That the Packers managed eight wins in 2013 was a minor miracle considering they lost Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in Week 9 against the Bears. Entering that game the Packers were 5-2 and looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders as their only losses were close at San Francisco and Cincinnati. However, then Rodgers went down on the team's first series of that Monday night game against the Bears. The team cycled through Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien for a few losing games before bringing back Matt Flynn, and he was a serviceable upgrade over those two.
Flynn led the team to crucial wins in Week 14 against Atlanta and Week 15 at Dallas, with the Packers rallying from a 26-3 halftime deficit against the Cowboys. Green Bay lost a close one at home in Week 16 but was kept alive for the NFC North title when the Bears lost later that night. Rodgers triumphantly returned for that Week 17 game in Chicago and beat the Bears, as he usually does, with a 48-yard touchdown pass in the final minute on fourth down. Green Bay's season would end the next week to San Francisco in the wild-card game.
For once the Packers finally had a rushing attack. Eddie Lacy was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,178 yards and 11 scores. Green Bay was not very good on defense, ranking 25th in yards and 24th in points. It didn't help that star linebacker Clay Matthews was limited to 11 games.
Key Offseason Moves
The Packers are never an overly active team in free agency, at least when it comes to other teams' guys. This year wasn't much different. The only big name added was Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (seven sacks), who looks on the downside of his career but could be good as a situational pass-rusher. The Packers re-signed cornerback Sam Shields and Flynn. They lost center Even Dietrich-Smith to Tampa Bay, receiver James Jones (59 catches, 817 yards, three TDs) to Oakland and safety M.D. Jennings to Chicago.
2014 Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 4, at Seattle, 8:30 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, NY Jets, 4:25 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, at Detroit, 1 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, at Chicago, 1 PM
Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 2, Minnesota, 8:25 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Miami, 1 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Carolina, 1 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at New Orleans, 8:30 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, Philadelphia, 1 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at Minnesota, 1 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, New England, 4:25 PM
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 8, Atlanta, 8:30 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Buffalo, 1 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, at Tampa Bay, 1 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, Detroit, 1 PM
Green Bay has the 13th-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL for 2014 with an opponents' winning percentage of .503. The Packers play five teams that made the playoffs in 2013.
The opener is a terrific matchup with the defending Super Bowl champions and Green Bay's first visit to Seattle since the infamous "Fail Mary" game in Week 3 of the 2012 season when the replacement referees awarded Seattle a game-winning Hail Mary TD pass when it clearly wasn't the right call. The NFL was so embarrassed the regular officials were back the next week. The Packers opened as 6-point underdogs at sportsbooks.
The Pack will be Week 2 favorites against the Jets before playing three straight NFC North games over the span of 12 days. The last time Green Bay played three straight division games, in 2012, it won all of them. The Packers were 3-2-1 in the division last year, splitting with the Lions and Bears and going 1-0-1 against Minnesota. That three of Green Bay's first four games are on the road is a first since 1922 for the team. The Packers are just two wins from joining the Bears as the only teams with 700 wins.
The schedule after the BYE is very favorable for NFL picks, with five of the eight games at home and only two playoff opponents in the Eagles and Patriots. Green Bay lost 27-13 at home last year to Philadelphia. That New England game will be must-see TV as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have never started against one another. In 2010 when the Patriots hosted the Packers, Rodgers was out hurt. Thus, this season's matchup might be their only meeting ever.
NFL free picks: 'Over' 10 wins. All in all it's a relatively easy schedule. Only two road games against playoff teams. The final four are all against clubs that finished below .500 last year. If the Packers need to beat Detroit in Week 17 for the division title that's likely considering the Lions have lost 23 straight games in Wisconsin.