Brett Favre enters his 13th NFL season in 2003.
Four prime-time TV appearances, including a maximum three on Monday Night Football, a historic opener in Lambeau Field and Thanksgiving Day in Detroit are major features of the Green Bay Packers' 2003 regular season schedule, announced Thursday by the National Football League.
In addition, the Packers will face the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their opponents in the "Big Dance," the Oakland Raiders, on the road, and will entertain two other playoff teams -- the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles and the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers.
Overall, testifying to their nationwide appeal, eight of the Packers' 16 games will be featured television games, in response to the high demand for them among the NFL's broadcast partners.
The historic home opener - the seventh in a row for Green Bay - will find the Packers making their first regular-season appearance in renovated Lambeau Field, upon completion of a three-year project, when they host their longtime neighborhood and division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 7.
The contest, which will see the stadium reaching its new, 71,600 capacity, will have a noon kickoff.
The Packers will be principals in another "re-dedication" in their first "Monday Night Football" appearance, helping the Bears to re-open Chicago's renovated Soldier Field the night of Sept. 29, after a one-year hiatus which saw them play their home games at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium, in Champaign, Ill.
They will make their only Lambeau Field appearance on 'MNF' the night of Nov. 10, when they host the Philadelphia Eagles.
Their other 'MNF' engagement will find the Packers visiting Oakland's defending AFC champion Oakland Raiders and making their first regular-season road appearance against the Raiders since 1990, when they were based in Los Angeles.
The Packers' fourth prime-time appearance will take them to Minnesota's Metrodome the night of Nov. 2 for a rematch with the Vikings.
It is the first time the Packers have had four prime time appearances in a season since 1999.
The Green and Gold, who will be launching their 83rd NFL season, have opened at home every year since 1986 with the exception of the Super Bowl year of 1996. They will be debuting in Lambeau Field for the seventh consecutive year and have won six of their last eight season-opening home games, including a 37-34 overtime decision of the Atlanta Falcons in their 2002 inaugural.
The opening matchup with the Vikings will begin a challenging stretch for the Packers, who will be facing all three of their NFC North Division rivals in a four-week span. Following the Minnesota contest, they will entertain the Detroit Lions Sept. 14 and, following a Sept. 21 visit to Arizona, will invade Chicago for the Monday night contest.
The Packers will open the second "quarter" of their schedule with back-to-back home games - against the Seattle Seahawks (Oct. 5) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Oct. 12) - followed by an Oct. 19 visit to St. Louis and their annual scheduled bye (Oct. 26).
An even more demanding stretch will follow, one which finds the Packers again facing all three of their divisional rivals plus Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay and San Francisco over a six-week span. It will begin with the Sunday night visit to Minnesota (Nov. 2), following which they will return to Lambeau Field to host Philadelphia (Nov. 10).
Next they will invade Tampa's Raymond James Stadium for a Nov. 16 showdown against the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, a contest which will have a 3:15, CST, kickoff.
San Francisco's 49ers then visit Lambeau Field Nov. 23, and four days later (Nov. 27), the Packers invade Detroit for their 17th Thanksgiving Day exchange with the Lions - their second in the last three years.
The Packers complete their NFC North "obligations" the following week (Dec. 7), entertaining the Bears in a 12 noon contest.
Another major challenge will follow - back-to-back trips to the West Coast - to San Diego (Dec. 14) and Oakland (Dec. 22) before closing out the season at home against the Denver Broncos (Dec. 28). The Packers thus will have consecutive December trips to California for the first time since 1963.
The Oakland trip will mark the Packers' first regular-season venture to that city since Oct. 24, 1976. The 27-year period is one of Green Bay's longest stretches without an appearance in one city.
In addition to the four prime-time TV appearances, the Packers also will be featured in the second game of three doubleheaders - the Tampa Bay (Nov. 16), San Diego (Dec. 14) and Denver (Dec. 28) games.
When the Packers play the Buccaneers in Tampa (Nov. 16), they will be meeting a defending Super Bowl champion for the 10th time since 1993. Of those 10, the Tampa trip will be Green Bay's ninth road game. The Packers have won their last two (at New England in '02 and vs. Baltimore in '01), after losing six of their previous seven.
Speaking of the Buccaneers, the NFL scheduled only two teams - the Packers and the Tennessee Titans - to meet both Super Bowl finalists (Tampa Bay and Oakland).
Including Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden, the Packers will be meeting five of their former coaches over the course of the season - Steve Mariucci (Detroit), Dick Jauron (Chicago), Andy Reid (Philadelphia), and Mike Holmgren (Seattle). Since 1997, including playoffs, former Green Bay coaches are 5-20 against the Packers.
The Packers' fourth game, the Monday night invasion of Chicago, will mark league game No. 1,100 in the Green and Gold's history. Entering the 2003 season, only the Bears (1,130) have played more official NFL contests. The Bears also stood across the field for Packers games No. 300 (Sept. 21, 1930, in Green Bay) and 800 (Oct. 21, 1965, at Soldier field).
The Packers will enter the '03 season with 11 consecutive regular-season home victories and are tied with Oakland (33-15, .688) for the second-best overall winning percentage in the NFL over the past three years (2000-2002). The Packers own the league's best mark since 2001 (24-8, .750), 1998 (tied with the Titans, 52-28, .650), 1997 (65-31, .677), 1996, (78-34, .696), 1995 (89-39, .695), 1994 (98-46, .681) and the 1993 start of unrestricted free agency and the salary cap (107-53, .669).