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.
Why are the Bears playing their 17th game this season on the road against the Raiders? How was that determined?
With the regular season schedule expanding from 16 to 17 games this year, every team will play an opponent from the other conference that finished in the same place in the standings the previous year. In 2021, the NFC North is paired with the AFC West. (The divisions will rotate every year.) So after finishing second last season, the Bears will play the Raiders, who were also second. The other three matchups involving the NFC North and AFC West are Packers at Chiefs (first place), Vikings at Chargers (third place) and Lions at Broncos (fourth place). To keep a level playing field, all 16 NFC teams will play on the road against their AFC opponents in 2021 and all odd-numbered years, with NFC clubs hosting those games in 2022 and all even-numbered years. There are now three games each season determined by where teams finish in the standings the previous year. For example, the Bears play the Giants and Buccaneers this season because those two teams also finished second last year in their respective divisions.
It seems to me like it's only a matter of time until the NFL goes to 18 regular-season games and two preseason games. When do you think that will happen?
It appears that the NFL schedule will remain at 17 games at least for the next 10 seasons. It's my understanding that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified last year and extends through the 2030 season prohibits the schedule from expanding to 18 games. So unless something changes, it will remain at 17 games for at least the next decade.
Will the 17th game that was just added be held the final week of the season?
I don't know this for certain, but I'm fairly sure that the NFL will continue to schedule intra-division games the final week of the season—which now will be known as Week 18—in an effort to create matchups with the most playoff implications. I imagine the extra games—which are all NFC vs. AFC contests—will be sprinkled throughout the course of the year.
Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.
With the NFL expanding the regular-season schedule to 17 games, take a look at the Bears' finalized home and away matchups for the 2021 season.