Patriots

One drawback to Patriots being moved from Thursday opener to Sunday night

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One drawback to Patriots being moved from Thursday opener to Sunday night

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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NFL conference championships see ratings drop without Patriots

NFL conference championships see ratings drop without Patriots

Love 'em or hate 'em, the New England Patriots garner the attention of the masses.

That was evident during last year's AFC Championship game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, when an average crowd of 53.9 million people tuned in to watch the Patriots win in an overtime thriller and advance to Super Bowl 53.

To put that into perspective, this year's late-window matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers drew only 42.7 million viewers, per Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily.

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Of course, much of that discrepancy has to do with Pats-Chiefs being far more competitive than Packers-Niners. Plenty of viewers likely tuned out of the latter matchup when San Francisco led Green Bay 27-0 at halftime.

Even so, it just goes to show how much more attention is paid to the NFL playoffs when Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of New England is involved. This year's AFC Championship featuring the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs marked the first without the Patriots since 2011, and it was the smallest audience (41.1 million) for an AFC title game in 11 years.

In comparison, the early game in 2019 (Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints) averaged roughly 44 million.

The Chiefs and 49ers will meet in Miami for Super Bowl 54. It'll be interesting to see how those ratings compare to last year's Patriots-Rams matchup.

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George Kittle celebrated Super Bowl berth with hilarious Jimmy Garoppolo shirt

George Kittle celebrated Super Bowl berth with hilarious Jimmy Garoppolo shirt

George Kittle had a little fun with his quarterback after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers in Sunday night's NFC Championship Game to clinch a berth in Super Bowl LIV.

The All-Pro tight end showed up to his postgame press conference with a custom t-shirt that included a shirtless photo and autograph of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Check it out in the tweet below:

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Garoppolo was asked by reporters about Kittle's shirt, and he couldn't hold back his laughter.

“I got him earlier in the week with a shirt, showed it to the media and everything, so he had to get me back a little bit," a smiling Garoppolo said, per 95.7 The Game. "I thought it was a nice shirt he had on. Maybe we’ll get them in the team store soon.”

Garoppolo is no stranger to the Super Bowl. He made two Super Bowl appearances with the New England Patriots as Tom Brady's backup, and in two weeks he'll make his first start on that stage.

The 49ers quarterback hasn't had to play at an elite level for his team to reach the Super Bowl, but that should change in Miami on Feb. 2. The AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs have an offense that looks unstoppable right now, so Garoppolo likely will need to play one of his best games as a pro to give San Francisco a strong chance to win its sixth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

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