Mike Sherman and the Packers will look for their third straight NFC North title.
SCHEDULE DAY: Phones lines are lighting up at travel agencies and Green Bay hotels. The Packers' 84th NFL regular-season schedule is set in stone. Following is a big-picture analysis of the schedule, followed by notes on each of the 16 games (beginning on Page 3).
FOUR MORE IN PRIME TIME: Consistently one of the league's highest-rated television teams, Green Bay plays four prime-time contests.
- The Packers kick off the 35th season of Monday Night Football, television's longest running series, with a Sept. 13 clash at Carolina.
- Green Bay plays the maximum three Monday night contests for the seventh time in its history (also 1983, 1996-99 and 2003). The Packers host two Monday night games (Oct. 11 vs. Tennessee, Nov. 29 vs. St. Louis) for only the second time ever. The last year the NFL gave Green Bay two MNF home games, 1996, the club won Super Bowl XXXI.
- On ESPN for a third straight season, the Packers make their debut at Reliant Stadium and series debut with the Houston Texans, Nov. 21.
- The Packers also engage in five afternoon headliners on FOX, Sept. 26 at Indianapolis, Oct. 24 vs. Dallas, Nov. 14 vs. Minnesota, Dec. 5 at Philadelphia and Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at Minnesota.
ON MONDAY NIGHT: ABC is showcasing the Packers on Monday night for a 12th straight year, the third-longest streak in the NFL (Miami 14, Denver 13) and longest in the NFC.
- During Mike Sherman's tenure as Packers head coach (2000-03) only one other club owns a better record on ABC's Monday Night Football (minimum four games):
Philadelphia: 6-1 (.857)
Green Bay: 7-2 (.778)
Baltimore: 3-1 (.750)
Dallas: 3-1 (.750)
Indianapolis: 3-1 (.750)
Tampa Bay: 6-3 (.667)
St. Louis: 7-4 (.636)
Tennessee: 5-3 (.625)
N.Y. Jets: 3-2 (.600)
New England: 3-2 (.600)
Pittsburgh: 3-2 (.600)
San Francisco: 3-2 (.600)
ON SUNDAY NIGHT: The Packers own one of the best Sunday night records in NFL history: 10-2. They've won six consecutive games, last losing at Tampa Bay in 1995.
TOUGH COMPETITION EARLY: In the first three weeks, Green Bay gets two of the four conference semifinalists - both on the road: the defending NFC champion Panthers in Week 1 (Sept. 13) and the AFC runner-up Colts in Week 3 (Sept. 26).
GOLD-PACKAGE GAMES: Season-ticket holders from Milwaukee scored a pair of attractive opponents: the Giants (Oct. 3) and Vikings (Nov. 14). Gold Package games are annually the Packers' second and fifth regular-season home contests. Unlike three of the previous four seasons (2000, 2001 and 2003), Milwaukee fans won't have a long drive after a Monday night game.
- Sept. 13 at Carolina: The Packers' five starters along their offensive line - a team strength in recent years - can start their 30th game together. Led by Pro Bowlers Marco Rivera and Mike Flanagan, the unit didn't miss a start in 2003. The line started 13 games together in 2001 and none in 2002 because of injuries. The last Green Bay offensive line to start as many as 30 games was believed to be Vince Lombardi's units of the 1960s.
- Sept. 19 vs. Chicago: Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, Green Bay's stalwart tackles, should each make their 50th career start in the same game.
- Oct. 3 vs. N.Y. Giants: Ahman Green could surpass Paul Hornung's 44-year-old record of seven consecutive games with a rushing touchdown.
- Oct. 17 at Detroit: Brett Favre could (1) break Bart Starr's Green Bay record for games played, 196; and (2) extend his current streak of games with a touchdown pass to 31, the second-longest in NFL history, surpassing a Dan Marino streak. Favre could have a shot at Johnny Unitas' 47-game NFL record, one of the most revered marks in sports, in 2005.
- Nov. 29 vs. St. Louis: Favre's 200th consecutive regular-season start.
- Dec. 19 vs. Jacksonville: Favre could start his 203rd consecutive regular-season game, and surpass the NFL's seventh-longest streak, held by Randall McDaniel (202, 1989-2001).
