GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will learn the layout of their grueling 17-game schedule in exactly three weeks.
The NFL will release the schedule on May 12, the league announced on Wednesday. The unveiling will be done, as usual, in primetime (7 p.m. on NFL Network).
The Packers, already set to face one of the tougher schedules in the league in 2021, will have to tackle an even more challenging slate of games with their 17th game at the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2020, Green Bay played six games against teams that reached the playoffs. With Kansas City, the Packers will play 10 such games.
Packers Face Brutal Schedule
Home (8 games): Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Football Team, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Seahawks (12-4), Steelers (12-4), Browns (11-5), Rams (10-6), Bears (8-8) and Washington (7-9) made the playoffs.
Away (9 games): Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs (14-2), Saints (12-4), Ravens (11-5) and Bears (8-8) made the playoffs. Moreover, the 49ers (6-10) reached the 2019 Super Bowl but couldn’t overcome a barrage of high-impact injuries in 2020.
Green Bay’s games in 2021 will be against opponents with a combined winning percentage of .542 in 2020. For context, only five teams faced a more difficult schedule in 2020. Of that handful of teams, San Francisco’s 6-10 record was the best.
For additional context, the Packers in 2020 played a slate of games against teams that finished with a winning percentage of .428. That was by far the easiest in the NFL. Its opponents won a total of 109 games.
However, showing just how inexact the science of measuring strength of schedule can be, the Packers entered last season expected to face the 15th-most-difficult schedule, with those teams going a combined 128-126-2 (.504) in 2019.
New 17-Game Schedule
The 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021.
As part of the move to 17 games, the league reduced the preseason slate to three games.
The league had played 16 games since 1978.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was one of the outspoken critics of that collective bargaining agreement due in part to the 17-game schedule.
“The (NFL)PA came around during the season and in the offseason last year and kind of gauged the interest on where people were at, what we wanted, what was negotiable, what was non-negotiable,” Rodgers said in March 2020. “And then during the season, there were a lot of negotiations that were going on. Now during that negotiation, I don’t know if there was any current players on the (Executive Committee) involved in those negotiations. Somehow, from the meetings where no one wanted 17 games to the negotiations, 17 games got in there. By the time I was involved in the meeting in Indy, there wasn’t any movement opportunities from the owners on 17 games. That’s when I realized that we were definitely up against it.”
As noted by the league, every team will play 17 regular-season games with one bye week. Clubs will host 10 games – nine regular-season games and one preseason game or eight regular-season games and two preseason games.
Annual Scheduling Formula
- The six games against division rivals. That’s the usual NFC North slate for Green Bay.
- Four games against the teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle. That’s the NFC West for Green Bay in 2021.
- The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle. That’s the AFC North for Green Bay in 2021.
- Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings. These games match the first-place team against the first-place teams, the second-place team against the second-place finishers, and so on, in those divisions. For the NFC North-winning Packers, that’s NFC South-winning New Orleans and NFC East-winning Washington for 2021.
- The 17th game will be an interconference game based on the prior year’s standings on a rotating four-year cycle. These games match the first-place team against the first-place team, the second-place team against the second-place finisher, and so on, in that division. With the NFC North slated to play the AFC West, that’s Kansas City.
The 2021 season will start on Thursday, Sept. 9, and the Super Bowl is set for Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.