GREEN BAY - To look at the schedule, the Green Bay Packers are entering a five-game stretch that could determine where their 2018 season is headed.
The team returned from its Week 7 bye Monday, and there’s no shortage of urgency. Awaiting is a trip to the Los Angeles Rams, the NFL’s lone remaining undefeated team. Their reward for playing the 7-0 Rams out west: flying east to face the New England Patriots in Tom Brady’s home stadium. Then it’s off to Seattle on a short week after the lone home game against a dangerous Miami Dolphins team followed finally by a trip to the Minnesota Vikings that might be the most influential game of the Packers' season.
All told, these next five opponents have a combined 23-10-1 record. If they survive the gauntlet, the Packers close their season against five opponents with a combined 12-20 record. They aren’t looking at the totality of what’s looming, of course. Their approach is much narrower.
Against a Rams team that might be the best in the NFL, the Packers can’t look ahead.
“It’s a stretch,” veteran cornerback Tramon Williams said, “but for us, it’s one week at a time. We know that we have an obviously undefeated Rams team this week, who a lot of people think is unbeatable. But as a player, your mindset is always set differently. Anyone who we feel is unbeatable, obviously, we know they’re beatable at some degree.
“But they are tough, a tough team. Everything they advertise to be, they are. And we haven’t been who we say we were. We’re still working on that.”
This five-week stretch sneaked up on nobody. Since the schedule was released in April, it always loomed as the pivotal juncture in the 2018 season.
The Packers are prepared. Coach Mike McCarthy stopped short of saying his team spent its first six games “saving anything” in the playbook for the better opponents on its schedule, but the Packers studied the Patriots this offseason. They played the Rams last preseason, though it was the finale when teams rest their starters.
“We have some preliminary game plans,” McCarthy said.
Because this week is a West Coast trip, the Packers pushed up their game-week schedule by a day. They’ll hold their typical Wednesday practice Tuesday, and their padded practice Wednesday, before traveling to Los Angeles on Friday instead of Saturday.
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McCarthy said his adjusted schedule was at least in part because of “three weeks of heavy travel” upcoming, but that’s about as much as the Packers will admit to looking at their next five games as a whole.
“The stretch is there, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Williams said. “We have to face all those teams, but we can only do it one at a time. We can’t look ahead to next week and talk about Tom Brady right now. It’s the Rams.
“We understand what’s coming up, but that starts out with the Rams. So that’s what we’re focused on.”