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The biggest headline of the moment in the NFL is whether Aaron Rodgers will suit up for the Green Bay Packers in 2021. It's no secret he's disgruntled with the organization, a fracture that began with the drafting of quarterback Jordan Love and has since spider-webbed across the team's windshield into the future Hall of Famer reportedly refusing to ever play for them again. That makes it difficult to try and predict the outcome of their 2021 season, but CBS Sports is going to give it a go anyway, because challenges are fun.

Considering he's still under contract, the safest bet is to assume Rodgers does play -- at least for one more season before trying to flex his muscle again in 2022 -- and that's where we'll stand in offering up predictions. And since the Packers are absolutely not contenders this coming season without Rodgers, it would behoove them to figure out how to get him back on the field. 

William Hill Sportsbook has the Packers as 2.5-point favorites to defeat the Drew Brees-less Saints in New Orleans in Week 1, but will that be the spread when the game is over? And can they string together wins in a season that won't allow them to establish any true momentum at home until the winter hits??

Let's talk about it.

Need a quick betting primer on your favorite NFL team for the 2021 season? Here are links to schedule breakdowns for all 32 clubs.

Key schedule observations

  • Late-season bye: Week 13
  • First two-game homestand isn't until late November
  • No three-game homestands in 2021

Toughest stretch

If you want to see brutal, look no further than the midseason stretch of games for the Packers. After mounting a home defense in a winnable matchup against the Washington Football Team, they're forced to travel to the desert to take on a very dangerous Arizona Cardinals team led by Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, and whose defense now features J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones. No exhale is allowed following that contest, as they then fly to Missouri to lock horns with the overpowered Kansas City Chiefs, who are thirsty to get to a third consecutive Super Bowl and have the horses to do it. 

But wait, there's more. 

After that, the Packers head back to Green Bay to host Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks before hopping over to the bitter confines of U.S. Bank Stadium for a key divisional clash with the Minnesota Vikings, and then back home to host what might be a much-improved Los Angeles Rams club with Matthew Stafford at the helm before their Week 13 bye finally gives them a chance to think straight. And considering this stretch involves four NFC teams with playoff potential, if the Packers drop most or all of the games in this five-game stretch, they'll have a steep mountain to climb to finish the regular season if they want back into the tournament.

New Orleans Saints

Week 1 - Sunday, Sept. 12
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans)
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Without Brees at the helm, and assuming Rodgers still is in Green Bay, the Packers should enter this game with plenty of firepower to dispatch fairly easily with a Saints team led by Jameis Winston -- presumably. Even if they choose to open the season with Taysom Hill as QB1 instead, with rookie Ian Book looming in the wings, there's simply too many question marks for the Saints offense outside of the usual suspects like Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook and Michael Thomas. Their defense will give the Packers a good fight in the beginning, but eventually wear down when the offense can't stay on the field by extending drives and/or avoiding giving the ball away.

Prediction: Packers win 31-17

Detroit Lions

First meeting: Week 2 Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin) - Monday, Sept. 20, 8:15 p.m. ET
Second meeting: Week 18 Ford Field (Detroit) - Sunday, Jan. 9, 1 p.m. ET

An early meeting with the Lions will do more to test Detroit than it will Green Bay. The verdict is out on if Jared Goff can become what the Lions and Dan Campbell hope he can be, and the fact they have both a new QB1 and a new head coach makes for big wrinkles that must be ironed out for 2021. It's difficult to presume they'll hit stride in that regard by the time Week 2 rolls around, but they'll have a better chance in the regular season finale -- when they'll likely be far more hungry for the win than a potentially playoff-clinched Packers club. 

Week 2 Prediction: Packers win 35-20
Week 18 Prediction: Packers lose 27-24

San Francisco 49ers

Week 3 - Sunday, Sept. 26
Location: Levi's Stadium (San Francisco)
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

No one has a clue if Jimmy Garoppolo will still be in San Francisco by the time this game rolls around (sound familiar, Green Bay?), but let's assume for now he will and that rookie Trey Lance is still learning behind him. If that's the case, the edge here leans toward the Packers -- as they look to avenge what happened at Levi's Stadium in the playoffs not long ago. With Garoppolo unsure of his post, he'll likely play like it, and the Packers defense can take full advantage. They'll simply need to make sure they're ready for a now healthy and rejuvenated 49ers defensive front, which is arguably the best in the NFL.

