On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: *MurphyTakes5@packers.com.*
When the league office released our schedule in April, it didn't take long to notice that it was very unique. What really stood out were the long streaks of both away and home games. We opened the season with two away games (after also playing our last two preseason games on the road) and then had four straight home games (with a bye after the first one). We're now in a stretch of four road games over five weeks, with three away games in a row after Sunday's game against the Colts. We then finish the regular season with three of our last five games at Lambeau Field.
In order to make the playoffs this year, it is clear to me that we are going to have to play well on the road the rest of the season. We've lost two tough road games so far, but our road record in recent years is encouraging. Under Head Coach Mike McCarthy we are 46–37 on the road during the regular season (tied for fourth in the NFL in winning percentage since 2006). If you include playoffs, our record over that span is 50-41, also fourth in the league. We have four postseason road victories since 2009 (4-4 record), tied for the second-most road playoff wins since 2009 (Baltimore leads the NFL with five).
It should be an exciting second half of the season, and hopefully, we can get back to winning games on the road.
Now, on to your questions:
Anna from Brooklyn, NY
I have tickets for the Packers' home game against the Vikings on Christmas Eve. I am very excited to come to Lambeau Field, and hope that the game will have playoff implications. The game is scheduled for noon, and I noticed on the schedule that the game is not subject to the NFL flex scheduling. Does this mean that the game will definitely be played at noon?
Well, Anna, this is actually a very interesting issue. NFL flex scheduling only applies to moving a game from an afternoon start to a prime time game. So, while the game will not be moved to 7:30 p.m., there is a chance that it will be moved to 3:25 p.m. Whether it is moved depends on what is at stake in terms of playoffs, both in our game, as well as in other matchups that day. Since the game is on Christmas Eve, we would prefer to play at noon. It would be an inconvenience for our fans to have a 3:25 game with the activities typically held later in the day on Christmas Eve. Also, we rely on a lot of volunteers and part-time workers on game day, and a later start on Christmas Eve will make it less convenient for work that day. If the game is moved to 3:25, we will try to get word to our fans as soon as possible. Please keep an eye on packers.com in the future for a possible change in the time of kickoff for this game.
Frederick from Middleton, WI
Mark, do you see the NFL flex scheduling as a positive or negative thing for the fans who attend the games?
As I mentioned above, Frederick, NFL flex scheduling is primarily meant to help the broadcast networks by putting the most attractive matchups on the prime-time broadcasts. It also is a benefit to fans watching on TV. In terms of fans attending the games, it probably varies from fan to fan as to whether it is a positive or negative. Evening games on national TV create a great atmosphere, but moving games to the evening can create travel and hotel issues for fans.
Bill Jones, Menominee, MI
Hi Mark, did you anticipate that teams would squib-kick more often to encourage kickoff returns now that a touchback is brought to the 25-yard line?
Great question, Bill. We weren't really sure how teams would react to this rule change, which is why we made the rule change for one year only. We wanted to see what teams would do. The hope, obviously, was that more teams would elect to take the touchback and there would be fewer returns. Very few teams are squib-kicking, but many are hitting high, "mortar" kicks in an attempt to try to pin teams inside the 25-yard line. Overall, though, through Week 8, kickoff returns are at an all-time low of 36.3%. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as the weather turns cold in the second half of the season.
Miguel from Mexico
Mark, when are the Green Bay Packers coming to play an official game in Mexico – City Capital or Monterrey – and feel Mexican fans' devotion?
Thanks, Miguel. I know that we have a loyal fan base in Mexico, and that they would love to see us play in Mexico. As you probably know, the Raiders and Texans will play a regular-season game in Mexico City on Monday, Nov. 21. It will be the first game played in Mexico since 2005, and I anticipate that you will see games played in Mexico on a regular basis in the future. There is tremendous interest in this game and it sold out in less than a day. In terms of the Packers playing in Mexico, we have the same issue as with London games. We will not give up a home game to play in Mexico, and we travel so well that teams are reluctant to move a home game against the Packers to Mexico.
A question from Dan
Hello, Mr. Murphy. Has the organization ever considered adding some flexibility as to when the Milwaukee/Gold package ticketholder games take place? The past several years, one of the two regular-season gold package games has fallen on Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football. While prime-time games are typically very appealing to attend, this can make for a difficult (or even dangerous) situation when traveling back to Milwaukee that same night. I love it when I am able to take a vacation day and attend these games, but this is not always the case. I think there could be a happy medium found to keep all ticketholders happy. Thank you.
Thanks for raising this issue, Dan. I often hear from Milwaukee ("Gold") package ticketholders about having night games included as one of their games. I also hear from these ticketholders about "bad" games at noon against what they perceive as poor opponents. The Gold package home games are always our second and fifth home games. The NFL schedule is completely random, so, over time, this approach gives the best variation. I do receive input from some Gold package ticketholders that they prefer day games, but also receive feedback from others that they prefer the different atmosphere of night games. I think it makes sense to keep the Gold games as the second and fifth games, and, over multiple years, the Gold ticketholders should see a variety of different games.