Green Bay Packers' 2021 schedule: Still a prime-time draw -- for now

The Packers open their season in New Orleans, but will Aaron Rodgers be there as Green Bay's starting quarterback? Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers' 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9, with the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing host to the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN's Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022, and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what in store for the Packers:


Sept. 12: at New Orleans

Sept. 20: vs. Detroit

Sept. 26: at San Francisco

Oct. 3: vs. Pittsburgh

Oct. 10: at Cincinnati

Oct. 17: at Chicago

Oct. 24: vs. Washington

Oct. 28: at Arizona

Nov. 7: at Kansas City

Nov. 14: vs. Seattle

Nov. 21: at Minnesota

Nov. 28: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Dec. 5: Bye

Dec. 12: vs. Chicago

Dec. 19: at Baltimore

Dec. 25: vs. Cleveland

Jan. 2: vs. Minnesota

Jan. 9: at Detroit

Strength of schedule: 4th, .542

Biggest takeaway

The league either thinks Aaron Rodgers is coming back to the Packers or the networks will want to see what’s left in his wake because the initial schedule is set up for maximum national television exposure (pending flex scheduling changes, of course). They were given five prime-time games, including three at home -- Week 2 against the Lions on Monday Night Football and Weeks 13 and 16 against the Bears and Vikings, respectively, on Sunday night. Their two road prime-time games are Week 3 at the 49ers on Sunday night and Week 8 at the Cardinals on Thursday night. The Packers, who in their down years in the 1980s and early 1990s played the majority of their home games at noon local time, have only one home game in the early Sunday window. The rest are either in the afternoon or in prime time.

One question that needs to be answered

When will the Packers play overseas? It’s not happening this year, and they remain the only team that has yet to play an international regular-season game. It could change next year, when NFC teams gets the extra home game in the unbalanced 17-game schedule. The Packers want to play overseas; they’re just not willing to give up one of their standard eight home games to do it and other teams have balked because they know how big a draw the Packers are in their stadiums, too.

What Vegas thinks

The Packers’ over/under was at 10.5 before it was taken off the board because of the uncertainty over Rodgers. This was a 13-win team each of the past two years with Rodgers running Matt LaFleur’s highly efficient offense. It’s hard to imagine them getting more than a half-dozen wins if it’s Jordan Love under center. Remember, Rodgers won only six games in his first year as a starter and he had three years to sit and learn -- that’s two more than Love. If it’s Blake Bortles or some other veteran game manager, than maybe they can get closer to double digits.

Bold prediction

If Rodgers doesn’t play for the Packers, their prime-time games against the Bears and Vikings will be flexed to the afternoon.