One of the highlights of the Week 3 preseason schedule is a showdown between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. At home, the Panthers are 1.5-point favorites. There is also an over/under of 45 points.
Both teams are actually 2-0 to start the preseason. New England knocked off Washington 26-17 in the opening week and then took care of business against the Eagles 37-20 last week. Tom Brady saw extensive action in last week’s Super Bowl rematch, completing 19 of 26 passes with two touchdowns.
Carolina has been equally impressive this preseason. They survived a close game in Buffalo the first week, beating the Bills 28-23. Carolina then topped Miami 27-20 last week, scoring two 4th quarter touchdowns with their reserves to build a comfortable lead late in the game.
More to Prove?
Brady definitely played like he had something to prove last week against the Eagles. He saw extensive action after sitting out the previous week. Normally, this would be the preseason game in which the starters play into the 2nd half and get most of their live reps. However, Brady did that last week, so it’ll be interesting to see if he plays more than two or three series this week. The Patriots also lost offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn last week, so the Patriots may not want Brady out there too long.
Keep in mind that the Panthers usually have one of the better front-7s in football, and this year should be no exception. If the Panthers leave their starters in the game until at least halftime and are more apt to blitz as they prepare for the season, New England could decide to let Brian Hoyer take most of the snaps. Hoyer, while usually reliable, was just 5 for 13 against the Eagles last week.
Weak Up Front
On the other side of the field, the Panthers are also dealing with some injuries to their offensive line. At least three starters will be out for the game against New England, forcing backups into extensive action. That could implore Carolina to be a little more careful with Cam Newton, who may not play as much as starters typically play in the third preseason game.
The Carolina offense has already been a little up and down this preseason. At times, they have looked quite dangerous, especially when Christian McCaffrey has touched the ball. However, with an ailing offensive line, drives have sometimes come to an abrupt end through either a sack or a turnover. New England’s defensive starters played well last week, albeit an Eagles team that has been terrible during the preseason.
The Panthers may be 1.5-point favorites in this game, but they have still been largely unconvincing this preseason despite being 2-0. With a banged up offensive line, they’ll struggle to sustain drives against New England’s defense. Meanwhile, Brady playing early in the game will give the Patriots a chance to score points, as will Hoyer facing the Carolina backups late in the game. Either way, the Patriots will have more success moving the ball than the Panthers. Bet on New England +1.5 to beat Carolina on Friday.