Typically the NFL’s regular season opener is a Thursday spotlight for the defending Super Bowl champions. That tradition would obviously see the Patriots hosting the opener, possibly with a rematch of the AFC Championship game against Kansas City.
The league, though, is reportedly considering breaking with that particular custom and instead opening the season with Bears-Packers, moving the Patriots to Sunday Night Football instead. The reason? It’s the NFL’s 100th season, and having the Packers play the Bears at Soldier Field would be a celebration of the league’s history. That’s according to John Ourand in Sports Business Journal.
The NFL is leaning toward having the Bears host the Packers for next season’s opening kickoff game on Thursday, Sept. 5, according to multiple sources. The move would mark the first time since 2006 that the Super Bowl champion will not appear in the league’s opening game. The newly crowned Patriots likely will host the season’s first “Sunday Night Football” game instead, on Sept. 8.
The NFL is leaning toward having Chicago host the season’s first game as part of its 100th season celebration, allowing it to showcase the league’s oldest rivalry. The Bears and Packers first played in 1921 and have faced each other 198 times.
The Bears played Green Bay at Lambeau Field last year for the opening week SNF game, and considering we can definitely expect to hear all about the NFL’s 100th anniversary next year, it makes sense to focus on the league’s most historic matchup. At least one Bears beat writer predicted it ahead of the Super Bowl, too:
Prediction: Bears and Packers open up the NFL season at Soldier Field.
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) January 28, 2019
Of course, this does leave the Patriots out of the opener, and there’s no organization in sports that can manufacture a perceived slight into an overwhelming “us vs. the world” narrative like the New England Patriots, so we can expect to hear some of that, too. As for their opponent, Ourand thinks it will most likely be the Giants:
New England’s most likely opponents for the opening “Sunday Night Football” game are the Browns, Chiefs, Giants or Steelers, each of which is on the Patriots’ 2019 schedule. My guess is that the NFL picks the Giants over the Steelers because the NFC’s schedule is much stronger than the AFC’s this year, and the league will want to save AFC games for later in the season. The NFL seems likely to want to schedule the high-profile Patriots-Chiefs game for later in the season. While the Browns and their quarterback Baker Mayfield may be exciting, the NFL could decide that the franchise has not earned such a high-profile scheduling position.
In a vacuum, looking ahead to next year, Packers-Bears sounds like a much more appealing matchup than watching New England grind the Giants into dust, and there’s no denying the appeal of celebrating a historic rivalry. The NFL is still a few months away from releasing the full schedule, though, so things could possibly change in the interim.