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Chalk Talk: Will NFL play 17-game season?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

Do you think the NFL will play a 17-game regular season in 2021, and is the plan for teams to still play four preseason games?
Mike J.
Port Charlotte, Florida

According to the latest media reports I've read, it's likely that the NFL will expand its regular season from 16 to 17 games beginning in 2021, with the preseason being reduced from four to two or three contests. I don't believe an announcement is imminent, but I anticipate that we'll know by April. (The complete regular-season schedule has usually been revealed in mid-April.) Teams would play their 17th game against opponents from the other conference that finished in the same place in the standings. With the Bears already scheduled to face the AFC North in 2021, their 17th game would probably be against the Colts, Dolphins or Raiders—all of whom finished second in their respective divisions, just as the Bears did in the NFC North in 2020. Teams would continue to have one bye, extending the regular season to 18 weeks and pushing the Super Bowl into the second week of February.

Have the Bears filled all of their coaching vacancies?
Greg A.
Columbia, Tennessee

The only position coach opening that remains is at running back, with the Bears still needing to replace Charles London, who left to become quarterbacks coach with the Atlanta Falcons. Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone also left to join the Falcons as offensive coordinator, but I'm not certain that he'll be replaced. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears promoted Sean Desai from safeties coach to defensive coordinator and Bill Shuey from defensive pass analyst/assistant linebackers coach to outside linebackers coach. They also hired Chris Rumph as defensive line coach, Bill McGovern as inside linebackers coach and Mike Adams as assistant defensive backs coach.

Will seven teams from each conference continue to qualify for the playoffs each year or was that just due to the pandemic in 2020?
Bob U.
Tampa, Florida

That was a permanent stipulation in the new CBA that was reached in 2020, so seven teams will continue to reach the playoffs in each conference moving forward, with only the No. 1 seeds earning first-round byes.

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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