Top 10 NFL games on 2017 schedule

Top 10 NFL games on 2017 schedule

With the 2017 NFL schedule officially released, a look at a handful of games that are must-watch events or that could determine playoff scenarios in January of 2018:

Thursday, Sept. 7: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

The defending champs open their title defense with a Chiefs team that went 12-4 and won the AFC West last year. Kansas City had the AFC’s second-highest point differential at +78, but that was less than half of New England’s (+191) in 2016. The last time these two teams played was in the divisional round of the 2015 playoffs, with New England winning that, 27-20. 

Sunday, Sept. 17: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

A week after opening the season in Chicago against the Bears, Atlanta will play its first game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday Night Football against a Green Bay side it crushed, 44-21, in the NFC Championship Game in January. This could be an early battle for NFC supremacy or, at the least, an entertaining, high-scoring game. 

Sunday, Sept. 17: Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos

Can Dak Prescott do it again? The Cowboys sophomore quarterback will face a tough schedule this year, headlined by this trip to Denver to face a team that had the NFL’s fourth-best scoring defense (18.6 PPG) and best passing defense (5.8 yards/attempt) last year. 

Monday, Oct. 2: Washington Redskins at Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City’s 18 interceptions tied for the most in the NFL last year, while Kirk Cousins threw for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns. With Cousins likely to be on the open market after this season, he could set the tone for a rich contract with a strong performance against a top-level secondary in primetime here. 

[RELATED: NFL does Bears no favors with opening four-game stretch]

Sunday, Oct. 22: Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots

This is only the seventh regular season rematch between the previous season’s Super Bowl participants in NFL history, though they’ve been oddly common in recent years: Denver beat Carolina last year, and in 2014, Seattle won in overtime against Denver. 

Monday, Nov. 20: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks

The December Monday Night Football schedule is full of potential division-deciding matchups  (Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, New England at Miami, Atlanta at Tampa Bay) and overall, this year’s Monday night slate is strong. But this Falcons-Seahawks matchup in late November carries plenty of intrigue. These two teams met in the 2016 regular season, with Seattle making a fourth quarter comeback to win, 26-24. 

Monday, Dec. 11: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins last year made the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and if they have any lofty designs on unseating the Patriots in the AFC East, this could be the game that does it. Miami lost their home game against New England last year by 21 points.

Sunday, Dec. 17: Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders

Prescott against Derek Carr on Sunday Night Football, in what could be one of the last “big” games at Oakland Coliseum, should be one of the better cross-conference games of 2017. 

Sunday, Dec. 31: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia’s offseason haul was headlined by adding Alshon Jeffery to pair with Carson Wentz, which could be a dangerous combination in the NFC East. if Dallas were to fall back to earth, circle this season-ending game as one that perhaps could decide the division. 

Sunday, Dec. 31: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

Green Bay ended last season at Ford Field, too, with their 31-24 win securing an NFC North title. If the division goes down to this game again, there’s some added intrigue given the Lions pulled T.J. Lang away from Green Bay in March with $19 million guaranteed — an awfully high price for a guard. 

Signing Mike Glennon widens 'best player available' option for Bears draft

Signing Mike Glennon widens 'best player available' option for Bears draft

By signing former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon, the Bears believe they have added a starter-grade quarterback to the roster. But the signing does not preclude the Bears from drafting a quarterback, and it does keep wide open the preferred draft option of “best player available” rather than drafting first for need.
 
With the starting-quarterback situation addressed, the Bears have the luxury of using a mid-round selection on a quarterback, the range where the Dallas Cowboys found Dak Prescott, the Seattle Seahawks found Russell Wilson and Washington found Kirk Cousins.

[MORE: Plenty of implications for Bears after signing of Mike Glennon]
 
Evaluations and projections of the 2017 quarterback class have been less than enthusiastic, although the only meaningful evaluation will play out in late April. Beyond the top four of Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas Tech's Pat Mahomes, North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky and Clemson's Deshaun Watson, a few quarterbacks could go after round one or early in round two (based on rankings via CBS Sports):
 
Brad Kaaya (Miami, 3rd round)
Nathan Peterman (Pitt, 4th round)
Davis Webb (Cal, 4th-5th round)
Jerod Evans (Virginia Tech, 5th-6th round)
Chad Kelly (Ole Miss, 7th round)

The Bears also could target the 2018 draft class, which may be headlined by USC's Sam Darnold and UCLA's Josh Rosen. But regardless of the Glennon signing and the 2018 options, the Bears are not expected to emerge from a third straight draft without a quarterback.

