The new collective bargaining agreement that went into place ahead of the 2020 NFL season — but kicks in formally in 2021 — included an option that was expected to be formalized for a 17th game to be added.
This week, the owners are expected to formalize that, according to Adam Schefter and other NFL insiders:
NFL is expected to expand the regular season schedule this week to 17 games. The league had played a 16-game regular season schedule since 1978, by far the longest stretch without a change in NFL history.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2021
The schedule for that 17th game, or at least that slate, has also leaked. Warren Sharp and others are reporting the Bears will play at the Las Vegas Raiders. The actual schedule part; the date and time and all that, will be released with the rest of the NFL schedule, likely in late April.
every team's 17th game this year:— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) March 28, 2021
SEA at PIT
LAR at BAL
ARI at CLE
SF at CIN
GB at KC
CHI at LV
MIN at LAC
DET at DEN
WFT at BUF
NYG at MIA
DAL at NE
PHI at NYJ
NO at TEN
TB at IND
CAR at HOU
ATL at JAX
home team conference rotates
formula for the 17th game: https://t.co/u4n5fJZnpr pic.twitter.com/1DoqdEUXqb
Peter King of Football Morning in America, actually broke down how that scheduling formula works in the linked piece that Sharp quoted in his Tweet above, but let’s break it down again because it’s a lot:
When the NFL was choosing options, the formula that prevailed—follow me now—was AFC versus NFC, cross-conference matchup from two years ago, 2021 matchup based on 2020 standings. Now that you’re totally confused, here’s an example: The four AFC West teams played the four NFC North teams in 2019. In 2020, Kansas City finished in first place in the AFC West, Green Bay first in the NFC North. So in 2021, it’s AFC West against NFC North, and 1-versus-1 from ‘20 becomes Green Bay versus Kansas City. I will bet you a Kroll’s West cheeseburger with an ice-cold Spotted Cow that the networks will brawl over this ratings-gold game. This game alone is reason enough for the league to rush the 17th game onto the 2021 schedule.
So...whew, that’s a lot. Look back at which AFC division the Bears played two years ago and then find the team from that conference that finished in the same spot as the Bears the previous season (in this case, 2020) and that’s who the play. The Bears will get the Raiders, who finished second in the AFC West last season.
In 2022 they will play the team from the AFC South that finishes in the same spot in their division in 2021.