The 2021 NFL schedule is out!
I repeat, the 2021 NFL schedule is out!
Based on how I just started the newsletter, I'm guessing you already know what we're going to be covering today and if you guessed the NFL schedule, then you are correct. I'm so excited to talk about the schedule that I'm not even going to waste any time with an introduction. Let's get to the rundown.
As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. To sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share the link.
PS: if you missed the schedule release, you can see the entire 2021 schedule by clicking here.
1. Today's show: Instant reaction to the 2021 NFL schedule
Will Brinson is usually the host of the Pick Six podcast, but for our special schedule-release episode, we decided to give him the boot, which means for Thursday's episode, it was just me and Ryan Wilson (Actually, Brinson decided to go on vacation because he "forgot" that the schedule was coming out on Wednesday).
Anyway, with Brinson out, it's a good thing that Wilson was on the show, because if it had been just me talking about the release of the schedule, I probably would have gone on for about nine hours. However, since Wilson was there to rein me in, we kept the podcast under 60 minutes.
Although we didn't go through every team's schedule, we did cover the big stuff. First, we went through the Week 1 slate of games and ranked them from best to worst. After that, we went through the biggest matchups on the schedule, which includes Tom Brady's return to New England in Week 4. If anyone needs to win that game, it's probably Bill Belichick. After letting Brady walk last year and then going 7-9, Belichick is going to look even worse if he gets smoked by Brady in a head-to-head matchup.
To listen to today's show -- and to follow the podcast -- be sure to click here..
2. 2021 NFL schedule: Best game each week
There are 272 games on the NFL schedule this year, and although I would like to talk about each one individually in this newsletter, I've been told that's not realistic, so instead, we're going to go through each week of the schedule and pick out the best game.
With the addition of the 17th game, that means there are 18 weeks during the regular season this year and our Jared Dubin went through each week to find the best game. With that in mind, let's check out the Dubin's take on what the best game is for each week of the season.
- Week 1: Cowboys at Buccaneers. "The Buccaneers are returning all 22 starters from last season's Super Bowl champions. The Cowboys are getting Dak Prescott back, along with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins. One of the NFL's best defenses will be tasked with stopping Dak, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, and Blake Jarwin. One of the NFL's worst defenses from 2020, which imported a lot of talent in the draft, will get a big test in the form of Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and more. This should be loads of fun."
- Week 2: Chiefs at Ravens. "Patrick Mahomes. Lamar Jackson. Travis Kelce. Mark Andrews. Tyreek Hill. Marcus Peters. Marlon Humphrey. Chris Jones. Calais Campbell. Tyrann Mathieu. Andy Reid. John Harbaugh. This game is absolutely chock full of stars on both sides of the ball."
- Week 3: Colts at Titans. "These two teams figure to be battling it out for AFC South supremacy throughout the season, and we'll get an early indication of which of them has the upper hand."
- Week 4: Buccaneers at Patriots. "Do you think people might be mildly interested in seeing Tom Brady's return to New England? I'm thinking yes."
- Week 5: Bills at Chiefs. "Two of the NFL's most explosive offenses on the field in a rematch of the AFC title game? Yes, please. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen going shot for shot with two of the most electrifying receiving corps in the NFL? Yes, please."
- Week 6: Chargers at Ravens. "This game might be more up your alley if you like defense. Some of the brightest defensive minds in the NFL will be doing battle in this game, with new Chargers coach Brandon Staley trying to devise a plan to stop Lamar Jackson, and Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale doing the same for Justin Herbert."
- Week 7: Lions at Rams. "I had this one circled on the calendar. It's a rare DOUBLE-revenge game, with Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff each taking on their former team after they were traded for one another (and draft compensation) this offseason."
To check out the rest of Dubin's list, be sure to click here.
If you're still hungry for more schedule stuff, don't worry, we have you covered. If you want to see the nine best revenge games, be sure to click here. We also made list of the 10 best rivalry games on the schedule and you can see that by clicking here. Finally, because it's never too early to make Week 1 picks, we made some Week 1 picks and you can see those by clicking here.
