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Packers Will Enter 2018 Season With League’s Toughest Schedule

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Packers Will Enter 2018 Season With League’s Toughest Schedule

The Green Bay Packers may be getting Aaron Rodgers back in 2018, but that doesn’t mean everything suddenly becomes sunshine and daisies.

Based on opponents’ combined 2017 win percentage, the Packers will have the hardest schedule in 2018—their opponents had a .539 win percentage in 2017.

It’s looking like a tough season for the NFC North as a whole, though. The Detroit Lions are tied for second, with opponents who had a .535 win percentage. The Vikings and Bears are among four teams tied for eighth (.520)

This is partially because the NFC North is set to face off against the AFC East, which produced two playoff teams in 2017 (including the AFC Champion New England Patriots), and the NFC West, which nearly accomplished the same.

The Packers’ schedule might even be more difficult than the numbers make it appear, thanks to the Jimmy G uprising occurring in San Francisco. There’s a very real chance the 49ers could be contenders in 2018, despite finishing with a 6-10 record in 2017. You have to believe that at the end of the year, teams were glad the 49ers were not going to be playing in the postseason.

Let’s take a look at what we can expect to be the Packers’ top five hardest matchups in the 2018 season.

1. at New England Patriots (13-3, AFC Champions in 2017)

There are few tougher places to win than Foxboro, and Tom Brady has shown few signs of slowing down. The Patriots might not have a defense that intimidates opponents any more, but they make very few mistakes. One note to keep in mind that could give Packer fans some relief: the Packers are one of only two teams in the NFL not to have a losing record against the Patriots under Brady and Bill Belichick. That 2014 regular season game may feel like a long time ago, but it was clear in the postgame just how much respect Belichick has for Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy.

2. at Minnesota Vikings (13-3, NFC North Champions in 2017)

The Vikings will have a lot of questions to enter going into 2018 at the quarterback position. But make no mistake—this is a team that’s going to continue to be a tough matchup for any team in the league, so long as they have that defense intact. While the Vikings may have question marks at quarterback, they will be getting back dynamic young running back Dalvin Cook to complement their pair of skilled wide receivers. Playing a tough divisional opponent on the road is never an easy task, especially considering the struggles Aaron Rodgers has historically had against Mike Zimmer defenses.

3. at Seattle Seahawks (9-7, missed playoffs in 2017)

The Seahawks may have missed the playoffs in 2017, but don’t expect them to be down for long. This is still a talented team that’s going to be getting back a lot of important defensive pieces who missed a lot of time due to injury in 2017. Plus, Russell Wilson has become a bona fide MVP caliber player. These teams tend to play each other very tight, and the fact that this edition of the rivalry will be played in Seattle makes for an even tougher matchup for the Packers.

4. vs. Minnesota Vikings (13-3, NFC North Champions in 2017)

Home or away, the Vikings are going to pose a challenge to the Packers. One has to feel a lot better about the Packers’ chances against the Vikings at home with Aaron Rodgers lined up at quarterback, but this will still be one of the toughest matchups the Packers are likely to face in 2018 and definitely their toughest home game.

5. at Los Angeles Rams (11-5, NFC West Champions in 2017)

The Rams are an exciting young team on both sides of the ball, with some of the league’s brightest young stars. They made incredible leaps forward in 2017 under new coach Sean McVay, and the sky is the limit for them in 2018. Will they have a sort of “sophomore slump?” Hard to say, but a Packers vs. Rams game in Los Angeles could very well turn into a track meet if both offenses kick into gear.

Honorable Mentions: Home vs. Atlanta Falcons, Home vs. San Francisco 49ers


Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (22) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tundraboy's picture

Oh woe is me. Tough games, perhaps, but nothing to get worked up about.

Turophile's picture

Toughest shmuffest. Strength of schedule may have some meaning when recalculated AFTER the season has played out. That at least will tell you something about the level of opposition.

SOS calculated before the season can be a mile out as an indicator of difficulty. Some teams improve from the previous season and some fall. Some teams have a clutch of key injuries, some stay relatively healthy. WHEN you meet a team can be far more important than their preseason ranking.

The TKstinator's picture

Way too early to say.
I’m sure GB’s opponents that faced 7 instead of 12 would agree.

Bure9620's picture

This may or may not be the case, who thought the Rams would be what they were this year or the Eagles?? Or that the Giants would crap the Bed.
Did anyone see the Jags in the AFCCG??
Bottom line there will be teams taking steps forward and teams taking steps back based on last year's results.

Nick Perry's picture

FINALLY!!! A game IN Los Angeles I can go watch the Packers play in. I've seen them in San Diego, San Francisco, but never Los Angeles.

