With the playoffs not yet underway, the NFL released the home and away opponents for each team for the 2021 season. For the eighteen teams that failed to make the playoffs, the announcement provides some insight into what lies ahead. For the fourteen teams preparing to pursue the Super Bowl, the list of opponents seems like a trivial distraction to the mission at hand.
Fans of the Seattle Seahawks, a team that just completed the fifth most difficult regular season schedule of 2020, may eagerly anticipate home games against the Detroit Lions and the Jacksonville Jaguars while dreading a trip to Lambeau to play the Green Bay Packers, possibly in late season cold and snow. But if past seasons have taught football fans anything, it’s that the dynamics of the NFL can change overnight.
Both Detroit and Jacksonville will have new coaches next year and, who knows, the Packers may be recovering from a Super Bowl hangover. Maybe Trevor Lawrence will thrive under pressure or wilt to the frenzy of the 12s (fingers crossed for fans in the stands by next season). And there’s no guarantee that the home team will continue its success as Russell Wilson gets a year older. It’s the unpredictability that makes the NFL unlike the other major American sports.
In addition to the Lions and the Jags, the Seahawks will host division rivals, San Francisco 49ers, LA Rams, Arizona Cardinals, as well as the Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, and New Orleans Saints. While the latter three teams are all in the playoffs this season, questions will linger in the offseason over the quarterback in Chicago, the durability of Derrick Henry in Nashville, and whether Drew Brees will retire in New Orleans.
On the road, the Hawks will again play the 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals, along with the aforementioned Packers. Rounding out the slate are trips to Minnesota to play the Vikings, a journey to Houston to play the Texans, along with jaunts to Indianapolis to play the Colts and to the nation’s capital to play The Football Team. That is a road schedule that includes four playoff teams from this season, but one could easily anticipate a regression by the Colts or The Football Team. A healthy 49ers team could be formidable, and Kyler Murray could continue to improve in the desert.
Other notable games outside the sphere of the Seahawks and the NFC West, include: Bills v. Steelers, Ravens v. Packers, Steelers v. Raiders for those 1970’s fans, Chiefs v. Steelers, and Tom Brady v. the NFC East, to name a few. What is certain is that by the time the 2021 season rolls around, there will be awesome matchups that we cannot possibly anticipate in January as we head into the playoffs.