The Lass Word: Schedule Suddenly Looks Tougher

The good news is the Packers are going to get much better.

The most meaningless stat that comes out during a typical NFL offseason is the “strength of schedule” ratings.  They are, of course, based on the team records of the previous year.  As we see time and again, not only do teams change drastically during a single offseason, but even within the season. 

This year’s Green Bay Packer schedule is a good example.  Prior to week one, you could look at several games and feel comfortable putting them in your anticipated win column.  But now, just two weeks into the 2022 campaign, suddenly some of those “easy wins” don’t look so easy. 

Going in, we knew that road games such as at Minnesota, at Tampa Bay and at Buffalo were going to be tough.  But the current schedule also has Green Bay going to Philadelphia in week twelve.  Over the summer I thought the Eagles would merely be another mediocre team in the mediocre NFC East.  But Philly suddenly looks very much improved.  Some say they look like the best team in the NFC.  Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played himself into the early MVP conversation.  It certainly got my attention Monday night when the Eagles blew out the Vikings, the same Vikings who dominated the Packers in week one. 

In week sixteen the Pack must return to the state of Florida to play the Dolphins.  Here again, I had that game comfortably in my win column.  Not so fast my friend.  Did you see what they did against Baltimore last Sunday?  Tua Tagovailoa was outstanding throwing bombs to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.  They put up 42 points on a Ravens defense that was thought to be pretty good.  The Dolphins’ new head coach Mike McDaniel is considered to be another one of these young offensive geniuses and he has been given many weapons to work with. 

In week five the Pack travels to London to play the New York Giants.  Piece of cake, right?  Hold on.  The Giants are off to an impressive 2-0 start with wins over the Titans and Panthers.  Another new head coach/offensive guru Brian Daboll has apparently rejuvenated his oft-criticized quarterback Daniel Jones.  Saquon Barkley is getting back to playing like his all-world self.  Green Bay must also play at Detroit, where the Lions look feistier than ever under their feisty field boss Dan Campbell.   

Some of the home games won’t be a walk in the park either.  Dallas, Tennessee and the defending Super Bowl champion Rams are coming to Lambeau, plus the Vikings arrive for the second half of their annual home and home showdown.  Surely we can at least put the week six home game against the Jets in the victory column, right?  Hmmm.....the Jets looked pretty impressive coming from behind to upset the Browns last Sunday.  Receiver Garrett Wilson seems to be emerging as a star and the defense is getting better. 

So the schedule looks more challenging than it did three weeks ago.  But don’t despair, because, just as other teams change and evolve during the season, so do the Packers.  And this Green Bay team is going to get better and better as the weeks go by.  The Pack has only scratched the surface of its potential.  The offense can be so much more than just the Aaron Jones/AJ Dillon show.  They haven’t even begun phasing tight ends Bobby Tonyan and Josiah Deguara into the passing target scheme.   

At some point, Christian Watson is going to break out as a major part of the game plan.  “We’re going to find ways to get him the football” said Matt LaFleur on Monday.  Ditto for Romeo Doubs.  Both LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers raved about his 20 yard gain on a second and 28 receiver screen against the Bears.  “We probably don’t score a touchdown on that drive if he doesn’t make that play”, LaFleur told the beat writers.  Allen Lazard just got back and was barely used against Chicago.  His blocking and his experience getting open is going to be further utilized and exploited.  “Right now we’ve got a good problem, because we want to play all of these guys”, says the head coach. 

Elgton Jenkins may have returned to the O-line Sunday night, but the quality of his play is nowhere close to how well he will play in the future, as he regains his sea legs.  LaFleur claims he has already made an impact.  “His presence out there alone provided a huge spark.....I don’t know if we win that football game (against the Bears) if Elgton isn’t playing for us.”  

Then there’s the possible return of David Bakhtiari.  I now use the term “possible return” because it is looking less and less like a sure thing.  But imagine the improvement in the run and pass game if Bakh comes back and approaches his previous level of play. 

That’s just the offense.  You could see the improvement in the defense from week one to week two.  The run defense is still shaky, but with all that talent on that side of the ball, I find it hard to believe this unit is not going to get better and better with each passing week.  Quay Walker is showing signs of being special.  Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes are only going to improve with experience.  Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are primed for pro bowl type seasons. 

Then there’s special teams.  In the first two weeks they haven’t done anything special, but they have performed solidly and haven’t been a liability.  Imagine if Rich Bisaccia gets these guys to the point where they start making big plays and actually HELP the team win?   

So, yes, the schedule looks tougher, but the Green Bay Packers are going to be a much better football team in November than they are now.  Maybe even Super Bowl special. 

