With the Hall of Fame Game being cancelled on Sunday, the NFL preseason schedule officially gets underway Thursday night with a slate of six contests. Of course, these games don’t count for much, but they marks the return of football, which is exciting for every NFL fan. And while not every game is worth watching (sorry, Week 4), these nine absolutely are.
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Jaguars at Jets: Aug. 11
Though it’s only Week 1 of the preseason, this one has plenty of excitement surrounding it. The Jaguars are an up-and-coming team loaded with young defensive talent, such as Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler. It’s unclear how much they’ll play given their injury histories, but they should see the field. On the Jets’ side, there is a handful of quarterbacks vying for playing time. Will Ryan Fitzpatrick start? Or will Todd Bowles give his young backups – Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg – increased time as they battle for a roster spot?
Getty ImagesDon Juan Moore
Cowboys at Rams: Aug. 13
Football is back in Los Angeles! The Rams play host to the Cowboys to open their preseason schedule, and demand for this game is sky high. Attendance could reach 90,000 fans, which shows just how much anticipation there is surrounding the recently relocated Rams. Oh, and there’s a guy named Jared Goff who will be playing his first NFL game. Unfortunately, rookie Ezekiel Elliott (likely) won’t be out there for the Cowboys, but this is one to watch.
APMark J. Terrill
Eagles at Steelers: Aug. 18
Eagles QB Sam Bradford will be the regular-season starter, but that doesn’t mean his job is completely safe. Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz, both of whom should play plenty in this Week 2 duel, could push Bradford for the starting gig if he struggles early in the season. The Steelers boast one of the league’s top offenses, and they’ll get to see what life without Le’Veon Bell – who’s facing a four-game suspension – will be like when he’s on the bench.
49ers at Broncos: Aug. 20
Two teams with undetermined quarterback situations will square off in Week 2 of the preseason as both try to sort out their depth charts. Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are duking it out for the 49ers, and by this point, one should edge out the other. For the Broncos, it appears as though Mark Sanchez has the job won, but strong performances from Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch in the preseason could change that.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Cowboys at Seahawks: Aug. 25
This one is a battle between two of the most popular teams in the NFL, even if the Cowboys are coming off a down season. Week 3 is when starters typically play an entire half, which means plenty of Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom. The Cowboys will probably be cautious with Tony Romo leading up to the season, but this is the game in which he’ll see the most action.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Chargers at Vikings: Aug. 28
On the surface, this one doesn’t seem like a game that would be particularly interesting. However, it’s the first time football will be played at the Vikings’ shiny new U.S. Bank Stadium, which is magnificent. It will be a nationally televised matchup on FOX, at 1 p.m. ET. And since it’s Week 3 of the preseason, starters will most likely play an entire half of football. Get your gjallarhorn on!
Patriots at Panthers: Aug. 26
This was nearly the Super Bowl 50 matchup, with the Patriots coming up just shy of reaching the big game. Cam Newton and his favorite target Kelvin Benjamin will take on a Patriots team led by some combination of Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Given that Brady is out for the first four weeks, Garoppolo should get most of the snaps in this one. This could be a Super Bowl 51 preview, with both teams expected to make a deep run this season.
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Giants at Jets: Aug. 27
The Snoopy Bowl! It’s an annual tradition with the Giants and Jets squaring off in a battle of New York squads. The Giants will roll out their newly revamped defense, which features Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison. The Jets, on the other hand, will see how a duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and newly added running back Matt Forte can lead the offense.
Titans at Raiders: Aug. 27
Two budding quarterbacks facing off in the most important preseason game? Yes, please. Marcus Mariota and his bruising new backfield roll into Oakland to take on Amari Cooper and Derek Carr – or as they’re becoming known, AC/DC. The Titans have potential this season, as do the Raiders, which makes this particular game must-watch in the AFC.