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How 17th game could impact playoff races

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With the NFL season expanding from 16 to 17 games, the number of matchups determined by where teams finished in the previous year's standings also has increased from two to three.

That could give certain teams an advantage and impact playoff races.

NFC North teams, for example, will all play each other twice and face all four clubs in the NFC West and AFC North in 2021. Two games against uncommon opponents will come versus teams that finished in the same place in the 2020 standings in the NFC East and NFC South.

As a result, the second-place Bears (8-8) will face the Giants (6-10) and Buccaneers (11-5). The division champion Packers (13-3) will play Washington (7-9) and the Saints (12-4). The third-place Vikings (7-9) will face the Cowboys (6-10) and the Panthers (5-11). And the fourth-place Lions (5-11) will face the Eagles (4-11-1) and Falcons (4-12).

In the 17th game that was added, NFC North teams this year will visit the AFC West club that finished in the same spot in last season's standings. That will result in the Bears playing the Raiders (8-8) in Las Vegas, the Packers facing the Chiefs (14-2) in Kansas City, the Vikings visiting the Chargers (7-9) in Los Angeles and the Lions playing the Broncos (5-11) in Denver.

Though teams change—often dramatically—from year-to-year, here are the combined 2020 records and winning percentages of the three uncommon opponents (listed above) the Bears and their NFC North counterparts will face in 2021:

  • Packers (33-15, .688)
  • Bears (25-23, .521)
  • Vikings (18-30, .375)
  • Lions (13-34-1, .281)

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.

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