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Quarterbacks Define Packers’ 2021 NFL Schedule

With Aaron Rodgers' career in limbo, here is a game-by-look at the Green Bay Packers' opponents with a focus on their quarterbacks.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Here is a game-by-game look at the Green Bay Packers’ 2021 NFL schedule.

With such uncertainty revolving around the future of MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, we looked at the schedule in terms of the opposing quarterbacks. After all, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Put simply, teams who get excellent quarterback play are likely to win and teams with poor quarterback play are likely to lose.

Last year, teams that received a passer rating of 100-plus went 151-43-1. That’s a winning percentage of .777, an impressive figure made even more impressive when you consider that sometimes a 100-passer-rating quarterback lost to another 100-passer-rating quarterback. Teams that received a passer rating of 80 or less finished a woeful 37-128-1, a winning percentage of just .223.

Week 1: at New Orleans Saints

Date: Sunday Sept. 12. Time: 3:25 p.m. TV: Fox.

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2020 record: 12-4. Points-for ranking: 5th. Points-against ranking: 5th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 9.

The quarterback: With Drew Brees in retirement, the Saints figure to go with some sort of combo of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. In 2019, his final season as Tampa Bay’s starter, Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards but also 30 interceptions. He completed 7-of-11 passes last year for the Saints. Hill, who got his first shot as an undrafted free agent in Green Bay in 2017, completed 88-of-121 passes last year, an impressive 72.7 percent, with four touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 98.8. Winston is a pocket passer while Hill is a jack-of-all-trades with a 5.3-yard average as a rusher.

Week 2: Detroit Lions

Date: Monday, Sept. 20. Time: 7:15 p.m. TV: ESPN.

2020 record: 5-11. Points-for ranking: 20th. Points-against ranking: 32nd.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 5.

The quarterback: In one of the huge moves of the offseason, the Lions shipped longtime starter Matthew Stafford to the Rams for former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. Goff was a Pro Bowler in 2017 and 2018 and topped 4,600 passing yards in 2018 and 2019. However, he went from 32 touchdowns vs. 12 interceptions in 2018, to 22 touchdowns vs. 16 interceptions in 2019, to 20 touchdowns vs. 13 interceptions in 2020. Goff joins a team that let receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones walk in free agency.

Week 3: at San Francisco 49ers

Date: Sunday, Sept. 26. Time: 7:20 p.m. TV: NBC.

2020 record: 6-10. Points-for ranking: 21st. Points-against ranking: 17th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 10.5.

The quarterback: Who will it be? Jimmy Garoppolo or No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance? Garoppolo was at the wheel in 2019, when the Niners routed the Packers to get to the Super Bowl. In 30 starts with the 49ers, he’s 22-8 with a 98.1 passer rating. He had a 102.0 passer rating in 2019 but missed most of 2018 and 2020 due to injuries. A redshirt freshman in 2019, Lance threw as many interceptions as he lost games. Zero. In leading North Dakota State to a 16-0 record and yet another FCS national championship, Lance threw 28 touchdowns vs. zero interceptions. He is a superb talent but faced small-school competition and played in only one game in 2020 with COVID wiping out the FCS season.

Week 4: Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is 3-0 in the regular season against the Packers but lost the big one - Super Bowl XLV.  (USA Today Sports Images)

Ben Roethlisberger is 3-0 in the regular season against the Packers but lost the big one - Super Bowl XLV.  (USA Today Sports Images)

Date: Sunday, Oct. 3. Time: 3:25 p.m. TV: CBS.

2020 record: 12-4. Points-for ranking: 12th. Points-against ranking: 3rd.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 8.5.

The quarterback: The 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is back for his 17th season as Pittsburgh’s starter. After missing most of 2019, he completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,803 yards with 33 touchdowns vs. 10 interceptions in 2020, good for a 94.1 passer rating. Other than 2019, when the Steelers lost both of his starts, he has had only one losing record (2006) in his career. He ranks seventh in NFL history in passing yards and eighth with 396 touchdown passes.

Week 5: at Cincinnati Bengals

Date: Sunday, Oct. 10. Time: noon. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 4-11-1. Points-for ranking: 29th. Points-against ranking: 22nd.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 6.5.