Prediction: Packers win 24-20

Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 4 - Sunday, Oct. 3 
Location: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Unlike Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger isn't getting better with age. After helping to lead the Steelers to an 11-0 start last season, the wheels came off for him and the offense in what ultimately became an implosion at home in the playoffs. Keeping Roethlisberger around for at least one more year might not have been the smartest move, and it'll likely cost them in this game when they visit the hostile confines of Lambeau Field. This is a very winnable game for the Packers, assuming an unproven Love isn't their quarterback at the time, being asked to outthink the mind of Mike Tomlin.

Prediction: Packers win 30-27

Cincinnati Bengals

Week 5 - Sunday, Oct. 10 
Location: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)
Time: 1 p.m. ET

This should be a fun one, thanks to the return of Joe Burrow from a season-ending knee injury and the addition of his former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase at wideout. This combines with Cincinnati throwing bodies at the offensive line in an effort to help keep Burrow upright, but that might not be enough when the Smith Bros. roll into town. The dynamic duo has been known to wreak havoc on a week-to-week basis, and probably will in Week 5 as the Bengals try to figure out their new-look offense early in the season. It won't be easy, because Burrow is the real deal, but it's a game the Packers can win on the road -- even if the Bengals defense decides to wake up and make it a close one.

Prediction: Packers win 34-31

Chicago Bears

First meeting: Week 6 Soldier Field (Chicago) - Sunday, Oct. 17, 1 p.m. ET
Second meeting: Week 14 Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin) - Sunday, Dec. 12, 8:20 p.m. ET

Kick the tires and light the fires, folks. Not only are the Packers heading to Soldier Field to take on their bitter rivals, but they're not facing Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles and possibly not Andy Dalton, either. Yes, the Bears hold firm that Dalton is the starter for 2021, but five weeks of play will determine if that's who faces the Packers. If Dalton is the starter in Week 6, it's the Packers game to lose. If he's swapped out for 11th overall pick Justin Fields, however, the Packers defense will have more than their hands full as the odds tilt toward the Bears winning at home; and it seems a foregone conclusion the rookie will be QB1 come mid-October. The Packers get their revenge in Week 14 though, when Fields finds out exactly how difficult it is to win at Lambeau.

Week 6 Prediction: Packers lose 28-24
Week 14 Prediction: Packers win 31-21

Washington Football Team

Week 7 - Sunday, Oct. 24
Location: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET

Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the future of the Washington organization, and isn't exactly on secure ground with a promising (but unproven) Taylor Heinicke standing behind him. Even head coach Ron Rivera recently shrugged off the QB issue by choosing the weird angle of pointing at offensive weapons as a reason they won't depend on the QB much. That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works. And that's why Fitzpatrick and his now porous O-line -- that lacks both Trent Williams and Morgan Moses and requires Brandon Scherff to do most if not all of the heavy lifting -- will be in dire straits against the Packers in October. This one could get ugly, and quickly. 

Prediction: Packers win 41-12

Arizona Cardinals

Week 8 - Thursday, Oct. 28
Location: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET 

This is where things get exceedingly tough for Green Bay, and that's saying the least. Kyler Murray is a dual-threat quarterback whose arm is as lethal as his legs, and he has an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver -- led by DeAndre Hopkins. The Packers, at least on paper, don't have the horses in the secondary to cover everything the Cardinals will throw at them, and the addition of James Conner to complement Chase Edmonds only increases the level of difficulty. Oh, and by the way, even if Rodgers is still present and in prime form, J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones are coming off the edges with reckless abandon while Budda Baker and Isaiah Simmons help patrol the defensive backfield. Odds are the Packers aren't leaving the desert with a win in their carry-on.

Prediction: Packers lose 40-24

Kansas City Chiefs

Week 9 - Sunday, Nov. 7
Location: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET

If they thought the Cardinals were a handful, get a load of the Chiefs in 2021. They've completely revamped the offensive line in front of Patrick Mahomes, and he's already looking good in his recovery from a foot injury that hampered his abilities in the Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So while the Smith Bros. are dynamic, they'll be up against a wall and even if they can find ways through it, everyone knows how deadly Mahomes is when he improvises -- with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman waiting at a moment's notice to shred an opposing defense. They also have a talented RB in Clyde Edwards-Helaire so the chances of the Packers stealing a win here aren't impossible, but certainly challenging. 

