The Bears might host the Packers in the NFL's annual Thursday night opener, according to a report Monday by the SportsBusiness Journal. What a start that would be to the Bears' 100th season, which will coincide in 2019 with the league's centennial celebration.
SBJ cited multiple anonymous sources in reporting the NFL is "leaning toward" showcasing Bears-Packers in the prime-time season-opening spot normally occupied by the reigning Super Bowl champion. The NFL's schedule is not expected to be finalized until mid-April.
If the Bears end up hosting the Packers Sept. 5, it would be the first time since 2006 that the Super Bowl champ doesn't begin its season as part of the nationally televised Thursday night showcase. The Patriots, according to SBJ's report, would open the following Sunday night.
Perhaps the league senses a national Patriots fatigue, given that TV ratings for Super Bowl LIII were the lowest for the big game in a decade. There's also upside to putting the NFL's longest-standing rivalry on the main stage to kick off the Bears' and the league's centennial seasons.
For what it's worth, the Bears and Packers did not disappoint the national prime-time audience in the 2018 opener. The Packers' thrilling 24-23 win in coach Matt Nagy's debut featured a heartbreaking collapse by the Bears, which came back to hurt their playoff seeding despite an NFC North title and 12-4 record.
The Packers haven't played a prime-time game at Soldier Field since 2010. Meanwhile, the Bears have played at Lambeau Field at night each year since 2011.
SBJ also reported the Bears "likely" will play the Lions on Thanksgiving, just as they did last season.