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2016 schedule throws Packers right into fire

Challenging start features consecutive road trips to Jacksonville, Minnesota


GREEN BAY – It's a hot start to the 2016 schedule for the Packers in more ways than one.

Green Bay will open at Jacksonville on Sunday, Sept. 11, and a Week 1 game in Florida promises high temperatures and humidity that could give the Jaguars a distinct home-field advantage.

Then the Packers travel to Minnesota in Week 2 on Sept. 18 for the first regular-season game in the Vikings' new U.S. Bank Stadium, where a super-charged Sunday night atmosphere awaits the two teams that have combined to win the last five NFC North titles.

The Vikings are on the road in Week 1, so the Week 2 division matchup will be the official opener of their new venue.

It doesn't get much more challenging to start out – two road games in two especially difficult places to play. It's as rare as it gets, too. The Packers haven't opened a season with two road games since 1924.

Regarding the early-season Florida heat, the Week 1 trip to Jacksonville might become the hottest game played in the Mike McCarthy era. The hottest was an 86-degree affair at Miami on Oct. 22, 2006, in McCarthy's first season.

As a franchise, the Packers have played only one game in the last 15 years with the temperature warmer than that. It was 102 degrees at Arizona on Sept. 21, 2003.

The rest of the schedule's notable characteristics can be broken down as follows:

Early bye: Following the home opener against Detroit in Week 3 (Sept. 25), the Packers have their bye in Week 4, the first weekend in October and the earliest that byes are scheduled.

The Packers most recently had the early Week 4 bye in 2013. Interestingly, they entered it 1-2 before putting together a four-game winning streak right after the bye.

Five prime-time games: The trip to Minnesota in Week 2 is the first of five prime-time games on the slate.

The Packers will also play on Sunday night in Week 5 against the Giants at home (Oct. 9), on Thursday night in Week 7 against the Bears at home (Oct. 20), on Sunday night in Week 11 at Washington in a rematch of last season's NFC wild card playoff (Nov. 20), and on Monday night in Week 12 at Philadelphia (Nov. 28).

The number of prime-time games is always subject to flex scheduling, but this marks the third straight year and the fourth in the last five the Packers have been pegged for the maximum five prime-time games in the original schedule.

Extended home and road stretches: The prime-time games against the Giants and Bears sandwich a home game against Dallas in Week 6 (Oct. 16), giving the Packers three consecutive games at Lambeau Field in October.

Similarly, the prime-time road games at Washington and Philadelphia conclude a three-game road stretch in November that begins with a trip to Tennessee in Week 10 (Nov. 13).

The Packers haven't played three consecutive road games since 2012, and they've never had three consecutive home games in the McCarthy era. The last time was in 2002, and that stretch included the bye week.

Including the home opener vs. Detroit and the Week 4 bye, the Packers actually have four straight home games for the first time since 1963, a stretch that included one game in Milwaukee.

NFC North finish: The final three regular-season games will feature all three division opponents – at Chicago in Week 15 (Dec. 18), vs. Minnesota at home in Week 16 (Dec. 24), and at Detroit in Week 17 (Jan. 1).

As it did in 2011 when Dec. 25 fell on a Sunday, the NFL is moving the bulk of that weekend's games to Saturday, Dec. 24. The Packers-Vikings game that day is currently scheduled for noon CT and is not subject to flex scheduling.

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