The New England Patriots will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night with both teams at the halfway point of the preseason.
Tom Brady expects to play play, as noted by Albert Breer of NFL.com, despite the fact that the star quarterback suffered a scary-looking knee injury on Wednesday during a joint practice with Tampa Bay.
Tim Tebow fans are likely to see a heavy dose of their favorite player, as the Patriots need to figure out quickly if he's worth keeping on the final 53-man roster. To say that Tebow struggled in the team's first preseason game is putting it lightly. The polarizing quarterback completed just four of 12 passes for 55 yards while getting sacked three times.
Will Tampa Bay's secondary be able to slow down New England's passing game?
Tampa Bay's defense is going to be highly scrutinized all season. The Bucs spared no expense this past offseason to bring in free-agent safety Dashon Goldson and engineered a high-profile trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Revis won't be playing in this contest, as he continues to recover from an ACL injury, but he could play in Week 3 of the preseason, per ESPN's Sal Paolantonio (via Rotoworld.com).
Here's a look at where and when you can catch the game, followed by an injury report for both squads and a closer look at a couple of players to watch on Friday.
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
When: 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Preseason Live
Listen: Online at NFL Audio Pass
Betting Line (via Covers)
Over/Under: 40; Spread: New England (-3)
Given the Patriots' ability to score points in bunches, it's no surprise to see the over/under at 40. That said, the Buccaneers feature a strong front seven on defense and will be more difficult to run against than the Philadelphia Eagles were last week, so New England could see a drop-off in points this week.
That said, it's impossible to predict how a preseason game will unfold, but if you must bet, take the "over" on points and the Pats to win by more than three points.
Injury Report (via ESPN.com)
- Lawrence Tynes (K): Questionable (Toe)
- Darrelle Revis (CB): Out (Knee), via Paolantonio.
- Tom Brady (QB): Probable (Knee)
Buccaneers Player to Watch: Josh Freeman
There's no quarterback competition brewing in Tampa Bay, but 2013 is a potential make-or-break season for Freeman.
Heading into his fifth year as a pro, the former Kansas State star broke out in a big way in his second season, passing for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions while leading the Bucs to a 10-6 record. Needless to say, the franchise and its fans had high hopes for the future.
Which Josh Freeman will we see in 2013?
But in last two seasons, Freeman has regressed and the team has struggled to win games as a result. Posting a record of 11-20 in his last two campaigns, Freeman's interception totals rose significantly. He combined to pass for 43 touchdowns and 39 interceptions during that time.
Now in a contract year, the veteran has much to prove. Team general manager Mark Dominik recently announced that Tampa Bay won't discuss a new contract until after the 2013 season in an interview with Sports Radio 620 WDAE.
Should Freeman return to the form he displayed in his sophomore campaign, the Bucs will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC South and he'll be due for a big contract.
Patriots Player to Watch: Tim Tebow
Tebow was horrible during the Patriots' first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has a lot of work to do if he has any hope of making the team's final roster cuts before the regular season.
Specifically, Tebow displayed agonizingly poor accuracy against the Eagles last week.
Will Tebow make the final 53-man roster?
Completing just four of 12 passes for 55 yards—two of which were big gains on easy screen passes—Tebow looked like a lost puppy more than once while dropping back to pass. He was sacked three times as well.
The Patriots only kept two quarterbacks on the roster in 2012, and there's absolutely no guarantee that Tebow will make the team this year. If he puts together another train wreck of a performance against the Buccaneers then it should shock nobody if he gets cut.
Ryan Mallett isn't exactly a world-beater either as Tom Brady's backup, but at this point, there's no doubt that he's better suited to lead the team should Brady be lost for any amount of time.
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