What’s the Deal With the NFL Preseason?

Jul 27, 2017


Alex Gormley

The 2017 NFL Preseason is right on the horizon, with just a handful of days until the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys are set to kick off in Canton, OH, at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 3.

The Hall of Fame Game has long signaled the unofficial beginning of the NFL season but you may not have known that the preseason, in its current iteration, has only been around since the late 1970s.

Since the late 1970s, NFL teams have typically played four exhibition games that take place prior to the start of the league’s regular season. These games, dubbed the “preseason,” do not count in the standings and serve to offer an opportunity for teams to get ready for the regular season and evaluate some of their young talent.

How did teams prepare for the season prior to the modern era of the sport?

Back in the beginning days of the league, teams would play exhibition games all throughout the year so they didn’t need a “preseason” to tune up. Often times NFL teams would play against college or amateur teams and they even played these games during the NFL’s regular season. This practice went on until the late 1930s. As the NFL continued to grow and reshape itself, teams eventually started playing tune-up games against league opposition before the regular season started.

When does the preseason take place?

As previously mentioned, the first preseason game takes place on August 3, 2017. After the opening game from Canton, the rest of the teams play their first game sometime between the dates of August 9-13. Unlike the regular season which mainly features Thursday, Sunday, and Monday contests, the preseason has games on Fridays and Saturdays as well. The pre-season wraps up on August 31st, and the last games will be played between the Seahawks and Raiders and the Chargers and 49ers.

How many players are on a team’s roster for the preseason?

All teams are allowed to carry a roster of 90 players for the entirety of the preseason. Up until this season, there was a first roster cut-down date that trimmed rosters from 90 spots to 75. Only 53 players make the team’s roster at the regular season, so some of the players in camp will be a longshot to suit up in the regular season.

What are some of the common objectives that teams have for preseason games?

Teams use the preseason time to evaluate some of their young talent in a game environment. Identifying how individual players perform in a real-time game setting is far more beneficial to teams than seeing how they play in training camp practices. Coaches also use the preseason to install their offensive and defensive game-plans and iron out any kinks before the season gets underway.

Why is the third week of games so important?

The third preseason game is usually considered to be a dress rehearsal for the first-team players. Coaches often use this game as a final tweak for their starters, and marquis players tend to play quite a bit in the third week. The third game is likely the last time that teams will play their starters in the preseason as they normally opt to hold their big guns out for Week 4 contests to avoid injuries.

Does preseason success determine how well a team will do during the regular season?

Preseason success doesn’t normally carry over for most teams. Since the year 2000, three undefeated preseason teams went on to win the Super Bowl in the same year. The Detroit Lions team that famously went 0-16 back in 2008 also won all four of their preseason games that season.

Where can I get tickets to these games?

Preseason tickets can be purchased easily through SeatGeek. Click here to check out their current offering of seats for your favorite team’s upcoming games.