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Schedule begins with a bang

Posted Apr 17, 2012

Mike McCarthy didn’t have to look far down the schedule for it to get his attention.

“Four big challenges right out of the gate,” McCarthy told packers.com.

It’s a kind of murderer’s row of opening opponents: 49ers and Bears at home, then off to Seattle for a visit with Matt Flynn, then back home for a rematch of last year’s “Kickoff” thriller with the Saints. On top of that formidable quartet of opponents, the middle two games will be played at prime time on a Thursday and a Monday.

Second-easiest schedule in the league? Not in September. In the opening month of the season, the Packers might be playing the league’s most difficult schedule.

“It’s a difficult challenge, but I like the maturity of our football team. We’ll be ready,” the Packers head coach said.

The remaining 12 dates on the Packers’ 2012 schedule put a smile on McCarthy’s face.

“All Sundays, so I like that,” he said. “I think scheduling is important, as far as getting into the routine, getting your team going.”

A daunting three consecutive road games – at Colts, at Texans, at Rams – follow the four opening games. The Oct. 14 game in Houston is a Sunday nighter, the third of five prime-time kickoffs for the Packers in 2012.

Games against the Jaguars and Cardinals at Lambeau Field will send the Packers into a well-placed Nov. 11 bye week and set the stage for a big finishing kick of key NFC and NFC North games.

The Packers will travel to Detroit for a Nov. 18 game against the Lions that is expected to go a long way toward deciding the division title, then travel to New York for a rematch with the Super Bowl-champion Giants in a prime-time Sunday night game.

Minnesota and Detroit come to Green Bay to open December, with the game against the Lions set for prime time. A home finale against Tennessee is sandwiched between trips to Chicago and Minnesota.

The Packers schedule is the league’s second-easiest, in terms of the opponents’ 2011 won-lost record, but McCarthy’s focus was clearly on the first-month-of-the-schedule’s degree of difficulty.

“I don’t pay any attention to it,” he said of the strength-of-schedule stat. “The thing I put stock in is the first four games of the year.”

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