What are the Green Bay Packers’ prospects for the stretch run of the season?
Last week I took a look at the remaining Detroit Lions schedule as part of my effort to get in the good graces of Lions’ fans as I tried to jump back on their bandwagon.
So it only seems fair to look at the remaining schedule of the Green Bay Packers.
Now these Cheeseheads are in a much different position than Detroit, standing at 5-2 with a half-game lead in the NFC North Division over the Chicago Bears, who they haven’t played yet this season.
Tonight’s game could be quite interesting, though it has to hearten any Packers fan when you know or find out a number of the opposition San Francisco 49ers starters are out, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
That’s important for a team for a team whose defense keeps you holding your breath every time the opposition takes possession of the ball.
Trust me, I know, it’s the same way with the Lions.
The 49ers are 4-4 but playing at home, though by what every pundit says — and my own eyes and ears agree — these empty stadiums can be taken advantage of by GB QB Aaron Rodgers with his cadence that often draws defensive linemen offsides and sets up free plays that can result in big gains.
The rest of the schedule is kind of a mixed bag for Green Bay. While they only have one of the 11 teams that currently has two wins or less — 1-6 Jacksonville next week — what they do get are a string of three-win teams, three of them in a row to start December — 3-4-1 Philadelphia, 3-4 Detroit and 3-5 Carolina from Dec. 6-20.
That’s the good news. The bad is the remaining three teams on the schedule have records almost identical to the Packers — 5-2 Indianapolis on Nov. 22 and 5-3 Chicago on Nov. 29 (home) and Jan. 3 (away).
Even that isn’t all bad, since there’s five teams with six or seven wins, none on the Packers’ remaining slate. Those teams are 7-0 Pittsburgh, 7-1 Kansas City and 6-2 Buffalo in the AFC, and 6-1 Seattle and 6-2 Tampa Bay in the NFC.
The Seahawks and Buccaneers are the only squads standing in the way of Green Bay and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. And the Packers are on equal footing in the loss column with the Bucs once Tampa Bay takes its bye in Week 13 (the last week of those).
Now we know some 5-3 teams are better than others, specifically thinking of the Bears. Of course, when it comes to the Packers and the Bears playing each other, you can throw out the records anyway.
One nice thing this week, no games had to altered from the league’s original schedule.
Onto this week’s prognostications:
Today, 8:20 p.m.
Green Bay at San Francisco — The Packers seem ripe to lose this game, considering how the 49ers smoked Green Bay in the NFC Championship game last winter.
But with my theory of “reverse momentum,” it’s probably better for tonight’s prospects that the Packers lost Sunday. It should make Aaron Rodgers & Co. hungrier for this win. And with all of San Fran’s injuries, including to Garoppolo, I like the Packers, 26-20.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Denver at Atlanta — Each team had an upset victory last week. Cancels out the reverse momentum idea, though both teams would happily trade away that “momentum” for the win. Atlanta had Sunday’s more convincing win, though, and over a better opponent. Falcons, 30-27.
Seattle at Buffalo — This should be a game where the Seahawks’ poor defense is exposed. Bills, 33-27.
Baltimore at Indianapolis — Baltimore should still be peeved they blew their chance to tag Pittsburgh with its first loss. Ravens, 24-20.
Houston at Jacksonville — Both teams are coming off the bye, which might be bad for each as they need to learn to win as each is 1-6. Just a hunch, Texans, 23-19.
Carolina at Kansas City — Remember back in about Week 3 when I said I’d take KC every time until they lose? Let’s just pretend they haven’t lost yet as they’re the next best thing at 7-1. Chiefs, 37-29.
Detroit at Minnesota — Normally when a bottom-feeding squad pulls off a big upset of a team like Green Bay, you’d expect a letdown to follow. But Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff know they need a lot more wins to not call this season a complete disaster. Vikings, 27-23.
Chicago at Tennessee — The Titans are pushing hard, having picked up defensive back Desmond King in a trade Monday, then cleaning house when they let a couple of veterans go the following day. Looks good to me, Titans, 26-22.
New York Giants at Washington — Only in the NFC East can you gain ground by losing. The Giants lost a close one to Tampa Bay on Monday night, both adding to their confidence and increasing their chances of a quality draft pick next spring. Giants, 33-29.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Las Vegas at Los Angeles Chargers — I thought Vegas could take advantage of a “loose” team like Cleveland last week. And they did. Now they face what I would consider a “tighter” team like this particular Los Angeles squad, even with a rookie, but solid, QB like Justin Herbert. Chargers, 24-19.
Miami at Arizona — Don’t let their game against the Lions color your perception of Arizona. This is a team rounding into form, and the Dolphins won’t get away with a 93-yard passing performance by Tua Tagovailoa like they did in last weekend’s win vs. the Rams. Cardinals, 27-20.
Pittsburgh at Dallas — The worst defense vs. the best defense in the NFL. Does it really matter how good the offenses are? Steelers, 31-17.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay — The Bears are slipping and it still took the Saints 8 1/2 minutes of overtime to beat them. Then again, Tampa Bay needed a missed two-point conversion by the much worse Giants to avoid their own OT. Still, take the Buccaneers, 28-20.
Monday, 8:15 p.m.
New England at New York Jets — When you’re in freefall, what’s the best antidote than a team that is probably overrated at 0-8? ‘Nuff said. Patriots, 23-11.
Last week — 7-7, 50 percent. Season — 72-45-1, 62 percent.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.