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DETROIT - The Green Bay Packers played a tougher-than-expected schedule this season because the NFC East teams fared much better than they did a year ago.

Next year, the Packers’ schedule, at least on paper, won’t be as difficult.

Green Bay’s 16 opponents for 2017 finished with a 122-124-2 record this season for a winning percentage of .481. The Packers’ foes this season went 129-125-2 (.508).

In 2015, Green Bay’s opponents had almost an identical record as they did in 2014. In that case, predicting the schedule was right on target.

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This season, however, the Packers’ schedule was more rugged because the NFC East and the AFC South fared better than a year ago. The NFC East finished with the best record of the eight divisions at 39-24-1 after ranking seventh a year ago. By the same token, the AFC South improved from eighth in 2015 to sixth this season at 29-35.

The NFC North ranked fifth this year with a 30-34 record.

Green Bay will play home-and-home series against division foes Detroit (9-7), Minnesota (8-8) and Chicago (3-13).

Next season, the Packers will be matched against the NFC South, which finished fourth at 33-31, and the AFC North, which ranked seventh at 26-37-1.

At home, the Packers also will play New Orleans (7-9), Tampa Bay (9-7), Baltimore (8-8), Cincinnati (6-9-1) and Seattle (10-5-1).

On the road, the Packers also will play Atlanta (11-5), Carolina (6-10), Cleveland (1-15), Pittsburgh (11-5) and Dallas (13-3).

The Packers played seven games against playoff teams this season. Next year, they will play six.

Dates and times for the 2017 season will be released in April.

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