GREEN BAY – The NFL did it again. The league has scheduled the Packers for another rugged start to the season.
The Packers will open the 2015 regular season with an NFC North showdown at Chicago on Sept. 13, followed by the NFC title game rematch with Seattle in a Sunday night home opener on Sept. 20.
“With the type of football team we had last year, we expected to come out of the gate and play in a number of feature games,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s a great start.”
The Packers haven’t opened against a division opponent since 2009, also against Chicago. This time, it will mark the debut of new Bears coach John Fox.
“Going to Chicago is always a big game,” McCarthy said. “Doing it Week 1 with a new (Bears) coaching staff brings some extra challenges, but we’re looking forward to starting off with the oldest rivalry in the National Football League.”
The division rivalries hit their peak in mid-November, when the Packers embark on a stretch of four consecutive NFC North contests from Weeks 10-13. The Packers haven't played four straight division games since 2000, back in the old NFC Central.
“November-December football is so important, and it’s so critical to your success,” McCarthy said. “Division games are clearly the most important games of the year and the toughest games to play in. Four straight will definitely be a challenging part of our schedule.”
It begins with a home game against Detroit on Nov. 15, followed by a road trip to Minnesota on Nov. 22.
Four days later, the Packers will host the Bears on Thanksgiving night, the first Thanksgiving home game for the Packers since the early 1920s.
Under McCarthy, the Packers have played on Thanksgiving four times previously, all at Detroit in the early game.
“I think it’s great, and it will be great for our fans, the first time we’ve had a Thanksgiving night game here at Lambeau Field,” McCarthy said. “I think it will definitely be a special night.”
The four-game division stretch concludes with a second straight Thursday night game, at Detroit on Dec. 3.
“That’s a tough stretch going into a short week and coming back on a seven-day week, and they’re both division games, too,” McCarthy said.
The consecutive Thursday night games give the Packers five prime-time games total (subject to flex scheduling). Two of them come against AFC West foes, at home vs. Kansas City on Monday, Sept. 28, and at Denver on Sunday, Nov. 1, right after a Week 7 bye.
The Packers play four of six games at home before the bye and then six of nine on the road after the bye, before finishing at home against Minnesota on Jan. 3. The road-heavy portion concludes with back-to-back West Coast trips to Oakland and Arizona in December on the weekends before and after Christmas.
In addition to the early Seattle showdown, the Packers host another NFC playoff rematch on Dec. 13 vs. Dallas.