The New England Patriots have one of the biggest and widest-ranging fan bases in all of football. Winning five Super Bowls will do that. There is an entire generation of fans that have known nothing but New England dominance. That naturally leads to swelling numbers of fans who want to be able to actually watch their favorite team play. For those that don’t live in the greater New England area, NFL Network made that a bit harder Thursday when they announced their preseason television schedule. Of the 65 preseason games to be played in total, they will air 15 live. The Patriots do not play in any of those games. They are not slated to appear on any of ESPN’s nationally televised preseason games either, so displaced Patriots fans may have a difficult time watching their favorite team in the exhibition season.
Their press release inadvertently explains why the Patriots aren’t on the schedule. In pumping up their first week of games, the release stated “NFL Network’s live preseason schedule kicks off Thursday, August 9 at 7:00 PM ET when the number one overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns face the second overall pick Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants. On Friday, August 10 at 7:30 PM ET, NFL Network broadcasts the preseason debut of the third overall pick Sam Darnold when the New York Jets host the Atlanta Falcons.
Additional live Week 1 preseason games on NFL Network include quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, August 9 at 10:00 PM ET, Matt Patricia’s head coaching debut and Jon Gruden’s return to the sidelines when the Detroit Lions travel to face the Oakland Raiders on Friday, August 10 at 10:30 PM ET, and a top free agent quarterback showcase when Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings face Case Keenum and the Denver Broncos Saturday, August 11 at 9:00 PM ET.”
Look at the names being mentioned there. Three of them are rookies. One of them is a rookie head coach. One of them is a coach who hasn’t patrolled the sidelines for over a decade. Two of them are high-profile veterans playing for new teams. The implication here is clear: the preseason is exciting because of the chance it presents to see new players and teams take the field for the first time. Not because of any meaningful insight it might provide on an important team’s regular season and postseason chances. Why else would the 0-16 Browns appear three times on NFL Network while the defending AFC champion Patriots were excluded entirely?
Patriots fans can still catch New England’s preseason games on NFL Network. They just won’t be aired live. The entire preseason schedule will air on NFL Network, but only the 15 listed games will be shown as they occur. Otherwise, fans who want to watch New England suit up in the preseason will need to hope the coverage map favors them or spring for a streaming service like NFL Sunday Ticket.