In 2002, the NFL introduced the concept of the Kickoff Game. Instead of multiple afternoon contests opening each new season simultaneously, the league would have one prime time game do the trick moving forward. It was the New York Giants hosting the San Francisco 49ers back then, but the league quickly moved to a more attractive idea — one still in place to this day: the Super Bowl winners would host the first game of the season.
Since 2004, when the New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-24, the reigning champions have opened every single season — always on Thursday, almost always at home (the 2013 Baltimore Ravens had to travel to Denver due to a scheduling conflict with the MLB’S Orioles). This year, however, will be different as the NFL announced as part of the currently ongoing owner’s meetings earlier today.
The Green Bay Packers will visit the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field to kick off the 2019 season and commemorate the league’s 100th anniversary. The two teams, of course, are founding members of the National Football League and have one of the most storied rivalries in all of American sports. The decision to have them open this anniversary season therefore makes sense from the league’s perspective even if it is a change from tradition.
So where does that leave the Patriots, winners of Super Bowl 53 in early February? They will get to open their season and unveil their sixth championship banner on prime time nevertheless — only three days later: the Patriots will player their first game of 2019 on Sunday Night Football against a yet to be determined opponent — with the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants or Pittsburgh Steelers the most realistic candidates to visit Gillette Stadium that day.
Of course, the NFL might also pick one of the Patriots’ other four home opponents — the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, or New York Jets — to travel to Foxboro on September 8. We will have to wait until mid-April’s schedule announcement to definitively find out.