The writing was already on the wall. Even before the NFL decided to cancel this year’s Hall of Fame Game — the traditional preseason opener — last week, there was already speculation around the league that the preseason would be shortened due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Now, it seems as if a decision has been made: as first reported by Pro Football Talk on Wednesday afternoon, the preseason slate will be cut in half this year.
According to the report, the NFL will cancel the first and fourth week of preseason while keeping the middle two intact. For the New England Patriots, this means that they will neither get to host the Detroit Lions on August 13 nor that they will travel to take on the New York Giants on September 3. I turn, the team’s abbreviated exhibition schedule this year will contain just two games — one at home, one on the road — and look as follows:
August 13 (7:30 pm ET): vs Detroit Lions
- August 20 (7:30 pm ET): vs Carolina Panthers
- August 27 (7:30 pm ET): at Philadelphia Eagles
September 3 (7:00 pm ET): at New York Giants
As can be seen, the Patriots will open their preseason schedule at home against the Panthers. That game, if it is able to take place, will carry plenty of intrigue beyond being New England’s first preseason contest of the Covid-19 era: recently signed Cam Newton, who spent the first nine seasons of his career as Carolina’s starting quarterback, will make his debut in a Patriots uniform against his former club.
One week later, meanwhile, the team will travel to take on the Eagles in a rematch of Super Bowls 39 and 52.
The changes to the schedule, as noted above, are not entirely unexpected considering the developments across the country over the last few weeks and months. The NFL has already decided to cancel offseason practices and move workouts to a virtual setting. While the league still has its eyes on July 28 as the training camp report date for most teams — including the Patriots — the cancelation of the first and fourth preseason games creates more wiggle room for all involved.