2021 NFL Schedule Release: Best Games, Worst Matchups, & Hidden Gems
Gio takes a look at the 2021 NFL Schedule Release and gives some of the Best Games, Worst Matchups, & Hidden Gems to watch out for this season.
Check out the early 2021 NFL Week 1 odds and lines from BetMGM.
2021 NFL Schedule Release: Best Regular-Season Games
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots (Week 4, Sunday Night Football)
The prodigal son is making his return to Foxborough. Tom Brady (along with Rob Gronkowski) will return to New England, the team he helped win six Super Bowls. This will be Brady’s first time playing his former team, as the Buccaneers didn’t play the Patriots last season. The only losing seasons Bill Belichick had during his tenure was Brady’s rookie year, when he only played in one game (5-11 in 2000), and last year, Brady’s first year with the Bucs (7-9).
Every football fan has this game circled on their calendar. We’ve seen both sides operate without the other, but what will it be like when Brady and Belichick are in the same stadium and on opposite sidelines? What could make it more poetic is if Mac Jones is the starter at this point for the Patriots — the old era vs. the new era. Either way, I’m clearing my schedule on October 3rd.
— The Game Day NFL (@TheGameDayNFL) May 14, 2021
2. Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 1, Thursday Night Football)
The reigning Super Bowl champs kick off the first game of the season on what will probably be the most exciting Thursday night game of the year (excluding Thanksgiving). Usually, any game against an NFC East opponent should be nowhere near a “Best Regular-Season Games” list, but the division got a fresh new coat of paint, especially the Cowboys!
An early MVP candidate before his injury in Week 5, Dak Prescott should return to lead the Cowboys to what is, hopefully, a better season than last year. Along with that, the Cowboys improved on defense in the additions of Keanu Neal and Micah Parsons. On the other side, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are coming off a huge Super Bowl victory. Mix all that up, and you have an exciting game to start the year.
3. Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET)
Last year was the first year the Browns made the playoffs since 2002, and the first time the Browns won a playoff game since 1994. Saying the city of Cleveland was excited is an understatement. But, of all people, Chad Henne made plays at the right time that ended things for the Browns. So it’s safe to say that Baker Mayfield and company have revenge on their minds.
On the other side, the Chiefs were embarrassed in the Super Bowl. It looked like Patrick Mahomes was the only one who showed up to play. This offseason, the team made adjustments and upgraded their biggest weakness: offensive line. It was good timing as the Browns signed Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley to bolster the defensive line. With the Browns finally having their quarterback of the future, look for this game to be a shootout.
4. Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs (Week 5, Sunday Night Football)
The Chiefs can’t escape revenge games, as this time it’s the Buffalo Bills. To begin last year’s AFC Championship Game, it seemed like the Bills were going to pull off the upset. Then Patrick Mahomes and the boys exploded for 21 unanswered points and never looked back. That left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth in Buffalo, especially Stefon Diggs, who watched the Chiefs post-game celebration from a distance.
This game could be a preview of this year’s AFC Championship game, as BetMGM has the Chiefs and Bills the top two favorites to win the conference. Building around Josh Allen is key, so the Bills added Emmanuel Sanders and Matt Breida to the offense while also making upgrades defensively. This is a challenging game to win for Buffalo, but a necessary one to prove how good they can be. The Bills are hoping not to be one game short for the second straight year.
5. Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens (Week 2, Sunday Night Football)
The Chiefs seem to be playing in a lot of exciting games this season. This one includes the 2018 NFL MVP, Patrick Mahomes, and the 2019 NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson, going head-to-head. Mahomes has been the victor in each matchup in the three games they’ve met in previous seasons. So could the tide turn and we’ll see a Ravens victory or will the Chiefs continue to dominate?
The Ravens got a well-needed upgrade at the wide receiver position, signing Sammy Watkins and drafting Rashod Bateman. This gives Jackson the weapons he needs to make more plays, as the depth at that position has been lacking. Jackson and Mahomes are two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the league right now. At any given moment, they both can light up an opponent through the air and on the ground. With both teams upgraded, this game is going to be must-see TV.
6. Detroit Lions @ Los Angeles Rams (Week 7, Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET)
Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford play their former teams for the first time since being traded for one another. This isn’t the flashiest game on the schedule, but it’s definitely one of the more intriguing ones to watch. Both are former No. 1 picks, and both spent their entire careers with the team that drafted them up until this point.
