After a year of no NFL preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league's exhibition season will return in 2021 -- with a twist. The league dropped the preseason schedule from four games to three with the expansion of the regular season to 17 games. The teams that have nine home games in 2021 will have just one preseason game, while the teams that have just eight home games have two home dates (this situation will reverse in 2022).
With this year's preseason reduced to 49 games, only five will be played during prime-time slots. CBS will carry one of the five preseason games, a Week 3 contest between the Miami Dolphins at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. ET. How much Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow -- two quarterbacks taken in the top five picks of the 2020 NFL Draft -- will play is uncertain since this is the final game of the preseason for both teams (and all 32 clubs have to cut their roster to 53 players by Tuesday, Aug. 31).
Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars earned a prime-time spot in Week 2, where they will square off against the New Orleans Saints on Monday, Aug. 23. The Saints have an intriguing quarterback battle between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, which is even more significant in front of a national audience.
The first game of the 2021 NFL preseason will take place on Thursday, Aug. 5, as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Dallas Cowboys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game -- a week before the rest of the league kicks off the preseason. The Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams will play each other in the first game with fans at SoFi Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 14 -- the same night the Las Vegas Raiders play at Allegiant Stadium in front of fans.
Here's a look at the entire preseason schedule for 2021 (all times ET):
Aug. 5 -- Hall of Fame Game (Canton, Ohio)
Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, 8 p.m. (Fox)
Thursday, Aug. 12
Washington at New England, 7:30 p.m.
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 13
Tennessee at Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Buffalo at Detroit, 7 p.m.
Dallas at Arizona, 10 p.m.
Miami at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Denver at Minnesota, 4 p.m.
New Orleans at Baltimore, 7 p.m.
Cleveland at Jacksonville, 7 p.m.
Cincinnati at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Houston at Green Bay, 8 p.m.
Kansas City at San Francisco, 8:30 p.m.
Seattle at Las Vegas, 9 p.m.
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams, 10 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 15
Carolina at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 19
New England at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 20
Kansas City at Arizona, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Cincinnati at Washington, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 21
Buffalo at Chicago, 1 p.m.
New York Jets at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m.
Baltimore at Carolina, 7 p.m.
Atlanta at Miami, 7 p.m.
Detroit at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.
Tennessee at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Houston at Dallas, 8 p.m.
Indianapolis at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Las Vegas at Los Angeles Rams, 10 p.m.
Denver at Seattle, 10 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 22
New York Giants at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
San Francisco at Los Angeles Chargers, 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 23
Jacksonville at New Orleans, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday, Aug. 27
Indianapolis at Detroit, 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia at New York Jets, 7:30 p.m.
Minnesota at Kansas City, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 28
Green Bay at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Baltimore at Washington, 6 p.m.
Chicago at Tennessee, 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay at Houston, 8 p.m.
Arizona at New Orleans, 8 p.m.
Los Angeles Rams at Denver, 9:05 p.m.
Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle, 10 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 29
Jacksonville at Dallas, 1 p.m.
Miami at Cincinnati, 4 p.m. (CBS)
Las Vegas at San Francisco, 4 p.m.
New England at New York Giants, 6 p.m.
Cleveland at Atlanta, 8 p.m. (NBC)