Packers 2021 schedule release: Breaking down every opponent

Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

It was made official in late March that the NFL will be moving from a 16-game to a 17-game regular season starting this year. The added 17th game only makes the road tougher for the Green Bay Packers, as they are tasked with heading to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs in their cross-conference battle.

The Packers now have the fourth-most difficult schedule in the entire NFL next season. Ten of their 17 games will be against playoffs teams from last season. That’s not including a date with the born-again San Francisco 49ers back in Levi’s Stadium, along with matchups against two up-and-coming teams in the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals, both on the road as well.

With an increasingly competitive NFC, a major injury to All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari which may not be fully healed for the beginning of the season, and of course the concerns at the quarterback position, the Packers will have their work cut out for them in 2021.

While we know the Packers upcoming opponents, and where the games will be played, we don’t yet know the official schedule ordering. That will be announced on Wednesday, May 12.

Division opponents

Chicago Bears

After an ugly end to the 2020 season that saw the Mitch Trubisky-led Bears stumble into the playoffs and get swiftly sent home in a Nickelodeon game, the Bears are hoping to be back in playoff contention after drafting Ohio State’s Justin Fields with the 13th pick of the NFL Draft.

After two dominating performances against Chicago last season, HC Matt LaFleur will be planning on keeping his perfect record against our long-time foes. The real question is: Will the Packers and Bears hold onto their Sunday Night Football tradition even if Aaron Rodgers is elsewhere next season?

Detroit Lions

The Packers made tricky work of the Lions in Ford Field last season after a slow start, but in the end they came out with the win for a second consecutive season-sweep of the Lions. Detroit is undergoing a major culture change with new HC Dan Campbell planning on biting off the kneecaps of his opponents this year, and they really did a nice job with their draft too.

However they’ll be entering the season with arguably the fifth or sixth best quarterback in the division in Jared Goff. It may not be long until former Packer Tim Boyle sees the field. A Boyle vs. Rodgers face off in Lambeau Field would really be something huh?

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ 2020 Week 8 win on a weird and windy fall day in Lambeau is the only blemish on Matt LaFleur’s divisional record. Minnesota boasts some of the league’s strongest offensive weaponry with Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and breakout rookie receiver Justin Jefferson.

Kirk Cousins remains the limiting factor on this roster, but they are still a team with legitimate playoff aspirations and could cause some upsets if Mike Zimmer is able to get his defense to play better than they did in 2020.

Home opponents

Cleveland Browns

One look down this roster tells you all you need to know, the Browns are absolutely stacked. With one of the best offensive lines in the league, the best running back duo in the league, some really good receivers, and a QB who’s good enough to get the job done in Baker Mayfield, this team is a true Super Bowl contender.

On the defensive side, they’re equally strong. Myles Garrett is a premier edge threat, Denzel Ward is a stud CB1 who doesn’t get enough credit, and the injection of rookies Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Greg Newsome II round out this unit really well.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams were sent home packing from Lambeau Field in last season’s Divisional Round with a banged up Aaron Donald unable to impact the game in any way.

They’ve had their fair share of roster turnover this offseason, most notably trading for Lions QB Matt Stafford. Sean McVay now finally gets an above average QB to run his offense, however the team has lost plenty of key contributors from 2020, including John Johnson, Michael Brockers and Gerald Everett.

Perhaps the biggest loss came when standout defensive coordinator Brandon Staley was awarded a head coaching gig for the Rams’ Sofi Stadium roommate, the Los Angeles Chargers.

Pittsburgh Steelers

A Super Bowl 45 rematch, the Steelers will come to town with one of the league’s strongest overall rosters. I’m sure we’ll enjoy being reminded that the Packers could have drafted star edge rusher T.J. Watt instead of trading down a few spots for Kevin King back in 2017.

We’ll also get a taste of first-round pick Najee Harris. This game boasts two of the league’s most historic franchises, and two staples of NFL consistency over the last decade plus. I can see Packers versus Steelers having primetime written all over it. Monday Night Football anyone?

