The NFL announced on Monday that the Green Bay Packers will begin the 2008 season against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field in the first game of the opening weekend's *Monday Night Football *doubleheader.
Kickoff time is slated for 6 p.m. (CT) on Monday, Sept. 8.
The second game of the opening Monday night doubleheader will pit Denver at Oakland, with kickoff at 9:15 p.m. (CT). Other opening weekend prime-time contests will feature the New York Giants hosting the Washington Redskins on Thursday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. (CT) and the Indianapolis Colts opening their new stadium against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Sept. 7, at 7:15 p.m. (CT). (The complete NFL schedule will be announced at a later time.)
This will mark the fourth time that the Packers will open their season on a Monday night, and the team is 3-0 in its previous Monday openers. The first one was 35 years ago, as Green Bay posted a 23-7 victory over the New York Jets on Sept. 17, 1973, in Milwaukee.
The Packers also began defense of their Super Bowl XXXI title with a 38-24 victory over Chicago on Sept. 1, 1997, at Lambeau Field, and knocked off reigning NFC champion Carolina in a 24-14 decision on Sept. 13, 2004, in Charlotte.
"I think it's great," said Head Coach Mike McCarthy, speaking to a group of reporters at the NFL owners' meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "I think it's a reflection of the success of our football team last year.
"It's a great way to start the season, against the Minnesota Vikings, an arch-rival. It will be a great way to start the year."
The game will be McCarthy's first Monday night home game as coach. During the past two seasons, the Packers have played three Monday night games, all on the road at Philadelphia, Seattle and Denver. The Packers' last Monday night home game came on Nov. 21, 2005, also against Minnesota.
Opening the season at home in prime time could provide an opportunity for the team to retire quarterback Brett Favre's jersey, No. 4, but no decision will be made until the full schedule is released. The team has told Favre it would present him with a few different options once the full schedule is announced, which is expected to be sometime in April.
Whether or not Favre's number is retired that night, the game will be Aaron Rodgers' first NFL start at quarterback in Favre's place. Rodgers, a first-round draft pick in 2005, played on a national stage three times in relief of Favre -- on a Monday night game in Baltimore in 2005, during the Thursday night contest in Dallas last season, and in the waning moments of the playoff victory over Seattle in January -- but this will make for an even bigger spotlight on Favre's successor.
"I'm excited about Aaron Rodgers' opportunity," McCarthy said. "He's really prepared himself for this time. It will be good to have him playing in a big-game environment. You look for those opportunities."
This also will mark the sixth time NFC North rivals Green Bay and Minnesota will meet on a Monday night, dating back to 1997.
The Packers are 2-3 in the previous five meetings, including an unforgettable, rain-soaked 26-20 overtime triumph at Lambeau Field on Nov. 6, 2000. In the overtime, receiver Antonio Freeman made an incredible diving catch of a deflected Brett Favre pass. With nearly everyone believing the pass was incomplete, Freeman got up and ran untouched into the end zone for the winning 43-yard score.
The Packers have a .500 record (25-25-1) all-time on Monday Night Football, evening that mark with a memorable overtime triumph at Denver on Oct. 29, 2007.
Monday's announcement assures the Packers will appear on *Monday Night Football *for a 16th consecutive season, the NFC's longest appearance streak. Denver will extend its league-best streak to 17 seasons in 2008.