“Upon further review” is a recurring segment in which This Given Sunday analyzes quirks and fascinating tidbits from the NFL’s history books.
Tonight, the NFL will open its season in prime time on a Thursday evening for the 13th consecutive year. It seems we’ve stumbled into a nice tradition, with the defending Super Bowl champion opening up at home against a rival. Nobody’s complaining.
For the most part, this recent trend of opening with a stand-alone game apart from the Sunday slate is unique to the Roger Goodell era. But 30 years ago, things were also a tad different. In 1983, Philadelphia and San Francisco opened the season on a Saturday. It was a 6 p.m. ET start at Candlestick Park.
Two years prior to that, the Buccaneers and Vikings did the same thing in prime time at Tampa Stadium. Saturday openers were also held in 1963 (two games that day), 1964, 1966, 1968 and 1978.
Even more strange is that the league opened the 1970 season with one solo game on a Friday night (Rams-Cardinals from Los Angeles) and a second stand-alone affair on Saturday (Bears-Giants at Yankee Stadium). That was the first of only 10 Friday games we’ve had since the 1970 merger, but it’s the only time we’ve had a game on that day in Week 1. In all other cases, that happened on what appear to be special occasions (usually related to the holidays).
There was a time when Friday and Saturday games were more common, period, especially early in the season. In 1960, for example, we had a Friday opener, a Saturday game to follow, and two Friday games in Week 2. Now, the schedule has become slightly less quirky, regardless of the time of year.