Seattle Seahawks

It feels like we watch this matchup every year, and so it was refreshing to not see it on the schedule last season. The last time these teams met was in the 2019 divisional round with the Packers coming out victorious.

This could be a fun game, and is also another primetime candidate. But could we see these teams switching superstar quarterbacks in a monster trade this offseason? Possibly, but it’s highly unlikely.

Washington Football Team

The sole opponent from the NFC East, Washington is primed to turn some heads in 2021. Say what you will about Fitzmagic, he’s perfectly suited to this offense, and he continues to produce starting caliber play this late into his career.

We’ll get our first glimpse of Chase Young too. Also sign me up for Jaire Alexander versus Terry McLaurin every single day of the week. It won’t be easy, but the Packers will be expecting to win this game.

Road opponents

Arizona Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t quite been able to put it all together through two years at the helm in Arizona. While they’ve showed flashes, the Cardinals offense was still rather disappointing in 2020. This will be a big prove-it year for Kyler Murray. Will he remain as a solid above-average QB? Or will he take a leap into the elite tier which was projected when he was drafted first overall in 2019?

The Cardinals have two young unicorns at linebacker in Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, their last two first-round selections. The addition of veteran J.J. Watt alongside Chandler Jones really boosts this Arizona front seven.

Baltimore Ravens

The week of preparation leading up to a game with the Baltimore Ravens is a lot more unique than regular weeks. The Ravens offense and it’s incorporation of the QB run is vastly different from any other team in the NFL.

The Packers really weren’t tested by mobile quarterbacks at all last season. So defensively this game will take plenty of preparation. Hopefully we don’t meet the Ravens on a Thursday night. Having only a few days to prepare for this offense is really not enough time. It will be interesting to see where the schedule makers put this matchup.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals spent the offseason making a number of improvements on their roster. 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow will be returning from his torn ACL, and oh look who’s showed up, his number one target at LSU, Ja’Marr Chase.

I have nothing overly exciting to say about this matchup. The Bengals could be really good next year, but I’d be shocked if this was given a primetime slot in the schedule.

New Orleans Saints

Packers versus Saints in Week 3 of last season was one of the best Packers games of the year. Of course it will be either Jameis Winston or former Packer Taysom Hill leading the way for Sean Payton’s Saints.

Many have the Saints as a candidate to take a big step back from last season to this season but I wouldn’t count them out as NFC South champions just yet. With stadiums expecting to be back at full capacity, the Superdome will be roaring once again. I’m excited for this one!

San Francisco 49ers

Last season, what was once viewed as a dreaded rematch with the juggernaut that is the 49ers, became a Thursday night walk in the park for the Packers against a war-torn San Francisco roster.  With many of their big-time players now back from injury including Nick Bosa, George Kittle and Trent Williams, the Niners are once again a major contender for the NFC Championship.

This will be the fourth time the Packers will play at Levi’s Stadium in the last three years. Even after last season’s victory, there’ll still be a chip on the Packers’ shoulder for what happened in the 2019 NFC Championship Game.

Kansas City Chiefs

Hello Mr. Mahomes. We thought we had dodged you for at least another few years when you were carted off in a game against the Broncos the week before the 2019 matchup. But due to the inclusion of a 17th game, the Packers and Chiefs will square off in (what we hope to be) a clash of two of football’s most talented quarterbacks.

The Chiefs spent their entire offseason completely revamping their offensive line after the disaster that happened in Super Bowl LV. The Chiefs acquired high quality players in every way possible, signing, trading and drafting to protect Mahomes as he enters year four.

Please note that even though this is the “added 17th game”, that doesn’t mean it will take place in the last week of the regular season. In fact, I can guarantee that with two teams as big as the Chiefs and Packers, the NFL will not be putting this game in Week 18, since one or both of the teams may choose to rest their starters before the playoffs.