2021 NFL schedule: Analysis and a bold prediction for all 32 teams


The 2021 NFL schedule was launched on Wednesday.

Can quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers repeat as champs?

Brady will kick off the NFL season Thursday, Sept. 9, with the Dallas Cowboys on the Buccaneers. ESPN’s Monday Evening Soccer opener is Sept. 13 and can characteristic the Las Vegas Raiders internet hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

Primarily based on energy of schedule — which is set by opponents’ information in 2020 — the Philadelphia Eagles, Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons have the best schedules of the 2021 season, whereas the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ravens and Chicago Bears have the hardest.

The NFL will change its schedule for the primary time in 44 years, increasing to 17 regular-season video games. The ultimate regular-season video games will likely be performed Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs will start Jan. 15, 2022, and proceed by means of Tremendous Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium.

This is a daring prediction for each crew following the schedule launch. Click on on the hyperlinks to see the complete schedule and extra evaluation.

Bounce to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF


Is it nonetheless daring to say the Payments will win their second straight AFC East title? In all probability not, so let’s go bolder. I mentioned they’d sweep the division final season they usually did so, regardless of a nail-biter or two. How about this: Buffalo does so once more in 2021. That is proper, two years with out shedding a division recreation. You heard it right here first. Learn extra from Marcel Louis-Jacques

Regardless of the necessity to begin sturdy, the Dolphins will likely be 1-3 after 4 video games. That begin will likely be an excessive amount of to beat, and the Dolphins will miss the playoffs. Learn extra from Kevin Seifert

The Patriots will likely be 3-0 getting into their Week 4 matchup towards Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, who may even be 3-0 getting into the sport — additional heightening the hype and pleasure for what guarantees to be one of the memorable nights in Gillette Stadium historical past. Learn extra from Mike Reiss

New coach, new quarterback, new offensive scheme, new defensive scheme, just about new the whole lot — and that is factor as a result of the previous means stunk. However there will likely be rising pains, loads of rising pains, so the Jets are headed to a 6-11 season. Vegas has it proper. Learn extra from Wealthy Cimini


The Ravens will sweep their December division street journeys to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati. How daring is that this? The Ravens have gone undefeated on the street within the AFC North solely twice (2011 and 2019). However Lamar Jackson has proven that he performs his greatest on the finish of the common season. He has received his previous 11 begins in December, producing a league-high Complete QBR (78.5) and scoring probably the most complete touchdowns (31). Learn extra from Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati will win at the very least two video games towards the NFC North and the AFC North. That mixture ought to be sufficient to maintain the Bengals’ playoff hopes afloat as they enter December. Learn extra from Ben Child

In a rematch from final 12 months’s divisional playoffs, the Browns will knock off Kansas Metropolis for simply their second season-opening victory since returning to the NFL in 1999 (Cleveland defeated Baltimore to start the 2004 season). The Browns haven’t received a recreation in Week 1 since, falling to the Ravens 38-6 final 12 months within the opener. Learn extra from Jake Trotter

The Steelers will go 0-4 to finish the season and miss the playoffs in 2021. The crew suffered a late-season droop a 12 months in the past, shedding 4 of their ultimate 5 video games, together with to a woeful Bengals squad. This time round, the Steelers might be going through 4 juggernauts in Tennessee, Cleveland, Kansas Metropolis and Baltimore — and two of these video games are on the street. Learn extra from Brooke Pryor


The Texans will get swept within the AFC South. Half of the Texans’ 4 wins in 2020 got here towards the Jaguars, who completed final within the division and ended up with the No. 1 decide. Jacksonville used that decide to take quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and his addition may be sufficient to go away the Texans in final place and 0-6 within the AFC South in 2021. Learn extra from Sarah Barshop

The Colts will beat Tom Brady in a recreation for the primary time since Peyton Manning was the franchise quarterback. The Colts have misplaced 9 straight conferences — together with two within the playoffs — to Brady, with every loss occurring when he performed with the New England Patriots. Indianapolis hasn’t overwhelmed Brady since Nov. 15, 2009. Learn extra from Mike Wells

The Jaguars will finish their eight-year shedding streak in Nashville towards the Titans. (They have not received there since 2013, which was Gus Bradley’s first season as coach.) Why? As a result of coach City Meyer is unbelievable in rivalry video games. He went 16-2 at Florida towards Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State and 7-0 at Ohio State towards Michigan. The Titans are the Jaguars’ greatest rival. Learn extra from Michael DiRocco

The Titans will sweep their AFC East opponents. Going towards the revamped Patriots and an improved Dolphins roster will likely be a problem. The most important risk to the sweep would be the Payments, however they must journey to Nissan Stadium to face the Titans at house. Learn extra from Turron Davenport


Who will line up underneath middle in Week 1? Will Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater compete or will the Inexperienced Bay Packers relent and commerce Aaron Rodgers? Irrespective of who’s throwing the ball, the Broncos could have two 70-catch vast receivers — Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy — for the primary time since 2016, when Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders completed that season with 90 and 79 catches, respectively. Learn extra from Jeff Legwold

The Chiefs will not get off to their common quick begin. They’ve too many sturdy opponents within the early season. 5 of their first seven video games are towards 2020 playoff groups. Learn extra from Adam Teicher

The offense will hum early, the protection is not going to fold late and the Raiders will win greater than they lose in December and January and, backed by a raucous home-field benefit in a fan-filled Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas will lastly (mercifully?) fulfill coach Jon Gruden’s imaginative and prescient and qualify for the playoffs. You needed daring, proper? Learn extra from Paul Gutierrez