Toughest?? I don't know about that. I guess I'm like the others where it changes so much every season you never know what will be tough. I'm sure the Vikings, Lions, Ravens, or Saints thought we'd be a tough game and for the most part we had our butts kicked against all of them. I mean at the beginning of the season I figured we'd go 6-0 or 5-1 at worst in those games but we went 0-6....UGH!!

dobber's picture

What does aggregate SOS really tell you? Since teams must go .500 within their division any net change is usually due to play in these interdivisional matchups. With the way NFL scheduling and divisional play is set up, getting lined up with one or two weak divisions can bloat the win numbers of teams in an average division and make them look better than they really are. When that average division then lines up against average or better divisions, there can be significant swings in aggregate wins by division from year to year.

Certainly the NFC East (an aggregate 15 games over .500 in 2016) benefitted big-time by drawing the NFC North (-4 in 2016) and the AFC North (-11 in 2016) in 2016 and sent a 13-3 Dallas team and an 11-5 Giants team to the playoffs (and the Redskins finished 8-7-1, too). In 2017, only the Eagles made the playoffs, but the division was an even .500 playing the AFC West (who was -4!) and the NFC West (+4). How much did Zeke's absence (they were 3-3 without him and 6-4 with him) figure into that? How much did ARod's absence figure into 3 NFC South teams making the playoffs this season?

Lphill's picture

The Packers should fear no team , a healthy focused Rodgers with a running game and a reconstructed defense , it's the opponents who should be concerned.

Lphill's picture

FYI I booked my canton trip for Jerry Kramer induction , anyone else going?

stockholder's picture

My Concern isn't who we play when. My concern is how tough are players are. The tougher the schedule means injuries. We don't have the depth we need. You can't cut anyone and be serious that someone will take their place. Especially against better competition. Shoulder injuries were the biggest problem with King and House. We have aging LBs in Mathews and Perry. And Rookies coming in will be slow in development. And finally A-Rod MUST have a OL this year. The strength of any team is depth. Injuries have a way of taking their toll.

The TKstinator's picture

Illinois has a way of taking its toll too.

Since '61's picture

New Jersey takes plenty of toll as well. Thanks, Since ‘61

The TKstinator's picture

For Whom the Road Tolls

Since '61's picture

With a healthy Aaron Rodgers and supporting offensive unit I’m not concerned about any of these games.
Since the 2014 NFCCG collapse the Packers have owned the Seachickens. The Pats defense can be shredded.
The Vikings are a divisional foe and anything can happen in those games but the Eagles brought out the true Vikings for future opponents.

The Rams are a bit of an unknown. But these games will be a matter of who is up and who is down when we play them.

A healthy Rodgers gives us a good chance against any opponent and with any help from Pettine’s defense we can be the team everyone is concerned about. Thanks, Since ‘61

worztik's picture

‘61... I believe that I just parroted your feelings... sorry... it wasn’t intentional... great minds think alike, I guess!!! Have a great day, buddy!!!!

Since '61's picture

No worries! It’s all good my friend. Thanks, Since ‘61

fthisJack's picture

yup...its hard to say how hard the schedule is. every year there are a number of surprising teams...either better or worse than expected.
also, the draft and FA can change the dynamics of a team tremendously. for example....what if the Vikings sign Kirk Cousins? how much better would their offense be? what if GB gets Trumaine Johnson and adds a bona fide pass rusher and ILB and D depth in the draft. how much better will our D be under a new DC?
lots of ground to cover before the games are played so i wouldn't worry about SOS.

worztik's picture

I experienced an amount of distress when I first saw the Pack’s opponents for 2018 but, I got over it pretty quickly and that was when the teams we play against, home/away, were first announced. There just are NO GIMME GAMES anymore!!! League wide, any team can win in any game... just ask Bubble gum QB!!! AROD will come back swinging, our RBs will be a year more experienced (better), Pettine’s D should be vastly improved (fingers crossed), our roster should improve if not through FA then through the draft and Philbin should breath some life into our stagnant offense. Yes, we are playing teams with a decent overall winning percentage, however, I believe that these same teams are undoubtedly as nervous about playing US, or more-so, than we are concerned about us playing them!!! The only aspect that is a negative for us is playing in these freakin’ domes like Century Link and in MN, and yet we have faired quite well in spite of the man made noise (not fan) in some places. We will look at these games as “just another game”... just feelin’ the Packer Pride...

tincada's picture

They didn't lose the OC.

Point Packer's picture

10-6. Miss the playoffs. Mike McCarthy finally canned.

croatpackfan's picture

If Packers wants to win, they have to avoid to lose...

The TKstinator's picture

They should avoid not only Toulouse, but ALL French painters.
Err on the side of caution.

tincada's picture

Well I don't think it matters. Looking down the list of "Recent Articles" I see:

1. Packers Can't Afford to Stand Pat at Wide Receiver
2. Packers Need to Address Depth on Offensive Line
3. Packer Defenders King and Jones Must Avoid the Sophomore Slump
4, Thompson's Last Defensive Class Integral to Packers' Future Success

Looks pretty bleak to me.

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