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How to watch the 2021 NFL preseason games

Tampa's Raymond James Stadium in February 2021.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The NFL preseason, all things being equal, is not particularly known for its watchability. Sure, you see players on the field, wearing your team's uniform. It's a great time to see some names that most likely will disappear during the regular season. 

We're just calling it what it is, folks.

But that's not to say that you won't be able to catch a pretty good percentage of NFL preseason games on TV in 2021. Over the three weeks of preseason play, the NFL Network is going to carry a record 23 games live — and it's the only network to show all 48 preseason games. (Not that anyone else was likely clamoring for that accolade, though.)

That's the short version. Want to watch NFL preseason games in 2021? You'll need a cable plan or streaming service that carries the NFL Network. There are a couple other games that can be had elsewhere, though. Let's break down what to expect, and how to watch the NFL preseason in 2021.

The best streaming service for NFL Network

The least expensive way to stream the NFL Network in the United States is with Sling TV. And, specifically, the Sling Blue package. That's one half of the total Sling TV package. And for just $35 a month you'll find yourself with some 43 channels, including Comedy Central, NBC, HLN, CNN, TBS, FS1, SYFY, and more.

If you want the whole smash, you'll want to add on the Sling Orange plan, too, which also gets you ESPN and a number of other channels that you'll definitely want to check out. And that weighs in at just $50 a month. And that all come after you take the Sling free trial into account.

NFL Network is also available via Fubo TV, YouTube TV and, just recently, Hulu with Live TV.

How to watch NFL preseason Week 1

Everything kicks off Thursday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, when the Washington football team takes on rookie quarterback Mac Jones and the New England Patriots. That game will be shown live on the NFL Network. 

Same goes on Friday, Aug. 13, when the Buffalo Bills head to the Detroit Lions at 7 p.m. Eastern — again, on the NFL Network. As a chaser, you'll also get the Dallas Cowboys at the Arizona Cardinals at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Saturday, Aug. 14, has a smattering of games. You'll get to see Justin Fields' debut for the Chicago Bears, who host Miami at 1 p.m. Eastern on the NFL Network. Then there's the Broncos-Vikings at 4 p.m., and Trevor Lawrence making his NFL debut with the Jacksonville Jaguars at 7 p.m. Saturday night closes out with the Chargers at Rams at 10 p.m.

And the lone game on Sunday, Aug. 15, will find the NFL Network broadcasting the Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts.

Here is the schedule for games not available nationally via the NFL Network. Check your local listings to see where your team may be on.

Aug. 12
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 7:30 p.m. ET

Aug. 13
Tennessee Titans vs. Atlanta Falcons, 7 p.m. ET

Aug. 14
New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens, 7 p.m. ET
New York Jets vs. New York Giants, 7 p.m. ET
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7 p.m. ET
Houston Texans vs. Green Bay Packers, 8 p.m. ET
Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers, 8:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Seahawks vs. Las Vegas Raiders, 9 p.m. ET

How to watch NFL preseason Week 2

Preseason Week 2 crams in 16 more games, with 14 of them on the NFL Network — and eight of them broadcast live. It gets going on Thursday, Aug. 19, when the Patriots visit the Eagles at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Friday, Aug. 20, finds the Cincinnati Bengals at Washington at 8 p.m. on the NFL Network. And at the same time you'll find the Kansas City Chiefs at the Arizona Cardinals — with this game on ESPN.

There's an NFL Network pair of doubleheaders on Saturday, Aug. 21. First it's the Bills at the Bears, at 1 p.m., followed by the Jets at Packers at 4:25 p.m. Then you'll get the Lions at Steelers at 7:30 p.m., followed by the Raiders at Rams to close things out at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Sunday, Aug. 22, finds the New York Giants at Cleveland at 1 p.m., and the 49ers at the Chargers at 7:30 p.m.

And things head back to ESPN on Monday, Aug. 23, with Jacksonville at New Orleans at 8 p.m.

Here are this week's preseason games not airing live on national TV, check your local listings to see if/where they are available for you:

Aug. 21
Atlanta Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins, 7 p.m. ET
Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
Tennessee Titans vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7:30 p.m. ET
Houston Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys, 8 p.m. ET
Indianapolis Colts vs. Minnesota Vikings, 8 p.m. ET
Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks, 10 p.m. ET

How to watch NFL preseason Week 3

The 2021 NFL preseason closes out with 16 more games in Week 3, with seven games live on the NFL Network, and two others elsewhere. Here's how it all breaks down:

There's a lone NFL Network game on Friday, Aug. 27, as Minnesota visits the Kansas City Chiefs at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Then on Saturday, Aug. 28, we'll get the Packers at Buffalo at 1 p.m., followed by the Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans at 7 p.m., and L.A. Chargers at Seattle at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Sunday, Aug. 29, closes out the 2021 NFL preseason with the Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas at 1 p.m. Miami will play Cincinnati at 4 p.m. on CBS, and the Raiders are at the 49ers at 4 p.m. back on the NFL Network. The lone 6 p.m. game has New England at N.Y. Giants on the NFL Network, and NBC's Sunday Night Football crew closes things out with Cleveland at Atlanta at 8 p.m.

Here are the other week 3 preseason games on the docket that are not scheduled to be on national TV:

Aug. 27
Indianapolis Colts vs. Detroit Lions, 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Carolina Panthers, 7:30 p.m. ET

Aug. 28
Baltimore Ravens vs. Washington Football Team, 6 p.m. ET
Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints, 8 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Houston Texans, 8 p.m. ET
Los Angeles Rams vs. Denver Broncos, 9:05 p.m. ET

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations, is the Dad part of Modern Dad, and is editor of WhatToWatch.com.