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No Wednesday opener for Packers

By Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Green Bay Packers fans won’t have to clear their calendar the first Wednesday in September.

The National Football League took care of that Tuesday when it announced the Dallas Cowboys, and not the Packers, had been chosen to play the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the kickoff game Sept. 5.

There had been much speculation that the Packers, who are to play the Giants on the road next season, would be making the trek to MetLife Stadium for a Wednesday night opener.

It would have been a matchup between the last two Super Bowl champions and a rematch of the Jan. 15 divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field that the Giants won, 37-20. And it would have featured the NFL’s largest television market combining with one of the most popular teams nationally.

Instead, the NFL went for the slam dunk, choosing the Cowboys, who not only are the Giants’ rival and generally referred to as “America’s Team,” but come from the fifth-largest television market in the NFL.

At the end of last season, Cowboys at Giants drew a 27.6 rating on NBC, which was the network’s best regular-season number since taking over the season opener and weekly Sunday night games. To say the NFL took that into consideration would be a major understatement.

It should be noted that the Packers-Saints kickoff opener last year ranks third on NBC’s all-time list with a 27.2 rating, but clearly NBC loves Cowboys-Giants. Last year, they televised both meetings between the NFC East foes.

The kickoff opener is usually played on Thursday, but it was moved to Wednesday this year so it didn’t conflict with President Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6.

Reportedly, the four teams who were considered for the opener against the Giants were: Dallas, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The opener was the only game the NFL announced. The rest of the schedule won’t be released for a couple more weeks.

Though coach Mike McCarthy was not available for comment, it’s likely he wasn’t upset about not getting the opener. McCarthy prefers a fairly regular schedule and playing on Wednesday night would have caused him to adjust his training camp and Week 2 schedule.

The defending Super Bowl champion has hosted the first regular-season game of the year for eight seasons, including the Packers’ 42-34 victory over the Saints last year. The home team has won all eight times.

The Packers could still land a Sunday night or one of the two Monday night games opening weekend, but with Bill Parcells possibly coaching New Orleans, Peyton Manning debuting with Denver and Tim Tebow in play with the New York Jets, there are plenty of choices for primetime.

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