After dipping a toe in the football waters for last week’s Hall of Fame Game, it’s time to dive all the way in.
No, it’s not the regular season just yet. But for the first time since early January, all 32 NFL teams will play in the same week.
The preseason is a warm up to football season – for players, coaches and even fans. Players get back to game speed, coaches find their play-calling rhythm and fans watch it all unfold for the first time in months.
Here’s everything you need to know about Week 1 of the 2022 NFL preseason:
What is the NFL preseason?
As you might expect, the preseason comes before the regular season.
From 1978 to 2019, the preseason consisted of four weeks with each team playing one game per week. The preseason was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was shortened to three games in 2021 when a 17th regular-season game was added for each team. The same format will be followed in 2022, with each team playing three preseason games, followed by a week off before the regular season begins.
Throughout the preseason, teams are practicing during the week and making roster cuts as they trim down to 53 players for the regular season. Teams hold 90 players on their roster during the offseason and training camp before incremental cuts are made for each preseason week.
With rosters nearly cut in half over the course of just a few weeks, the preseason is vital for players on the roster bubble. Even if a player doesn’t make the team he’s on, he can join another team or a practice squad depending on his summer performance.
How much do starters play in the preseason?
Well, it’s complicated.
Some teams don’t play their starters at all in the preseason, with the Los Angeles Rams as a prime example. Other teams or players like to get on the field and work off the rust in the preseason. It’s all a matter of preference – a good preseason can kickstart a strong regular season, but you always run the risk of injuries.
Under the old, four-game preseason format, starters typically would play one or two drives in the first game, one quarter in the second game and one half (or slightly more) in the third game before sitting out the finale.
With the new, three-game format, “normal” plans are still unclear. Last season, Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes played one drive in Week 1, three drives in Week 2 and two drives in Week 3. Bills quarterback Josh Allen, meanwhile, sat the first two weeks and played the entire first half in Week 3. So, it all depends on the team and player.
Coaches often reveal their preseason playing time plans in the days leading up to the game. It’s good to know which star players may or may not see the field, especially if you’re attending a game.
Who are the best players in the preseason?
The best players in the NFL aren’t the best players in the preseason – because they hardly play, if at all.
Instead, the guys to watch in the preseason are those with their football lives on the line. The players who could be getting their first chance, who could be getting their last chance or who could be getting their only chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.
It’s hard to know much about these roster bubble players before you see them in game action. But a lot of the time, you notice pretty quickly if a player belongs in the NFL.
Preseason also represents a first look at rookies who were drafted back in the spring. Some first-year players to watch this week include Detroit Lions DE Aidan Hutchinson, New York Giants DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett.
Is the NFL preseason on TV?
This is the NFL, right? Of course the preseason is on TV!
Eight of the 16 games will be nationally broadcasted on NFL Network. The remaining eight games will be shown on local stations.
Here’s the full TV schedule for preseason Week 1:
Thursday (Aug. 11)
Giants vs. Patriots, 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Titans vs. Ravens, 7:30 p.m. ET, WKRN (Nashville), WBAL-TV (Baltimore)
Friday (Aug. 12)
Falcons vs. Lions, 6 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Browns vs. Jaguars, 7 p.m. ET, News 5 (Cleveland), WFOX (Jacksonville)
Cardinals vs. Bengals, 7:30 p.m. ET, KPNX (Phoenix), WKRC-TV (Cincinnati)
Jets vs. Eagles, 7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS (New York), NBC10 (Philadelphia)
Packers vs. 49ers, 8:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Saturday (Aug. 13)
Chiefs vs. Bears, 1 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Panthers vs. Commanders, 1 p.m. ET, WJZY (Charlotte), NBC4/NBCS Washington (D.C.)
Colts vs. Bills, 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Seahawks vs. Steelers, 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Dolphins vs. Buccaneers, 7:30 p.m. ET, CBS4 (Miami), WFLA (Tampa Bay)
Saints vs. Texans, 8 p.m. ET, FOX8/GRAY TV (New Orleans), ABC13 (Houston)
Cowboys vs. Broncos, 9 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Rams vs. Chargers, 10 p.m. ET, ABC7 (L.A. Rams), CBS2 (L.A. Chargers)
Sunday (Aug. 14)
Vikings vs. Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
When is the Eagles’ first preseason game?
The Birds begin the preseason against the Jets on Friday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m. ET. The matchup will be shown locally on NBC10.