The Packers Need a Fast Start in 2018

With the schedule makers laying out a treacherous path in November, the Packers must get off to a fast start in 2018.

As the 2018 Green Bay Packers team has been assembled and looks to begin their season against their rival Chicago Bears this Sunday, the end goal of any season led by Aaron Rodgers remains the same in 2018:  Super Bowl or bust. 

As long as Rodgers stays upright throughout the season, the team will never be overlooked by any opponent.  But since bringing home the Lombardi Trophy in what seems like an eternity ago after the 2010 season, the Packers have suffered several gut-wrenching road playoff losses that have come during postseasons where the team seemed poised to make another championship run.

Heading into 2018 in what appears to be a loaded NFC, an NFC North division championship and, furthermore, a first-round bye will be critical for the Packers to achieve their goal of a fourteenth world championship.  In what will surely be a dogfight come January for a chance to play in Atlanta in February, hosting potential NFC opponents at Lambeau Field is a heck of a lot more appealing than traveling to play the likes of the Saints, Rams or Vikings.

For the Packers to reach their goals of a division crown, a first-round bye and a potential number one seed in the NFC playoffs, a fast start to the season will be essential.  When the NFL schedules were released back in April, a difficult midseason stretch in November makes the need for a great start to the season even more important.

Prior to their week seven bye in late October, the Packers schedule looks very friendly with four of the first six games to be played within the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.  The two road contests prior to the bye will see the Packers traveling to Detroit and Washington.  As well in those first six matchups, the Packers will see each of their NFC North rivals one time to start the year.  With some fans not being excited to start the year against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings at home, others see it as a great opportunity to set the tone for the season.

To further escalate the need for a fast start to the season, the Packers come out of their bye week prior to Halloween and play four out of five games on the road when they travel to play the Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings.  The only potential reprieve in that five-week stretch is a home game against the Miami Dolphins sandwiched in the middle of the road trip.  Fortunately for the team, December sets up with a much friendlier schedule that features the Atlanta Falcons finally making a trek to Lambeau Field in the winter and two road games in Chicago against the Bears and to New York to take on the Jets.

To achieve the fast start that the team will need in the 2018 season, the coaching staff of the Packers must prepare the young players that are primed to make an impact on this team starting right from the opening kickoff on Sunday night.  On top of the youth that will be seeing significant playing time, both the offensive and defensive units need to gel with the new playbooks and schemes that Mike Pettine and Joe Philbin are bringing to the table.  While I personally love the opening home games against the Bears and Vikings to start the year, the 2018 Packers can’t afford to dig a hole in the division race to start the year.

With the ultimate regular season goal being to secure the top seed in the conference, the magic number to get to is usually 13 wins on the season.  Over the course of the past five seasons, a 13 win season has been able to wrap up that top spot in the NFC four times.  The 2015 Carolina Panthers are the only exception when they secured a 15-1 record during the regular season.  The question heading into the 2018 season is what that magic number will be to secure home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.  With a seemingly loaded NFC, the south and north divisions will most likely be a dogfight to the end.  Out west, the Rams look primed to run away with the division if the Seahawks and 49ers both falter.  In the east, the question of whether the Eagles can maintain their momentum coming off of a Super Bowl victory with the Cowboys and a resurgent Giants team on their heels.  Will 12, 13 or 14 wins be needed?

At the end of the day, a healthy Aaron Rodgers paired alongside a hopefully resurgent defense makes the Packers one of the top contenders in the NFC.  The best path to Atlanta leads through Lambeau Field for the 2018 Packers and to ensure that goal happens, and to avoid any midseason comments like “R-E-L-A-X”, the team needs to get off to a fast start beginning with the Chicago Bears this Sunday evening.

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Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Comments (20)

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PAPackerbacker's picture

September 04, 2018 at 07:31 pm

A fast start would be great but a strong finish would be even better. Staying healthy throughout the entire season and playing the best games at the end of the season will propel the Packers to another run at the Lombardi trophy. The competition in the NFC North will be fierce this year. The defense needs to come up big for the Packers to get home field advantage in the playoffs. The offense will certainly do their part, if Rodgers can remain healthy throughout the season.

