NFL preseason 2018: Dates, times, schedule, storylines, how to watch every Week 1 game
Finally, it’s time for some football!
The NFL returned with the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2, and while the 2018 regular season won’t kick off for about another month, the preseason shifts into high gear this week thanks to the first league-wide round of exhibition matchups. We’ve got big-name rookies ready to make their debuts, big-name veterans ready to make their returns and a whole lot of teams anxious to get a couple of snaps under their belt before the real games begin in September.
It’s Week 1 of the 2018 NFL preseason. And we’ve got you covered with a glimpse at each and every game on tap:
How to watch
Note: Nationally televised games will be designated with an asterisk (*).
Preseason Week 1 games
Thursday, Aug. 9
*Browns at Giants, 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network: The Baker vs. Barkley Bowl. Here, we’ll get our first look at Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, the first two picks of the 2018 draft, on the field and in action. Both of these teams have high hopes after horrendous 2017 seasons, but they also have lots to prove. Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb and Will Hernandez will also be worth watching.
Panthers at Bills, 7 p.m. ET: Will Kelvin Benjamin and Cam Newton speak to each other before the game? On a more serious note, the Panthers will be eyeing their cornerbacks after Ross Cockrell’s injury. And the Bills? Well, the Bills need to have their eyes glued to the quarterback position, where Josh Allen, AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman are vying for the No. 1 job.
Bears at Bengals, 7 p.m. ET: New Chicago coach Matt Nagy probably won’t get too cute with his revamped offense in the preseason, but at least we’ll have another glimpse at some of Mitch Trubisky’s weapons. As for Cincinnati, the best Bengals fans can hope for is Joe Mixon and John Ross to stay healthy
Steelers at Eagles, 7 p.m. ET: If this were a regular season battle, it might be the best of the week. Neither Carson Wentz nor Ben Roethlisberger nor any prominent star will see much, if any, action, and even Nick Foles won’t be going for the Birds. That means this is mostly a chance to see what Mason Rudolph and Nate Sudfeld, two young backup QBs, can do.
Saints at Jaguars, 7 p.m. ET: Like Eagles-Steelers, this is a playoff-caliber showdown, but if we get anything beyond extended Cody Kessler drives, it’ll be a surprise. The Jags can practice their hard-nosed style against a Saints “D” that got better as it went in 2017, whereas New Orleans will have a shot to peek at new wideouts Michael Floyd and Cameron Meredith.
Buccaneers at Dolphins, 7 p.m. ET: It might be a stretch to say that DeSean Jackson’s job will be won or lost in the preseason, but then again, it might not be. Chris Godwin has apparently overtaken him on the depth chart, which will be without Jameis Winston early in the regular season, so there’s a Bucs story for you. For Miami, it’s all about Ryan Tannehill making his return.
Redskins at Patriots, 7:30 p.m. ET: Has anyone even talked about Alex Smith and the Redskins this offseason? The spring and summer featured lots of big moves, including Washington’s old QB signing a huge deal, but Smith has been overlooked. Here, he’ll make his first appearance in burgundy. For the defending AFC champion Pats, cornerback might be a good spot to watch.
Rams at Ravens, 7:30 p.m. ET: The Aqib Talib-Michael Crabtree revenge game! Baltimore already got its first look at Robert Griffin III and Lamar Jackson in the Hall of Fame Game, but now they can see Joe Flacco take a few snaps of his own. The Rams’ tantalizing talent won’t be on full display until September, but their remade defense will be something to behold.
Titans at Packers, 8 p.m. ET: This will be Kenny Vaccaro’s chance to make a killer first impression and perhaps take a big step toward a starting role in Tennessee. And in Green Bay, while Aaron Rodgers‘ return will dominate regular-season headlines (and the NFC North race), the QB spot should still be intriguing with Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer battling out for the No. 2 role.
Texans and Chiefs, 8:30 p.m. ET: In Houston, all eyes are on Deshaun Watson (can you sense a theme about returning QBs?). The Chiefs, meanwhile, have their own quarterback spotlight going on with Patrick Mahomes set to make his anticipated debut as Alex Smith’s successor. Andy Reid will keep Kansas City’s offense vanilla, but he’s still got lots of toys to showcase.
*Cowboys at 49ers, 10 p.m. ET, NFL Network: This is a prime opportunity for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to prove they aren’t crazy and actually believe their wide receiver corps will be better without Dez Bryant. San Francisco, meanwhile, won’t be trotting Richard Sherman onto the field, but it will have an even better piece in the lineup — hyped QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
Colts at Seahawks, 10 p.m. ET: If you’re going to tune into a preseason game just to watch a QB returning from injury, you might want to make it this one, if only because Andrew Luck’s rehabilitation has been one of the most mysterious and concerning of them all. Can he even complete a pass? Will he look like the Luck of old? We’ll see. Seattle, of course, will debut an overhauled defense.
Friday, Aug. 10
*Falcons at Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network: If you’re sick of us mentioning quarterback situations, skip this game. Because while Atlanta is set and ready to contend in the NFC South, this matchup is all about the Jets’ signal-callers. It’s anyone’s job, really, so rookie Sam Darnold, underdog Teddy Bridgewater and ageless vet Josh McCown should all see plenty of time.
*Lions at Raiders, 10:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network: Here’s an opportunity for Matt Patricia to get those first butterflies out of the way as the Lions‘ new head coach — and for Jon Gruden to get those butterflies out of the way in his unprecedented return to Oakland. The biggest storyline might center on the Raiders’ pass rush, which will try to prove it can hold up without Khalil Mack.
Saturday, Aug. 11
*Vikings at Broncos, 9 p.m. ET, NFL Network: This is another one that would look great in the regular season. Case Keenum will get a chance to go up against his old team, the same one he took to the NFC Championship, whereas Kirk Cousins will get his first live action in a Vikings uniform. Each side has a lot of talent, with Minnesota a popular pick to repeat as NFC contenders in 2018.
Chargers at Cardinals, 10 p.m. ET: The Chargers are good enough that most of their focal points will be depth battles, but the Cardinals are in rebuild/restock mode with Steve Wilks manning the sidelines. Both Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen should get snaps as part of their competition, even if the former figures to see limited time because of his well-documented injury history.