3. Quirks on the 2021 NFL schedule
After the schedule comes out each year, my favorite thing to do is comb through all 32 schedules to see if I can find any quirks. Sure, that means I'm up for 17 straight hours going through each schedule after they come out, but the good news is that I found quite a few quirks, so it was time well spent.
So what kind of quirks are we talking about here? Let's find out.
- Home sweet home. From Oct. 4 to Nov. 13, the Ravens won't have to leave Baltimore a single time and that's because they'll be getting five straight weeks at home. This stretch will including four straight home games plus a bye week. The Ravens are just the sixth team over the past 30 years to get scheduled for four straight home games. (The Steelers played four straight home games last year, but that wasn't originally on their schedule).
- Rough road to start the season. There are only four teams in the NFL who will have to play their first TWO games on the road and those teams are: The Cowboys, Broncos, Vikings and 49ers.
- Bye, bye, bye. The Patriots are facing three teams that will be coming off a bye this year, which is the most in the NFL. That's not ideal since teams will be getting extra rest and preparation time prior to playing New England. On the other end of the spectrum, the Panthers will be facing zero teams coming off a bye.
- Monday shut out. The Broncos weren't given a Monday night game this year, marking the first time since 1991 that that's happened. Heading into 2021, the Broncos had the longest active streak of consecutive seasons with a Monday game.
- Fly Eagles Fly. Not only do the Eagles have the easiest strength of schedule this year, but they don't have to play a single road game this season against a team that had a winning record last year.
- Thirsty Thursday. It's starting to seem like the NFL is trying to permanently move every Cowboys game to a Thursday. Through the first 13 weeks of the season, the Cowboys will be playing three Thursday games.
- Bear down. The Bears don't have to play consecutive road games at any point this season. This marks just the fourth time since 2010 that that's happened and in the three previous instances (2019 Ravens, 2013 Packers, 2012 Falcons), all three teams ended up winning their division.
- Week 14 bye. The Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots all landed a Week 14 bye, which is notable for two reasons. First, it's the latest scheduled bye any team has been given since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002. Second, the Buccaneers had the latest bye week last year and they went on to win the Super Bowl, which could be good news for the one of the four teams here.
- Washington's wild finish. The Football Team will close the season with five straight games against division opponents. To put that in perspective, only three other teams will even play four division opponents over the final five weeks (Cowboys, Eagles, Panthers). Basically, the Football Team is likely going to have full control of its fate down the stretch.
- Back to back. The Browns will play back-to-back games against the Ravens starting in Week 12. After playing in Baltimore that week, the Browns will have a bye Week 13 before playing host to Baltimore in Week 14. It's the first time since 1991 that the an NFL team has played back-to-back regular-season games against an opponent and first time since 1957 that the Browns have done it.
There are also several other scheduling notes that aren't really quirks, but are probably worth mentioning. Starting in Week 2, the Cowboys play eight straight games against teams that finished under .500 last year. The Steelers and Panthers both close the season with four straight games against teams that made the playoffs last year. For Pittsburgh, that means games against the Titans, Chiefs, Browns and Ravens. For Carolina, that means games against the Bills, Saints and Buccaneers twice.
4. Tom Brady could join exclusive club and set major NFL record against Patriots
If Tom Brady can somehow beat the Patriots in Week 4, the Buccaneers quarterback will join a very exclusive club: He'll become just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to defeat all 32 teams.
Over the course of his career, Brady has beaten 31 of the NFL's 32 teams and not surprisingly, the only team he has yet to beat is the Patriots. The good news for Brady is that he's not going to have to wait long to get revenge on his old team and that's because the Buccaneers will be playing at New England on Oct. 3.
The way the schedule is set up, Brady could be making some serious history when he visits Foxborough.
Besides making the Patriots the 32nd team that he's beaten, Brady could also pass Drew Brees for the NFL's all-time passing yards record. Brady is currently just 1,154 yards behind Brees and if he averages 300 yards in his first three games, that means he'd need just 255 yards against the Patriots to break the record.
As for beating all 32 teams, if Brady beats the Patriots, he'll become just the fourth quarterback to accomplish the feat. The only quarterbacks who have pulled that off are Brees, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. It's one of the most exclusive clubs that a quarterback can join and Brady could be getting his membership in 2021 (Joe Montana and Fran Tarkenton are also kind of in the club. Even though they haven't beaten 32 teams, they did get at least one win against all 28 teams that were in the NFL during their career).
