In a historic move, the NFL has approved a 17th regular-season game for the 2021 season.
The move was approved by NFL owners during a virtual league meeting Tuesday. The NFL has played a 16-game regular season since 1978. The move was expected after the NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement signed in March 2020 gave the league the option to add an additional game. Teams now will play only three preseason games.
The 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The AFC and NFC will switch off hosting an extra game every year, with AFC teams hosting a ninth home game in 2021. Teams with nine home games will play only one preseason game at home, while teams with eight home games will play two preseason games at home.
The Bears officially will add a trip to Las Vegas to play the Raiders next season. Both teams finished second in their respective divisions.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”
The new schedule format also allows the NFL to schedule four international games per year. Every NFL team will play overseas once every eight years beginning in 2022. International games will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom, according to the league’s news release.
The 2021 NFL schedule will be announced later this spring. The season will kick off Thursday, Sept. 9. The Super Bowl, held in recent years on the first Sunday in February, now is one week later. Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles will be played Feb. 13, 2022.
The Bears don’t know the dates of their games in 2021 yet, but they do know which teams they will face. They will play the following teams next season:
Home: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions.
Away: Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions.