While tradition has the defending Super Bowl champion beginning the new NFL season, the league is preparing to go in a different direction to commemorate its 100th season.
The NFL is preparing to have the Green Bay Packers visit the Chicago Bears as its Thursday night opener for the 2019 season, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports. While this spot has gone to the defending Super Bowl champion since 2006, the league wants to showcase its oldest rivalry as part of a celebration of its 100th season, with the contest airing on NBC.
The Bears and Packers have played 198 times throughout history, with their first meeting coming all the way back in 1921. This would also be the second straight year that the two teams met in primetime in Week 1 after the Packers topped the Bears at Lambeau Field in the first Sunday night game of the 2018 season.
While this choice would leave the Patriots out of the traditional spotlight for reigning champions, their first home game should also be on in primetime. Ourand notes that the Pats will likely have their home opener as the first Sunday Night Football game of the season, although the opponent for that game appears to be up in the air.
The Patriots have an attractive home schedule featuring dates with the Cowboys, Giants, Steelers, Browns, and Chiefs outside of their divisional opponents. The Steelers seem like a logical choice here since the NFL would want to save the big AFC Championship rematch with Kansas City for November, when the league tends to stack big matchups in prime time for sweeps purposes.
Ourand also discusses a few other matters in the piece, but the one of most interest to casual fans is potential Thanksgiving matchups. The night game is still up in the air, but Ourand says that the league will “likely” have the Bears in Detroit on Turkey Day while the Cowboys host the Miami Dolphins.