By the way, if you want to attend the Buccaneers-Patriots game, good luck getting tickets. The cheapest ticket on StubHub right now is going for more than $1,100.
5. Your daily Aaron Rodgers update that's actually about Blake Bortles
The Aaron Rodgers situation has been full of shocking twists over the past few weeks and I have to say, Wednesday might have given us our most shocking twist yet: Blake Bortles is now involved.
The Packers decided to sign Bortles to a one-year deal and although the signing seems kind of weird on the surface, it actually does make some sense. First, let's start off with the fact that the Packers only had two quarterbacks on their roster going into this week and one of them doesn't want to play for the team.
If Rodgers decides not to show up for offseason training activities and minicamp in Green Bay, that would have left Jordan Love as the only quarterback available, which means he would have to throw every pass in practice. To avoid that situation, the Packers brought in Bortles.
If you're wondering why the Packers went with Bortles, the answer is simple, Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is extremely familiar with the former first-round pick. Hackett spent four years in Jacksonville where he served as Bortles' QB coach and offensive coordinator.
There's no guarantee that Bortles is going to make the roster, but if Rodgers is a no-show at training camp, then the Packers at least have someone in place who can serve as Love's backup. Also, it should be noted that Bortles has as many playoff wins since 2017 as Rodgers does (2), so maybe the Packers should actually just give the starting job to him.
6. Teddy Bridgewater takes shot at Panthers
If you asked me to rank NFL quarterbacks based on whom is the least likely to insult someone, I would probably put Teddy Bridgewater at the top of the list. I don't think I've ever heard Teddy say a negative word about anyone, so that's why it was kind of surprising to hear what he had to say about the Panthers this week.
"As an organization, there's things you can do better," Bridgewater said of the Panthers. "I'll just say this, for (offensive coordinator Joe) Brady's growth, that organization, they'll have to practice things in different ways. One of the things we didn't do much of when I was there, we didn't practice two-minute (situations), really. We didn't practice red zone ... We didn't practice on Fridays, but you walked through the red zone stuff and then Saturday you came out and practiced red zone but you got only 15 live reps."
Yikes. Also, I'm going to have to agree with Teddy here. That doesn't seem like a great way to handle practice.
As you can imagine, Panthers coach Matt Rhule disagreed with Bridgewater's assessment of Carolina's practice habits.
"When you have 140 guys in a locker room, guys will disagree on some things sometimes. You can't ask everyone to agree with everything," Rhule said. "But I feel really good about what we do, I want to make sure to say I feel really good about the way we practice and our process. I'm disappointed to hear he didn't feel the same way."
Unfortunately for us, we won't get to see this new rivalry resolved on the field anytime soon and that's because the Broncos and Panthers aren't scheduled to play each other again until 2024, although they could play next year if they finish in the same spot in their divisional standings in 2021.
7. The Kicker: Aaron Rodgers apparently bought Tom Brady's book
One person who's been noticeably quiet during all of this Aaron Rodgers drama is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback hasn't really been talking publicly over the past few weeks and I'm starting to think it's because he has better things to do than talk to the media and one of those better things is reading Tom Brady's book.
According to Albert Breer of SI.com, not only did Rodgers go out and buy Brady's book, but he is actually adapting some of the principles from it.
"He actually bought Tom Brady's book, The TB12 Method, and adopted some of the principles there," Breer recently said on The Rich Eisen Show.
If you've never ready Brady's book, shame on you. Just kidding, I've never ready it, either.
Apparently, the book explains how Brady's life is centered around 12 principles: pliability, holistic and integrative training, balance and moderation, conditioning for endurance and vitality, no-load strength training, promoting anti-inflammatory responses, promoting oxygen-rich blood flow, hydration, healthy nutrition, supplementation, brain exercises, and brain rest.
I'm not sure which one of those Rodgers is embracing, but I feel like he could use some holistic and integrative training after dealing with the Packers. I also feel like brain rest could be a good thing for him, and probably me, too. As a matter of fact, I think all of those things could be good for me. Crap, I think I just talked myself into buying Brady's book.