Mike McCarthy didn’t have to look far down the schedule for it to get his attention.

“Four big challenges right out of the gate,” McCarthy told packers.com.

It’s a kind of murderer’s row of opening opponents: 49ers and Bears at home, then off to Seattle for a visit with Matt Flynn, then back home for a rematch of last year’s “Kickoff” thriller with the Saints. On top of that formidable quartet of opponents, the middle two games will be played at prime time on a Thursday and a Monday.

Second-easiest schedule in the league? Not in September. In the opening month of the season, the Packers might be playing the league’s most difficult schedule.

“It’s a difficult challenge, but I like the maturity of our football team. We’ll be ready,” the Packers head coach said.

The remaining 12 dates on the Packers’ 2012 schedule put a smile on McCarthy’s face.

“All Sundays, so I like that,” he said. “I think scheduling is important, as far as getting into the routine, getting your team going.”

A daunting three consecutive road games – at Colts, at Texans, at Rams – follow the four opening games. The Oct. 14 game in Houston is a Sunday nighter, the third of five prime-time kickoffs for the Packers in 2012.

Games against the Jaguars and Cardinals at Lambeau Field will send the Packers into a well-placed Nov. 11 bye week and set the stage for a big finishing kick of key NFC and NFC North games.

The Packers will travel to Detroit for a Nov. 18 game against the Lions that is expected to go a long way toward deciding the division title, then travel to New York for a rematch with the Super Bowl-champion Giants in a prime-time Sunday night game.

Minnesota and Detroit come to Green Bay to open December, with the game against the Lions set for prime time. A home finale against Tennessee is sandwiched between trips to Chicago and Minnesota.

The Packers schedule is the league’s second-easiest, in terms of the opponents’ 2011 won-lost record, but McCarthy’s focus was clearly on the first-month-of-the-schedule’s degree of difficulty.

“I don’t pay any attention to it,” he said of the strength-of-schedule stat. “The thing I put stock in is the first four games of the year.”

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