Packers 2014 regular season schedule: Dream and nightmare scenarios for each game
This story appears in the August 2014 issue of Packerland Pride magazine. Subscribe to the magazine here.
We’re omitting preseason, preseason injuries, and injuries in general from this upcoming list because this is a list about real and important things other than the inevitable (injuries) and mostly irrelevant (exhibition games) that take place before and during the Green Bay Packers’ 2014 regular season.
Instead, what follows are dream and nightmare scenarios for each game of the upcoming season. It’s a preview of sorts, with the understanding that football games usually wind up somewhere between a dream and nightmare, but with the further knowledge that we do not always think that way. While we can, we’ll lay it out like this, unburdened with reality and actual results, fortune telling a game in which no one knows anything. Still, you should take these very seriously.
Thursday, Sept. 4, at Seattle Seahawks.
Dream: A balanced offensive attack keeps Seattle’s ferocious defense off balance and its crowd quieter than normal, like hushing a thunderstorm. A defense still figuring things out but running around with dangerous abandon contains Russell Wilson’s playmaking abilities enough, and the Packers grind out a convincing win on opening night that injects the rest of the season going forward with 16 doses of rocket fuel.
Nightmare: The swarming sound on the defending Super Bowl champions’ big stage and the Seahawks defense are, combined, all too overwhelming for a team with a few too many new pieces to be entirely ready for this situation. Percy Harvin does at least two Percy Harvin-type things to a team that he clearly hates for some reason. NBC features Pete Carroll sideline cuts for the entire second half.
Sunday, Sept. 14, versus New York Jets.
Dream: Rex Ryan wakes up sweating on the floor of Kroll’s West at 11:30 in the morning and sneaks onto the sidelines in time for the National Anthem. The Jets are confident and ready for the challenge. Then the game starts. Ryan looks to his play sheet and it is a Kroll’s menu. While the cheese curds sound good, this doesn’t do much for New York on the field. They stumble out of the gate. The Packers, rested and still rocket-fueled after Week 1, come out blazing on a beautiful Sunday at Lambeau and cruise to a comfortable blowout in their home opener.
Nightmare: A demonic four-headed combination of Geno Smith, Michael Vick, former Packers back Alex Green, and Chris Johnson run an awkward-yet-successful option game the Packers can’t figure out. The game becomes a shootout and ends on a last-minute drive and ensuing game-winning field goal by the Jets. The Lambeau crowd leaves in shock. Scientists will later discover that hot air released from Rex Ryan’s head that day will alter Green Bay’s atmosphere for years to come.
Sunday, Sept. 21, at Detroit Lions.
Dream: Mike McCarthy shows the team film from last year’s Thanksgiving garbage fire. Everyone is so glad they aren’t playing on Thanksgiving this year, and the thought of spending the holiday with their families and friends boosts team morale enormously. The Packers get out to a 10-0 lead, and Matt Stafford starts narrowing his focus on Calvin Johnson but not the four defenders Green Bay has blanketed around him. Jim Caldwell stares forward. Jim Schwartz is there for some reason, and runs onto the field and trips, breaking his aviators. Golden Tate and Dominic Raiola get in fight and both lose.
Nightmare: Two days before kickoff Roger Goodell flexes the game to Thanksgiving. Matt Flynn starts again and no one explains why, and there is a repeat of last season’s debacle. For months after there are quiet thoughts whispered in empty corridors that this was a league-mandated art project focused on recreating recent history.
Sunday, Sept. 28, at Chicago Bears.
Dream: The NFL again tries to recreate its own recent events, only this time with wayyy less stress for us and a few more long touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb. And, as we learn in this game, it turns out Julius Peppers was actually pretty angry about that release, Chicago.
Nightmare: Soldier Field’s turf is in its peak December mode, meaning it better resembles a mix of ground up gravel and hay than grass. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery start tipping passes in mid-air to each other and you will not be able to erase Jay Cutler’s smug smile from your brain for days.
