With the 2020 regular season in the books, NFL teams across the league now know the full slate of opponents they will face during the 2021 regular season. There is one caveat, however. The NFL still is leaving open the option to add a 17th regular-season game.
Adding a 17th regular-season game has been talked about frequently in recent years. The financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have provided the league all the more incentive to add a 17th game in hopes of offsetting some of those losses.
In December, league owners approved scheduling procedures should the league add a 17th game, although they did not officially approve a 17th game yet. Such approval could come in the next weeks or months. If it were to happen, it certainly would happen before the NFL’s 2021 schedule release in April or May.
The 17th game would be an extra interconference matchup: NFC vs. AFC, based on division standings from the previous season.
For now, however, we know who the Bears will play in 16 of their regular-season games in 2021, although we don’t know the schedule yet. In addition to their six NFC North games, they will face the entire AFC North and the entire NFC West in 2021.
By finishing second in the NFC North in 2020, they will face the second-place finishers in the NFC East (New York Giants) and the NFC South (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
The Bears’ 2021 opponents:
Home: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions.
Away: Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions.
17th game: The 17th game, if added, would be against an AFC team that finished second in its division. That would leave either the Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins or Indianapolis Colts.
The list includes seven playoff teams. Should fans be allowed back in Soldier Field next season, they would get to see the likes of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray play at Soldier Field.
Road trips to Seattle and Pittsburgh are particularly tough places to play when fans are in the stands.