BOSTON (CBS) — We are almost there. We are so close to real football, to games that count in the standings, to sold-out stadiums and Sundays filled with wall-to-wall football action. We are so close. But first, we must all endure one more preseason game.
Of course, the players on the field are the ones who really have to endure the pain that comes with playing in a football game that doesn’t count but may determine their employment for the upcoming year, so it’s not as if Thursday night’s preseason meeting of the Patriots and Giants is insignificant. A lot is on the line for a lot of players, and to a certain extent, there will be some aspects of Thursday night’s game that will affect the whole season.
Here’s a quick look at who and what you should be watching for as the Patriots host the Giants.
Tom’s Final Tune-Up
Tom Brady doesn’t usually play in the final preseason game of the summer, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear the quarterback say on Tuesday that he expects to play. A part of that is likely because the quarterback always wants to play, but he also needs to play. Fitting Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce into the passing offense is a big task, and they all need as much work together as possible.
How much Brady plays isn’t yet known, but when he has played in the fourth preseason game, he’s occasionally played a decent amount. He played into the second quarter in 2011 and in 2003, though each year has its own set of circumstances. Brady did not play in the fourth game last year, just as he did not play from 2004-09. In 2011, he went 5-for-9 for 116 yards, and the year before he went 4-for-8 for 51 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Preseason stats aren’t all that important, but after last week’s uneven offensive showing, the first-team offense would prefer to head into the season with a better performance.
The Final Cut
While many players were happy to survive this week’s roster cut to 75, the fact remains that many more cuts are looming. While some will come with nearly no reaction, there is sure to be a cut or two that catches everyone by surprise. Adrian Wilson has been discussed as the potential “surprise cut” this year, but once a player becomes a focal point, he no longer is a candidate for the “surprise” cut. True candidates include Jake Bequette, Tavon Wilson, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Mr. Tebow (more on him in a bit), Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington, and OK, Adrian Wilson a bit. Chances are that most of those guys make the team, but odds are just as good that at least one of them fails to make the final roster on Saturday.
How much of that depends on Thursday’s performance is up for debate, but they are at least worth watching in the Giants game to see if a player thrives or fails to step up with the pressure on.
OK, nobody should be that excited to watch Tim Tebow play, but with the big talking point in New England this week being whether or not the quarterback will survive final cuts, the spotlight will be on him in a way he’s never had to deal with.
Two weeks ago, Tebow was downright awful against the Buccaneers, finishing the night with negative passing yards, which is very, very hard to do. He didn’t play at all last week in Detroit, and if his roster spot is indeed in question (a debatable point), he’ll have to show something against the Giants on Thursday night. And that “something” is going to have to at least be positive passing yards.
This one has been a staple of the What To Watch For previews throughout the preseason, because really, it’s the most important thing. Danny Amendola was nicked up enough to miss last week’s game, though nobody knows exactly which mysterious injury he suffered. Nevertheless, with only 10 days separating the preseason game against the Giants and the season opener against the Bills, any damage sustained on Thursday night might be enough to disrupt the plans for Week 1. Aside from No. 12, the Patriots can survive an injury to any one player, but that’s obviously not the ideal scenario.
The football gods have watched over the Patriots kindly this preseason, as other teams have seen key players fall to serious, season-ending injuries. The Pats are hoping for 60 more minutes of good fortune.
Tune in to the Patriots preseason finale Thursday night against the New York Giants on WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. on 98.5 FM, and at 7.p.m. on WBZ with a special edition of Patriots GameDay. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., which a full post game show on 98.5 and a special Patriots 5th Quarter on WBZ-TV!