Green Bay Packers

The Packers Must Avoid A Repeat Of London In Brazil Opener

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s international agenda is getting increasingly exotic. Earlier this week, the league announced that the Green Bay Packers would be heading to São Paulo to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL’s 2024 opener. It will be the league’s first-ever game in South America. Slating it in one of the most anticipated primetime slots of the year shows how much the NFL has scaled up its international growth initiative. London games have become a staple over the last few years. But after mixing in games in Mexico City in 2022 and Germany in 2023, the game is headed to a whole new continent.

Brazil will be Green Bay’s second entry in the international series. After evading London for years, they finally took an infamous trip in 2022. There, Daniel Jones and the New York Giants topped them, 27-22. As disastrous as that sentence sounds, because of the lingering jet lag and fatigue that followed, London was the first domino in the series of events that had Aaron Rodgers’ “Last Dance” out of the ballroom by Wild Card Weekend. The Packers lost their next four games, including the perhaps equally infamous drubbing at Lambeau Field by Zach Wilson’s New York Jets, which resulted in Sauce Gardner strolling around in the now-burnt cheesehead.

So there was understandable apprehension when the Packers continued to surface on all the shortlists ahead of the announcement. The massive popularity of the franchise in Brazil, combined with the rising optimism around the team’s new young core, made them an easy choice. According to Daire Carragher, approximately 12.5% of Brazil’s NFL fans support the Packers.

While 2022’s London trip resulted in the loss of a home game, they’ll have nine home games, seven on the road, and one at a neutral site where they are expected to have a strong backing. However, a minor hurdle is Arena Corinthians’ informal ban on the color green, which belongs to their rival soccer club. They allegedly take it very seriously, but slating Packers and Eagles fans for a trip down there in their team’s colors seems to be putting them on a bit of a collision course. Nonetheless, when it comes to home-field advantage, this game won’t stand in Green Bay’s way because avoiding Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field is a victory in itself. Had they not been chosen for this game, that’s where the Packers would have been headed at some point in 2024.

After returning home in 2022, Matt LaFleur repeatedly attributed the team’s disastrous stretch to the residual jet lag from London. He admitted they should have taken their bye immediately after, which the league allows teams to do. This time, it won’t be on the table after Week 1. But there are a couple of reasons to expect a cleaner transition. It will be a lot of travel, but the two-hour time difference pales compared to the UK’s nine-hour time change. Flying almost directly south will neutralize that aspect. Furthermore, they will play the game on Friday, effectively providing a couple extra days of buffer. It feels safe to say that we can expect quality play both in and after Brazil.

The matchup on the field will be exciting. The Packers pushed the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers to the absolute brink in the Divisional Round and are now primed to take a leap into the conference’s elite tier. Philadelphia joins the Niners in that group. They fell off a cliff after the 49ers dragged them at home, and Baker Mayfield eventually waxed them to open the playoffs. That has them at the outer edge of a lot of people’s radars. But it’s still a weak conference overall, and they will return most of their talent.

After a frustrating start to 2023, Jordan Love proved he is the guy, and the team subsequently embarked on a run paralleling the Houston Texans’ in the AFC. Love first showed a massive leap in his play in Philly when Rodgers went down with a rib injury. He was poised on the road and drove down the field multiple times in the fourth quarter, looking like an entirely different quarterback than the guy who struggled during his debut in Kansas City. The offense should be exciting again this season, with room to take large steps forward as the young guys continue to develop.

The most interesting facet of the matchup will be how Jeff Hafley’s defense responds to an Avengers-level threat out of the gate. Joe Barry is gone. In a perfect world, Hafley is the guy who can finally cash in on the annual offseason hype for a unit loaded with first-round picks and well-known names. Jason Kelce is gone, but it’s hard to imagine things being too much easier with Saquon Barkley set to debut in their backfield. The league may have nerfed the tush push a little bit, but Philadelphia’s read option will be deadly. Not to be outdone, the Packers will be showing off a shiny new toy of their own in Xavier McKinney, whom Howie Roseman also targeted aggressively.

This showdown of present and future NFC heavyweights is a fantastic choice to open the season. Fortunately, the Packers will have the opportunity to exorcize the demons from their first trip abroad under much better conditions this time.

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