New England vs. Carolina: Patriots Preseason Week 3 Preview

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New England vs. Carolina: Patriots Preseason Week 3 Preview
USA TODAY Sports
Tom Brady and the starters should see extensive action against the Panthers.

Though veteran preseason performance is typically irrelevant, the third game provides a semi-meaningful look at how a team's core has gelled over the course of the offseason.  There is still no game-planning, but while the score may be meaningless, the rhythm and coordination of each unit is worth watching.

Given their track record, the New England Patriots do not necessarily need to excel in Friday's night's contest against the Carolina Panthers.  The Pats were trounced decisively by the Detroit Lions in 2013 and 2011 but made deep playoff runs in each season.  With a veteran core, the third game is more about reassurance than anything else.

But the starting lineups should provide a fairly decisive view on where the depth chart stands, perhaps the most important takeaway we should focus upon.  The Pats had a few surprise starters against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.  If those players remain with the first string against Carolina, that is likely a safe indication of their regular-season role.

Coaches have largely constructed their rosters by now, so player stocks are unlikely to shift too drastically before the season starts.  But there are still a few areas of uncertainty, and with that in mind, keep an eye on these players and matchups as the 53-man hierarchy becomes increasingly ingrained.

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