BOSTON (CBS) – Toucher and Rich were joined by Boomer Esiason of WFAN and CBS Sports Monday morning to preview tonight’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

With running back Shane Vereen expected to play in what will be his first game since Week 1, the Patriots should have their full compliment of offensive players for the first time all season.

Boomer Esiason loves the storyline of Tom Brady versus Cam Newton, but ultimately he feels like the game will come down to something else.

Esiason: Panthers Defense Presents ‘Tremendous Challenge’ For Brady, Patriots

The Patriots offensive line hasn’t played up to their normal standards yet this season, and they will be greatly challenged on Monday Night Football by the Panthers. If the Patriots o-line can protect Tom Brady they should be in good shape.

“The defensive line for Carolina is about as good, and about as active and intense as there is in the NFL,” said Esiason. “The Patriots have struggled against teams like that, most notably the New York Jets, so I think that’s where the game will be won tonight.”

When asked to reveal his prediction, Esiason noted, “I’ll always take the Hall of Fame quarterback over one that still hasn’t sold me on the big play potential that he has.”

Socci: Brady, Belichick Preparing For Well-Rounded Panthers

The AFC playoff picture is starting to get more clear. Yesterday on Sunday Night Football the Broncos beat the Chiefs 27-17, and barring any unexpected collapses both teams will be in the playoffs. The last wildcard spot is the only one up for grabs, and according to Boomer will be a “fight to the finish.”

If the Patriots take care of business tonight, Boomer likes their chances.

“Right now the team that is sitting pretty is the Patriots, assuming that they can win tonight. If they win tonight, they will be in the driver’s seat for the number one spot in the AFC playoffs, which certainly they would love to covet.”

Redskins left tackle Trent Williams made headlines after his team’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, claiming a referee called him “garbage” in a profanity-laced exchange. Boomer just wants all this name-calling nonsense to stop, and this segued into a larger conversation about Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin.

“Maybe he [Williams] is going to get a bullying lawsuit together, I don’t know,” joked Esiason. “Just go out and play football, enough already.”

“And then to see Jonathan Martin, of all people, Saturday night on the sidelines of the Stanford-USC game laughing, smiling and having a great time, I know everyone in that Miami Dolphins locker room’s stomach was turning at the same time.”

“They’re saying he [Martin] has depression. I don’t know, he didn’t look too depressed to me Saturday night,” said Esiason.

To find out which coaches are on the hot seat, and which coach made the biggest bonehead decision on Sunday, listen to Boomer Esiason’s full interview below:


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