The 2023 NFL preseason is the unofficial kickoff to the season — a first look at live-action since the Super Bowl and a key glimpse into how depth chart battles might shake out. Let’s examine when the NFL preseason starts, how long it will go, and what it all means for these 32 teams — most of which have legitimate playoff aspirations.
When Does the 2023 NFL Preseason Start?
Just like last year, the NFL is going with a three-week preseason, preceded by the 2023 Hall of Fame Game. Four games for all 32 teams? Not anymore. Only two franchises have the “honor” of playing an extra preseason contest.
This year’s Hall of Fame Game could be a doozy, depending on how much action the starters see. The New York Jets and Cleveland Browns will face off in this season’s contest on Thursday, Aug. 3, at 8 p.m. ET, live on NBC.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Deshaun Watson? Not likely, but we’ll see which guys each team throws out there.
The Hall of Fame Game is a prelude to the three-week preseason schedule, which opens up the following week. Last year, the first game of preseason Week 1 started exactly one week after the Hall of Fame Game, with contests sprinkled throughout the ensuing days. By the end of Week 1, 30 teams will have played one game, and two teams (Jets and Browns) will have played two.
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Week 3 of the preseason will wrap up on Sunday, Aug. 27. Teams will then have until Tuesday, the 29th, to cut their active rosters down to the required 53 players.
As a result, preseason Week 3 could be critically important for Day 3 rookies and other players vying for roster spots. At the same time, we’ve seen occasions where a player might dominate in the final week of the preseason, only to be cut 48 hours later. In other words, by Week 3, many teams likely have already made up their minds on most of their roster decisions.
With the regular season beginning on Sept. 7, teams will have anywhere from 11 days to two full weeks to prepare for opening day.
How Might the Preseason Play Out?
Every team approaches preseasons differently. Some like to get their starters in early in the process, while others like to have them play some snaps closer to the regular season.
Meanwhile, some franchises don’t play a number of their starters due to injury concerns. How often have we witnessed great players get knocked out for the season in August? Yeah, it happens. Coaches know this, and it’s the roll of the dice whether they trot out their stars in meaningless games to get some live action under their belts.
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If you’re a football fan (as you probably are), then the most important thing to track in the preseason is how these rookies fare alongside the veterans. The next Justin Jefferson — who began his career battling for the Vikings’ No. 2 WR role — could be on full display. Or, on a different level, the next Isiah Pacheco could break out, to nearly everyone’s shock.
In this way, the preseason can be a boon for players who are a few great weeks away from proving they not only belong in the NFL but that they belong on the field every Sunday.