How Many Preseason Games do NFL teams play?

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers
Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Not everyone loves the NFL preseason, but for hardcore football fans, it's a time to get pumped up for regular-season action. Preseason games are important for teams as they give coaches a chance to review the film and come to important roster decisions by the start of the season.

Every team will be forced to cut their 90-man rosters down to just 53 players before the start of the season. While the coaching staff will get a good look at these players each day at practice, their performances in exhibition action could make the difference between cracking the roster, making the practice squad, or looking for employment elsewhere.

How Many Preseason Games do NFL teams play?

Prior to the NFL's new 17-game schedule that recently began in 2021, teams played four preseason games per year (with a fifth game for the two teams squaring off in the Hall of Fame game). That has since changed.

Now each team plays just three preseason games thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement (with a fourth for two of the teams in the Hall of Fame game). While this helps preserve the health of players for a regular season with an added game, it makes it harder for young players looking to leave their mark.

Because the summer roster includes 90 players, leaving a mark and standing out to the coaching staff was tricky enough, and snap counts were limited. Now players near the bottom of the roster will have even fewer opportunities to prove themselves.

This is all in the name of player safety. In order to get the 17th regular-season game added, teams had to give up one preseason game to appease the NFLPA. It's probably a good trade-off for fans at the end of the day, as meaningful football lasts one week longer.

Still, for those of us who like to study players who are lower on the depth chart and dissect preseason film, this doesn't give us a lot of opportunity. Of course, we all hope that our team doesn't suffer any big injuries in exhibition action, and having just three preseason games is a means of helping ensure player safety.