Itís hard enough that the Green Bay Packers open their season against the defending Super Bowl champions. But to play on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, who boast a 17-1 record at CenturyLink Field over the past two years and the loudest stadium in the NFL, makes things even more difficult.
Throw in the fact the Seahawks had by far the best defense in the NFL last year and thoroughly embarrassed the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, and conventional wisdom suggests this is a sure-fire recipe for the Packers to start their season 0-1.
But donít tell that to Packers coach Mike McCarthy or his players, who are champing at the bit to prove themselves against the best team in football.
If McCarthy hasnít already crafted a speech to fire up his troops at training camp, he could easily start with this: ďIf you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.Ē
The Packers couldnít have asked for a better opportunity to show they belong among the NFLís elite.
This will be a showcase game to kick off the 2014 regular season and itís an indication the Packers, by virtue of their invitation to this marquee event, are highly respected around the league.
The game is more than four months away, but the anticipation already is building.
Itís Aaron Rodgers and the Packersí potent offense against the Seahawksí stingy defense.
Itís De Pere native and Seahawks general manager John Schneider, fresh off his first Super Bowl championship, squaring off against his old mentor, Packers GM Ted Thompson.
Itís Packers receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson trying to beat the NFLís best cornerback, Richard Sherman.
Itís Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson trying to prove he can match wits and skills with Rodgers.
Itís McCarthy attempting to beat Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for the first time.
The story lines are seemingly endless, and thatís before we bring up the infamous ďFail MaryĒ game from two years ago in Seattle when the Seahawks, with help from incompetent replacement referees, stole a victory from the Packersí grasp on a bogus last-second touchdown.
Some of the key players from that embarrassing finish, which shamed the NFL into settling its contract dispute with its regular officials, wonít be present for the rematch. Receiver Golden Tate, who ďcaughtĒ the winning touchdown, departed for Detroit. Safety M.D. Jennings, who should have been credited with a game-saving interception, left the Packers to play in Chicago.
Thankfully, replacement referee Lance Easley is out of the league and wonít be able to botch another call in a crucial situation. Itís a toss-up on what is worse, that Easley has insisted long after the fact that he made the correct call, or that replacement officials completely missed the obvious pass interference that should have been called on Tate and ended the game.
Itís doubtful the Packers will be seeking revenge nearly two years after that dreadful loss. What likely interests them more is showing the world they can play with the Super Bowl champs. That opportunity could be a prime source of motivation through the dog days of training camp.
McCarthy admitted as much after the schedule was released Wednesday: ďIt will help sharpen our focus even more during training camp and the preseason.Ē
The Packers are coming off three straight division titles and five consecutive playoff berths. Much is expected of them, considering they are featured in five prime-time games this season.
But the loudest statement they can make this season will come in the season opener. Nothing would shock the world more than taking down the best team in football on its home turf.
Let the countdown to Sept. 4 begin.
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