PHOENIX -- The NFL announced on Monday that it would be the Packers and Bears playing in the Thursday night season-opener in September, breaking with tradition of the last few decades where the reigning Super Bowl champion hosts the first game of the new year.
The reasoning? This upcoming season will be the NFL's 100th, and the league felt it appropriate to pit against one another two of its most historic and iconic franchises.
"The Bears, in particular, being one of those iconic franchises, it being their 100th season, matched up against the Packers in their 101st, really seemed a great way collectively to start the season," said COO of NFL Media Hans Schroeder.
"At the same time, what I think was equally important is what the Patriots accomplished last year was incredible. What they've accomplished over the last 15-20 years has been incredible, six SB champs. So how do we still use our Sunday night, another marquee night of that weekend to make sure we don't lose that specialness of honoring a Super Bowl champion in those moments. We'll very much look to do that on Sunday and make sure that the Patriots get every bit of their due for their season last year and their six championships."
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The Patriots, who will be about seven months removed from their Super Bowl LIII win over the Rams, will play their first game of the season on the first Sunday night of the 2019 season. Their opponent that evening has not yet been revealed, though the Chiefs (last year's AFC runner-up), the Browns (a star-studded roster coming off a splashy offseason) and the Cowboys (still one of the NFL's most popular clubs) seem like logical options.
NFL executive vice president of media Brian Rolapp explained that the decision to have two of the league's oldest clubs play in the opener was made well in advance of the Super Bowl. So for anyone thinking that there was a "isn't this getting a little old?" line of thinking when it came to opening the season in Foxboro yet again, the league said that was not the case.
"This decision was taken really well in advance of the season," Rolapp said. "When we started talking about this [that was] before we knew who was going to be in the Super Bowl. You only get one 100th season, and how do you make that special?"
For the Patriots, there is one tangible drawback by not playing on the opening Thursday night of the year.
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Playing on Sunday night instead of Thursday means that the Patriots will likely (unless they play on Monday night of Week 2) have a week or less to prep for their second game. Had they played on Thursday night, they would've benefitted from an extended break between contests.
For every long week there's a short week, for every short week there's a long week, Bill Belichick is fond of saying when asked about his team playing Thursday night games on short rest. But with the league's announcement on Monday, that line of thinking doesn't really apply.
Is the difference of a few days in September going to decide how well the Patriots play this season? Is it going to keep them from making Super Bowl LIV? No.
But as the league celebrate its 100th birthday in Chicago, the Patriots will miss out on one advantage of winning the Super Bowl the year prior: a guaranteed extra few days of rest before Game No. 2.
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