GAME PREDICTION: 

Packers 20  Bucs 17 

Surprise Hero of the Game:  Quay Walker 

Upset Special of the week:  Texans over Bears 

 

 

  

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (26)

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 22, 2022 at 03:20 pm

Here is my prediction for the Packers' season:

at MIN: L, 23-7 (I'd predicted a 27-24 loss)
vs CHI: W, 27-10
at TB: W; A couple months ago, this was the one sure-fire loss I had for the Packers, but with all the injuries TB has, I'd say it's definitely winnable. My prediction is 7-3, with Kenny Clark being the hero of the game
vs NE: W
vs NYG (in London): W
vs NYJ: W
at WAS: W
at BUF: L
at DET: W
vs DAL: W
vs TEN: W
at PHI: L
at CHI: W
vs LAR: W
at MIA: L
vs MIN: W
vs DET: W

I had the Packers at 12-5 but with all of TB's injuries I think they can get back to 13-4. It won't be easy, though.

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Packers1985's picture

September 22, 2022 at 03:24 pm

Looking at our injury report these last two days.The injury bug seems to have hit our Wr group too.
Even though Bucs dont have their WR's their defense currently rated the top defense and With Kenny listed with the Groin designation can only make things worse for the packers

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Starrbrite's picture

September 22, 2022 at 03:39 pm

Yes—a healthy team, not including Bak, was too good to be true.
Always something—right?

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Packers1985's picture

September 22, 2022 at 04:59 pm

Very true except for 2020. Almost all the years packers had some significant injuries through out the season. This is the season we cant afford to have any injuries atleast on the offensive side of the team.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 22, 2022 at 03:42 pm

Where did you see that about Kenny? You might be confusing him with Marcedes Lewis. Keep in mind that Lazard was Questionable at the time of the Bears game, so they may just be trying to rest him a bit. Cobb should be good, depending on what his illness is. They also have Tonyan to lean back on, too.

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Packers1985's picture

September 22, 2022 at 04:57 pm

https://twitter.com/ByRyanWood/status/1573045854084136963?ref_src=twsrc%...

Here, He popped up in the injury list today and was limited

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croatpackfan's picture

September 23, 2022 at 08:46 am

Go to Packers.com with official Injury Report. You'll find Kenny Clark with LP and questionable designation.

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ImaPayne's picture

September 22, 2022 at 06:21 pm

Nothing wrong with being optimistic. I still find the pass d suspect and an Achilles heel that will cost us some games.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 23, 2022 at 07:51 am

What position does Achilles play and why is he a heel?

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murf7777's picture

September 23, 2022 at 08:41 am

I think your predictions are fairly accurate. There will be a surprise loss and win in there, but they seem logical. At Detroit could be a tough one and a possible loss and we could win at Philly. What I really like about our schedule is after Tampa we have NE, NYG, NYJ and Wash. Those are all very winnable games and will give our offense time to get to peak level.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 23, 2022 at 02:01 pm

At Philly will be tough. I agree with you about at Detroit, it will be tough, but that’s right after the Bills game, and MLF has never lost in consecutive weeks in the regular season.

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Starrbrite's picture

September 22, 2022 at 03:41 pm

Great article Ken.
And I agree, the schedule looks more difficult, but we’re no where near our potential yet—especially the defense.

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splitpea1's picture

September 22, 2022 at 04:28 pm

Maybe this is that point where Watson breaks out as a major part of the game plan. We're going to have to do more than "Run. The. Ball." or whatever to keep the Bucs defense off balance; they've only given up one TD so far, and they'll be waiting for Jones, Dillon, and Cobb. I think we'll need to throw a few curves at them to win.

Rest of the schedule? One game at a time. Upsets and surprises aren't uncommon early in the season. No, I'm not worried about the Jets, and are we sure the Lions are sufficiently "feisty" (this adjective is getting overused, now) enough to threaten the Packers in a meaningful game? I'll believe it when I see it.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 23, 2022 at 08:48 am

Watson is on injury report with hamstring injury. As Watkins...

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Packers1985's picture

September 23, 2022 at 12:26 pm

And cobby with some illness.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2022 at 05:10 pm

This story is a perennial favorite. The names get changed but it’s the same story.

😎. You have half your games at home, and you have to defend your turf. Our toughest home games this year should be _______________and __________________

😎 half your games are on the road, including three against division opponents. Our most difficult road games will be _______________and__________________

Obviously, injuries are the great equalizer. I think our toughest road games are Tampa and Buffalo. The Rams look like they might be the toughest team we play at home. If you aspire to 12 wins, you need to win all your home games and half of your road games.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 22, 2022 at 09:21 pm

17 games now?

