Football is back as the NFL season kicks off its 100th season with a matchup between NFC North rivals the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. The two teams will take center stage at Soldier Field in Chicago at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
Here is what you need to know about the two teams as they open the 2019 NFL season:
The NFL’s Oldest Rivalry
The Bears and Packers have been playing each other since 1921 and will meet each other for the 199th time in NFL history. The Packers lead the all-time series by a slim margin, 97-95-6, with the two teams splitting their matchups last season. They are dead even, 13-13-1, when playing each other in the season opener, which includes last year’s 24-23 Green Bay victory in which Aaron Rodgers led the Packers back from a 20-3 deficit in the fourth quarter.
Matt LaFleur’s Debut
Thursday night’s game marks the head coaching debut of Packers coach Matt LaFleur. The 39-year-old is one of the youngest head coaches in the league and joined the Packers after spending last season as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. He has also worked on the staffs of offensive gurus Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, so it should be interesting to see how he can get the most out of a two-time MVP in Rodgers.
Eddy Pineiro’s Debut
Pineiro’s name may be unrecognizable to the average fan, but the Bears’ new kicker may be under the most pressure of the entire team. Last year, the Bears lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card round courtesy of kicker Cody Parkey’s “double doink” missed field goal, which hit the upright and the crossbar, costing the Bears a victory.
The team spent the entire offseason in an unrelenting search for his replacement, and Pineiro — a 23-year-old undrafted kicker — is the last man standing.
Khalil Mack Loves the Packers
Mack, one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass rushers, feasted on the Packers last season. Of his 12.5 sacks, 3.5 came against the Packers, with 2.5 of those coming against Rodgers. Mack also had an interception returned for a touchdown, as well as a strip-sack fumble against backup DeShone Kizer in Week 1 last year after Rodgers had briefly left the game with an injury — which was caused by a hit from Mack.
What to Expect From Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay's 35-year-old quarterback is coming off a season with his third-lowest touchdown total since becoming a starter, and his lowest in a season in which he played at least 15 games. It was not necessarily a bad season for Rodgers, who threw for 4,442 yards and just two interceptions last year, but he his low touchdown total resulted in a 6-9-1 record for the Packers — his first losing season since 2008. All eyes will be on Rodgers when steps onto Soldier Field Thursday night.