John Mullin contributed.

NFL Free Agency Tracker: Latest news from around the league

NFL Free Agency Tracker: Latest news from around the league

The tampering is about to become a reality as teams can officially put the pen to paper with free agents when the new league year begins at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

Equipped with just under $52 million — a number that will climb once the Jay Cutler release becomes official — the Bears will be extremely active in this year's free agency market.

Check out the latest free agency news below:

1:38 p.m.: The Bears have reached an agreement with free agent tight end Dion Sims, reports NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

1:14 p.m.: Alshon Jeffery is leaning towards choosing the Eagles when free agency starts, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.

12:32 p.m.: The Jay Cutler era is reportedly over in Chicago, and a reunion with Matt Forte in New York is possible.

10:27 a.m.: Mike Glennon's contract with the Bears will be a three-year, $45 million deal, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter.

10:20 a.m.: The Eagles and Colts are making a strong push to sign Alshon Jeffery, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

9:10 a.m.: The Bears have offered Alshon Jeffery $13 million per year, reports the Chicago Tribune.

8:10 a.m.: After losing out on the former Bills cornerback, the Bears have made a strong offer for A.J. Bouye, according to ESPN's Jeff Dickerson.

7:56 a.m.: Potential Bears target cornerback Stephon Gilmore is expected to sign with the New England Patriots, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

And according to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Gilmore was disappointed the Bears weren't "more serious" with their offer.

6:20 a.m.: Mike Glennon is reportedly expected to make big money when he signs with the Bears.


Wednesday's notes

4:43 p.m.: The Bears' talks with free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore have hit a snag, according to Bleacher Report.

1:54 p.m.: Brian Hoyer has agreed to a two-year deal with the 49ers, according to Ian Rapoport.

12:54 p.m.: The Dallas Cowboys will release quarterback Tony Romo on Thursday, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter.

12:53 p.m.: Tyrod Taylor has restructured his contract with the Buffalo Bills.

12:32 p.m.: Brian Hoyer is expected to pick a team on Thursday. The 49ers and Jets both appear to the strongest suitors, according to ProFootballTalk.

11:43 a.m.: Cross one Bears' free agent target off the board. According to Rand Getlin, offensive tackle Ricky Wagner has agreed to a deal with the Detroit Lions.

10:53 a.m.: A deal between the Bears and free agent quarterback Mike Glennon is all but done, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal is expected to fall in the three-year, $45 million range.

10:44 a.m.: The Bears and Bills "are all over" free agent offensive tackle Ricky Wagner, according to The Ringer's Mike Lombardi.

10:29 a.m.: The 49ers and Jets are showing the most interest in former Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer, reports Ian Rapoport.

9:21 a.m.: Former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall agrees to two-year deal with the Giants.

Tuesday's notes

4:59 p.m.: Bears making "big push" to sign top free agent corner Stephon Gilmore, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio's Alex Marvez.

1:09 p.m.: The New England Patriots' asking price for rumored Bears trade target Jimmy Garoppolo has been revealed.

12:47 p.m.: According to Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times, the Bears are interested in free agent wide receiver Andre Holmes.

12:38 p.m.: The Bears may not have any competition for free agent quarterback Mike Glennon, according to CSNChicago.com's John "Moon" Mullin.

11:47 a.m.: SiriusXM's Alex Marvez reports the Bears are showing interest in offensive tackle Ricky Wagner.

11:18 a.m.: D.J. Swearinger could be a free agent target of the Bears, reports the Chicago Tribune.

9:36 a.m.: Sources tell Alex Marvez the Bears are expected to pursue wide receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson.

6:44 a.m.: The Bears will make a strong push to sign free agent quarterback Mike Glennon, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.