Thursday Thoughts: 2021 Schedule

It’s hard to predict in May how an NFL schedule will play out in November, but the Packers’ road to the Super Bowl sure looks daunting – even with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. If you assume it’ll take at least 10 wins to make the postseason, even if you give the Packers five wins in the NFC North – which is far from a certainty – they’d still need to win another five games outside the division. That won’t be easy. As of today, they would figure to be slight favorites (3 to 5 points) against Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the Rams, and slight underdogs (2 to 5 points) against Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, Kansas City and maybe Arizona. Again, things can and will change between now and the fall. For example, the Packers wound up playing the Chiefs without Patrick Mahomes in 2019 and the 49ers without pretty much everybody last season. That said, this is going to be a tough schedule. The only real question is just how tough?

Kurt Benkert and Chad Kelly will handle quarterbacking duties at this weekend’s rookie camp, but it’s hard to imagine either journeyman being on the 53-man roster. If Rodgers ultimately decides to grace the Packers with his presence for another season, the No. 3 QB will likely be a young player with more potential than Benkert and Kelly. And if Rodgers isn’t around for whatever reason, Gutekunst will likely acquire someone with actual game experience to either start or back up Jordan Love. But for right now, Benkert and Kelly make more sense than an undrafted rookie. Even though neither has thrown a pass in the NFL, they’ve been around for a few years and should be able to handle whatever the coaches ask of them. Of the two, Benkert’s bigger arm gives him the better chance to stick around for a while.

For whatever reason, Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball doing absolutely nothing with Aaron Rodgers’ contract this offseason is inexcusable. The disgruntled MVP currently takes up a whopping 20 percent of the team’s salary cap. Conversely, the other three quarterbacks who played on championship Sunday in January – Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, and Buffalo’s Josh Allen – combine for 13.5 percent of their team’s salary cap in 2021. That’s a big reason why those teams have added the likes of running back Giovani Bernard (Bucs), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Bills), and defensive end Jarren Reed (Chiefs) while the Packers’ big outside addition was Joe Fortunato. And while nobody expected Gutekunst to be super aggressive in free agency, it’s safe to assume everybody expected him to do more than sign a 26-year-old long snapper who’s never even competed in an NFL training camp.

 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Assuming 12 is back, which I totally expect and agree with you on how things will go, I think they can win 10 games and be in the wild card or win the division again with the roster they have. The schedule is tough. A late bye week is probably a good thing but I hate it being Week 13.

    The TNF game with AZ is gonna be brutal. Finishing on the road again this season is so stupid. 6 of the first 9 on the road too.

    If the Pack can crack double digit wins and a playoff berth while staying relatively healthy… they will be a tough out again in the postseason. And it’ll come down to the same factors that have prevented them from going to the Super Bowl since February 6, 2011. No great ILB, no great DL depth behind #97, and the offense sputtering in the clutch. It’s predictable. It’ll be fun but we know how it’ll end.

  2. Every year we fuss and fret over the schedule. And every year we averaged 11 or 12 wins. If we know anything about Rodgers he’s a really good regular season QB. It’s the playoffs where he struggles.

    On the one hand you say it’s “inexcusable that Gutekunst and Ball have done nothing on Rodgers contract.” Yet you’ve also gone on record as saying it unwise to extend his contract as well. An extension is what he wanted. He sees himself playing as long as Brady. Rodgers however is no Tom Brady for many reasons. Brady plays for far less money, on much shorter contracts, and isn’t thin skinned. And Brady is more interested in winning SB’s than hosting game shows.

    • No contradiction here. As I’ve been writing since March, the Packers should’ve simply turned his roster bonus into a signing bonus as they did with every other eligible player. That would’ve cleared at the bare minimum $5M and pushed minimal money into future years. Gutekunst could’ve then used the extra cap space to sign a free agent who might’ve actually helped the team in 2021.

      • Not sure how much money we’re talking when we say “minimal money into future years.” But Gutekunst was pretty clear in his press conference when he said money was going to be tight the next two seasons. And for all we know such an action could have upset Rodgers already delicate sensibilities. I mean, if he’s threatening to not report over cutting marginal player Jake Kumerow anything is possible.

    • I was thinking the same thing about the schedule, although this one does seem more formidable than in past years. But you’re probably right, the Packers will win their 11 or 12 games with Rodgers before coming up short in January.

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Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.
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