Packers open with 49ers, Bears in four-day stretch to begin season
It would be hard to top the 42-34 thriller the Green Bay Packers played against the New Orleans Saints in their season opener last year, but the NFL is going to let them try by opening against the San Francisco 49ers at 3:15 on Sunday, Sept. 9, at Lambeau Field.
It will be matchup of the 15-1 Packers and 13-3 49ers, a pair of teams that fell painfully shy of the Super Bowl last year but remain hot contenders in 2012.
After playing the 49ers at home on Sept. 9, they’ll have a quick turnaround to face the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field. Then 11 days later, they’ll travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks on “Monday Night Football” in Seattle.
That’s three big NFC games to start out the season. The Packers most likely will have to have their act together coming out of training camp if they intend to be contenders again.
“Just like everybody at this time of the year, we are excited when the schedule comes out,” coach Mike McCarthy told the team’s website. “It’s always great to play at home. Your home opener is always special and to start the season at home will be great for our football team, our organization and our fans. We have an excellent opponent in the San Francisco 49ers, and I think it is a great way to start the season for both teams.
“Then we go right into a short week, which is a challenge. I think it is definitely going to be a test for our football team from a preparation standpoint. But our guys are up to the challenge. We’re a mature football team, and anytime we play the Bears it is a lot of fun, especially on national television.”
The release of the NFL schedule also shows the Packers playing the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on Sunday night, Nov. 25, at MetLife Stadium. The NBC game will be a rematch of the Packers’ 37-20 divisional round playoff loss at Lambeau Field on Jan. 15, a game which ended the Packers’ hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champs.
The Packers will play five games in primetime: three on Sunday night (NBC), one on Monday night (ESPN) and one on Thursday night (NFL Network).
The schedule also features a stretch of three consecutive road games: at Indianpolis, Oct. 7; at Houston, Oct. 14; and at St. Louis, Oct. 21.
“I don’t really get too caught up in who we play and where we play them,” McCarthy said. “I focus more on how many days there are between games, the time of games. That’s really my focus from a scheduling standpoint.
We have known since the season ended who we are going to play. Who, what time, how much time we have to prepare is really the key. As far as playing three on the road, I don’t look at that as an extraordinary challenge. It is always challenging, period, when you go on the road. We just happen to have three of them in a row.”
Another odd twist to the schedule is that the Packers play the Chicago Bears in Week 2 and then don’t play another division opponent until Detroit on Nov. 18. In the final seven weeks, they play five division games.
“That’s unusual,” McCarthy said. “That’s something that we’ll look at from a planning standpoint because division games are obviously the most important. There is more planning and preparation that goes into those games from the offseason up until the point that you play them, and those games take a lot out of you physically. Those are all the variables that we will look at.”