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.