The quarterback: The No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 draft, Burrow didn’t move the needle as a rookie. The Bengals went 2-7-1 in his starts, with Burrow completing 65.3 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns, five interceptions and an 89.8 passer rating. He finished in the bottom 10 in sacks and fumbles despite playing in only the 10 games. With its first pick in this year’s draft, Cincinnati reunited Burrow with his prolific LSU sidekick, receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

Week 6: at Chicago Bears

Date: Sunday, Oct. 17. Time: noon. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 8-8. Points-for ranking: 23rd. Points-against ranking: 14th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 7.5.

The quarterback: The Bears moved on from Mitchell Trubisky, signed veteran Andy Dalton and moved up in the first round to select Justin Fields. The Bears have had five Pro Bowl quarterbacks in franchise history: Trubisky following the 2018 season and Jim McMahon in 1985 being the only two during the Super Bowl era. In 10 NFL seasons, Dalton has an 87.5 rating and a 74-66-2 record. Most of the team success was built with four consecutive seasons of 10-plus wins spanning 2012 through 2015. In 11 starts with Dallas last year, his rating was 89.6.

Week 7: Washington Football Team

Date: Sunday, Oct. 24. Time: noon. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 7-9. Points-for ranking: 25th. Points-against ranking: 4th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 8.

The quarterback: General manager Martin Mayhew didn’t draft a quarterback, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke atop Washington’s depth chart. A seventh-round pick in 2005, this game will be played exactly one month before Fitzpatrick’s 39th birthday. Anything is possible when he’s at the wheel. In seven starts last year with Miami, he was seventh in the league in completion percentage but 30th in interception percentage.

Week 8: at Arizona Cardinals

Date: Thursday, Oct. 28. Time: 7:20 p.m. TV: Fox/NFL Network.

2020 record: 8-8. Points-for ranking: 13th. Points-against ranking: 12th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 8.

The quarterback: Kyler Murray is one of the most electric players in the NFL. Can he be a winning quarterback, though? The No. 1 pick of the 2019 draft, Murray is coming off a season in which he completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,971 yards with 26 touchdowns vs. 12 interceptions, good for a rating of 94.3. He added 819 rushing yards (8.3 average) and 11 more touchdowns. Oddly, he’s only 4-5 when he posts a 100 passer rating. He’s also only 5-5 when he tops 65 rushing yards.

Week 9: at Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes missed the 2019 matchup; will Aaron Rodgers be with the Packers for their 2021 game? (USA Today Sports Images)

Patrick Mahomes missed the 2019 matchup; will Aaron Rodgers be with the Packers for their 2021 game? (USA Today Sports Images)

Date: Sunday, Nov. 7. Time: 3:25 p.m. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 14-2. Points-for ranking: 6th. Points-against ranking: 10th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 12.5.

The quarterback: Will this be the State Farm Bowl? Patrick Mahomes is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL and is on a trajectory to be one of the best in NFL history. In 2020, he finished second with 4,720 passing yards, fourth with 38 touchdown passes and third with a 108.2 passer rating. Having reached the NFL’s qualifying threshold last year, he surpassed Rodgers for No. 1 all-time with his 108.7 passer rating.

Week 10: Seattle Seahawks

Date: Sunday, Nov. 14. Time: 3:25 p.m. TV: CBS.

2020 record: 12-4. Points-for ranking: 8th. Points-against ranking: 15th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 9.5.

The quarterback: Russell Wilson might not be happy with Seattle’s management, either, but he’s been a magician throughout his career. In his nine seasons, the Seahawks have finished over .500 every season, including eight years with 10-plus wins. He’s No. 4 in NFL history with a 101.7 passer rating. In 2020, he completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 4,212 yards and 30 touchdowns vs. 13 interceptions, good for a 105.1 passer rating en route to his seventh Pro Bowl.

Week 11: at Minnesota Vikings

Date: Sunday, Nov. 21. Time: noon. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 7-9. Points-for ranking: 11th. Points-against ranking: 29th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 8.5

The quarterback: Kirk Cousins was signed in free agency in 2018 to put the Vikings over the top. Instead, they’ve scuffled to a 25-21-1 record in his 47 starts. In 2020, Minnesota went 7-9 as Cousins completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 4,265 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns. His career completion rate of 67.0 percent ranks third in NFL history. He throws too many interceptions – 10-plus in five of the past six seasons – and is sacked too frequently.

Week 12: Los Angeles Rams

The Detroit Lions traded star quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. (USA Today Sports Images)

The Detroit Lions traded star quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. (USA Today Sports Images)

Date: Sunday, Nov. 28. Time: 3:25 p.m. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 10-6. Points-for ranking: 22nd. Points-against ranking: 1st.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 10.5.

