PHOENIX — The defending Super Bowl champions will not be part of the NFL’s 2019 season opener.
Rather than play on the Thursday night of Week 1, which is customary for the reigning champion, the Patriots will unveil their sixth Super Bowl banner before a Sunday night game on the opening weekend.
Their opponent hasn’t yet been determined.
The NFL announced at Monday’s annual meetings that the Bears and Packers will face off in the Thursday night opener. In honor of the league’s 100th anniversary, the NFL wanted a rivalry game to kick off the season.
The full schedule will be released in April.
Possible opponents for the Patriots’ Week 1 Sunday night game include the Chiefs, Browns, Steelers, Cowboys, Giants, Bills, Jets and Dolphins.
It seems most likely that either the Chiefs or Browns will visit Gillette Stadium for the opener. The past two Chiefs-Patriots matchups were epic games — a 43-40 Patriots win in Week 6 at Gillette, and the thrilling 37-31 AFC Championship victory at Arrowhead Stadium. The Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes storyline should remain a compelling one in 2019, as Brady looks for his seventh Super Bowl ring and Mahomes aims to duplicate his success from a 50-touchdown MVP season.
The Browns are a fascinating draw, too. After trading for Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland is expected to have one of the league’s most prolific offenses.
Beckham joins a group led by ascending second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, who showed glimpses of stardom as a rookie.
ALL QUIET ON KRAFT
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, facing charges of solicitation for prostitution, has been active at the NFL’s annual meetings, taking part in conferences as he normally would.
He’s been spotted in between meetings, but hasn’t conducted any interviews.
His fellow owners are staying mum on the subject, too.
Giants owner John Mara declined comment through a spokesperson Monday. Mara also did not comment when speaking to the New York media Sunday.
“What good could possibly come out of commenting on that?” Mara said.
Mara serves with Kraft on the NFL’s compensation committee and the management council executive committee.
Earlier in the week, Giants co-owner Steve Tisch commented on Kraft’s statement, in which the Patriots owner said he was “truly sorry.”
“I think what Robert said yesterday very publicly, I think it came from his heart,” Tisch told reporters. “I think he was really addressing his family, his team, his players, his friends and Patriots fans, and I think in some ways, 31 other team owners..Had to be very very tough for him to make those statements.”
Kraft’s potential discipline from the league remains to be seen.
The NFL annual meetings run through Wednesday, as owners, coaches and team executives discuss rule changes and get everything set for the 2019 season. Kraft’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday in Palm Beach County, Fla. He does not need to attend and can be represented by a lawyer, according to his attorney Jack Goldberger.
As Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia construct their roster in Detroit, they’ve become awfully fond of adding former Patriots.
This year’s free agent haul, headlined by Trey Flowers, also includes Danny Amendola and Justin Coleman.
Quinn met with media Monday and discussed the Flowers signing.
“Scheme fit, culture fit, great player. Great person,” Quinn said. “I feel he’s going to be able to be a three-down player for us and really increase that level of play across the defensive line, play multiple positions. So that was a guy we targeted, obviously, and there was mutual interest, obviously, because he had familiarity with some of us and hopefully it’s a good fit. He’s a great kid that works hard, so we’re excited about having him on the team.”
The Lions paid Flowers $90 million over five years. The star defensive end receives $40 million guaranteed at signing.