The next big step in the NFL calendar is set to take place Wednesday: the 2021 NFL schedule release.
That means we will get our first look at what lies ahead for the Detroit Lions this fall.
With a lot of intriguing opponents, it could be an eventful first year for Dan Campbell and the new coaching staff.
Who are the Detroit Lions playing in 2021?
Although the order hasn’t been announced, we do know the 17 opponents for the Lions in 2021.
You heard me right, 17. In case you’ve been under a rock lately, NFL owners approved a 17-game regular season in March, while removing one preseason game.
The regular season will begin on Thursday, Sept. 9, with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting a to-be-determined opponent. The rest of the league will then compete that following Sunday and Monday. The 17th week of the season will take place on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022.
As far as the Lions go, here’s a breakdown of who they will play on the road and at Ford Field during the season.
- Home opponents: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers.
- Road opponents: Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks.
Matthew Stafford gets a crack at Detroit
When you look at the list of Detroit’s opponents ahead of the 2021 NFL schedule release, none stands out more than the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams will be the new home of former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Detroit shipped Stafford to the Rams on March 17 in exchange for Jared Goff and three draft picks.
The NFL certainly will take this storyline into consideration for its scheduling. Don’t be surprised to see this as a nationally televised game, perhaps even in the season opener.
(And we’ll know most of the Week 1 schedule by Wednesday morning, according to national reports.)
Los Angeles is likely to be featured nationally in Week 1 as it opens SoFi Stadium for fans for the first time. The team played in the empty venue for the 2020 season.
What better way to do that than welcoming their new quarterback against the team that traded him away?
Can’t avoid Aaron Rodgers
Even though the biggest football since the NFL Draft has been Aaron Rodgers’ soap-opera status with the Green Bay Packers, Lions fans can’t celebrate too much.
Even if Rodgers has actually played his last game for the Packers, as some have speculated, Detroit could very still run into him in the 2021 season.
Detroit drew the Denver Broncos for the 17th opponent of the 2021 season. The Broncos are currently linked as the favorite to land Rodgers if he doesn’t play for Green Bay. DraftKings has the Broncos at +135 for Rodgers to play the first snap of the season with. The Packers remain the slight favorite at -125.
Rodgers has been a great thorn in the side of the Lions.
Just last season, the reigning MVP had five touchdowns with no interceptions in two games against Detroit.
Despite the turmoil in Green Bay, BetMGM Sportsbook still lists the Packers as a -110 favorite in the NFC North. Minnesota (+250) and Chicago (+275) sit far ahead of the Lions (+2000).
Thanksgiving Day 2021 plans
Detroit will maintain its annual tradition of kicking off Thanksgiving Day football when the 2021 NFL schedule release is official.
While tradition used to dictate the Lions alternated between AFC and NFC opponents each year, that practice ended in 2014 when the Lions played the Packers and Bears in back-to-back Thanksgiving Day games.
Last year, the Lions played host to the Houston Texans for the second time in the holiday’s history. Trends would lean toward an NFC opponent this year, and likely a NFC North foe.
The Lions and Packers have met the most in Thanksgiving history, playing 21 times on that date. The last meeting was in 2013, a 40-10 dominant win for Detroit.
The Lions and the Bears are second in frequency with 18 meetings. Their last Thanksgiving encounter was 2019, a 24-20 win for Chicago.
Surprisingly, the Lions and Vikings have met just five times on Thanksgiving. Two of those were back-to-back meetings in 2016 and 2017.
Predicting the Lions’ 2021 schedule
Trying to predict the NFL schedule for any team is pretty difficult.
But, what kind of person would I be if I didn’t take a chance?
Here’s my guess on what it will look like on Wednesday. I’ll say I get three of the 17 right.
- Week 1: at L.A. Rams, Monday night
- Week 2: vs. Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 3: vs. Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 4: at Pittsburgh, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 5: vs. Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 6: at Seattle, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
- Week 7: Bye Week
- Week 8: vs. Arizona, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
- Week 9: at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 10: at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 11: vs. Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 12: vs. Minnesota, Thanksgiving
- Week 13: at Denver, Thursday night
- Week 14: at Cleveland, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 15: vs. San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
- Week 16: at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 17: vs. Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
- Week 18: at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
With BetMGM currently listing the Lions with an over/under of 5 wins for the 2021 season, it’s hard to argue for the over if this schedule pans out.