The Rams have been relatively successful with Goff, going to the playoffs in three of the last four years with even making the Super Bowl three years ago. In Detroit, Stafford has been very successful while the team has struggled as the Lions made the playoffs only three times in Stafford’s tenure. Goff joins a young team with some pieces to build around and potential, while Stafford joins a unit that’s strong and ready to go back to the Super Bowl.
2021 NFL Schedule Release: Hidden Gems
1. New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers (Week 1, Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET)
The Sam Darnold revenge tour begins with taking on his former team in his new team’s home stadium. Darnold had his own struggles, sure, but the Jets never allowed Darnold to showcase his skills fully. Now, the young QB is reunited with one of his favorite targets in New York, Robby Anderson, along with upgraded weapons in DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey.
This game will also be exciting for the Jets as it’s a new era in New York. New head coach Robert Saleh brings a breath of fresh air while the organization has put their trust in the future by drafting Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. Week 1 is early to decide if Wilson is the guy or not, but it’ll be exciting to watch Wilson start his career against the quarterback his team got rid of for him.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cincinnati Bengals (Week 4, Thursday Night Football)
The 2020 No. 1 pick vs. the 2021 No. 1 pick. 2020 National Championship game rematch. Joe Burrow vs. Trevor Lawrence. This could be the first game of a long rivalry for both these young gunslingers. It isn’t the juiciest Thursday night game, but this has the opportunity to be an offensive showcase. Burrow looks to bounce back from injury and be successful in year two and should have no problem doing so. The Bengals took Burrow’s LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase in Round 1 of the NFL Draft while also giving Burrow extra protection by taking offensive tackle Jackson Carman in Round 2.
The Jaguars have been VERY busy this offseason, headlined by new head coach Urban Meyer and new franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Jacksonville upgraded on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. The organization has given Lawrence all the weapons to succeed right away, which he should as he’s the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. This game has the opportunity to be a young QB showcase.
2021 NFL Schedule Release: Bets Will Make These Games Fun
1. New York Giants @ Washington Football Team (Week 2, Thursday Night Football)
I said earlier that the NFC East got a fresh coat of paint, but I’m not fully sold on it. Throw in the fact that it’s a Thursday night game, and you’ll need to put some money on this one to have any interest in it (outside of Giants & Washington fans).
The Giants have surrounded Daniel Jones with some of the best skill players in the league, but it ultimately comes down to if he can be successful. And if Jones struggles, all those weapons will be for not. On the other side, Washington’s defense is terrific, while the offense needs to prove themselves. They went out and upgraded their offense by getting Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel, and Adam Humphries.
Again, I’m not sold on the NFC East just yet.
2. Miami Dolphins @ Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 6, Sunday 9:30 a.m ET)
It’s not so much the game and teams playing, but more so the time of the game. These London games are a struggle to get in the football mindset for, and this game doesn’t exactly pop off the screen. All the more reason to have some money on the line.
This game features two of the best young quarterbacks in the league with Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence. The Dolphins were on the cusp at a playoff berth at 10-6 had it not been for three teams going 11-5. Tagovailoa showed flashes last year, and Miami gave him one of his favorite targets from Alabama in Jaylen Waddle. The Jaguars will be an exciting team to watch all season long because of Lawrence and the possibility of Jacksonville being good this year.
3. New England Patriots @ Atlanta Falcons (Week 11, Thursday Night Football)
This is a safe space. You can admit that Thursday night games are not the best. Similar to the Giants-Washington Thursday night game, only fans of the Patriots and Falcons will be excited about this game.
One can hope that the Mac Jones era will be underway at this point for the Patriots, but if not, Cam Newton should have a bounce-back season. The success of the Patriots this season relies heavily on the quarterback, whoever it be. The Falcons have the pieces to be successful, they just need to put it together. Atlanta lost eight games last year by a touchdown or less.
Let’s hope Julio Jones is still a part of the squad when this game comes around.
2021 NFL Schedule Release: Lock In These Over/Under Picks
Hammer The Over: Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 14, Sunday Night Football)
Love love LOVE this game for the Over. Last year, the Bills were 2nd in PPG (31.3) and 2nd in the league in YPG (396.4), while the Buccaneers were 3rd in PPG (30.8) and 7th in YPG (384.1). Even against the best defenses, Tom Brady and Josh Allen will go out and put up big numbers.
Take The Under: Chicago Bears @ Las Vegas Raiders (Week 5, Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET)
Just a gut feeling, but neither team is exciting. While the Raiders were top-10 in points and yards per game last year, the Bears were at the bottom of the league in both of those categories. And who knows if it’s Andy Dalton or Justin Fields with the ball in his hands. Either way, this is a safe pick to take the under.