The 2013 NFL preseason begins on Sunday, Aug. 4 when the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys square off in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
Many of the games on the schedule will be televised nationally, and millions of fans will tune in to watch the teams in action.
Most teams don't play their starters much in the first couple of preseason games as coaching staffs are busy trying to determine which fringe players deserve roster spots.
Week 3 is typically when the starters see the bulk of their preseason action, as most teams will play their starting units well into the second half as a means to promote chemistry before the regular season begins.
Though the action in these games isn't usually as crisp as what we'll see during the regular season, preseason games offer a unique opportunity to watch up-and-coming players rise from obscurity into the limelight.
Here's a look at the entire preseason TV schedule, broken down by week.
Note: TV schedule info courtesy of CBSSports.com
2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game
The Dolphins and Cowboys will kick off the season in Canton, Ohio, one day after the 2013 Hall of Fame class is introduced.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett appears inclined to keep Tony Romo out of this game, as he revealed in an interview with 105.3 The Fan. Romo is being eased back after he underwent minor surgery to remove a cyst in his back earlier this year.
Though Ryan Tannehill likely won't play past the first quarter—if that—it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins quarterback and new receiver Mike Wallace can get on the same page.
Recent reports from Dolphins training camp indicate the two haven't gotten off to a smooth start, as first noted by Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel. A week later, Jeff Darlington of NFL Network reported a similar story, as noted by Rotoworld.
Four days after the Hall of Fame Game, the action begins in earnest as six games will be played on Thursday, Aug. 8, though only two of them are televised.
Two teams many believe will contend for a championship in 2013, the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons, will take to the field in Atlanta. Steven Jackson will get his first taste of playing for the Falcons after spending his career with the St. Louis Rams.
The late game on Thursday night kicks off at 10 p.m. ET when the Seattle Seahawks—a team many believe could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl—will face the San Diego Chargers in Southern California.
Seattle will be without superstar Percy Harvin, who will be recovering from hip surgery, as he announced on his Twitter account. For Chargers fans, this will be the first chance to see linebacker Manti Te'o in action.
All eyes will be locked on to the Philadelphia Eagles under new head coach Chip Kelly on Friday when his team takes on Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Of particular interest in that contest will be the ongoing quarterback competition between Michael Vick, Nick Foles and, to a lesser extent, Matt Barkley.
Not surprisingly, Dallas gets another nationally televised game in Week 1, and Romo will likely see some action against the Oakland Raiders in the late game on Friday night.
Saturday and Sunday feature just one game apiece.
A couple of teams that are normally associated with postseason play—the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers—will hit the field on Saturday. Both teams missed the playoffs last year and will need to stay healthy in order to avoid the same fate this year.
Then, on Sunday, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will host the Buffalo Bills.
Kevin Kolb was thought by many to be the default starter this year as rookie EJ Manuel gets acclimated to the NFL, but Kolb has reportedly struggled in camp, as noted by Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 SportsRadio.
A strong showing by Manuel against Indianapolis could set the stage for a Russell Wilson-type coup in Buffalo for the rookie.
The Chargers are on the national television schedule once again in Week 2 in a road contest against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night. Both teams face challenges this year under new head coaches. Both teams feature stars on both sides of the ball, but questions remain about their ability to protect their franchise quarterbacks.
On Friday, the Patriots will make another appearance, this time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It'll be interesting to see if Josh Freeman can rebound this year after he suffered a setback in development last season late in the year.
A loaded schedule on Saturday features three nationally televised contests, and Dallas is once again a featured team.
The Cowboys will head to Arizona to play against the new-look Cardinals under new head coach Bruce Arians. This game could feature plenty of offensive fireworks, as both teams feature defenses under construction.
In what could easily be the stinker of this preseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets will square off on Saturday evening. Both teams have yet to decide a starting quarterback, and there's a good chance we'll see more lowlights than highlights in this contest.
Capping off the action on Saturday night will be Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on the road against Seattle. Wes Welker joins Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to give Manning a highly skilled receiving corps, and it'll be fun to see if the trio can make headway against Seattle's "Legion of Boom."
The Colts and Giants will battle on Sunday night in what should be a game full of highlight-reel plays on offense by both teams. Luck and Manning are both capable of lighting up opposing defenses, and neither team's secondary is known for its ability to shut down opposing aerial attacks.
The action in Week 3 should resemble actual NFL games, as most teams will play their starters through at least the first half, while some will play them for three quarters or more.
As such, there are eight televised games on the national schedule.
Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers will head to Baltimore on Thursday night to test their mettle against the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens.
Joe Flacco has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to succeed after he signed a huge contract this past offseason. He'll be without two of his top receivers from last year—Dennis Pitta, who is out for the year with a hip injury, as noted by Albert Breer of NFL Network, and Anquan Boldin, who now plays for the San Francisco 49ers.
In a rematch of last year's infamous "Fail Mary" game, the Seahawks will travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers on Friday night. Green Bay fans are among the most loyal in the league, and you can be sure Lambeau will be packed to see Aaron Rodgers and the Pack get some revenge.
Oakland and Chicago once again made the national schedule and will go head to head on Friday, as well.
In what could be a critical turning point for Kolb and Manuel, the Bills will head to D.C. to face the Redskins on Saturday. If Kolb continues to struggle in camp, this could be the week Manuel takes over without a shadow of a doubt.
The St. Louis Rams will be a fun team to watch on Saturday night against the Broncos. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has offensive weapons for the first time in his career. Rookie Tavon Austin and free-agent tight end Jared Cook will get plenty of opportunities to make big plays.
The Chargers and Cardinals will play in the late game on Saturday night. This will be the best chance to see Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer working this preseason. Both teams feature dynamic playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, and we could see plenty of fireworks in this game.
In a classic battle between offensive and defensive powerhouses, the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans will make their first national appearances of the 2013 season on Sunday. Both teams are excited about the new season, and Houston is a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the AFC.
In the final game of Week 3, on Sunday night, the Minnesota Vikings will travel to Northern California to face the San Francisco 49ers. Adrian Peterson versus the 49ers' impressive front seven will be fun to watch, as will the 49ers offense, led by second-year starter Colin Kaepernick.
The final week of preseason football is anticlimactic as teams prepare for the regular season. Starters rarely play more than a quarter, while some teams hardly play them at all as they evaluate players to get down to the 53-man roster.
There are just two games on the national television schedule, as a result, and all 16 games will be played on Thursday, Aug. 29, so teams can rest up and get ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
The Patriots host the Giants, in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, in the first televised game. Tom Brady and Eli Manning won't likely see much action, if at all, but this could be a make-or-break game for Tim Tebow, who isn't assured a roster spot.
Then, in the late game, the 49ers will travel to face the Chargers in San Diego. For the 49ers, staying healthy will be the top goal, as this team attempts to get back to the Super Bowl after losing to the Ravens in a heartbreaker last year.
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