In Peter King’s most recent Football Morning in America article, he reported some new details on the NFL potentially adding a 17th game to the 2021 schedule, calling the likelihood of an extra game being added “highly likely”.
King notes that, if a 17th game is added, the league calendar would be pushed back a week, and the regular season would see 17 games played over 18 weeks—meaning there would not be a second bye week as was previously rumored.
The formula for determining teams' 17th opponent works like this. The NFC and AFC will face off each year, the divisions that played two years ago will meet again, and the opponent will be based on the final standing from the most recent season.
So, that means the NFC North will face off against the AFC West (2019 crossover matchups) and because the Detroit Lions finished in fourth place last season, they will face off against the Denver Broncos, who finished fourth in the AFC West in 2020.
This formula will presumably be used in subsequent years when determining this additional game. That would mean, the Lions 2022 opponent will be the team who finishes in the same slot in 2021 standings from the NFC South—either the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Additionally, King reports that he is “hearing it’s most likely to be AFC hosting all 16 newly invented games in 2021. Then NFC teams hosting in 2023. If that’s how it goes, it’s the fairest way. Competitive equity is the key. You don’t want three NFC East teams playing eight at home and the fourth playing nine at home”.
In the end, that means the Lions will most likely be traveling to Denver to face off with the Broncos in 2021. For a look at the rest of the Lions’ 2021 opponents, check out our post from January.