2021 NFL Calendar Winners and Losers: Great for Buccaneers, Bosses, 49ers; fragile for crows, rams
There are many ways to measure NFL calendar strength. In 2021, with the dates and times now published for all 272 games and with each team playing 17 games, it’s no different; what a team’s schedule may appear to be on paper may not reflect its actual degree of difficulty – or ease.
What looks like a strong or weak slate can be misleading, as the level of opponents will not stay the same as last season. Likewise, since every season has ebbs and flows, when and where a team plays at different times in their schedule can have a huge effect on the overall results.
Here are five notable teams that have benefited the most from NFL permutations and five notable teams that can’t be thrilled with how their play combinations have turned out:
2021 NFL Calendar Winners and Losers
Tom Brady’s Bucs are back in business with a favorable roster as they look to repeat themselves as Super Bowl champions. They start with two at home against the Cowboys and Falcons, building up road challenges against the Rams and Patriots. They should be unbeaten in Tampa in the first half with the arrival of the Dolphins and Bears.
The NFC South will be a little weaker and the NFC East will only be a little stronger. The Bills are by far the toughest game, and it’s home for Week 14.
The Chiefs come out the gate with a home playoff rematch against the Browns and get their clashes against the Ravens (road) and Bills (home) out of the way by Week 5. The Packers and Cowboys come on. both to them, in Weeks 9 and 11, respectively.
Once they return from their Week 12 recess, the Chiefs are expected to advance to the playoffs, with games against the Broncos against the Raiders, Chargers, Steelers and Bengals.
The Ravens are off to a good start with manageable road games against the Raiders, Lions and Broncos. But around those are home dates with the Chiefs (week 2), Colts (week 5) and Chargers (week 6). Their schedule is busy after their 8 week break; hosting the Vikings is immediately offset by away games in Miami and Chicago.
2021 NFL CALENDAR: All games in prime time on Sunday, Monday and Thursday
Baltimore will face Cleveland and Pittsburgh twice each in the past seven weeks. At that time, the Ravens’ two toughest interconference games loomed, against the Packers in Week 15 and against the Rams in Week 17.
The Raiders will open with these Ravens, with two more tough home games against the Dolphins and Bears to follow. They go to the Steelers in week 2 and play the Chargers in week 4. That doesn’t bode well for a needed quick start.
After a week 8 break, Las Vegas will still have their pair against Kansas City, in Weeks 10 and 14. Cleveland, Dallas and Indianapolis are other intimidating road trips in the second half.
San Francisco enjoys a last-place schedule without profiling itself as a true last-place team. Going twice on the road isn’t so bad against the Lions and Eagles. Next are the Packers and Seahawks at home, taking them out early.
The real payoff comes deep in the second half, with the Jaguars in week 11, the Bengals in week 14, the Falcons in week 15 and the Texans in week 17.
2021 NFL CALENDAR: Every game, week after week
The Rams start against three other 2020 playoff teams, the Bears (home), Colts (road) and Buccaneers. The trip to Seattle takes place in week 5. The second half from week 9 does not feel comfortable either: against the Titans, among the 49ers and a bye before a game against the Packers. The road remains tough until the end with the Cardinals, Vikings and Ravens, with home rematch with the Seahawks and 49ers mixed.
Dallas starts at Tampa Bay, but things get easier from there, with winnable road games against the Chargers and Patriots taking back-to-back home dates against the Eagles, Panthers and Giants.
TIMELINE OF THANKS: Opponents for Cowboys, Lions
The second half peaks with a trip to Kansas City, but the Cowboys also get the Falcons, the weak half of the AFC West and much of their own division down the stretch. The Cardinals may be the trickiest trap at the end of the day, but it’s home in Week 17.
Getting Denver and Atlanta home in two of the first three weeks is okay, but around that there are road trips to Washington, New Orleans, and Dallas before a date home with the Rams in week 6.
New York is set to hit the road again for Kansas City in Week 8 and Tampa Bay in Week 11, and the away challenges never let up after that: the Giants must face the Dolphins, Chargers, Eagles and Bears in four of their last six games. .
The Dolphins will also play at the Buccaneers, but outside of the divisional competition at the Bills, other road games are manageable with the Saints and Titans standing out among the away opponents. There are also good breaks scattered throughout the program due to the presence of all the NFC South and AFC South teams.
The Colts’ opener is bad enough with the Seahawks and Rams back-to-back at home. Then they get three straight road games – in Tennessee, Miami and Baltimore.
Getting the Texans and Jaguars twice apiece is offset by trips to Buffalo and San Francisco, plus a home date with the Buccaneers, who serve as an additional opponent for Indy’s 17-game slate. After a weekend break 14, the Colts welcome the Patriots and then head to the Cardinals.