All eyes on the Packers-Seahawks opener

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The NFL's annual season opener featuring the defending Super Bowl champions is about many things -- the final coronation for the reigning champs, the celebration of a new football season and even a musical event.

But let's get right down to what the Green Bay Packers' trip to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL's kickoff game on Thursday, Sept. 4 is all about.

For the Packers, it will be their first game in Seattle and against the Seahawks since the infamous Fail Mary game on "Monday Night Football" in Week 3 of the 2012 season, which helped bring an end to the replacement officials. It was arguably one of the biggest stories – and biggest distractions – of that season, which was precisely why Packers coach Mike McCarthy tried to head off that talk from the beginning.

In quotes distributed by the Packers shortly after the 2014 NFL schedule was announced on Wednesday, McCarthy addressed that subject.

"This game won’t be about the past," McCarthy said. "It will be about the 2014 Green Bay Packers."

This marks the third straight season the Packers will play at the defending Super Bowl champions. They do so this season because both teams finished in the same place – first – in their respective divisions. The Packers played at the New York Giants in 2012 after their Super Bowl win and at the Baltimore Ravens last season following their Super Bowl victory.

But it's the first time since the Packers won the Super Bowl (2011) that they will be featured in the season-opening, Thursday night game.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for our football team," McCarthy said. "We have experience playing in the kickoff opener three years ago, and we will draw on that. Obviously, being the visiting team this time presents new challenges. It will help sharpen our focus even more during training camp and the preseason."

Here's what McCarthy had to say about the rest of the schedule, which can be found here:

  • On playing three NFC North games in 12 days (Weeks 3-5 at Detroit, at Chicago and home against Minnesota on Thursday night): "Two of our division opponents have new head coaches, so that's an added challenge, but division games always carry extra importance, no matter when they're played. We played three in a row late in the season two years ago, and that was a key stretch in our season. This will be no different."

  • On having five prime-time games (for now, pending flexible scheduling changes beginning in Week 5): "It’s an honor. I know our fans around the world always appreciate the chance to watch us on national TV. Playing under the lights always adds to the atmosphere at Lambeau Field, and on the road."

  • On the bye coming exactly in the middle of the season: "Ideally, that’s how you draw it up. It will be a great time to re-evaluate and recharge heading into November and December football."

  • On having four home games in five weeks following the bye: "That's a potential plus, but we have to be in position to take advantage of it. That will be the third quarter of our season and it will be important to make the most of playing at home during that stretch."