OTHER MILESTONES TO WATCH:
- Early in the season: Brett Favre needs one win to surpass No. 3 Fran Tarkenton (125-109-6, .533), and 40 completions for 4,000 career, joining Dan Marino and John Elway as the only passers ever to reach that mark...Green needs five overall touchdowns to match No. 5 Antonio Freeman (57) on the franchise list.
- Later in the season: With 20 touchdown passes, Favre would surpass Dan Marino's NFL record for most consecutive seasons with at least 20. Marino did it 10 straight years, from 1983-92. Favre's also done 10 it consecutive seasons (1994-2003)...
- At some point: Mike Sherman needs five wins for 50 career, and could become one of the fastest in NFL history to get there...Brett Favre needs 1,358 passing yards to surpass No. 4 Fran Tarkenton (47,003), and 3,680 to surpass No. 3 Warren Moon (49,325)...Ahman Green needs three 100-yard rushing games to surpass Jim Taylor's franchise record, 26.
TOUGHEST STRETCH MIGHT BE STRETCH RUN: The Packers will probably need their rest when they get their Week 9 bye. After that, if Green Bay is in the playoff chase, six of its eight remaining games figure to carry key tiebreaker implications.
- Four of its final eight are against NFC North clubs, including both Vikings dates.
- Six of the final eight are against conference foes, including in consecutive weeks the top two seeds in the 2003 NFC playoffs: St. Louis (No. 2) Nov. 29 and Philadelphia (No. 1) Dec. 5.
- Green Bay closes with two consecutive division battles on the road. The last time the club had to conclude its schedule with consecutive road games was 1989. The last time Green Bay finished with consecutive road games against division foes was 1985.
- However, because the Packers play in Week 16 on a Friday (Christmas Eve at Minnesota), they get two extra days to recover before their finale at Chicago, Jan. 2. The last time Green Bay had at least eight days off before its final game was 1935.
SPEAKING OF THE STRETCH RUN: Since Mike Sherman became head coach in 2000, the Packers own one of the NFL's best records over the season's crucial second half.
- Green Bay's .750 winning percentage (27-9) Nov. 1 and later ranks second in the NFL since 2000:
Philadelphia: 29-6 (.829)
Green Bay: 27-9 (.750)
New England: 25-9 (.735)
Tennessee: 25-10 (.714)
St. Louis: 23-12 (.657)
- Green Bay's .895 winning percentage (17-2) Dec. 1 and later ranks first in the NFL since 2000.
Green Bay: 17-2 (.895)
Tennessee: 15-5 (.750)
Philadelphia: 13-4 (.765)
St. Louis: 13-6 (.684)
BEST COACHES WITHIN THEIR DIVISION: Since his first season as head coach, Mike Sherman has had noticeable success against division opponents. The Packers face another uphill climb with four of their final eight games against the NFC North.
- Overall, Sherman is 20-8 against his division, including a 12-2 home record (winning 12 of last 13 at Lambeau). He is tied for the best career division record among active NFL head coaches:
1t) Mike Sherman (GB) 20-8 (.714)
1t) Mike Martz (StL) 20-8 (.714)
3) Mike Tice (Min) 8-4 (.667)
4) Mike Shanahan (Oak-Den) 52-28 (.650)
5) Brian Billick (Bal) 27-15 (.643)
AFTER THE BYE WEEK: The Packers are usually fortunate to get a mid-season bye week, but they've never had a Week 9 bye - the season's exact midpoint - until 2004.
Only once over the last 11 seasons (1994-2004) have the Packers had a bye before Week 5. That was in 1999, a Week 4 bye during the team's worst season (8-8) over the period. Why have the Packers been so fortunate?
- Most of it is coincidence, especially since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002. There is no league effort to give the Packers a bye consistently during the middle of the season.
- Green Bay's reputation for poor weather is probably a factor, considering the league doesn't want to miss putting the Packers on the field during Wisconsin's great early-fall weather.
- The league usually winds up giving many early-season byes to teams who share stadiums with baseball. Other stadium conflicts (conventions, major events, etc.) can also affect when a team receives/requests its bye.
- Part of it can be attributed to the Packers' consistently strong television ratings. The networks generally use Green Bay games to highlight double-headers or prime-time broadcasts, which usually carry larger crews and more equipment, difficult to move in bad weather.
- According to the NFL, the league attempts to accomodate requests, but each request usually centers around either the middle of the season, or after a long road trip.
- Until the Texans entered the league in 2002, a winning record usually guaranteed a team would not see an early bye on its schedule the following year.
