The NFL will break from recent tradition for its centennial season.
The league announced Monday that the 2019 season opener will be the Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
It’s a fitting way to kick off the league’s 100th season, by pitting two of the original NFL franchises and one of sports’ best rivalries on the big stage. But this is a break from tradition, as the league typically has given that Thursday slot to the defending Super Bowl champions in their home stadiums.
The Bears and Packers have played 198 times, with the Packers leading the series 97-95-6. They first met on Nov. 27, 1921 in Chicago with the Staleys (coached by George Halas, before they were known as the Bears) beating the Packers (coached by Curly Lambeau), 20-0. They did not meet the following year, and they didn’t get to face each other in the strike-shortened 1982 season, but have faced each other every other year since 1923.
Although the Packers shocked the Bears in the opener in Green Bay last year, erasing a 20-point second-half deficit, the Bears got revenge in the rematch at Soldier Field and won the NFC North with a 12-4 record.
This season opener will mark the debut of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who hopes to avoid what Matt Nagy went through in his first game last year as a rookie head coach.
This might not make New England Patriots fans happy to hear, but they will get one of the opening weekend’s other marquee slots in Week 1 — Sunday, Sept. 8 at 8:20 p.m. ET — to unveil their latest championship banner.
The Patriots’ opponent will be announced when the full 2019 regular-season schedule is released later this spring. We’re betting on the New York Jets or Pittsburgh Steelers or perhaps a rematch of the AFC title game against the Kansas City Chiefs. They also host the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
It’s going to be hard for Patriots fans to swallow this, but don’t buy into the idea that the league is punishing them for getting more of these season-opening games that come with Lombardi Trophies. Yes, the league has gone out of its way to come down heavy-handed on the franchise at times — no doubting that. But in this case, the league has been planning for its 100th season for years and was always sure to shower us in a wave of nostalgia.
Then again, don’t be shocked if Patriots fans use the same us-against-the-world mantra their favorite team did in winning the Super Bowl this past season. Even though exactly zero people were shocked by the result.
And whoever the Patriots face, it will be their first game in almost a decade without the recently retired Rob Gronkowski on the roster.
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