The Chargers will make the playoffs for the third time since 2009 and beat the two-time defending AFC champion Chiefs at the very least as soon as. They may even beat the Raiders and Broncos of their division, setting them up for the postseason. Learn extra from Shelley Smith


The Cowboys will rating a landing at Gillette Stadium in Week 6. Oh, you do not assume that is daring sufficient? Of their three journeys to that stadium since 2003, Dallas has scored one landing in 35 possessions, together with a 13-9 loss there in 2019. Of their final recreation at Foxboro Stadium, in 1999, the Cowboys failed to attain a landing as effectively, shedding 13-6. So that they’re due. Learn extra from Todd Archer

The Giants will begin 3-0. Yep, you heard it right here first. So long as Denver does not get Aaron Rodgers, its offense is questionable, the Giants have Washington’s quantity and Atlanta is much from a world-beater. This will likely be enormous. Getting it going early with all these new weapons will do wonders for quarterback Daniel Jones. Learn extra from Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia will likely be in rivalry for the division title heading into Week 18. Once you play within the NFC East, you are nearly by no means out of it. After all of the turmoil over this previous 12 months, the Eagles could have an opportunity to climb again into the postseason with a house win towards Dallas. Learn extra from Tim McManus

Washington will give the NFC East its first repeat winner since 2004 — and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will play in his first playoff recreation. Washington will make the playoffs in consecutive years for the primary time since 1992. Learn extra from John Keim


Justin Fields would be the beginning quarterback by Week 10 — on the newest. The entire Alex Smith blueprint from Kansas Metropolis is nice, however Andy Dalton just isn’t Smith, who posted a passer ranking of 104.7 the 12 months Patrick Mahomes sat on the bench. Don’t count on the Bears to take pleasure in the identical luxurious from their veteran quarterback, who stays respectable however is unlikely to play on the degree Smith did in 2017. Learn extra from Jeff Dickerson

D’Andre Swift would be the one to interrupt the curse and rush for 1,000 yards this season. The Lions have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013, the longest energetic drought within the NFL. Detroit’s run recreation thrived throughout Barry Sanders’ time with the crew, because it led the NFL in 1,000-yard speeding seasons and 100-yard speeding video games by particular person gamers from 1989 to 1998. Since 1998, the Lions have been arguably the worst operating crew within the league, however Swift ought to change that. Learn extra from Eric Woodyard

If quarterback Aaron Rodgers does not play for the Packers, their prime-time video games towards the Bears and Vikings will likely be flexed to the afternoon. Learn extra from Rob Demovsky

Identical to in 2020, the Vikings will beat all three of their NFC North opponents on the street, however this time they are going to discover their means again into the playoffs as a wild-card crew. Learn extra from Courtney Cronin


Tight ends often haven’t got huge manufacturing as rookies. It is a onerous place to transition to from school to the NFL. However Kyle Pitts is a uncommon prospect, and since he can be utilized in so many various methods, he’ll slot in seamlessly, hitting near 800 yards and 9 touchdowns, making him a robust contender for Rookie of the Yr. Learn extra from Michael Rothstein

Quarterback Sam Darnold will cross for greater than 4,000 yards with 30 touchdowns and see his profession resurrected underneath offensive coordinator Joe Brady. He has had not more than 3,024 yards or 19 touchdowns in any of his first three seasons, though in equity he has additionally by no means performed greater than 13 video games. Learn extra from David Newton

In a reverse of final 12 months, this time New Orleans will get swept by Tampa Bay within the common season — then get revenge within the playoffs. The schedule will assist the Bucs in Week 8 and Week 15 (prime time in Tampa). However the Saints nonetheless match up effectively towards the reigning champs. Learn extra from Mike Triplett

It is not very daring to foretell {that a} Tremendous Bowl champion returning all 22 starters on offense and protection — the primary within the salary-cap period — can really “go for 2,” as coach Bruce Arians put it. Each Tremendous Bowl champion thinks it might. The Kansas Metropolis Chiefs almost “ran it again” final 12 months. However few have performed it (eight groups, to be precise). Certainly one of them occurs to be a crew Tom Brady performed on, although. This crew can — it’s going to be onerous to depend Brady out. Learn extra from Jenna Laine


The Cardinals ought to win at the very least seven video games, however that would flip into 10 or extra if the offense is regular and the protection performs prefer it ought to with all of the expertise it has on paper. Optimism may be onerous to return by after they misplaced six of their ultimate 9 regular-season video games final season. Learn extra from Josh Weinfuss

A 12 months after they performed a whole season of their new house with out followers, the Rams will play in Tremendous Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. The Rams went all-in — once more — to make a Tremendous Bowl run after they accomplished a blockbuster commerce for quarterback Matthew Stafford, then spent their first draft decide on one other speedy receiver in Tutu Atwell after signing receiver DeSean Jackson in free company. The Rams’ means of constructing is obvious: Win now and deal with future roster wants later. Learn extra from Lindsey Thiry

The 49ers will win the NFC West. San Francisco’s document the previous 4 seasons signifies 2019 was an aberration, however that ignores necessary context round why these shedding seasons occurred. The harm scenario will enhance — it might nearly must — and the 49ers will go from worst to first within the division. Learn extra from Nick Wagoner

The Seahawks will go at the very least 7-1 at house — and possibly 8-0 for the primary time since 2012. They’re 22-3 at house in prime-time video games underneath coach Pete Carroll, so you need to like their possibilities of their three this 12 months at Lumen Subject (Rams, Saints, 49ers) — particularly if followers are allowed again. They host two groups in full-on rebuild mode (Jaguars, Lions) and there is a good likelihood they’re going to be favored of their different three (Titans, Cardinals, Bears). Learn extra from Brady Henderson


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