|Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy get together for a play during the game against the Saints on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
Of the major professional sports leagues, the NFL is widely considered the one with the most parity, an association that strives for equality and –- intentionally or not –- produces unpredictability such that the Minnesota Vikings are atop the NFC North and the New Orleans Saints are winless.
Perhaps the league schedule-makers were simply trying to level the playing field when they assigned the Packers, who strolled to a 15-1 record last year, an early season gauntlet.
Green Bay wrapped up an unusual first month that had them open on a Sunday, then play again on a short week the following Thursday, then have 11 days off until a Monday Night Football game, then finish the season's first quarter on Sunday. The reward for the erratic schedule was that the Packers got to play three of their first four games at home.
McCarthy said he noticed the irregular nature of the first month when the schedule was released.
“Every year, when the schedule comes out, you always look at certain things and it usually doesn't amount to anything as far as who you play and when you play them,” McCarthy said. “The two things that jumped out this year for the schedule was the first four games, just how out of balance it was as far as preparation time for Week 1, short week, then a long week, then another short week. I knew that was going to be a challenge, and it was.”
Now, they'll experience the flip side: A routine, habit-building schedule of nothing but Sunday games -- which coach Mike McCarthy prefers for preparation purposes -- but one that is road-heavy. The Packers play their next three games away from home, starting this week at Indianapolis. After that, they travel to Houston to face a Texans team that is undefeated through four weeks, and then finish the stretch at St. Louis.
McCarthy said when he looked at the schedule before the start of the season, the three-week road stint was conspicuous, an unusual arrangement .
“That really stood out to me,” he said. “I don't think in my time in the league that I've experienced that.”
Before the Packers' third preseason game, at Cincinnati, they pumped in artificial crowd noise during practice. And in Week 3, in the controversial Monday night game at Seattle, they were treated to the din of Seahawks fans, who make CenturyLink Field one of the loudest stadiums in the league. McCarthy said the Packers prepare for all the adversity that comes with playing on the road.
“We start practicing with crowd noise all the way back in the spring, so it's something we spend a lot of time with,” he said. “That will be our main focus. You may adjust some things schematically, which we do on the road as opposed to home, but that will be no different. We just have to do it three weeks in a row.”
The Packers did not play three consecutive away games last season, but during their 2010 Super Bowl run, they played three straight playoff games on the road. They played at and defeated Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago, before traveling to Dallas for the Super Bowl, where they beat Pittsburgh.
Follow Packers reporter James Carlton on Twitter @CBSPackers and @jimmycarlton88.