The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will kick off the NFL’s 100th season when they meet at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Thursday night, Sept. 5, the NFL announced on Monday.
The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will open their season on Sunday night Sept. 8 against a yet-to-be-announced opponent.
The Super Bowl winner typically plays in the season’s first game, but the NFL went for the historic Packers-Bears matchup instead.
This is the first time since 2003 that the Super Bowl champion won’t play in the league’s first game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who won the Super Bowl following the 2002 season — opened on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles in a Sunday night affair while the Washington Redskins hosted the New York Jets in the Thursday night season opener.
Chicago and Green Bay will meet on NBC and the contest will be the 199th in their longstanding rivalry, with matchup No. 200 to occur later in the season.
“As an organization, we are thrilled to be kicking off the 100th season of football in the NFL,” Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement. “As a charter franchise, we cannot think of a better way to begin our centennial season by hosting our longtime rival in prime time at Soldier Field.”
The Bears (12-4) and Packers (6-9-1) split last season’s two meetings. Chicago’s mid-December victory over Green Bay clinched the NFC North championship.
The Bears lost in the NFC wild-card game, 16-15 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Patriots have intriguing possibilities for their first game, including a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game with the Kansas City Chiefs. New England prevailed 37-31 in overtime.
The Dallas Cowboys also are a possibility. New England’s other home opponents this season are the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, as well as traditional AFC East foes in the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.
The remainder of the NFL regular-season schedule is slated to be announced in mid-April.
The NFL also announced it will launch a series involving future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
The 30-episode series called “Peyton’s Places” will feature Manning visiting and featuring 30 pivotal figures as part of the NFL’s 100th season celebration.
—Field Level Media