The 2021 NFL Schedule is finally out. This year the schedule features each team playing 17 games over 18 weeks for the first time in NFL history. AFC and NFC draft picks alike have been signing contracts, and many of the hot free agents are now in play. Teams have assembled their new coaching staff, and they have already begun to make their impressions on both us and their veteran players. It’s time to get excited about the upcoming games, and how better to do that than to check out your favorite team’s schedule. Let’s dive in and see which games we are looking forward to the most.
18 Week Schedule
Before we dive into the games on the schedule, we need to first discuss the schedule now being 18 weeks in length. This week didn’t just magically appear out of nowhere, it came as a result of teams looking for teams to minimize injury risk in preseason games and the NFL looking to maximize its profits. Therefore, one week was shifted from the preseason schedule to the regular-season schedule. Each team will only have three preseason matchups, starting on August 5th when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game.
The regular-season schedule kicks off with a September 9th Thursday Night Football game as Dak Prescott returns and leads his Dallas Cowboys into Tampa Bay to take on Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers.
How do the Players Feel?
Many players voiced their displeasure with the New CBA once it was announced that the season would be increased to 17 games. One of the most outspoken was Alvin Kamara who took to Twitter after Adam Schefter anounced it:
Shit dumb… as hell.. https://t.co/HnJ0otzzWp
— Alvin Kamara (@A_kamara6) March 28, 2021
Still, others like Tom Brady praised DeMaurice Smith the head of the NFLPA for a job well done on the deal.
Well done De
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) March 15, 2020
The NFLPA was drastically split on this decision as 1,019 voted in favor of the New CBA and 959 voted against it. You couldn’t have scripted a closer vote. In the end, NFLPA president, JC Tretter, calls for the players to unite and move past this:
— JC Tretter (@JCTretter) March 15, 2020
What do I think?
That is very conditional on the version of me you are talking to, overall I love it. As an NFL fan, I am looking forward to less meaningless preseason action. Not that I’m calling the preseason meaningless, however, I have thought for a long while now that the NFL would be better with an 18 game regular season and two preseason games. I’ll gladly accept this.
I hear quite a few people say that this will increase injuries and add to sloppy gameplay early on the season. For the latter point I just laugh, no NFL veteran benefits at all from a fourth preseason game, most of them sit out the first two. We are still starting the NFL schedule the same week, it will NOT affect early season play.
For the former point, I’m not buying it either. Every team goes into the regular season knowing that they will be playing 16-20 games over the course of the next few months. Is the range of 17-21 really going to make that big of a difference. Heck, NHL players go a minimum of 82 games in a high-impact sport. If you have a player that can’t play the 17-21 games then manage the team and the player better. Surely you work your backups and manage to keep a similar workload on everyone.
As a fantasy football commissioner, I thought there might be an issue at first, but then I just added another game to the regular season. Turns out that everyone was glad to tack on an extra week, after all, most feel like it ends too soon. As a fantasy player, I will admit that potentially playing in a championship game the week of Christmas, might prove challenging, but it will be for my opponent, too. Nonetheless, I could see someone taking displeasure in that.
As a fan of a team that isn’t doing well, I must admit this sucks. Watching your team be irrelevant for an additional week won’t be fun. Having to wait another week for playoffs after you checked out from your team a month ago will be agonizing. Those are the breaks though. If you only follow one team and not the NFL it might be rough, however, as someone who is an NFL fan I will just look for end-of-season games with great storylines.
Now onto the games that I’m looking forward to the most!
Game of the Week
I’m just going to preface this by saying that this is the game that I am most looking forward to each week of the season. I am also picking these games based on what are the biggest storylines as of right now. I am also going to try to include as many different teams as possible, however, I will only be using this criterion as a tiebreaker.
In picking these games, I will also take the liberty of making assumptions on who the starters will be let alone who will be on the opening day rosters. Some of the assumptions that I am making include Deshaun Watson not playing this season, Aaron Rodgers being a Packer, and every rookie QB starting except Mac Jones.