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GBPDAN1's picture

September 05, 2018 at 12:02 am

I know I'm stating the obvious, but winning this Sunday is incredibly important. We need to win as many division games as possible and we have a much better chance of beating the Bears at home, now, than we will later in the year at Chicago.

Mack hasn't participated in any football activities since last year, is not 100% in football shape and will not be in on every snap. The bears top 8, no1 pick - ILB Smith- missed training camp and most of the preseason. These two players will be much more disruptive when we play them on the road in a loud environment. I had us down for beating the Bears twice, but now I know the away game wont be a gimmy. So, it's imperative that we beat them this Sunday.

I don't think Trubisky will be as sharp coming out of the gate . He should improve as the season wears on and he gets in tune with his new recieving threats. I hope Pettine confuses the hell out of him. If we stay healthy, we will sweep the Bears again. Hell, if we beat them with Hundley, we should definitely beat them with Rodgers, Mack or no Mack.

Beating the Vikings at home is huge, also, if we want a decent chance of winning the division. Talk about two Monster games to kick off the season....wow. I will be drinking a lot of beer (nerve juice) watching these games...lol

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Rak47's picture

September 05, 2018 at 06:37 am

Imho, I know winning division games is very important but it's just not enough. The team needs as many conference wins as possible which will include the division games. Having to face the Rams, Seahawks, and Queens [ all NFC opponents] on the road as part of a 4 game road trip over 5 weeks among which is a trip to Foxboro is a bit of a concern. I wish we had the Fins on the road and the Skins or Seahawks at home over that stretch, I would feel better about that part of the schedule.

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Turophile's picture

September 05, 2018 at 02:28 am

"Packers need a fast start in 2018".................duh.

Is there any year that isn't true ? Any year when the Packers are so darn good they drop the first few games just to challenge themselves later in the year ? Thought not. You need to choose another headline, because this one is in the realms of "Today, morning came around before the afternoon."

I do get that the schedule after the bye week gets tough, maybe a headline like "Early season looks comfortable, after the bye week looks tough" might set up the article better.

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HankScorpio's picture

September 05, 2018 at 06:12 am

Yes, every year it is true that how they start doesn't matter as much as how they finish. With Rodgers, the Packers have been somewhat notorious for slow starts and strong finishes. They've been above .500 after 4 games thrice, including last year when they missed the playoffs. Heck, just a few years ago they were sitting at 4-6 when Rodgers made his famous "run the table" comment. They did. A few years before that they were at 1-2 when Rodgers told everyone to "Relax".

Want more? How 'bout the 2010 SB winning season with a 3-3 start?

Want the counter? How 'bout the 13-0 start in 2011 and first playoff game flameout that followed?

September football is only marginally more meaningful than August football. The biggest thing is getting through it healthy for when the games start to get more meaningful. W/L is secondary. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

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Kb999's picture

September 04, 2018 at 07:43 pm

It's all about putting up "W". It dosnt have to be pretty.

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MITM's picture

September 04, 2018 at 07:53 pm

The Bears are an exciting young team no doubt. They have 2 very talented young RBs and a couple of talented young WRs. Trubisky looks like hes gonna be a good NFL QB. Young talent on defense, without seeing what Roquan and Mack add to it which is obviously very exciting for that organization and their fans.

This isnt going to be an easy game but then again, it never usually has been no matter what. But this team seems to be getting way more hype than any of the Bears best teams that Rodgers has faced. Was anyone ever this nervous for an early season showdown when Urlacher Briggs Tillman Peppers Forte Marshall Jeffrey Martellus Bennett Greg Olsen etc were there? Yea yea I know I know Cutler. But Cutler always had that impending talent that could show through in any game and he could torch you. Luckily he never really did vs.us. But those Bears defenses knew our offense and Rodgers as well as anyone ever will. And they still couldnt get it done. They always COULD but never usually did. Roquan Smith (is he even playing?) Is NOT 2006 Urlacher and Mack even though hes younger isnt much more of a handful than Peppers was when he felt like taking a game over. There is no Briggs. Charles Tillman isnt punching the ball out.