The quarterback: The first pick of the 2009 draft, Matthew Stafford has put up huge numbers in just about every category other than victories. In fact, he’s never won a playoff game in just three appearances. Will that change now that he’s with Rams coach Sean McVay? In 2020, he started all 16 games and threw for 4,084 yards with 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 96.3 passer rating. He ranks fourth in NFL history with 273.4 passing yards per game. In 20 career games against Green Bay, he’s 7-13. In his first eight games, he tossed 13 touchdowns vs. 16 interceptions. In his last 12 games, he threw 24 touchdowns vs. four interceptions.

Week 13: Bye

Did you know?: The Packers are just 1-5 coming out of the bye the past six seasons, including blowout losses at San Francisco in 2019 and at Tampa Bay in 2020.

Week 14: Chicago Bears

Date: Sunday, Dec. 12. Time: 7:20 p.m. TV: NBC.

2020 record: 8-8. Points-for ranking: 23rd. Points-against ranking: 14th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 7.5.

The quarterback: Chicago traded up nine spots to land Ohio State’s Justin Fields with the 11th overall selection. Will he have beaten out Andy Dalton by now? A transfer from Georgia, Fields turned in two brilliant seasons in leading Ohio State to Big Ten championships and trips to the College Football Playoffs. In 22 games, he completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 5,373 yards with 63 touchdowns vs. nine interceptions. He added another 867 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

Week 15: at Baltimore Ravens

Date: Sunday, Dec. 19. Time: noon. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 11-5. Points-for ranking: 7th. Points-against ranking: 2nd.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 10.5.

The quarterback: Lamar Jackson won NFL MVP honors in 2019 with a virtuoso season in which he not only led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes but rushed for 1,206 yards and a league-leading 6.9 yards per carry. He was good in 2020 but not as dominant. He again topped 1,000 rushing yards and paced the NFL with 6.3 yards per carry, but there was a sharp downturn almost across the board as a passer. His passer rating dipped from 113.3 to 99.3. He is 17-0 with a passer rating of at least 101.

Week 16: Cleveland Browns

Date: Saturday, Dec. 25. Time: 3:30 p.m. TV: Fox/NFL Network.

2020 record: 11-5. Points-for ranking: 14th. Points-against ranking: 21st.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 10.5.

The quarterback: It’s easy to see how the Browns went from 6-10 in 2019 to 11-5 in 2020. In 2019, Mayfield had 22 touchdowns vs. 21 interceptions, good for a 78.8 passer rating. Last year, Mayfield threw 26 touchdowns vs. eight interceptions, good for a 95.9 passer rating. He also took 14 fewer sacks last year. His 62.8 percent completion rate, however, ranked just 30th in the NFL. For his career, the Browns are 14-1 when he has a 100-plus passer rating, including 11-0 when he tops 110.

Week 17: Minnesota Vikings

Date: Sunday, Jan. 2. Time: 7:20 p.m. TV: NBC.

2020 record: 7-9. Points-for ranking: 11th. Points-against ranking: 29th.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 8.5.

The quarterback: Cousins is the quarterback for today but could Kellen Mond be the quarterback of the future? A third-round pick, he set Texas A&M career records with 9,661 passing yards and 71 touchdowns. “Kirk's our starting quarterback,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “There's no competition there.” With Minnesota, Cousins is 2-3-1 against the Packers. He’s been really good (four games with passer ratings of at least 118) or awful (two games with passer ratings of less than 60). Cousins’ cap charge hits a lofty $45 million in 2022.

Week 18: at Detroit Lions

Date: Sunday, Jan. 9. Time: noon. TV: Fox.

2020 record: 5-11. Points-for ranking: 20th. Points-against ranking: 32nd.

2021 wins over/under at PointsBet: 5.

The quarterback: The Lions not only acquired Jared Goff but they signed former Packers backup Tim Boyle. “The first-and-foremost answer I’d give you is opportunity. I can come in and compete,” Boyle said in a phone interview. “I was obviously attracted to that and, obviously, the financial commitment was another piece. That’s always the interesting part about the NFL is you’re loyal to a team but you always have to look for the next step in your career. I think the Lions give me that opportunity. I can’t wait to fly out there, sign the paperwork and get working on the offense.”