Week 1 – Los Angeles Chargers vs Washington Football Team
There are so many great games to choose from Week 1 on the NFL schedule. Darnold gets a shot at revenge versus the Jets. Dak makes his comeback versus the Super Bowl champs. Then, there’s the high-powered offensive showdown between the Chiefs and the Browns. The one that has me most excited, however, is Washington hosting the Chargers.
Justin Herbert leads the super-talented Chargers offense versus the lethal Washington D. There is a specific match, however, that has me even more intrigued. It is Chase Young versus Rashawn Slater. Slater was able to hold Young in check when the two of them squared off in college, but Young has a full year of dominant, NFL experience. This matchup may very well determine which team starts off the season with a win.
Week 2 – Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
Week 2 of the schedule isn’t nearly as exciting as week 1, but it definitely has its highlights. If you love offense Titans vs Seahawks checks all the boxes. What defense? We have the Rams at Indy. But none of these matches is nearly as intriguing as the Sunday Night Football match.
Two of the previous three MVPs square off as Patrick Mahomes brings his Chiefs into Baltimore to take on Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. This game is really important for the Ravens as they need to prove that they are still an elite franchise. especially with the Browns and Steelers in the same division.
Week 3 – Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
This week have some great divisional showdowns. Philly versus Dallas, the Chargers take on the Chiefs. But none of these matches are going to mean as much much as when the Colts head to Tennessee to take on the Titans.
Last year, the Colts and Titans split the season series. In the first encounter the Colts’ suffocating, big-play defense broke the Titans. In the second matchup, Henry ran wild and the Titans high-powered offense soars. Who knows what will happen when Deforrest Buckner and Derrick Henry square off again.
Week 4 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots
There are some very intriguing games of week 4 of the schedule. The ever-hopeful, rebuilding Jaguars and Bengals square off on TNF. The much improved Panthers offense taking on the much improved Cowboys defense. We also get an offensive, playoff hopefully matchup with the Browns and the Vikings. And then there’s a match between the hated divisional rival Seahawks and 49ers.
No story is nearly as huge as Tom Brady returning to Foxboro Stadium. The Bucs head to New England for a game in which Belichick is going to try to make a statement. Brady has no intentions of that as he wishes to become the all-time passing lead in the house that he and Bill built.
Week 5 – Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Khalil Mack versus his old team as the Bears take on the Raiders could have easily been this week’s headline. So could have the top two teams in the AFC squaring off as Buffalo goes to KC. A clamp-down Broncos D versus a big-play Steelers offense adds another top matchup to this week. I, however, decided to go with the LA Rams versus the Seattle Seahawks,
Russell Wilson will attempt to air it out versus the most stingy pass defense from last year. There are sure to be big plays on both ends of that matchup. Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford takes his new offense against a Seahawks D that improved in the second half of the last season. This game should be won and lost on the very intriguing matchup of Jalen Ramsey vs DK Metcalf.
Week 6 – Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Very tempted to give a second shout-out to both Washington and Kansas City, as the NFL’s top defense meets the NFL’s top offense. And I would feature them again if it were not for the fact that there a great and bitter divisional rivalry on the schedule.
The Packers head into Chicago for what might be one of the final times that Aaron Rodgers squares off against Khalil Mack and company. Add Justin Fields into this equation and we have the best of the old and the new colliding. The winner should gain an advantage towards winning this division title.
Week 7 – Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams
One glance at week 7 of the schedule and anyone can see a slew of games with strong playoff implications. The Chiefs at the Titans, Washington at the Packers, Colts at 49ers all feature some of the league’s most dominant units and teams. None, however, pack the punch of a match that features two teams that swapped QBs in the off-season.
That’s right the Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions take on Matthew Stafford and his LA Rams. Sounds weird to say it, especially the Stafford part, but nonetheless, it is the truth. This is one of those games where the storyline appears to be greater than the actual game, but expect Goff to come in with a chip on his soldier. Also, expect Stafford to want to prove it was the right move.
