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Report: Bears-Packers to kick off NFL's 100th season

Move over, New England Patriots. The NFL is leaning toward a historic matchup to kick off its 100th season in 2019.

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are expected to play in the Thursday night opener, according to Westwood One's Ed Werder.

In a nod to the historic rivalry to open a celebration-filled 100th season of the NFL, the longtime regional rivals would replace the reigning Super Bowl champions in the first game of the 2019 regular season.

New England typically would host the game to kick off the season by virtue of winning Super Bowl LIII.

A decision could come soon, but the official announcement likely is to be delayed until the official schedule release in primetime around mid-April.

New special teams coach

The Packers have hired Shawn Mennenga from the college ranks to be their new special teams coach, ESPN reported.

Mennenga was the special teams coordinator for Vanderbilt last season after seven seasons as a special teams assistant on the Cleveland Browns' staff, including time under then-head coach Mike Pettine, now the Packers defensive coordinator.

Mennenga would replace Ron Zook, let go by the Packers in the housecleaning that followed the termination of Mike McCarthy during the season.

The Packers reportedly interviewed at least four other candidates for the position before landing on Mennenga to lead their woeful special teams, ranked last in 2018 in Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings.

The Packers announced Wednesday that new head coach Matt LaFleur hired Alvis Whitted from Colorado State to be his new receivers coach.

Early favorites

Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl next season, according to one Las Vegas sportsbook.

The Chiefs are 6-1 at Westgate SuperBook, jumping ahead of the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. Those three teams are 8-1.

At 14-1 are the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

DraftKings, however, made the Patriots, Chiefs and Rams the favorite to win the next Super Bowl. And New England was the favorite in the opening line set by BetOnline and William Hill.

Super Bowl LIV will be played Feb. 2, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

Audience dips

The U.S. television audience for Sunday's Super Bowl on CBS Corp. dropped about 5.3 percent from last year, according to preliminary Nielsen data released by the network Monday, Feb. 4.

About 44.9 percent of households in 56 major markets tuned in to watch the favored New England Patriots defeat the Los Angeles Rams, CBS said, down from 47.4 percent a year earlier.