When the New England Patriots play the Carolina Panthers tonight it will be the closest thing to a real game as you will see in the preseason.Coach Bill Belichick generally uses the third game of preseason as the final test for his starters, meaning this is the game when they see the most playing time.

Many of the offensive starters have not played much over the first two weeks which means this could be the first time wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski get on the field. Tom Brady has struggled in limited action going three and out on each of the 5 series he has run the offense. No doubt Belichick and Brady will look to see significant improvement in the area of sustaining drives. The ground game will also be a focus as LeGarrette Blount has been held in check with the absence of many starters on the offensive line. Another key will be the steady progression of back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who played his best game a week ago against the Saints.

The focus on defense will again be on the secondary which has struggled in each f the first two games. Look for Devin McCourty to be back at his customary safety position after the team experimented with him at cornerback last week. A move that McCourty expressed displeasure with following the game. This might also be the week for linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower get some action. They have been held back after undergoing off-season surgeries.

Remember that you can hear live coverage on Sports Radio 92.9 The Ticket starting at 4:30 with kick-off set for 7:30.