The NFL released the 2011 schedule as the league imposed lockout reached day number 40. Pending a settlement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the Green Bay Packers will open the league season on Thursday night, September 8 when they host the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. The two most recent Super Bowl Champions will play the league's kickoff contest on NBC. The Packers will get a lot of national exposure and for the first time in league history, play games on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. The opener features two of the game's top quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. In week two, Green Bay travels to Carolina for a noon kickoff against the Panthers, the league's worst team at 2-14 last year and with a new head coach in former Chicago Bear linebacker Ron Rivera. The NFC title game rematch with Chicago follows on Sunday, September 25 at Solider Field. It's the first of five, 3:15 PM kickoffs for the Packers. Keep in mind, the Bears were the NFC North champs last year. Green Bay returns home for the first Gold package game at Lambeau, another 3:15 start with Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos coming to town. Former Carolina coach Jon Fox is now in charge of the Broncos. The second prime time game is next as Green Bay returns to Atlanta for the third time in 11 months. Atlanta won the regular season meeting last year but the Pack embarrased the Falcons in the playoffs 48-21, which should make for a high energy matchup. The St. Louis Rams are next in week 6 as Sam Bradford, another up and coming young quarterback plays in Lambeau. The Packers travel to Minnesota in week 7, a 3:15 kickoff at the Metrodome I presume, still getting repaired from the snowstorm hole in the roof last December. No Brett Favre leaves the Vikings quarterback position in disarray. The Packers have their bye in week 8. On November 6, Green Bay travels to San Diego for the first time in 8 years to meet the Chargers with plenty of returning firepower on offense. The Vikings rematch comes quickly and on a Monday night at Lambeau on November 14 that starts a tough three game in 11 day stretch. The ascending Tampa Bay Buccaneers and young quarterback Josh Freeman are next at Lambeau in a noon kickoff on November 20, the second gold package game for Milwaukee seaon ticket holders. For the third time in the last five years, the Packers will celebrate Thanksgiving in Detroit, meeting the Lions at Ford Field on the holiday. The New York Giants may look for payback from Green Bay's 45-17 dismantling last December when they host the Pack at the Meadowlands in the final 3:15 kickoff on December 4. Back to back games against the AFC West follow with the Oakland Raiders checking into Lambeau on December 11 and the Packers traveling to Arrowhead to meet the Kansas City Chiefs on the 18th. The Packers have only two games against Kansas City, the team that gave Mike McCarthy his first shot in the NFL as an assistant coach in 1993. With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, the NFL is playing almost every game on Saturday, the 24th, except for the Packers and the Bears, the 195th meeting in the great rivalry will be played on Christmas night with a 7:20 PM kickoff on NBC. The season finale will also be a cold weather rematch on New Year's Day with the Lions in Lambeau for the noon kickoff. The Packers have five games against playoff teams from a year ago and they face three non-playoff teams that had at least 9 wins, the Chargers, Giants and Buccaneers. It's always amusing to see how many folks pencil in wins and losses as soon as the schedule comes out and just for fun, let's give it a shot.....Saints-WIN, Panthers-WIN, Bears-Loss, Broncos-WIN, Falcons-Loss, Rams-WIN, Vikings-WIN, Chargers-Loss, Vikings-WIN, Buccaners-WIN, Lions-WIN, Giants-loss, Raiders-WIN, Chiefs-WIN, Bears-WIN, Lions-WIN. That's 12-4, a first round bye and a pretty good shot to get back to the Super Bowl. Let's settle the labor talks, line 'em up and knock 'em down.