Week 8 – Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Another week with several high-impact, divisional matchups. The Bucs square off versus the Saints, Titans vs Colts and Dolphins vs Bills. Two of the NFL’s top offenses fly high as the Packers take on the Cardinals. Two of the top defenses throw down as the 49ers challenge the Bears. Can you believe there is one match that features two strong offenses and defenses and is also a divisional match?
Well, there is as the Steelers challenge the Browns in a game very important to their divisional race. The game has plenty of star power to boot. Whether it is Myles Garrett versus Big Ben, TJ Watt versus Baker Mayfield, or John Johnson versus Pat Freiermuth, each matchup promises intrigue.
Week 9 – New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers
Honestly, this is not one of the more exciting weeks on the NFL schedule. There are a few games that intrigue me. The Broncos D versus the Cowboys O could prove entertaining, as could the Falcons O versus Saints D. I could also go the divisional route and find joy in the Cardinals and 49ers matchup.
I went with Sam Darnold leading his Panthers versus the Pats D that made him “see ghosts.” The truth is that Darnold has not been the same since that dreadful Monday night game. He now has his shot at a fresh start with the Panthers, but that doesn’t mean the demons of the past won’t come back to rob him. There is nothing that Gilmore, Chung, Van Noy, and the rest of the Pats D would want this week than to make him see ghosts again.
Week 10 – Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys
There are some divisional matchups with great intrigue this week. The Raiders played the Chiefs tough twice last year, the Rams and the Niners pit two great defenses. Then, there are games with great offensive matchups like the Seahawks at the Packers. None will have as much offense as my selection, however.
The Falcons and the Cowboys could easily put up over a point and a half a minute between them. Dak’s return to health should have the offense pick up exactly where they were cut short last year. Meanwhile, the addition of both Kyle Pitts and Mike Davis should make the Falcons one of the best offenses in the league. Then, there are the defenses. I’m not saying the Cowboys didn’t improve theirs, but there was just too much to correct in one offseason. The Falcons did their defense no favors in this offseason and should boast one of the worst units in the league this season.
Week 11 – Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
There are definitely a few games with revenge appeal this week. The Eagles handed the Saints a key loss last year and the Seahawks were a team responsible for eliminating the Cardinals from the playoffs. Even Brady has a shot for revenge versus the Giants on MNF. None of these storylines seem to be overly relevant to the potential playoff seeding.
The Colts vs the Bills does. It is also late enough in the season in a cold-weather location so we might have some interesting situations and matchups. Particularly, the bruising Jonathan Taylor vs a strong Bills LB core, led by Tremaine Edmunds. If the weather makes the game less interesting, it still features Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and the Buffalo O versus Deforrest Buckner, Darius Leonard, and the Colts D. The game will be exciting either way.
Week 12 – Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Thanksgiving Day Football! Nothing is more exciting than Thanksgiving Day Football, therefore, I am going to pick one of the games from that day. Yes, I’m aware I could get great offense versus defense matches in Seattle/Washington or Rams/Packers, but let’s be honest we all love the Turkey Bowls.
With that in mind, selecting Chicago at Detroit becomes easy. We get to see how great Penei Sewell can be when he goes up against Khalil Mack. Sewell might also end up seeing some action against Roquan Smith if he is blocking for De’Andre Swift downfield. The Bears are really the best team to see how tough a Dan Campbell run team can be.
Week 13 – Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Another week on the schedule with tremendous divisional matchups. The 49ers and the Seahawks on SNF with the Patriots and Bills battling on MNF. We even get Baltimore vs Pittsburgh at a key point in the season. I, however, am most fascinated by the Broncos and Chiefs.
Yeah, I know it’s a darkhorse selection (pun intended), but I have personal reasons for being interested in this game. I have gone on record a few times defending the Broncos taking Patrick Surtain II with Justin Fields still on the board. Each time I cited the reason being that with Surtain and Browning joining an already strong Broncos D that they have a chance to be something special. I have also defended Surtain as being able to keep up with the most elite and fast receivers. When he lines up versus Tyreek Hill I will either look like a fool or a genius.
