Green Bay Packers fans can officially begin plotting the team's path back to the playoffs. What should fans look forward as the Pack look to make it back to the postseason after missing out for the first time in nine years? Here's one slight advantage for Green Bay this season -- it will face no teams coming off a bye. More tidbits such as this below as FOX Sports Wisconsin breaks down the 2018 matchups and explains what you need to know about each.
Week 1, Sunday, Sept. 9, 7:20 p.m.
Packers vs. Chicago Bears. Skinny: You'll be waiting a bit longer to watch the first Packers game as they'll open on Sunday Night Football. It will also be a different Chicago team Green Bay sees in its 2018 initial contest. After three lackluster years of John Fox produced all of 14 wins, the Bears brought in former Kansas City assistant Matt Nagy to be head coach. While the Bears weren't a total ground-and-pound team in 2017, they did have a league-low 473 pass attempts (compared to 422 rushes). The Chiefs threw 543 passes and ran it 405 times. In other words, expect a different offensive look when these two rivals meet -- and the Packers won't have much to go on other than some vanilla preseason games and perhaps looking at what the Chiefs did in recent years.
Week 2, Sunday, Sept. 16, 12 p.m.
Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings. Skinny: It's back-to-back games against rival division-mates to open the season. After making it to the NFC Championship, the Vikings made perhaps the biggest splash of the offseason -- well, at least they doled out the most money -- eschewing the three quarterbacks that were on their roster last year and signing Kirk Cousins. Minnesota should have a good offense with Cousins, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen as well as running back Dalvin Cook, who is returning from a torn ACL. The have a new offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo, but he comes after coaching with Philadelphia, the Super Bowl champions who had a proficient offense.
Brace HemmelgarnBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
Week 3, Sunday, Sept. 23, 12 p.m.
Packers at Washington Redskins. Skinny: What direction is Washington headed in? It's hard to say. Kirk Cousins is gone and Alex Smith is in. The Redskins also added Paul Richardson, hoping to add a deep threat to its receiving corps. But beyond quarterback, Washington looks a lot like the team which meandered its way through a 7-9 season in 2017. Some of that was health issues, including along the offensive line. This is a road game, however, and defensive end Ryan Kerrigan and cornerback Josh Norman could provide some problems for Green Bay.
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Week 4, Sunday, Sept. 30, 12 p.m.
Packers vs. Buffalo Bills. Skinny: Only one team in the NFL ran more than it passed last year -- the Bills (487-476). Buffalo's highest passing yards in 2017 was 261. With A.J. McCarron, Nathan Peterman or a rookie taken in the first round at the helm, Buffalo likely will rely on the rushing game of LeSean McCoy (1,138 yards) and an opportunistic pass defense (14 TD, 18 INT), led in part by former Packer Micah Hyde (5 INTs) once again. It worked in '17 as the Bills squeaked into the playoffs.
Jake RothJake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Week 5, Sunday, Oct. 7, 12 p.m.
Packers at Detroit Lions. Skinny: Detroit allowed 4.2 yards per rush in 2017 and gained just 3.4 yards per carry. The Lions haven't done too much to change either of those deficiencies. The defense remains roughly the same as a year ago while aging LeGerrette Blount was added to the ho-hum rushing backfield of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. It's unclear if new head coach Matt Patricia will run a New England style offense -- rotating runners and a lot of passes to the backs -- but at first glance there doesn't seem like much of an improvement here.
Aaron DosterAaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Week 6, Monday, Oct. 15, 7:15 p.m.
Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers. Skinny: Green Bay's final (of two) scheduled primetime appearances at home on the season. The 49ers won just six games under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan, but reeled off five consecutive victories to end the season after Jimmy Garoppolo was installed as the starting quarterback. There's some fool's gold there -- the Rams sat out some starters in the season finale and Garoppolo’s TD-to-INT ratio was just 7-5. Barring a draft pick, San Francisco is also going with former Vikings third-down back as their starting RB. Defensively, the 49ers have some young talent in linemen Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas while the team hopes veteran All-Pro Richard Sherman, let go by Seattle, can bounce back from an injury-shortened season and help the back end.
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Week 8, Sunday, Oct. 28, 3:25 p.m.
Packers at Los Angeles Rams. Skinny: The Rams made an incredible transformation under first-year head coach Sean McVay, going 11-5 and winning the NFC West. QB Jared Goff led a diverse offense with 3,804 passing yards and 28 touchdowns with just seven interceptions while RB Todd Gurley accounted for over 2,000 all-purpose yards and scored 19 TDs. But L.A. didn't stand pat in the offseason, instead making some bold moves. WR Brandin Cooks was added to give the offense a little more punch while an already good defense now has two lockdown corners after Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib were both acquired via trade. The Rams also signed Ndamukong Suh, which, paired with Aaron Donald, gives them the most fearsome inside duo in the NFL. L.A. also has one of the best kicking tandems in the league with K Greg Zuerlein and P Johnny Hekker. This is a team primed for a Super Bowl run … as long as some players who have strong personalities and/or previous off-the-field issues don't come back to blow up in their face. One possible advantage for Green Bay: The Packers will be coming off their bye.
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Week 9, Sunday, Nov. 4, 7:20 p.m.
Packers at New England Patriots. Skinny: The offense still revolves around QB Tom Brady, who last year at age 40 threw for 4,577 yards with 32 TDs and just 8 INTs. Some of his surrounding cast has changed -- RB Dion Lewis and WRs Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks are gone -- but others, like WRs Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan and RB James White, are back, along with newcomers WRs Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson and RB Jeremy Hill. The defense has always been solid and New England added DE Adrian Clayborn and DT Danny Shelton to help a floundering pass rush. But this is Brady's team -- and Bill Belichick, of course -- and playing the Patriots in New England is a tough task for any team. Brady is 107-18 at home over his career in the regular season (126-21 if you include the playoffs).
