The third preseason game is always a big checkpoint for every NFL team.
It’s the game where the starters traditionally play big minutes, major roster decisions are made, and a true measuring stick for the team can be gathered.
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For the New England Patriots, what better opponent to take on than the Carolina Panthers on Thursday. A team with a strong defensive line and a dynamic, high-paced offense is the perfect test.
Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady will likely make his preseason debut in the preseason home opener. The Patriots have also gotten boosts from the return of Josh Gordon, who remains on the NFI list, and Demaryius Thomas recently activated off the PUP list.
This week will be a chance to see how the Patriots offense will look with a bevy of weapons at Brady’s disposal while offering the defense a true test against one of the league’s best dual-threat quarterbacks.
About Last Week
The Patriots struggled in the first half against the Titans before turning things around in the final half-hour of a 22-17 win. Jarrett Stidham led the Patriots on a 99-yard game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, capped off by a touchdown pass on a perfectly thrown ball to Damoun Patterson.
As for Carolina, the Panthers suffered defeat at the hands of the Bills, 27-14. Buffalo raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to a pair of Josh Allen scoring drives and added another score midway through the second quarter on a 70-yard pick-6 by Kevin Johnson.
Rashad Ross scored the only touchdown for the Panthers, a nine-yard pass from Taylor Heinicke, while Joey Slye added two long field goals.
New England Ties
The Panthers have a few former Patriots on their roster along with a couple of players with history in the region.
For starters, Chris Hogan spent the last three seasons with the Patriots, becoming a top receiver in New England’s offense and a crucial part of two Super Bowl titles in three appearances.
The former college lacrosse player had 1,651 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season while playing for the Patriots. And who could forget his shredding of the Steelers in the 2016 AFC Championship Game?
On the defensive line, two former Patriots – Kyle Love and Woodrow Hamilton – both earned Super Bowl berths with New England. Love played three years in New England after going undrafted and helped the Patriots to a 2011 AFC title. Hamilton, meanwhile, played just two games in 2016 for New England before his release the following summer.
Lastly, linebacker Luke Kuechly played three seasons for Boston College, recording 532 tackles and earning three All-American honors. He has consistently recorded 100 tackles in all of his seasons with Carolina and is 52 away from 1,000 in his career.
When: Thursday, August 22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Ma.
Series History: The Panthers are 4-3 against the Patriots all-time, including a loss in Super Bowl XXXVIII. New England’s two regular-season wins came in 2002 (38-6 in Carolina) and 2009 (20-10 in New England). In that 2009 meeting, Ben Watson scored a touchdown in the third quarter giving the Patriots the lead for good. Five out of the last six preseasons, the Patriots and Panthers have met in Week 3. Last season, Carolina won 25-14 at home.