Interesting road awaits Packers in 2016
GREEN BAY – Only once in the last 95 years have the Green Bay Packers started the regular season with back-to-back road games.
Come September, make that twice.
The NFL announced its full 2016 schedule Thursday and it features plenty of twists and turns for the Packers, who begin their season with consecutive road games for the first time since they traveled to face the Duluth Kelleys and Chicago Cardinals in 1924.
The Packers open against the Jacksonville Jaguars at noon Sept. 11 before helping the Minnesota Vikings christen the brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium on "Sunday Night Football" the following week, the first of their five prime-time games.
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The league and the Vikings likely waited until Week 2 to play the first regular-season game at the $1 billion stadium to give Minnesota more time to smooth out any problems that might arise with the 66,200-seat venue after its two preseason games.
It will be a rematch of January’s de facto NFC North championship game between Green Bay and Minnesota, which the Vikings won 20-13. Additionally, the Packers will be looking to pay back Minnesota for spoiling Green Bay’s 2003 opener at renovated Lambeau Field with a 30-25 victory.
The trip to Jacksonville will mark the first time the Packers open the regular season on the road against an AFC opponent since they traveled to New England in 1985.
After the two road games, the Packers finally will return home to play Detroit on Sept. 25, which is the latest the Packers have opened in Green Bay since 1979.
That matchup will end a 38-day stretch without a Packers game at Lambeau Field. The Packers are scheduled to play their last home preseason game against Oakland on Aug. 18 after requesting that they finish the preseason on the road because of the Wisconsin-LSU game at Lambeau Field on Sept. 3.
A Week 4 bye breaks up a four-game home stand for Green Bay, the team’s longest since 1963. It’s the second time in four seasons the Packers have drawn the league’s earliest bye. Upon their return, a Sunday night game against New York Giants begins a stretch of three home games in 12 days.
That includes a Sunday, Oct. 16 meeting with Dallas and a Thursday night game four days later against Chicago in which Green Bay will debut its "Color Rush" uniforms. The Packers then will venture into a lengthy stretch of five road games that’s broken up by only one game at Lambeau Field on Nov. 6 against Indianapolis.
Green Bay won’t be home again until Dec. 4 against Houston and will have to weather two prime-time matches in back-to-back weeks to get there. The first comes Sunday, Nov. 20, against Washington and then it's Philadelphia on Monday night, Nov. 28.
The Packers will close the season with three consecutive NFC North games, including a rare Saturday meeting against Minnesota at home on Christmas Eve and then at Detroit on New Year’s Day (meaning both the Packers' season opener and their season finale will be on the road). It’s the first time since 2006 that Green Bay has finished the regular season with three straight division games.
The Packers have the easiest strength of schedule based on 2015 outcomes (.457) and face a favorable road slate with the eight teams combining for a .438 winning percentage.
This year’s Gold package will consist of a the Packers’ preseason game against Cleveland on Aug. 12, the Sunday night game against the Giants on Oct. 9 and the Nov. 6 meeting with the Colts.
The Packers also finalized the dates for their preseason games, with the Hall of Fame game against Indianapolis and the Browns and Raiders matchups falling within 11 days of each other.
Unlike previous years, Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn’t offer any comments regarding this year’s schedule.