- From 1990-98, or before the expansion Browns gave the NFL an odd number of teams, byes were scheduled by division for a few years, until the networks requested a different policy.
- From 1999-2001, because of the odd number of teams, at least one team had a bye each week of the season. In general, the early-season byes were reserved for teams with the lowest winning percentages.
- The one constant is this: With 32 teams, the league does its best to avoid giving one team an early bye (Weeks 3-5) two or three years in a row.
- Green Bay in 2003 entered its bye at 3-4, made several key adjustments, and bounced back to finish 7-2 and win the NFC North. Over the last four seasons (2000-03), only two other clubs have a better record after their bye week:
Philadelphia: 31-7 (.816)
Tennessee: 34-12 (.739)
Green Bay: 27-10 (.730)
St. Louis: 28-13 (.683)
Pittsburgh: 36-17 (.676)
ABOUT THAT GREAT EARLY-FALL WEATHER: The league gave Green Bay three home games in October, something that could contribute to gameplans of both the Packers and their opponents.
- Green Bay's last 12 October home games have averaged 57 degrees, including two kickoffs in the 70s.
- The last time the Packers hosted three October games was 1989. Lindy Infante won all three contests en route to Coach of the Year honors.
NO HOME GAMES IN DEER-HUNTING SEASON: A large percentage of the Packers' fan base, like Brett Favre, are avid deer hunters. Lambeau Field visitors can easily spot deer hunters in the bleachers; they wear the one-piece, fluorescent orange pullovers to stay warm.
- Most deer hunters, especially those with season tickets, are torn when the Packers host a game over the 10-day hunting season, usually the last two weekends of November. Some make the drive back to Green Bay while others simply skip the game.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DURING BYE WEEK: Brett Favre's starts streak, active at 189 entering 2004, could see a fourth presidential election. Since the streak started, Sept. 27, 1992, Bill Clinton defeated George Bush (1992), Clinton won a second term over Bob Dole and Ross Perot (1996), and George W. Bush beat Al Gore (2000).
FROM PRESEASON TO SEASON: Amazingly, the Packers will play a preseason opponent that also appears on their regular-season schedule for the 18th and 19th time during the Brett Favre era (since 1992).
- Green Bay during the preseason travels to Jacksonville and Tennessee, then during the regular season hosts each team.
- Previous instances: Kansas City 2003 (L), Cleveland 2001 (W); N.Y. Jets 2000 (L), Miami 2000 (L), Denver 1999 (L), Miami 1997 (W), New England 1997 (W), Buffalo 1997 (W), New Orleans 1995 (W), Pittsburgh 1995 (W), L.A. Rams 1994 (W), Miami 1994 (L), New England 1994 (L), L.A. Raiders 1993 (W), Kansas City 1993 (L), New Orleans 1993 (W) and L.A. Rams 1992 (W). In their 17 previous "repeat" games, Favre and the Packers are 10-7.
LATE START...: The Packers in 2004 tie for their latest debut since the schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978.
- In 1987 the Packers also kicked off Sept. 13. Marcus Allen ran for 136 yards and Don Majkowski played his first NFL game in a 20-0 Raiders win at Lambeau Field.
- During the 14-game schedule era (1961-77), teams usually played six preseason games and consistently opened the third week in September.
- Since 1999, the league has scheduled opening weekend after Labor Day, so more fans can watch their favorite teams in kickoff games.
- Green Bay's latest regular-season kickoff was its first NFL contest, Oct. 23, 1921, a 7-6 win over the Minneapolis Marines at Hagemeister Park. Latest Packers starts, since 1978:
Sept. 13, 2004 - at Carolina Panthers
Sept. 13, 1987 - Los Angeles Raiders - L, 20-0
Sept. 12, 1999 - Oakland Raiders - W, 28-24
Sept. 12, 1982 - Los Angeles Rams (Milw.) - W, 35-23
...MEANS JANUARY FINALE: Green Bay's Jan. 2 finale at Chicago ties for the team's latest scheduled conclusion.
- On Jan. 2, 2000, the team finished the '99 season with a 49-24 win vs. Arizona.
- Out of respect for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the league postponed Week 2 contests and moved its schedule back one week. Green Bay, scheduled to travel to New York and play the Giants five days after the attack on the World Trade Center, instead finished the '01 season at the Meadowlands Jan. 6, 2002.
