NFL Kickoff Game 2023: History of Thursday opening night football

NFL Kickoff Game 2023: History of Thursday opening night football originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Thursday Night Football to begin the NFL season just feels right. It’s the perfect appetizer for what’s to come on Sunday, when fans are fully immersed in a sea of games from the early afternoon through the night.

But the NFL didn’t always start off with a weeknight game to start the new campaign. When did the NFL Kickoff Game begin? And which teams have the most Kickoff Game appearances?

Here is everything you need to know about the history of the Kickoff Game:

When was the first NFL Kickoff Game?

The first Kickoff Game was held in 2002, when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the New York Giants 16-13. The 2022 game was the 21st edition.

Does the Super Bowl champion always play in the NFL Kickoff Game?

Typically, the Kickoff Game is a home game for the defending Super Bowl champion. But that’s not always the case.

The first two years of the event did not feature the reigning champs, with the Giants hosting in 2002 and Washington hosting in 2003.

From 2004 through 2022, the reigning champion hosted the Kickoff Game – with two exceptions.

In 2013, the Broncos hosted the defending-champion Ravens due to a scheduled conflict at Baltimore’s home stadium.

In 2019, the Chicago Bears hosted the Green Bay Packers to celebrate the NFL’s 100th anniversary with two historic franchises. The defending-champion New England Patriots played on NBC’s Sunday Night Football to begin their title-defense in 2019.

The 2023 Kickoff Game will be held on Thursday, Sept. 7, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium when the Super Bowl LVII champion Kansas City Chiefs welcome the Detroit Lions.

Has the NFL Kickoff Game always been on Thursday?

The Kickoff Game has been on Thursday in every year since 2002, except for 2012.

The defending-champion Giants hosted the Cowboys on Wednesday, Sept. 5 to begin the 2012 season, with the game moved up one day to avoid a conflict with the last day of the Democratic National Convention.

Who has played in the most NFL Kickoff Games?

The beginning of the Kickoff Game coincided with the beginning of the Patriots’ dynasty, so it’s no surprise that New England has the most appearances with four. The Patriots are 3-1 in their appearances, winning in 2004, 2005 and 2015 before losing in 2017. All four games were held at Gillette Stadium.

Four other teams have three Kickoff Game appearances: the Green Bay Packers (2-1), Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1), New Orleans Saints (1-2) and New York Giants (1-2).

Seven teams have a perfect record in Kickoff Games: the Denver Broncos (2-0), Kansas City Chiefs (2-0), Philadelphia Eagles (1-0), San Francisco 49ers (1-0), Seattle Seahawks (1-0), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) and Buffalo Bills (1-0).

NFL Kickoff Game all-time results

  • 2002: 49ers 16, Giants 13

  • 2003: Washington 16, Jets 13

  • 2004: Patriots 27, Colts 24

  • 2005: Patriots 30, Raiders 20

  • 2006: Steelers 28, Dolphins 17

  • 2007: Colts 41, Saints 10

  • 2008: Giants 16, Washington 7

  • 2009: Steelers 13, Titans 10 (OT)

  • 2010: Saints 14, Vikings 9

  • 2011: Packers 42, Saints 34

  • 2012: Cowboys 24, Giants 17

  • 2013: Broncos 49, Ravens 27

  • 2014: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

  • 2015: Patriots 28, Steelers 21

  • 2016: Broncos 21, Panthers 20

  • 2017: Chiefs 42, Patriots 27

  • 2018: Eagles 18, Falcons 12

  • 2019: Packers 10, Bears 3

  • 2020: Chiefs 34, Texans 20

  • 2021: Buccaneers 31, Cowboys 29

  • 2022: Bills 31, Rams 10