And what about us? We've made some improvements as well and also the whole we have Rodgers thing. I am NOT looking past the - Bears I think they are going to be better than Detroit and have a defense that is comparable to the Vikings once they all get settled in and situated after a few games. But this team does not scare me more than those other Bears teams that knew what play we were running, and were always a long pass or broken play away from beating us.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 04, 2018 at 08:11 pm

I agree that a fast start is very important but MM says that every year. It’s kinda like Lombardi talking about “The big push”. Yet it really is important. So I really think that it is a point of emphasis for MM. As others have said it’s also important to be hot down the stretch too. I say let’s have both with no letdown in between.

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Community Guy's picture

September 04, 2018 at 08:32 pm

maybe it is just me; however, if you take the mantra of "Super Bowl or bust", you can assume that the playoffs basically start this week. you cannot lose Week 1 at home to a Bears team that cannot yet be firing on all of its cylinders. and Week 2, at home, v. the Vikings.. it already feels like the post-season.

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Since'61's picture

September 04, 2018 at 08:45 pm

A fast start will always help. And I expect the Packers to get off to a good start with a healthy AR and a look at their schedule. Some growing pains with the new offensive and defensive systems are to be expected, not to mention our young CBs and LBs getting up to NFL speed. A strong start plus getting hot in December will both be critical to a division title and a deep playoff run.

12 -13 wins will likely be required for a #1 or #2 seed for home field. However, as I look at the schedule and the likely time it will take for the team to gel, especially on defense and assuming that the Packers remain relatively healthy, I'm thinking an 11-5 season. Where that will put them in playoff seeding is anyone's guess given the contending teams in the NFC at this point. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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alinger84's picture

September 05, 2018 at 02:06 am

I also think 11-5 is realistic. I don't know what it's worth in the end. Everything is possible between #2 seed and #6 seed. The NFC is so close that no team should have more than 12-13 wins come January.

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HankScorpio's picture

September 04, 2018 at 08:45 pm

It's nice to start at a high level. But how you play in December and (especially) January is always more important than how you play in September and October.

And one thing is certain. Some of what we think we know about how this season will play out will prove to be all wrong. That's why they play the games on the field, not on paper.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 04, 2018 at 09:56 pm

Yeah. At the very minimum, we need to go into our bye 4-2. 3-0 in the division would be nice, but we absolutely must have at least a 2-1 record in the NFCN at that point.

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stockholder's picture

September 04, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Lets not waste one of the best match-ups of the year. The Bears spent money. We were after their CB. Their defense has been retooled, while ours screams medic. Both teams have a lot to prove. Are Concerns must be put to rest. I want peace of mind, and this is a "must" game. Enough with the Risks and creating holes. Their plugged. And this should be the start of the next greatest team in packers history.

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NitschkeFan's picture

September 04, 2018 at 10:16 pm

For fun, and for free
https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/09/04/nfl-predictions-2018-playoff-picks-sup...

After a quick look I think,

13 Sports Illustrated writers make their predictions.
12 see the Packers making the playoffs'
4 see them making it to (and losing) the NFCC
2 predict the Packers will win the SB

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HankScorpio's picture

September 05, 2018 at 06:57 am

In Packer draft news, 6 of them predict the Saints will be in the SB. The Saints are my top choice for "surprise NFL flop of 2018". My reasoning: ancient QB, coming off an outlier season and strong divisional competition.

I hope that is not an example of talking myself into something I want to be true.

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GBFaninCA's picture

September 05, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I feel like the NFC South teams are always following a bad year with a good year, and a good year with a bad year. I really don't think the Saints will make the play offs this year. *crosses fingers* ...I too hope this is not an example of me talking myself into something I want to be true lol

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HankScorpio's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:24 am

There is a lot of truth in the up/down theory of NFC South teams.

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PackfanNY's picture

September 05, 2018 at 07:29 am

I think the one thing we learned is that staying away from injury is the most important early season factor. Injuries happen but injuries where we can't afford them (LB, OL) and the obvious (injuries to Rodgers) can kill or alter a season early. Otherwise we will have our ups and downs but we have enough talent for an 11-5 or 12-4 type season. I think we'll be ready for the Bears. Go Pack!

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Mr.Bigg's picture

September 05, 2018 at 08:02 am

I watch the first half of the season with a glob of fear in the back of my brain that is all about injuries. I have a feeling that Minnesota will have injuries this year (2 years in a row with almost no injuries can't happen right?). I want to have a season where we get to see most of the team healthy at the end.

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