Well, the 2011 Schedule for the World Champion Green Bay Packers is out. Now, if there is only a full season for us to watch. You can find a simple chart of the schedule at Jersey Al's Packer Blog, and a printable version, suitable for taping on the refrigerator, at Packers.com. (Which is exactly what will happen with my copy as soon as I finish this blog post.)
I like the schedule, assuming the full schedule is played as listed. If the lockout continues into the season, there is just no way to tell how the league will move things around once the season starts. So, for example, the bye week happens almost in the middle of the season (in week 8), which seems like a great spot for bodies to heal. But not if the first six games just get wiped out, leaving the Packers with a bye after one game. Since there is no use speculating what might happen to the schedule, I am just going to evaluate it as it is.
The opening week Thursday night game, three days before any other teams play, features the New Orleans Saints at the Green Bay Packers. The last two Super Bowl winners, and the last two Super Bowl MVPs. Not a bad little game. I actually thought they would have Bears at Packers, to give a re-match of the NFC Championship game, but they opted for Saints at Packers. To football fans not specifically invested in the two teams, which is really the point of the opening Thursday night game, I think Saints at Packers is in fact the better choice. If I were a fan of the Carolina Panthers, or the Oakland Raiders, it is possible that I might have gotten a little bored over the years hearing about the Bears and Packers, the black and blue division, blah, blah, blah. But I would definitely tune in to check out Saints and Packers, Brees and Rodgers. This matchup, in short, probably has more curb appeal than a matchup that includes Jay Cutler as one of the quarterbacks.
There are no three-game road trips on the schedule, always a good thing, because they never seem to turn out too well. Three of the last four games are home games, and two of those games are against warm weather teams (Raiders) or dome teams (Lions). The other December home game is against the Bears, in week 16. That is a great placement for Bears and Packers, and it might just be an important game again, as it was in 2010. There are a couple of other warm weather / dome teams on the home schedule in mid-November, a Monday night game against the Vikings, and a Sunday game against the Buccaneers. So weather could be a factor from mid-November on.
Finally, as one would expect, the Packers get great exposure in prime time and other national games. The Packers play four times in night games (Saints at Packers, September 8, Packers at Falcons, October 9, Vikings at Packers, November 14, and Bears at Packers, Christmas night). They also play at Detroit on Thanksgiving, and five of their Sunday day games are in the late time slot (Packers at Bears, September 25, Broncos at Packers, October 2, Packers at Vikings, October 23, Packers at Chargers, November 6, and Packers at Giants, December 4). Not that I would actually do this, but living here on the west coast, I could sleep late every Sunday next season and not miss many Packer games.
I am anxiously awaiting the new season!