The NFL revealed Tuesday that it will announce the 2019 regular season schedule at 8 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday night (though news about specific matchups often leaks out in the hours preceding the NFL Network show). So far, we know that the season will open on Thursday, Sept. 5, with a game between the Bears and Packers, the league eschewing its usual practice of putting the Super Bowl champion in the prime-time opener so it can give two of the NFL’s legacy franchises the spotlight as its 100th season kicks off.
Here’s what else we’ll find out Wednesday
Who will the Patriots open with?
New England will kick off its latest Super Bowl defense on “Sunday Night Football” at home against one of the following opponents: Browns, Cowboys, Chiefs, Dolphins, Giants, Jets, Steelers, Bills.
Reading the tea leaves, it’s hard to see the Pats opening up against an AFC East foe, considering none moves the needle all that much and two have new coaches. So do the Browns, and while there certainly is much excitement surrounding the Browns after all the offseason changes, having them open the season in prime time against New England is a lot to ask.
That leaves the Cowboys, Chiefs, Giants and Steelers. A rematch with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City certainly would be something to see after their AFC championship game from last season, but one has to think the league would want to save that game for later in the season. Pittsburgh also would be a good opponent, but the league has historically had those two conference rivals meet later in the season: Of their past 10 regular season matchups since 2005, eight have taken place Oct. 23 or later.
That leaves the Cowboys or Giants, two teams that would draw a big television audience to satisfy both the league and NBC.
What about the Monday night openers?
There hasn’t been much recent rhyme or reason to the NFL’s Week 1 Monday night doubleheader, apart from two West Coast teams playing in the nightcap. So let’s just predict that happening again and move on.
The Eagles proposed a Thanksgiving shake-up this offseason, suggesting that the Cowboys and Lions be allowed to keep their traditional spots on the calendar but making them alternate home and away games on Turkey Day, thus allowing more teams to host a game. But Philadelphia withdrew that proposal so things will stand pat this year, with Dallas and Detroit hosting games and then two more teams playing in prime time. Perhaps the league will acknowledge Philly’s request and give them a home game on Turkey Day evening. We’ll see.
Dallas has the following opponents at home this season: Redskins, Eagles, Giants, Bills, Packers, Rams, Dolphins and Vikings. Since 2012, the league has alternated giving the Cowboys an NFC East foe with a non-division opponent on Thanksgiving, and last year Dallas played Washington (it also was the matchup on Thanksgiving Day in 2016). So either Buffalo, Green Bay, Los Angeles, Miami or Minnesota would seem to be the best bet. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers or the defending NFC champion Rams would be the most enticing matchups, for sure.
As for Detroit, the Lions have home games this season against the Packers, Vikings, Bears, Cowboys, Chiefs, Chargers, Giants and Bucs. Dallas is out, obviously. Detroit has hosted an NFC North opponent on Thanksgiving in six of the past eight seasons, including the last three. If it’s not Green Bay, Minnesota or Chicago, the Chiefs and Bucs both have not played on Thanksgiving since 2006. It could be their turn in the rotation.
It should be noted, however, that the Bears, Rams, Bucs, Chargers and Chiefs will all be playing in the NFL’s international games this season, with the first three having to travel to London (Kansas City and the L.A. Chargers play each other in Mexico). That could get them excused from playing a Thanksgiving road game.
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