Heading into the 2021 NFL schedule reveal, rumors surrounding Aaron Rodgers and a potential trade out of Green Bay thrust questions about how schedule-makers might hedge on the Packers' prime-time prospects.
It turns out the swirling gossip did nothing to move the needle where the schedule was concerned.
The Packers got a prime time-heavy schedule with a plethora of national-audience games. Green Bay opens up with a late-afternoon game against the New Orleans Saints followed by two prime-time bouts. The Packers are slated to play five prime-time games total, including one Monday-nighter, a customary Thursday night game and three Sunday night affairs. They also play the Browns on Christmas Day, putting Green Bay in the late-afternoon window six times.
The Packers are scheduled to have just six 1 p.m. ET starts -- including Week 18, which is usually just a placeholder at this stage of the process. Their first early-window start doesn't come until Week 5, and only one of those is at Lambeau Field.
It's a schedule that suggests the league isn't terribly worried that the Rodgers situation will affect the eyeballs on the Packers.
Joining NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Thursday, the NFL's director of broadcasting, Charlotte Carey, confirmed as much. She noted that, while schedule-makers didn't have any insight into how the Rodgers issue would be resolved, they're bullish on the Packers regardless.
"This one was a very unique situation, especially getting that late in the schedule process," Carey said. "At the end of the day, we have no idea what he's going to do. We don't know if he's going to stay with the Packers. We don't know if he's going to get traded. And if he gets traded, where does he go? Beyond that, is he gonna retire? Is he gonna go host Jeopardy!? I don't think any of us know.
"So when an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers is in that position, it's definitely tricky for the schedule team. But we really just stuck to our guns. The Packers have a fantastic schedule this year. They're a great football team. We hope No. 12 is under center, but if he's not, we're still all in on the Packers. They're a big, big brand in the NFL and have a huge national following, so we're all in."
With or without Rodgers, the Packers still have a playoff-caliber roster behind coach Matt LaFleur, who has gone 26-6 in two seasons with deep playoff runs in both years, and plenty of stars to promote, including Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Za'Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander, Mason Crosby, et al. There would also be added intrigue to see how Jordan Love would fair replacing a future Hall of Famer to justify the Packers' national stage early in the season.
It's also notable that the two late-season prime-time games are Sunday nights on NBC, giving the league the flex option. So, if Rodgers is traded away and Love happened to bomb, there are outs at that stage of the process.