After two consecutive seasons without January football, Packer fans are getting anxious. But there is hope as we usher in a new era of coaching and players in preparation for Aaron Rodgers’ last few go-arounds. The defense has improved both through the draft and free agency, and the offense is looking to start the season healthy. With an optimistic outlook in the league’s smallest city, here are my predictions for the 2019 season.
Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 5 @ Chicago Bears, 8:20 p.m. ET
These two gave us a week one to remember last season, so why not another classic in a different venue? The Bears are looking to build on their 12-4 season in 2019, but they will have to do so without Vic Fangio, now the head coach of the Broncos, at the helm of their high-level defense. The Packers are also dealing with head coaching changes, welcoming in the Matt LaFleur era, so it’s unclear what we are going to see from the Packers offense—which is why I believe the Packers will sneak out of Soldier Field with a win, a stadium where they have won eight of the past nine match-ups.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m. ET
Same week, same match-up, same location—a year ago, almost to the day, Clay Matthews was flagged for roughing the passer after a hit on Kirk Cousins that wiped away a Jaire Alexander interception, and it was a play that was analyzed from every angle possible afterwards. It’s a new season, but we should see a fantastic game from two teams trying to bounce back after disappointing seasons. The Packers’ defense has done just enough in the offseason to reach 2-0.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22 vs. Denver Broncos, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Packers have not played the Broncos since 2015, a game where Rodgers threw a career-low 77 yards (career-low for games in which he played all four quarters) and the Green and Gold were embarrassed after starting 6-0. With completely different rosters in 2019, the Packers will be looking for their first 3-0 start since, conveniently enough, that 2015 season. Vic Fangio is familiar with Rodgers and co., but Joe Flacco, who was benched last season for Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, will not be enough in Lambeau.
Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 26 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET
This is a big year for the Eagles, particularly Carson Wentz—two years ago, he was on his way to an MVP before tearing his ACL, and Nick Foles led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory. Last year, Wentz looked rusty, and was shut down with a back injury after the Eagles went 6-7—once again, Foles stepped up, won three straight to finish 9-7, and led them within a drive of the NFC Championship game. The Eagles have a complete roster and are particularly loaded with offensive weapons. I like to think the Packers can win most games at home, but not this one.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6 @ Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET
No matter the stakes, this match-up always provides entertainment worthy of the playoffs—from “Dez dropped it” to the Jared Cook’s sideline catch to the iconic picture of a Packer fan with the caption “they’re celebrating with 1:13 in the fourth lmao..”, there’s never a dull moment in this series. The Cowboys are looking for their first back-to-back playoff appearance since 1998-1999, and they should be in good position to do so. However, Rodgers is very comfortable in AT&T stadium, and I see another iconic moment coming.
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 14 vs. Detroit Lions, 8:15 p.m. ET
The NFC North is going to be an absolute war this year, and although I still believe that the Lions will end up on the bottom, they are going to come into Lambeau in week six and steal a game from the Packers. You might have to read this sentence twice, but the Lions have had the Packer’s number recently, winning the last four match-ups. You could use the excuse that Rodgers essentially missed two of those games, but the defense has not held up its end of the bargain either, giving up an average of almost 32 PPG during that stretch. Detroit extends the streak to five.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20 vs. Oakland Raiders, 1:00 p.m. ET
It would have been nice to see Jordy Nelson take the field in Lambeau one last time, even if he wasn’t sporting the green and gold. The Raiders had a plethora of first-round picks this season, and while I think they’ll improve eventually, it won’t be in time for this game—even with Antonio Brown. Rodgers will begin to connect with his young wide receivers, and the Packers offense will be clicking in a big win against the Raiders.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27 @ Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20 p.m. ET
First of all, this has the potential to be the game of the year—two MVPs battling it out mid-season in prime time? Sign me up. But there are two factors that will determine this game—Tyreek Hill, and where the Packers defense is by week eight. Hill is off the team indefinitely in the midst of a child abuse scandal, and while there are still several months until this game, this is a significant loss for the Chiefs. And on the other side of the ball, the Packers defense seems to have improved on paper, but will it be enough to take down the reigning MVP at home? I’m going with not quite.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3 @ Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET
Much like 2018, the Packers find themselves once again facing two of the best teams in the NFL on the road in back-to-back weeks. The Chargers have arguably the most balanced team in the league, and it will be very difficult for the Packers to go into LA and find a way to win. At age 37, Rivers had one of his best seasons yet and has showed no signs of slowing down. With a supporting cast featuring Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams, I just don’t believe the Packers have enough to win this one after a tough prime time match-up the week before.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10 vs. Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m. ET
This could very well be the biggest game of the season for the sole reason that it is the one chance the Packers have to play in front of the home crowd for over a month—I’ll even go on the record and call it a must-win. The key to this game for the Packers is containing McCaffrey, who has a very compelling case for the best receiving back in the league. Pettine’s defense will be in rhythm by week 10, and Rodgers out-duels Newton for a crucial win before the bye week.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24 @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET
The bye week is supposed to give teams an extra week to prepare for their next match-up and recover from any sustained injuries. But since 2015, the Packers are 1-3 coming off the bye week—that stinks. And as much as it pains me to say it, I believe the record becomes 1-4 after this season. If not for some vintage Rodgers heroics, the 49ers would have left Lambeau last year with a win. The 49ers’ 4-12 record last season is very deceiving after losing both Garoppolo and McKinnon to season-ending injuries and should be much better this season with a healthy squad. Another tough loss for the Pack.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1 @ New York Giants, 1:00 p.m. ET
The schedule makers really enjoy sending the Packers on these coast-to-coast road trips, don’t they? Last year it was Los Angeles to Foxborough, this year it is San Francisco to the Big Apple. Unfortunately for the Giants, the Packers are used to playing in the cold December weather, and it’s unclear as to who will be under center in New York at this point in the season. Packers by 10+.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8 vs. Washington Redskins, 1:00 p.m. ET
Is the Dwayne Haskins era officially underway in D.C.? It’s likely that Bruce Allen didn’t draft Haskins in the first round for him to sit behind Colt McCoy or Case Keenum, so it’s reasonable to assume that he will be on the field by week 14, especially if the Redskins are struggling. This is not a supremely talented Washington team (recent news of a potential ACL tear for Reuben Foster does not help that notion), and although Adrian Peterson usually gets his against the Packers, it’s not enough as Green Bay moves to 8-5.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15 vs. Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Packers boasted a very good record at home in December under Mike McCarthy, and this will be an epic showdown in what could likely be for a huge advantage in the NFC North race. The last time these two split the season series by winning on the road was in 2015, and I predict history repeats itself in 2019. Look for a big day from Allen Robinson as the Bears win by a field goal.
Week 16: Monday, Dec 23 @ Minnesota Vikings, 8:15 p.m. ET
The Packers are 0-3 in U.S. Bank Stadium, which has turned into somewhat of a house of horrors for them. And this is a game that many have already chalked up as a loss on the schedule. I think Kirk Cousins has a relatively similar year compared to last season, and they will certainly be favored at home in this match-up. But with their backs against the wall, fighting for a playoff spot, Rodgers will lead the Packers into Minneapolis for one of the biggest wins of his career.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29 @ Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m. ET
Time will tell if this game gets flexed to prime time like it did three years ago, but I like the Packers to finish the season with two strong divisional wins. It’s tough to tell without predicting the rest of the division’s schedules, but 10-6 should be good enough for a playoff spot, whether that is as a division winner or a wildcard.
Stats courtesy of ESPN and TeamRankings
Image courtesy of USA Today