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NFL reportedly leaning against Patriots on opening night

The Patriots will hang a sixth Super Bowl banner at Gillette Stadium in September, but it may not come as part of the NFL’s opening night festivities.
The Patriots will hang a sixth Super Bowl banner at Gillette Stadium in September, but it may not come as part of the NFL’s opening night festivities.(File/Barry Chin/Globe staff)

The Patriots will have a banner night in early September, but it may not be on opening night.

According to a report in Sports Business Journal, the NFL “is leaning toward” a Packers-Bears Thursday night opener to kick off the league’s 100th season celebration on Sept. 5.

Under that scenario, the Patriots would unfurl their Super Bowl LIII championship banner on “Sunday Night Football” Sept. 8. It would be the first time since 2003 that the Super Bowl champions did not play in the ensuing season’s Kickoff Game.

Historic Soldier Field in Chicago would be the site of Packers-Bears, the NFL’s oldest rivalry. The teams have met 198 times, starting in 1921.

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There are a number of intriguing possibilities for the Patriots opener, including the Chiefs, whom New England beat in the AFC Championship game, the Steelers, and the Giants.

If the league chose the Giants, it could present a unique back-to-back situation. The franchises have met in their exhibition finales for 14 straight seasons, and if form holds, that game also would be scheduled for Gillette Stadium.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.