- The Packers all-time in January regular-season games are 2-2. Latest finishes, Packers history:
Jan. 6, 2002 - at N.Y. Giants - W, 34-25
Jan. 2, 2005 - at Chicago Bears
Jan. 2, 2000 - Arizona Cardinals - W, 49-24
Jan. 2, 1994 - at Detroit Lions - L, 30-20
Jan. 2, 1983 - at Detroit Lions - L, 27-24
Earliest finishes, Packers history:
Nov. 20, 1938 - at N.Y. Giants - L, 15-3
Nov. 24, 1927 - at Frankford Yellowjackets - W, 17-9
Nov. 26, 1944 - vs. Card-Pitt (at Chicago) - W, 35-20
Nov. 27, 1921 - at Chicago Staleys - L, 20-0
Nov. 28, 1937 - at Washington Redskins - L, 14-6
FIRST GAMES AT TWO NEW VENUES: On consecutive road trips, Green Bay makes its first appearance at FedEx Field in Washington (Oct. 31) and Reliant Stadium in Houston (Nov. 21).
- Green Bay has won its last four regular-season games playing for the first time in unfamiliar stadiums (renovated Soldier Field 2003, Ford Field 2002, Memorial Stadium in Champaign 2002, Gillette Stadium 2002).
- Over a longer regular-season stretch, the Packers have won seven of their last nine (wins at Jacksonville in 1995, St. Louis in 1996 and Carolina in 1997, losses at Tampa Bay in 1998 and Tennessee in 2001).
- The Packers lost their 2003 Divisional playoff in their first appearance at Lincoln Financial Field.
WHO'S FINALLY ON THE SCHEDULE: Jacksonville at home for the first time (Dec. 19), the Packers' first road trip to Washington since 1979 (Oct. 31) and Green Bay's first-ever meeting with the Houston Texans (Nov. 21).
WHO'S NOT ON THE SCHEDULE: Tampa Bay, for the first time since 1976, the Bucs' first year in the league. The expansion club entered in the AFC West, then shifted to the NFC Central in '77.
- The last year the teams didn't play was 1982, although the Bucs were on the schedule twice. A work stoppage cancelled both meetings. Tampa Bay and Green Bay have met 27 of the last 28 seasons, including the last 21 years, and the last two as members of different divisions.
- Barring any playoff matchups, the Packers won't play San Francisco for the first time since 1994. The teams have met each of the last nine seasons (1995-2003), five times in the NFC playoffs.
WHO'S NOT ON THE SCHEDULE, AGAIN: The Packers still have yet to play a road game with the Ravens, who moved to Baltimore for the 1996 season. Green Bay's last trip to the city was Dec. 19, 1982, a 20-20 tie at Memorial Stadium. The Ravens will host the Packers in 2005.
- The Packers still haven't met the newest version of the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. Green Bay has gone there twice in preseason, but won't play a regular-season game at Cleveland until 2009.
- The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots haven't been to Wisconsin since Oct. 1, 1979, a classic Monday Night matchup at Lambeau Field, won by Green Bay, 27-14. The Patriots won't end that drought until 2006.
- While they've scheduled several preseason games in Wisconsin, including 2004, the New Orleans Saints haven't played a game that counted here since 1995. The Saints are on the Packers' 2005 home schedule.
- The Steelers opened their new stadium, Heinz Field, in 2001. The facility will be eight years old before the Packers see it, in 2009.
- San Diego will next travel to Lambeau Field in 2007, 11 years after their most recent visit, 1996.
QUARTERBACK DREAM GAMES: Unless they meet in a Super Bowl, this season might mark the last time Brett Favre meets Peyton Manning (Sept. 26, at Indianapolis) and Steve McNair (Oct. 11, Green Bay). The Colts and Titans aren't on the Packers' schedule again until 2008.
THREE STRAIGHT DIVISION CROWNS: Green Bay could win a third straight division crown for the fourth time in its history (also 1960-62, 1965-67 and 1995-97). Each of their three streaks has included at least one world championship.
- Since the merger, the Packers' division (NFC Central 1970-2001, NFC North 2002-03) has produced three consecutive winners on only three occasions:
6 - Minnesota - NFC Central: 1973-78
5 - Chicago - NFC Central: 1984-88
3 - Green Bay - NFC Central: 1995-97