Our long national nightmare ends Thursday, Aug. 3 when the Cardinals and Cowboys kick off the 2017 preseason. Arizona and Dallas end a six-month NFL drought when they meet in the Hall of Fame Game.
They’ll hope to redeem the prestige of the league’s annual preseason opener by actually playing the game this summer. The annual matchup was canceled last August after the sweltering Ohio weather turned the turf to a sticky gel that was deemed unsafe for play. That limited the Packers and Colts to only four exhibition games in 2016.
The consequences were dire. Green Bay needed 10 games to get their season back on track. Indianapolis never recovered, slumping to 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
The league’s preseason slate will begin in earnest seven days later. Week 1 of proper exhibition action will be relegated to local broadcasts, but features matchups between postseason contenders like the Steelers and Giants or the Falcons and Dolphins. It will also play host to the Chargers’ first game in Los Angeles, when Philip Rivers faces off against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks — for a few series, at least.
Week 2 brings the game back to national television, and it’s clear ESPN understands what American football fans watch: heaping helpings of the Browns and Jaguars. Buccaneers-Jags and Giants-Browns will both earn broadcast slots on the Worldwide Leader, while games like Falcons-Steelers, Patriots-Texans, and Washington-Packers failed to make the cut.
Five games earned the call to nationwide status the following week as America’s networks prepare for the sport that turns Sundays from a syndication graveyard to ratings bonanza. They aren’t especially compelling, but still better than 90 percent of the league’s Thursday Night Football matchups.
Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks (CBS, 8 p.m.) Friday, Aug. 25
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams (CBS, 8 p.m.) Saturday, Aug. 26
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans (FOX, 1 p.m.) Sunday, Aug. 27
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington (FOX, 4:30 p.m.) Sunday, Aug. 27
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (NBC, 8 p.m.) Sunday, Aug. 27
Week 4, the final chance for undrafted free agents and other fringe rookies to make a regular season roster, closes out the preseason with a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl rematch and a Seahawks-Raiders battle for West Coast supremacy.
The preseason is mostly an opportunity for teams to gauge fringe roster players and get veterans warmup reps before regular games begin. However, last year’s exhibition standings reflected well on the final results.
Of the 10 teams to finish the 2016 preseason in contention, five wound up in the playoffs. Last year’s Super Bowl participants, the Patriots and Falcons, each went 3-1 in games that didn’t count for anything. Conversely, the Ravens, Eagles, and Vikings all went 4-0 and missed the postseason entirely.
The 2017 preseason will be the first opportunity to see the league’s newest class of rookies take to the field. The Browns will have the chance to show off Myles Garrett (that is, unless they buck a near universal sentiment to take the freak pass rusher). Potential first-round quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, and Patrick Mahomes will all earn their first snaps this August.
Now that the schedule is out, they’re one step closer to figuring out when.
Here’s the schedule in full, courtesy of the NFL.
2017 preseason week-by-week schedule
WEEK 1: AUG. 10-14
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots
Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills
New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee Titans at New York Jets
Washington at Baltimore Ravens
WEEK 2: AUGUST 17-21
Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles
Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans
Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals
Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
Green Bay Packers at Washington
Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys
Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals
Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers
New York Giants at Cleveland Browns
New York Jets at Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars
WEEK 3: AUGUST 24-27
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers
Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams
Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles
New England Patriots at Detroit Lions
New York Jets at New York Giants
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
WEEK 4: AUG. 31-SEPT. 1
Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos
Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts
Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears
Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans
Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills
Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons
Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings
New York Giants at New England Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets
Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers
Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs
Washington at Tampa Bay Buccaneers