Week 14 – Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
At this point in time in the season, we are going to start thinking about the playoff picture and what matchups we might see again in the future. A future potential Super Bowl matchup with the Bills and Bucs makes that match appealing. Ravens and Browns will always be hot regardless of when it falls, as will Chicago vs Green Bay. There is one divisional matchup, however, where both teams may be playing for their playoff hopes.
The Rams and the Cardinals on Monday Night Football will incredibly important for both teams. Jalen Ramsey versus Deandre Hopkins, Aaron Donald chasing after Kyler Murray, even JJ Watt pursuing Matthew Stafford. All are appealing matchups. The offenses are dynamic, the defense disruptive, the atmosphere tense. A glimpse at playoff football.
Week 15 – New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cowboys at Giants, Washington at Philly, Vikings at Bears, and Chiefs at Chargers headline what might turn out to be key divisional matchups this week. Titans vs Steelers and Packers vs Ravens will surely feature teams fighting for playoff relevance in their conference. Ultimately, though, something is luring me towards the Saints at the Bucs.
I get it, this is no longer about Brady versus Brees, but I think this matchup will carry some significance. For one, we need to remember that the Saints defense frustrating the Bucs offense in the two regular-season matchups last year. I’m not saying that the Saints won’t have some “rebuilding” speed bumps this year, I’m just saying that I think they’ll be ironed out by week 15. Look for Devin White or Alvin Kamara to impose their will upon the other and dictate the pace of this game.
Week 16 – Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets
The playoffs are right around the corner, teams will be fighting for their lives and others for their position. Bucs and Panthers, Bills and Pats, Bears and Seahawks, Steelers and Chiefs, so many great games on the schedule. One game, however, features two teams who probably aren’t playoff-bound, but still packs a ton of appeal.
Last year’s two worst teams square off, featuring their two rookie QBs. By this point, Trevor Larence and Zach Wilson have surely gone through the growing pains and will start taking their future form. This will be the first-ever meeting between the top two picks of the draft, with many more brilliant showdowns to come in the future.
Week 17 – Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Browns and Steeler, Broncos and Chargers, Eagles and Washington, Panthers and Saints all highlight the divisional battle that might have some playoff relevance. Other gems like the Cardinals and Cowboys, Rams and Ravens round out what should be a very entertaining and important week on the schedule. I am going to highlight Vikings and Packer mostly because I haven’t given a shout-out to Minnesota yet.
Don’t get me wrong, this match features bitter rivals, playoff relevance, and some great matchups. Kenny Clark brings a strong presence against the dynamic running of Dalvin Cook. Jaire Alexander should get into some great battles with Justin Jefferson. Meanwhile, Eric Kendricks looks to limit the damage from AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones. These offenses and defenses match up with each other incredibly well.
Week 18 – Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
We have a strong slate of game with which we will end the season. The Panthers may be looking for a playoff spot with the Bucs in contention for a bye. The Dolphins and Pats may be looking at a loser go home. The Vikings and Bears could very well be playing for a division title if Rodgers leaves the Packers. The 49ers at Rams and the Seahawks at Cardinals results may in fact yield that division winner.
Personally, I am going to zoom in on the Steelers at the Ravens. This to me looks like a loser goes home, winner move on game. The AFC is stacked and I’m not sure that we will see three teams in the playoffs from any division. What’s more, if the Steelers lose this game, I wouldn’t be shocked if it was Big Ben’s last. The weather will surely be cold since the contest will be on January 9th (as a result of the lengthened season), so look for a lot of Najee Harris. Patrick Queen and that Ravens D will have their hands full that day.
I am greatly looking forward to the new season ahead of us. The schedule will challenge head coaches to find the balance between trying to win games and keep players fresh. Who knows, we might see some new strategies adapted that of which none of us have thought. This rookie class looks amazing, while several of our aging veterans continue to impress in their golden years.
I have shared my favorite matchups of bitter division rivals, playoff hopes, renewed rivalries and the young versus old. What are some of the matchups you are looking forward to the most?
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