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Hall of Fame game 2017: Track and talk about the Cardinals vs. Cowboys game here

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Real football makes its triumphant return tonight.

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The return of football has taken forever, but as of tonight, it’s officially back. The Hall of Fame game, an annual showcase of pretty lousy preseason football that nevertheless marks the beginning of the 2017 preseason, kicks off at 8 p.m.

This one will pit two expected 2017 playoff contenders against one another, but it’ll lose some luster because the likes of Dak Prescott and David Johnson probably will play very little. Instead, we’ll get an extended look at the backups who might be useful for the team if a starter goes down, and some real live football action. That’ll have to be good enough for now.

I’ll be watching both teams with interest to see how their young players fare, though, even if it’s only brief glimpses. The Cowboys figure to be one of the NFC’s most dangerous contenders if they can continue to grow and if their defense improves, while the Cardinals are a team in flux that could wind up returning to the playoffs or once again hover around .500. As Falcons fans, it’s good to scout the potential opposition, even if it’s way too early to draw meaningful conclusions.

Hall of Fame Game Info

Time: Thursday, Aug. 3, 8 p.m. ET

Location: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio

TV Channel: NBC

Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

Online: NBC Sports