The 2021 NFL Schedule was released last week with an unprecedented 272 regular-season games. There’s an 18-week slate for the first time since 1993 with the league experimented with double off-weeks for each of the clubs. It’s only natural for people to take a look at a team and who they are playing and try to forecast a team’s win-loss record.
Natural, but unrealistic. And that NFL’s toughest schedule thing based on 2020 combined opponents’ records? It is what it is but take it with a grain of salt.
Still, there are things you can take from a schedule in terms of opportunity. The NFL is coming off a year in which there was limited attendance due to COVID-19. Home teams owned a combined 127-128-1 overall record during the regular season. To be fair, it wasn’t that much better than in 2019, when the 32 clubs combined to finish 132-123-1 on their own ballparks.
So which five slates shape up as the most interesting in 2021? It’s pretty subjective but there’s a case to be made for each of these clubs.
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5. Dallas Cowboys
New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has plenty of work to do in the coming months. And the season kicks off that finished strong a year ago in the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers (on a Thursday night) and Chargers – both on the road. Talk about streaks? The Cowboys have three straight road games from Weeks 3-5 (Eagles, Panthers, and Giants) and three consecutive road tilts from Weeks 13-15 (Saints, Washington and Giants). Mike McCarthy’s club plays four divisional contests in the final five weeks, three away from home.
4. Indianapolis Colts
The team will have a new starting quarterback in their season opener for the fourth straight year. Frank Reich’s squad kicks off 2021 with a pair of playoff clubs from a year ago in the Seahawks and Rams – both home contests. But then the Colts play three consecutive road games – Titans, Dolphins and Ravens, the latter on a Monday night – and travel four times in five weeks, the final outing a prime time affair at San Francisco. But that stretch is followed by three home games in a row vs. the Titans, Jets (Thursday night) and Jaguars.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There’s been some rumbling about the “easy” nature of the slate for the defending Super Bowl champions. A quick reminder that these schedules – for the most part – are set up years in advance and based on a rotation system. And the Bucs finished in second place in the NFC South in 2020. Bruce Arians’ club opens with a pair of home games vs. the Cowboys and Falcons before hitting the road three times in four weeks. Of course, there’s this little matter of Tom Brady and company visiting Foxborough on a Sunday night in Week 4.
2. Baltimore Ravens
John Harbaugh’s squad is one of only four teams to reach the playoff each of the past three seasons. His club kicks off 2021 with a Monday night visit to Las Vegas and all told, the Ravens play three of their first four games on the road. The year closes with home tilts vs. the Rams and Steelers. It’s very notable that from Weeks 5-9, the club does not travel. There are three straight home tilts vs. the Colts, Chargers, and Bengals, an off-week, and a visit from the Minnesota Vikings. The team faces seven 2020 playoff clubs in the final eight weeks.
1. Washington Football Team
Ron Rivera’s club comes off a year in which the team finished 7-9 but still won the NFC East. Washington opens the season with a two home games in five days, battles with the Chargers (2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert meets 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young) and then the Giants on a Thursday night. But the real intrigue comes the second week of December and the start of five consecutive games vs. their division rivals. Incredibly, they face both the Cowboys and Eagles twice in three weeks.
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