Prediction: Packers lose 45-28

Seattle Seahawks

Week 10 - Sunday, Nov. 14 
Location: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Remember that toughest stretch described atop this article? The Packers will be in the heart of it when they take on the Seahawks, but they'll at least have home cooking to help them in this one. Russell Wilson and his team seem to have smoothed ruffled feathers for now, and the extension on All-Pro wideout Tyler Lockett plus trading for Gabe Jackson helped make it so. The latter will presumably make it more difficult to get to Wilson, but it's not the same wall as what Green Bay will face in Kansas City. Wilson is the most sacked QB in the league heading into 2021, and the Packers will have chances to get home on him a few times. This will help generate a turnover or two, and Rodgers can do the rest with the assistance of Davante Adams and Aaron Jones.

Prediction: Packers win 28-17

Minnesota Vikings

First meeting: Week 11 U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis) - Sunday, Nov. 21, 1 p.m. ET
Second meeting: Week 17 Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin) - Sunday, Jan. 2, 8:20 p.m. ET

Stopping a two-game losing streak, and against top teams, from becoming three will be key as the Packers enter this game. They'll head to Minneapolis in Week 11 to take on the Vikings and you can expect the usual show of fireworks. Quiet as it's kept, Kirk Cousins had a very good season in 2020 with the help of rookie sensation Justin Jefferson, and the latter is looking to ratchet up his play that much more in Year 2 in complement to Adam Thielen. Dalvin Cook has also proven he can be a nuclear weapon both in the running and passing attack, and the return of fans to the seats will help charge the Vikings to the first win against their NFC North counterpart. But, when it comes time to try for the sweep at Lambeau Field, the dome team will succumb to the frozen tundra -- as so many others usually do in the winter.

Week 11 Prediction: Packers lose 30-27
Week 17 Prediction: Packers win 35-21

Los Angeles Rams

Week 12 - Sunday, Nov. 28
Location: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin) 
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Being 1-3 in their last four games isn't the recipe the Packers want to take into the back end of the season, which means it's time for them to dig deep and right the ship with playoff seeding quickly becoming a topic of discussion. Their grateful to not have a flight out to L.A. for this matchup, enjoying their first two-game of the season -- with a late-season bye sandwiched in-between in Week 13. In trying to defeat the Rams with Matthew Stafford under center, the name of the game will be to apply pressure early and often, because Stafford has a big arm and the football IQ to boot. Additionally, Stafford is no stranger to Lambeau Field from his time with the Lions, but he's also 7-13 against the Packers for his career, and that includes being 3-9 when playing in Wisconsin. Make it 3-10 after Week 12, although Aaron Donald and the defense will do their best to try and avoid it.

Prediction: Packers win 20-14

Baltimore Ravens

Week 15 - Sunday, Dec. 19
Location: M&T Stadium (Baltimore)
Time: 1 p.m. ET 

The Packers are in good position going into their bye week, for the most part, but a massive test looms when they face the Bears coming out of it, followed by a battle with the Ravens. Lamar Jackson isn't a former league MVP for nothing, and he's highly motivated to dispel the disappointment of the 2020 season. What should help him do that is playing in front of his home crowd in Baltimore, along with the fact he's inhuman when he gets all of his 16 cylinders firing as they should. He'll push the Packers defense to the brink and then two feet beyond it, as he also looks to make a statement against Rodgers. Defensively, the Ravens look crisp as well and hungry to prove they're as good as the Ravens of old. This game will help determine seeding in both conferences, and the Ravens take a close one that might end up being the game of the week.

Prediction: Packers lose 28-27

Cleveland Browns

Week 16 - Saturday, Dec. 25
Location: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin) 
Time: 1 p.m. ET 

Not having a two-game home stand until late November hurts, and not having a three-game homestand whatsoever isn't exactly feet tickles, either. The Packers do get to end the regular season at home, though, and they'll need at added advantage when the Browns roll into town. Baker Mayfield has proven he's the real deal and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. should only improve that and, even if it doesn't, there's always Jarvis Landry as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combine like Voltron in the offensive backfield. But, if OBJ does in fact create a hiccup in an offense that looked well-oiled last season, the Packers can pounce on the opportunity to frustrate Mayfield and make him play hero ball in the freezing temps of Green Bay. That might be a recipe for success, assuming the Packers can also contain Myles Garrett and Co. -- something that's easier said than done. Playoff implications abound in this one, but the Packers won't drop two in a row when the second one is at home in January, will they?

Prediction: Packers win 34-23

Final 2020 record: 11-6