The NFL preseason is back in 2021, and there are several must-see matchups.
With this year's move to 17 regular-season games, the preseason now consists of three games per team (in addition to the Hall of Fame Game). The influx of five first-round quarterbacks, seven first-time head coaches and a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic should make this preseason as interesting as ever.
Five games will be on national TV, beginning with the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Steelers and Cowboys on Aug. 5. The meeting between the two storied franchises was originally slated for last year amid the 2020 HOF inductions of Jimmy Johnson, Bill Cowher, Troy Polamalu, Cliff Harris and Donnie Shell. Fittingly, the 2021 class features Steelers legends Bill Nunn and Alan Faneca, and the Cowboys' Drew Pearson.
On the playing field, the continuation of this longstanding rivalry figures to be the debut for first-round picks Najee Harris, who fills a big hole in Pittsburgh's running game, and Micah Parsons, who'll be thrown into the middle of a reconstructed Dallas defense. Perhaps, we'll get cameos from a resilient Ben Roethlisberger and revitalized Dak Prescott, in what is the first of four preseason games for these squads.
The Chiefs and Cardinals commence Week 2 of the preseason with a Friday night tilt. It's hard to say how much we'll see from Kliff Kingsbury's former disciple (Patrick Mahomes) and current one (Kyler Murray), but it remains an intriguing matchup between head coaches. Andy Reid will be working with a revamped offensive line while possibly integrating some different faces into the receiving corps. Arizona, meanwhile, added five former Pro Bowlers to its roster and saw at least one franchise cornerstone depart (Patrick Peterson). Larry Fitzgerald's status, of course, is TBD.
The following Monday night, the Jaguars take on the Saints. No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence figures to get a healthy amount of snaps in preparation for a demanding rookie year. Inscribe his name in pen on the depth chart. The bigger question is how he and coach Urban Meyer assimilate to the pro game. Quarterback-turned-tight end Tim Tebow might also be in the house. New Orleans will likely be in the thick of a quarterback competition. Drew Brees barely stood 6 feet tall, but he left behind huge shoes for Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill to fill.
Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa are coming off bittersweet rookie seasons, and for very different reasons. The former was sidelined for last December's meeting between the Bengals and Dolphins, so their Week 3 preseason clash on Aug. 29 could be the first to feature the two as pros. They had an epic encounter two years ago while in college, with the two combining for more than 800 yards passing and seven touchdowns in an LSU win over Alabama.
The preseason schedule concludes with a Sunday night game between Cleveland and Atlanta. A year ago, Kevin Stefanski ditched his offensive coordinator duties and switched conferences to be the head coach of the underachieving Browns. Then he guided the franchise to its first playoff appearance in 18 years and first postseason win in 26 en route to Coach of the Year honors. No pressure, Arthur Smith. The new Falcons coach finds himself in similar circumstances after excelling as the OC of the Titans the past two seasons. Atlanta opted not to move on from veteran QB Matt Ryan but instead grab generational tight end prospect Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick. He'll be appointment viewing every week, even in August.
Below is the complete 2021 NFL preseason schedule.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Game
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Aug. 5, 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals, TBD
Washington Football Team at New England Patriots, TBD
Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts, TBD
New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens, TBD
Seattle Seahawks at Las Vegas Raiders, TBD
Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions, TBD
Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears, TBD
New York Jets at New York Giants, TBD
Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, TBD
Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars, TBD
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles, TBD
Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers, TBD
Tennessee Titans at Atlanta Falcons, TBD
Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings, TBD
Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers, TBD
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams, TBD
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals, Aug. 20, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints, Aug. 23, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
New York Giants at Cleveland Browns, TBD
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers, TBD
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins, TBD
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers, TBD
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears, TBD
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles, TBD
New York Jets at Green Bay Packers, TBD
Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers, TBD
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Football Team, TBD
Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys, TBD
Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings, TBD
Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, TBD
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks, TBD
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams, TBD
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals, Aug. 29, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons, Aug. 29, 8 p.m. (NBC)
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets, TBD
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans, TBD
Green Bay Packers at Buffalo Bills, TBD
Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs, TBD
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans, TBD
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints, TBD
Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos, TBD
New England Patriots at New York Giants, TBD
Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team, TBD
Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers, TBD
Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions, TBD
Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys, TBD
Las Vegas Raiders at San Francisco 49ers, TBD
Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks, TBD