- ESPN.com national NFL writer
- ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
- Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008
- Covered Packers for Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1997-2013
- Two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association
The NFL has assigned five prime-time games to the Green Bay Packers for the 2021 season, one of the most notable revelations in its frenzied league-wide schedule reveal Wednesday night.
The Packers were one of 10 teams to receive maximum prime-time exposure, a list that also included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, who will play in the NFL’s Sept. 9 kickoff game at Raymond James Stadium. But the Packers’ inclusion was significant, considering the uncertain status of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. While NFL schedule makers don’t have special insight into team operations, it’s unlikely that the Packers would be featured as prominently in the league’s initial schedule if second-year player Jordan Love had already been named their starter.
Speaking to the Packers’ web site about the prime-time games, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said: “That’s a good thing for us. That means we’re doing some good things. We just have to make sure we’re doing everything in our power from all offseason into training camp, making sure we’re ready to play come Week 1.”
The NFL does have an out, however. The final two night games – against the Bears in Week 13 and Vikings in Week 16 on Sunday nights — come after flex scheduling kicks in. So if Rodgers doesn’t play for the Packers or if they’re out of a contention with Love or some other quarterback, they could get flexed out.
In addition to the Packers, Buccaneers and Cowboys, other teams to have the full five prime-time games include the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints.
The Buccaneers will play one of the most anticipated games of the year at the New England Patriots on a Sunday night in Week 4, with quarterback Tom Brady making his return to Foxboro. Based on his performance in Weeks 1-3, it’s possible that Brady could overtake Drew Brees as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards in that game.
The NFL for the first time released its Week 1 schedule during national morning news shows, revealing, among other games, the Monday Night Football opener: Sept. 13 between the Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Field. It will be the first regular season game with fans in attendance following the Raiders’ 2020 debut in Las Vegas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NFL teams have known their 2021 opponents since the end of last season, but the league’s annual schedule day makes a spectacle of announcing the order, kickoff times and broadcast network for each of its 272 games. NFL owners have approved the addition of a 17th regular season week, beginning in 2021. The season will extend until January 9, 2022. Super Bowl LVI will be played Feb. 13, 2022, the latest day in a calendar year that the NFL has ever concluded its season.
The day’s reveals also included confirmation that the league will resume its international schedule, albeit at a slower pace, after canceling it altogether in 2020. Both games will be at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: The New York Jets will play the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, and the Miami Dolphins will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6. The Falcons and Jaguars will give home games as part of the league’s international scheduling system.
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