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.
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 first overall pick Myles Garrett and second-round quarterback DeShone Kizer. Other top rookie quarterbacks like Mitchell Trubisky (Bears), Deshaun Watson (Texans), and Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) 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 (all times Eastern).
2017 preseason week-by-week schedule
WEEK 1: AUG. 9-14
Wednesday, Aug. 9
Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 10
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins, 7 p.m.
Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills, 7 p.m.
Washington at Baltimore Ravens, 7:30 p.m.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots, 7:30 p.m.
New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns, 8 p.m
Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears, 8 p.m
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers, 8 p.m
Friday, Aug. 11
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals, 7:30 p.m.
San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs, 9 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 12
Tennessee Titans at New York Jets, 7:30 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams, 9 p.m.
Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals, 10 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 13
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers, 8 p.m.
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts, 1:30 p.m.
WEEK 2: AUGUST 17-21
Thursday, Aug. 17
Friday, Aug. 18
Saturday, Aug. 19
Sunday, Aug. 20
Monday, Aug. 21
WEEK 3: AUGUST 24-27
Thursday, Aug. 24
Friday, Aug. 25
Saturday, Aug. 26
Sunday, Aug. 27
WEEK 4: AUG. 31-SEPT. 1
Thursday, Aug. 31