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 23, 2022 at 07:13 am

I have the Packers winning all of their home games and 3 of their road games. I think the Packers are a better team at home (they had the #1 scoring defense last year in home games). Eagles, Bucs, and Bills will be tough on the road

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Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2022 at 05:22 pm

Give it a month at least. That’s what it takes to really know who is what. Then injuries can overturn that too.

Philly squeaked by Detroit and then beat a Vikings team that pulled a LaFleur only bigger: running Cook only 6 times in the game and losing their cool when the Eagles actually covered Jefferson. Thielen might be feeling somewhat forgotten.

The Vikings had a coaching nightmare and a QB melt down. Does that make the Eagles a real contender? Are Detroit? No one knows. I’m pretty confident the Bears still suck, but the extremes are always easier to identify.

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canadapacker's picture

September 22, 2022 at 05:31 pm

It is much too early to even look at the won-loss column yet. Yes Tampa looks good but they havent played up to snuff offensively and defensively they played a Dallas team that was without Dak at the end of the game and he looked like he didnt have any receivers at the start of the game - and Elliot isnt what he once was. NO same thing. So it is easy to look good statistically there. The same with the NY Giants - Tennessee played horrible both games and gave up a late TD and 2 point conversion but neither team has looked really good. The problem is as the commentators have all been saying - most teams dont play their starters and it takes up to 3 games for those teams to get organized. Ravens with that D giving up all those easy long TD's? Some coaches are good getting ready - Andy R - and some are not so good aka Lafleur . I actually think that Detroit is going to give us the toughest challenge in our division.

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ImaPayne's picture

September 22, 2022 at 06:29 pm

This is a tough schedule period. Many of these teams have so far, excellent passing games. Our pass d will either rise to the occasion or keep us out on of the playoffs. Teams avoid Alexander so he twiddles his thumbs, the rest of the cast needs to step up.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 22, 2022 at 09:23 pm

Yeah, the Vikings got roasted on Monday and face the high scoring Lions Sunday. Tough part of the schedule.

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Ritzy's picture

September 22, 2022 at 07:39 pm

Nice piece on the topsy turvy nature of the NFL. I agree with some so called experts that it takes 5 to 6 games to get a true reading of a team. And you got to figure on some injuries along the way. Already the Packers are having injury problems at wide receiver. Those hamstrings are always tricky. we await Friday's injury report with anxiety.

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GregC's picture

September 22, 2022 at 08:39 pm

I don't think quotes by the head coach really count as reasons for optimism. Head coaches do not give objective evaluations of their teams when talking to the media.

The Packers should get better, but it's hard to tell. There was no reason for the defense to start the way it did in Minnesota. They have the same DC and most of the same players from last year. Good to see them improve against the Bears, but the Bears offense looks pretty awful this year, as usual.

Missing training camp was a huge setback for Christian Watson, and right now he does not look close to becoming an impact player. With Watkins, Lazard, and Doubs in front of him in the rotation, that may not happen this year.

The O-line is where they could improve the most, especially if David Bahktiari comes back. That's what I'm hoping for the most.

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Coldworld's picture

September 23, 2022 at 08:47 am

Watson can be an impact player on one play, if you give him the opportunity. The problem is that it’s likely opportunities that are needed because he’s not fully up to speed with the nfl or the scheme. He’s not a technician at this point, yet mostly we are trying to play him as if he is. His value is when he uses his physical gifts. If we aren’t or aren’t doing so in a way that allows them to really make a difference, then he’s really just miscast.

The same is true for Doubs. If you don’t get them the ball they can’t make plays and if you don’t do it in situations where their post catch skills could break a big play then you are calling their upside and they become just higher risk options. With this roster, we have to use these guys. To be successful we have to do so in a way that unlocks the physical talent in a way that compensated for the greater risk of a broken play.

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murf7777's picture

September 23, 2022 at 08:35 am

I think your game prediction is about right Ken.

Yes, right now, the schedule looks tougher regarding those teams. While these teams have a hot start its only two games and many teams will go back to the mean. The Dolphins were a team who ended well last year and was already ascending upwards, that will be a tough game. NYG are not a very good team and Philly while very impressive start might be a team who ends up around 500 ball. In addition, you could also say that Dallas, NE and Titans look worse than predicted and at home we will be heavy favorites in those games. The strength of schedule has ebbs and flows throughout the year.

This is a big game to win, one that many of us chalked up as a loss.

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