The Green Bay Packers started the 2016 season victoriously, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-23 on the road. It was an unconvincing win, but nobody expected a meltdown in Green Bay. Not with Aaron Rodgers at the helm of the offense at least.

So when the Packers found themselves at 4-6 after a 42-24 beatdown in Washington, fans were in full blown panic. The defense had been downright awful, allowing 31 or more points in four straight games at that point, and optimism for the playoffs was running low for many fans. The Wednesday after that defeat, Rodgers delivered one of his many memorable quotes by saying; “I feel like we can run the table, I really do.” And run the table they did. Green Bay went on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles that week and did not look back, winning six straight to close out the regular season.

Of course the team fell short of a Super Bowl appearance after getting trounced in Atlanta 44-21, but the quote is memorable nonetheless. This season, Green Bay faces a tough schedule to begin their 2017-2018 campaign, and an early-season slide could prove catastrophic. The team is favored in Vegas to win the NFC, but with the February 4th’s Super Bowl Sunday still half a year away from now, Green Bay will need to stay focused in their early fall games. The Packers will play all three defending division champions in the NFC within the first five weeks of the 2017 season, with the tougher two games both coming on the road.

After a Week 1 matchup against the reigning NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay will take a trip down to Atlanta to face last year’s Super Bowl representative from the NFC. In Week 5; the Pack will have to play against the former NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys.

With such fierce competition going on so early in the season, the veterans of the team will have to make sure they right the ship early. Aaron Rodgers will need to perform like the MVP he is, and leaders on the other side of the ball such as Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels and Morgan Burnett will need to keep the young defender’s heads on straight.

Green Bay may not be one of the NFL’s last remaining undefeated teams this year, and that is okay. Their daunting early-season schedule will prepare them for the grind that comes around playoff time. Rookies and other important young talents like Haha Clinton-Dix, Damarious Randall, Ty Montgomery and Geronimo Allison will have the chance to learn, grow and mature, all in time to play to the best of their ability when it matters most.

If the Packers can stay healthy, and improve steadily through the year, nobody will want to face them in a win or go home matchup come January… or February for that matter.