Week 10, Sunday, Nov. 11, 12 p.m.
Packers vs. Miami Dolphins. Skinny: It will have been nearly a month since Green Bay last played at home (and perhaps a little snow wouldn't hurt against a team from Florida?) Adam Gase has gone from being one of the hot young coaching prospects to trying to lead his team out of an unmitigated mess. The Dolphins have jettisoned just players as Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry, the latter of whom had 112 catches last year, in an attempt to create his culture. Bringing in Jay Cutler last year didn't help, but perhaps the veteran offseason additions of wide receiver Danny Amendola, running back Frank Gore, defensive end Robert Quinn and guard (and former Packer) Josh Sitton will help. There's still a big question at quarterback, where Cutler is gone and Ryan Tannehill returns after missing a year. There's a lot of work to be done in Miami.
Week 11, Thursday, Nov. 15, 7:20 p.m.
Packers at Seattle Seahawks. Skinny: Green Bay and Seattle have engaged in some epic games over the years, but this Seahawks team is a far cry from their Super Bowl contenders. The Legion of Boom is all but broken up, with Richard Sherman gone, Earl Thomas perhaps on the way out and the careers of Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril up in the air. An offensive line and running game which were both shaky in 2017 barely were addressed in the offseason. Seattle still has QB Russell Wilson (3,984 passing yards, 34 TDs; 586 rushing yards) and a tough home environment -- not to mention Green Bay has to travel to way out west on a short week -- so never count the Seahawks out, but at the same point they are ripe for the taking in what looks to be a transition year in the Northwest.
Week 12, Sunday, Nov. 25, 7:20 p.m.
Packers at Minnesota Vikings. Skinny: Green Bay's final scheduled primetime matchup in what could be a key game for the top of the NFC North., and the Packers will have a mini-bye, which is helpful. Already boasting of the top defense in the NFL -- Minnesota allowed the fewest points and years last season -- the Vikings added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a crew that returns all its key players, such as defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Speaking of Barr, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers certainly hope this year's game at U.S. Bank Stadium goes better than last year's …
Brace HemmelgarnBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Week 13, Sunday, Dec. 2, 12 p.m.
Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals. Skinny: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be returning for his 15th season and stalwart cornerback Patrick Peterson is back to anchor the defense, but there's plenty of changes in the desert. Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer retired. Steve Wilks, something of an unknown, is the new head coach, and injury-prone Sam Bradford will be the QB (or maybe not by this late in the season; Mike Glennon is the backup). The Cardinals will have a healthy David Johnson, who is always dangerous, and they looked to upgrade a porous offensive line with the signings of Justin Pugh and Andre Smith. The defense has some playmakers, but one of them, Tyrann Mathieu was let go. This could be a big year of transition for the Cardinals, which makes them perhaps a delectable opponent to face in Lambeau. A West Coast team having to play an early game won't hurt the cause, either.
Week 14, Sunday, Dec. 9, 12 p.m.
Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons. Skinny: These teams played last year as well in Week 2, with the Falcons prevailing in Atlanta, 34-23. After going to the Super Bowl with a high-flying offense, the Falcons weren't as potent in 2017, perhaps in part due to the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Matt Ryan threw for 4,095 yards and 20 TDs, his lowest totals since 2010 and '09. RB Devonta Freeman, who had rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the two previous seasons, had 865 yards and backfield mate Tevin Coleman averaged a career-low 4.0 yards per carry. Defensively, Atlanta held opponents to just 3,429 passing yards and had 39 sacks (but only eight interceptions). For all their faults, the Falcons still won 10 games and are the most dangerous opponent the Green Bay defense should face at home and playoff positioning could be on the line as well.
Week 15, Sunday, Dec. 16, 12 p.m.
Packers at Chicago Bears. Skinny: Mitchell Trubisky didn't have the most dynamic weapons to work with in his rookie season. Perhaps that's why this offseason the Bears concentrated on getting their quarterback some new guys to throw to, signing free-agent wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel as well as tight end Trey Burton. The defense wasn't decent in 2017 but could use some upgrading, perhaps in the draft.
Week 16, Sunday, Dec. 23, 12 p.m.
Packers at New York Jets. Skinny: The Jets seem like a team constantly in transition and/or turmoil. Such as: the team went out and re-signed quarterback Josh McCown and inked free agent Teddy Bridgewater … and then traded up in the first round of the draft to supposedly take a QB. Oh, and they also have Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, two recent draft picks, also on the roster. New York upgraded its secondary with the additions of cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne, but the Jets have won five games in back-to-back years -- a third straight such season wouldn't be a surprise.
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Week 17, Sunday, Dec. 30, 12 p.m.
Packers vs. Detroit Lions. Skinny: Revenge might be on the mind of Green Bay as the Lions swept the season series between the two teams last year for the first time since 1991. Detroit scored 65 points in those two games and no doubt the Lions will try to pass their way past the Packers again. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had 565 attempts last season -- his lowest total in any of the last seven years -- but still had 4,446 yards and 29 touchdowns. Tight end Eric Ebron is gone, but Detroit returns wide receivers Golden Tate (92 receptions), Marvin Jones (61), T.J. Jones (30) and Kenny Golladay (28) as well as pass-catching running back Theo Riddick (53). This being the season finale and a division game, you never know what might be at stake.