Thursday, Oct. 2, versus Minnesota Vikings.
Dream: Christian Ponder wins the starting job and Adrian Peterson is missing Toby Gerhart already. Jim Nantz skips commentating on the entire first quarter of play to gush over the improvements to Lambeau Field and the team’s tradition, which he akins flimsily to Augusta National while mentioning, often, that The Masters is only seven months away. In the late stages of a convincing win, Scott Tolzien helicopters in for a touchdown.
Nightmare: The looming threat of Cordarrelle Patterson becomes all too real. Teddy Bridgewater earns the starting nod and has his first big primetime performance on this Thursday night stage. Jim Nantz gushes over Bridgewater’s performance and doesn’t mention The Masters even once.
Sunday, Oct. 12, at Miami Dolphins.
Dream: The Packers go marlin fishing on a team bonding trip. Jarrett Boykin makes the biggest catch, but Mike Daniels jumps out of the yacht and wrestles one on board. It is decided that he wins. Green Bay wins a forgettable game in steamy conditions and everyone gets to take a nice afternoon nap.
Nightmare: Playing tight end after changing his mind and signing a one-year deal to stay in Miami, LeBron James scores 31 points, blocks three field goals, and assists on two other scores for the Dolphins in a scorched earth performance of a game that leaves everyone without words in the locker room afterwards. A rare silver lining emerges, however, when Skip Bayless flees the country and is never heard from again.
Sunday, Oct. 19, versus Carolina Panthers.
Dream: With Carolina lacking in the wide receiver department, Clay Matthews and Peppers and the rest of the defense keep Cam Newton contained and under control all afternoon. It turns into a very satisfying win over a dreaded mobile quarterback. Ryan Taylor catches his first touchdown pass of the season because why not.
Nightmare: Now coaching Auburn on Saturdays and Carolina on Sundays, Gus Malzahn and his run-heavy offense negates the Panthers’ lack of receiving threats, unleashing the most terrifying version of Cam Newton ever seen with a simple play that only involves Mike Tolbert running first through a hole and then Newton following him. “Hey it isn’t rocket science,” Malzahn will deadpan afterwards.
Sunday, Oct. 26, at New Orleans Saints.
Dream: Unafraid of the Bayou and further inspired by a fiery email from his college coach, Nick Saban, Eddie Lacy has his best game of the season to date, churning out nearly 200 yards on the ground, controlling the clock and keeping this game from being the scoreboard-exploding fireworks show everyone expected going in. The Packers prove again they can win games other than shootouts. Everyone is most impressed, and it reflects in the week’s all-important Power Rankings. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wakes up sweating on the floor of Kroll’s West at 11:30 in the morning and flies back to New Orleans in time for the National Anthem.
Nightmare: Things get out of control in the Superdome sometime in the second quarter and Drew Brees and the Saints just don’t stop scoring points from there. Sean Payton works in a CrossFit spiel during both his halftime and postgame interviews.
Dream: Injuries are healed and relaxation is embraced and had by all. For the first time in months Sunday is actually a day of rest.
Nightmare: The NFL flexes the Packers’ bye into the preseason and instead Green Bay plays the Chiefs in this spot.
Sunday, Nov. 9, versus Chicago Bears.
Dream: Julius Peppers and Datone Jones line up side-by-side for the entire game, forcing Jay Cutler to, on more than one occasion, at least consider the possibility that he is playing against giant clones.
Nightmare: Jared Allen makes a mess of things, as usual, while scream-promoting his newest cookbook, “Bear Necessities: How to live off the land, for less, like a man”, after each play. Marshall and Jeffery are still unguardable and a nasty Chicago sweep must be endured for a very long year.
Sunday, Nov. 16, versus Philadelphia Eagles.
Dream: Green Bay proves that, fine, you know what, we can still win a good old fashioned shootout when it comes to that. Rodgers has one of his clinical afternoons spreading the ball all over the field, and the defense bends but forces key turnovers in the second half for a breathless win. Mike McCarthy does some sort of memorable sideline celebration that we’ll cherish for years.
