburgh had a winning record in 2020.
4. Primetime Packers
TV networks are either crossing their fingers that Rodgers will return or the Packers will be like a car wreck that you can’t help but stare at.
The Packers got the maximum of five primetime games. That includes home against Detroit in Week 2, at San Francisco in Week 3 and at Arizona on a Thursday night in Week 8. If Rodgers is gone and the Packers are struggling, then NBC can swap out the Week 14 home game against Chicago and the Week 17 home game against Minnesota.
“That’s a good thing for us. That means we’re doing some good things,” LaFleur said.
5. Whoever the Quarterback, Green Bay Will Be Tested
The Packers led the NFL in scoring last season. Whether it’s Rodgers, Jordan Love, Blake Bortles or Drew Lock, Green Bay will be tested to match that level of productivity in 2021. The Packers will play six games against top-10 scoring defenses, including the Rams (first), Ravens (second), Steelers (third) and Washington (fourth).