Carrying over the momentum from last year's season-ending four-game winning streak became all the more important with the release of the 2007 schedule on Wednesday.
The Packers, who won four straight games last December to just miss the playoffs at 8-8, open the upcoming season with three straight games, and four of their first five, against 2006 playoff teams. That tough early lineup includes home games against Philadelphia (Sept. 9), San Diego (Sept. 23) and Chicago (Oct. 7) and a road contest at the N.Y. Giants (Sept. 16).
"The way we closed out last season showed that we can measure up to that, and of course we got to be a better team week by week," Packers President/COO John Jones said in a brief meeting with reporters. "So we're hoping to build on that and start off (strong). We'll need our best football early."
In all the Packers have six playoff teams accounting for seven games on the schedule (two vs. Chicago). The others are road games at Kansas City (Nov. 4) and Dallas (Nov. 29).
There's little doubt that quarterback Brett Favre's decision to continue playing in 2007, along with the team's strong finish in 2006, had an impact on the schedule.
Green Bay, which will have Favre back for a 16th season under center, will play three prime-time games this season. The Oct. 7 home game against Chicago is slated for a Sunday night and the Nov. 29 road game at Dallas is on a Thursday night. The Packers also will play a Monday night contest at Denver on Oct. 29.
"We're just absolutely delighted to have the prime-time games," Jones said. "I think (we'll have) a focus on our team all season because of Brett and because we're really hoping to be a very good ballclub this season. So that's icing on the cake. We really appreciate those national games for our fans all around the country."
That Thursday night game in Dallas actually gives the Packers back-to-back Thursday games with a Thanksgiving day tilt at Detroit the previous week. The Cowboys play on Thanksgiving as well, so both teams will have a full week of practice and preparation leading up to that contest.
There's always the possibility of another prime-time game late in the season as well with the league's flex scheduling, which begins in Week 11. If perhaps the NFC North Division title is at stake when the Packers travel to Chicago on Dec. 23, that game could be switched to prime time, just as the Packers' game at Soldier Field was last New Year's Eve.
"That's going to be a very key game for us," Jones said. "We've got a long way to go to be looking toward the end of the season, but we'll want to start the way we finished, establish ourselves, and I think we have an opportunity to have a very good season.
"But we've got to earn that. We can't take it for granted."