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The NFL’s relaxed Hard Knocks eligibility. So which teams are now in the mix?


hard knocks

Co-HBO and NFL Films ‘institutional’ product Hard Knocks was in need of a bit of a reboot, as the 2024 season begins to slowly sneak up on us.

For those catching up, it’s one of the original sport and entertainment cross-over, fly-on-the-wall-style docu-series productions that chronicles a team’s journey through an allotted period of time.

The flagship series is a five-episode, five-week release that takes football fans – starved of games and content – behind the scenes, as a team ventures through its Pre-Season and builds towards Week 1.

We’ve seen countless sports and leagues look to, in many senses, mimic the product, which then became ‘accelerated’ by the F1’s success with Drive to Survive on Netflix.

It’s always interesting learning which team is poised for the newest season of Hard Knocks in the NFL — a chance to consume training montages and get to know an organisation’s weird, wacky and wonderful personalities.

Last year, it was Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets who took centre stage — a fun story that utlimately ended, sadly, just four snaps into the season when the newly recruited veteran quarterback suffered a torn Achilles in the season-opener against the Bills. But there’s no question the docu-series beforehand was a lot of fun.

So here’s more on Hard Knocks for 2024.

Hard Knocks 2024 Burning Questions

Here’s who is in the mix for this upcoming pre-season, plus an eligibility refresher.

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Why don’t teams want to be on Hard Knocks?

It seems important to start here, as it adds context to the NFL once again changing the NFL eligibility rules.

The simple answer is that a team having cameras, production crews and a tonne of additional attention creates unwanted pressure and distractions heading into a new season, when tension is at its greatest.

That said, it’s a wildly popular production and now a ‘necessary evil’. As already mentioned, a staple.

Hard Knocks, 2023, New Yorks Jets, Aaron Rodgers
Pre-Season Hard Knocks 2023 centred around Aaron Rodgers (left) and the New York Jets.

Hard Knocks eligibility

Previously, teams could avoid selection by being in the Playoffs one of the last two seasons, or having been on the show in the last 10 years, on top of not having a brand new Head Coach — reasonably restrictive. But the NFL has now changed that, having struggled to find willing participants.

New Hard Knocks eligibility means teams can avoid having to sign up to the show by:

  • Having a first year Head Coach
  • Involved in the IN-SEASON version (we’ll get to that)
  • Being involved in the last eight years (rather than 10)

Recent trips to the Playoffs now won’t matter.

What’s the NFL’s change to the in-season version?

The NFL has also released an in-season version of Hard Knocks the last few years, but it doesn’t garner anything close to the Pre-Season series’ hype. The organisation has made the decision to make the in-season one an entire division, set to give things way more appeal.

It guarantees drama through the race to the Playoffs, as a team strives to make a postseason push by becoming Division champion.

It probably also adds a degree of fairness, so that all four teams of the one division aren’t dealing with an additional distraction.

NFL 2023, season preview, dates, contenders
Plenty of big-ticket teams are in the mix for the Pre-Season Hard Knocks in 2024.

Which teams could be chosen for 2024 Pre-Season Hard Knocks??

Let’s do this by process of elimination.

Due to recent appearances on the show, the Jets, Lions, Cowboys, Rams, Chargers, Raiders, Browns and Buccaneers are all ‘safe’.

Team with new Head Coaches in the NFC are the Seahawks, Falcons, Panthers and Commanders. In the AFC, that list is the Raiders, Chargers, Titans and Patriots.

So pending which division is selected for the in-season version of the show, the remaining 16 teams not listed above are in the conversation — half of the league.

Picture of Phil Prior
Phil Prior
Phil is the editorial lead at Only Sports, bringing more than 12 years of wide-ranging sports media experience to the team. But it’s his unrivalled passion that sets him apart. He also commentates AFL on SEN Radio, plus Rugby on Stan Sport. Find Phil on LinkedIn.

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