Green Bay might know the opponents on its schedule, but there is one big question to address before breaking down how the Packers will fare in 2021: Will Aaron Rodgers be the quarterback?
The three-time MVP reportedly wants out of Green Bay, and that storyline engulfed the 2021 NFL Draft weekend. Rodgers has not been traded yet, but if he is out then general manager Brian Gutekunst could turn to 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love.
That changes the dynamics of the NFC North, which the Packers have won the past two seasons under coach Matt LaFleur with identical 13-3 records. Green Bay is still the favorite, but the schedule is tough with opponents from the NFC West and AFC North. What happens with Rodgers between now and then will determine how those win-loss projections could change.
In the meantime, here is a complete breakdown of the Green Bay Packers’ 2021 schedule, including dates and start times for all 17 games and our early prediction.
Green Bay Packers schedule 2021
The Packers’ schedule will be released as part of the NFL’s schedule release on Wednesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. ET. These are the teams that they are currently scheduled to play during the 2021 NFL season.
- Home: Bears, Lions, Packers, Browns, Steelers, Rams, Seahawks, Washington
- Road: Bears, Lions, Packers, Bengals, Ravens, 49ers, Cardinals, Saints, Chiefs
Green Bay takes on a first-place schedule for the second straight season, and this one is more difficult than 2020. The Packers have 10 games against teams that played in the playoffs in 2020, and the 17th game features two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City on the road.
There are several prime-time opportunities on the schedule, but like everything else, some of that hinges on whether Rodgers is the Packers’ quarterback. Green Bay has played in 61 prime-time games since Rogers took over as the starter in 2008, an average of close to five games per season.
Packers strength of schedule
Minnesota’s opponents had a .531 winning percentage last season, and that means the Vikings have the fifth-most difficult schedule by record. The Bears and Packers rank third and fourth, respectively, in toughest schedules based on their playoff berths last year.
Seattle and Dallas are on the schedule for the second straight season, and the Vikings lost to both teams in 2020. That might have been the difference in a potential playoff run in the NFC.
Toughest tests: Green Bay swept New Orleans and San Francisco on the road last season. The Saints game will be different this year without Drew Brees, but the Superdome remains a challenge. The 49ers will be healthier next season, too, and the Packers have lost four of the past five matchups at San Francisco. They are one of two teams that was below .500 at home last season that the Packers face. The other — Cincinnati (3-5) — isn’t a gimme knowing that the Bengals beat the Packers in three of the past four meetings, and the games at Paul Brown Stadium have been wacky.
Baltimore and Kansas City will be tough matchups, too, with MVP candidates Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes II.
Biggest breaks: We mentioned the loaded lineup of playoff-caliber teams, but at least five of those non-divisional games are at Lambeau Field. Cleveland and Pittsburgh are the cross-conference matchups, and Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington are the NFC matchups. Those five teams had a combined 24-19 record on the road last season.
It is better to catch those teams at home, and if Rodgers is the quarterback he has a 78-19-1 record at Lambeau.
Bottom line: LaFleur and Rodgers have combined to put up a 26-6 record the past two seasons, and that comes with a 14-2 record at home. Green Bay has the best home record in the NFL in that stretch, and the NFC North has been dominated by Rodgers.
That is why it is tough to make a real prediction on where the Packers will finish in 2021 until that situation is resolved. With Rodgers, Green Bay remains good enough to dominate the NFC North — the Packers are 7-1 against divisional opponents the past two years — and another run to the NFC championship is possible.
If Love is the starter, that opens what should be a very competitive division with a tough schedule. The Packers could easily be below .500 at that point, but who knows? We’ll project Rodgers as the starter until proven otherwise, and Green Bay takes a step back with the tougher schedule.
The Packers, however, still win the NFC North.
Record prediction: 10-7