The NFL is celebrating its 100th year anniversary in 2019 and you can expect some pretty big things throughout the course of the year. It starts with a change in the schedule for the 2019 NFL kickoff game, as the Patriots might not end up defending their Super Bowl title on the first Thursday.
Instead, per the Sports Business Journal, the league is “leaning toward” having the Bears host the Packers in the first game of the year and moving the Patriots’ season opener to the “Sunday Night Football” game on NBC.
Why? Because the NFL hates the Patriots, obviously. Just kidding — the Bears and Packers are the league’s oldest rivalry and the league apparently wants to celebrate the oldest rivalry in a massive game that announces the league’s 100th year celebration.
If you saw the #NFL100 gala commercial (directed by Peter Berg,on the Pick Six Podcast during Super Bowl week), then you know how much emphasis the league is putting on this year. And if you didn’t see it, well, you should watch it. It was easily the best Super Bowl commercial.
Traditionally — or at least in recent traditional sense — the Thursday night opening game has been reserved for the Super Bowl champion to host a game, celebrate its victory the previous season and (hopefully) stomp someone. The last time a team that won the Super Bowl didn’t host the first weekend’s game was to start the 2013 NFL season, when the Baltimore Ravens were forced to play on the road against the Broncos because at the same time on the same day. (Both Baltimore teams have since been doomed by the curse of poor sportsmanship. The Ravens nearly won as many games as the Orioles did last year.)
The Patriots’ last title defense didn’t go so well either — they lost to the Chiefs badly the last time they were defending their title in Week 1 at home on a Thursday.
Moving their game to Sunday would actually be a bonus for them, in that they would get an extra three days of preparation for Bill Belichick, which is really the perfect way to honor the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory.
So who would they play? According to the SBJ, the opponents on the table would be the Browns, Chiefs, Steelers and Giants. That’s an interesting conundrum for the NFL, because all four squads present interesting storylines.
The Chiefs, of course, nearly took down the Pats in the AFC Championship Game. Patrick Mahomes, in Foxborough, in primetime, to open the season? Tom Brady vs. Mahomes III as the first SNF game of the season? That would be fun. But they might want to save that matchup for later in the year. Same with the Steelers, who are going through some stuff right now.
And the Browns would be fascinating, with Baker Mayfield against Brady, but expecting Cleveland to hang with the Pats to kick off the season might be asking a little too much. Maybe see how the Browns look first before putting them in that spotlight.
So the Giants. They stink, right? They do! But they’re still a “blue chip” franchise and they have two wins in the last 15 years against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. People would tune in to see if Eli Manning could give Brady a run, Patriots fans would be thrilled about potentially stomping Eli and the Giants and there is some serious star power in Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham to promote. The Giants honestly make the most sense if you want to save the AFC matchups for later in the year.
No details have been released on the first two (we assume?) Monday night games of the year for 2019, but the early rumors and scuttlebutt about who will play in the weekend bookend make the 2019 kickoff weekend pretty attractive. Which is exactly what the NFL wants for its 100-year celebration.