No matter what the configuration, the Green Bay Packers have handled pretty much every schedule the NFL has thrown at them the past 30 years.
Those six seasons when they didn’t finish above .500 had less to do about the schedule than they did about injuries, subpar talent and a transfer of power at quarterback.
No matter the season-opening opponent, the placement of the bye week, the number of prime-time and holiday games and the grouping of quality opponents, the Packers almost always find a way to post a winning record and make the playoffs.
Their 2022 schedule, however, offers something new, and presented coach Matt LaFleur with a decision that could affect the outcome of his season.
For the first time in their history, the Packers will play overseas, facing the New York Giants on Oct. 9 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. The Week 5 game starts at 9:30 a.m. ET and will be considered a home game for the Packers.
The Packers haven’t had to fly eight hours on a Thursday night and then turn around and fly another eight hours back home 2½ days later. At worst, they’ve flown four hours on a Saturday afternoon to the West Coast and flown four hours back on a Sunday night, sometimes returning home as late as 3 a.m. on Monday.
You can debate which will cause more jetlag, but it wouldn’t be a discussion if it weren’t for the fact the Packers declined an offer of a bye week immediately following the London game. The NFL gives that option to every team that travels abroad and can give you the bye then even if you say you don’t want it.
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Though the Packers aren’t commenting, they clearly declined the bye because the schedule that was released Thursday night calls for it to occur in Week 14. They will now wait until the last possible bye weekend for their break in the schedule. It is the latest in the season the club has had a bye, surpassing last season’s Week 13.
The Packers come home from London to face the New York Jets at noon on Oct. 16 at Lambeau Field. The Jets were tied for the second-worst record in the NFL last year and will be huge underdogs in a game the Packers would be embarrassed to lose.
LaFleur will be facing his best friend (Jets head coach Robert Saleh) and brother (offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur) in that game, so it could get interesting.
Since the NFL first held a regular-season game in London in 2007, there have been 30 games, and only five times did one of the two teams not have a bye the following week. The combined record of those teams who played the week after their London games is 2-3.
Last year, Miami was the first team since the 2017 Minnesota Vikings not to have a week off upon returning from Europe and lost at home to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-28. In 2017, the Baltimore Ravens not only lost, 44-7, to Jacksonville in London, they lost at home to division rival Pittsburgh, 26-9, the following weekend.
LaFleur is a big fan of the late bye week. But it’s questionable whether it makes a huge difference.
In 2019, the Packers had their bye in Week 11 and finished 13-3. In 2020, they had their bye in Week 5 and finished 13-3. In 2021, they had their bye in Week 13 and finished 13-3. All three seasons, they lost in the playoffs, twice in the NFC Championship game.
Last season, everything seemed to be coming together with a late bye and the pending return of injured starters Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith, David Bakhtiari and Billy Turner. But the Packers lost at home to San Francisco in the divisional round of the playoffs with a rested team, so it’s hard to say the late bye meant anything.
The Packers have had above-average season records with byes in Week 9 and later. In those six seasons, they finished a combined 71-27. They went 10-6 and won the Super Bowl with a Week 10 bye in 2010 and were 12-4 and went to the NFC Championship game with a Week 9 bye in ’14.
But they’ve also gone 15-1 with a Week 8 bye in ’11, 13-3 with Week 8 byes in ’96 and ’97, 13-3 with a Week 7 bye in ’07 and 11-5 with a Week 5 bye in 2009.