Nightmare: The combination of Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy is as devastating as it sounds and Chip Kelly goes all Oregon Ducks on everyone, visibly, and wistfully, remembering his college days on the sideline.
Sunday, Nov. 23, at Minnesota Vikings.
Dream: The Packers don’t have to play in the Metrodome ever again and – oh wait what that’s real okay then nevermind that’s the dream.
Nightmare: First year head coach Mike Zimmer has the Vikings playing well faster than expected. Somehow the Packers are swept by Minnesota and we are all forced to wish for the sweetness of another tie.
Sunday, Nov. 30, versus New England Patriots.
Dream: The game lives up to the tiny amount of hype it may or may not get. Some might even call it a Possible Super Bowl Preview, but hey we’re not going to go crazy over here. The Packers’ secondary limits big plays and the defensive front makes Tom Brady uncomfortable enough to force more field goals than touchdowns. New England, typically solid in special teams, allows a punt return touchdown by Micah Hyde.
Nightmare: Brady picks the defense apart and Jermichael Finley, the Patriots’ recently signed tight end, makes a big cameo that’s great for his career, not so great for the Packers on this day. Bill Belichick smiles, twice.
Monday, Dec. 8, versus Atlanta Falcons.
Dream: It’s a cold night in Green Bay and the Falcons aren’t hitting on all cylinders. The Packers keep them at an arm’s length for much of the game, doing what they need to do in a workmanlike fashion, officially putting the contest on ice on a play-action deep post touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson in the fourth quarter. Speaking of ice, in Jon Gruden’s lone trip to Lambeau Field this season, he insists on calling the game from the sidelines in a polo shirt. His connection with Mike Tirico is lost midway through the third due to the cold, so Gruden calls the rest of the game by having a conversation with himself. Tirico is back at the hotel by game’s end.
Nightmare: Julio Jones remains Julio Jones. Atlanta’s defense, much improved, stymies Green Bay’s offense enough in rough conditions and, guess who, Devin Hester does something on special teams to crush Packers fans one more time.
Sunday, Dec. 14, at Buffalo Bills.
Dream: On a short week the Packers are ready for the Bills, getting out to an early lead that they maintain throughout a relatively relaxed contest. You have time for Christmas shopping later in the afternoon.
Nightmare: The Bills hang around and hang around until the bitter end, Green Bay never crisp enough on this day to put them away earlier. Smelling the upset Buffalo is going crazy. A game-winning kick on a drive stemming from a dubious penalty on third down leaves Green Bay with a loss many will think they should have avoided.
Sunday, Dec. 21, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dream: A late-December trip to Florida does wonders for the Packers, who hold off an improving Buccaneers team with questionable new uniforms, in front of a whole lot of vacationing Wisconsinites. If you didn’t go last week you really should think about going Christmas shopping this afternoon.
Nightmare: Our old frenemy and new Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith makes this typically tricky for the Packers, who struggle to defend the gigantic receiving tandem of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. It rains in Florida and nobody gets to go to Busch Gardens.
Sunday, Dec. 28, versus Detroit Lions.
Dream: Having clinched a playoff berth already, the Packers play their starters minimally. Matt Flynn gets his revenge for that whole Thanksgiving 2013 thing, though, knocking Detroit out of the Wild Card race thanks to a huge day connecting with Green Bay’s deep receiving corps. It comes down to a game-winner from Mason Crosby, and everyone feels happy about that.
Nightmare: In a battle for the NFC North crown, Detroit’s explosive offense and increasingly stocked forces of pass rushing nature have their way. In the first half. Then Green Bay rallies, and, with B.J. Raji lined up in the offensive backfield, an Aaron Rodgers naked bootleg late in the game is the deciding score, cemented after the defense gets the final stop of the regular season, sending the Packers to the playoffs. (Hey: Nightmares can be scary but then you wake up.)