Panthers vs. Patriots Preview

August 23, 2018

It might be just a preseason game, but this sure feels like a big game for the Panthers. Tom Brady and the Patriots come to town for a Friday night match-up at Bank of America stadium – you can hear the game on WBT, kickoff is set for 7:30. The Patriots won two of the last four Super Bowls and lost a thriller in last year's game to the Eagles. And as usual, they're one of the best teams in the league and are expected to contend for another title, so this is a great test for the Panthers. “This is one of the gold standard teams in this league, you want to be able to play well against a team like that,” said coach Ron Rivera. “I'm excited about it, I really am. I think this is the type of litmus test you want to have in week three because you can really gauge where you are.”

The Patriots boasted the NFL's most potent offense last season and as long as they've got Brady, they'll probably be near the top again this season. He's 41 years old, but doesn't look it – the 13-time Pro Bowler led the league in passing last season and threw 32 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. “He can make every throw,” said Panther cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “He's very smart, he knows how to get rid of the ball, and he does a lot of things well. And he's still got one of the strongest arms in the NFL.”

Brady as a ton of weapons at his disposal, most notably 6-6 tight end Rob Gronkowski who Luke Kuechly called “a match-up nightmare.” Speedy Brandin Cooks was traded to the Rams, but Pro Bowler Julian Edelman is back from a torn ACL, and the Patriots also brought in veteran slot receiver Eric Decker and former Viking Cordarelle Patterson. They'll be a huge test for the Panthers young secondary, which will start a pair of rookies in cornerback Dontae Jackson and safety Rashaad Gaulden.

It will be interesting to see how the Patriots defense fares against the retooled and speedy Panther offense. The Pats had a bend but don't break defense that ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed last season but was fifth in points allowed at just over 18 a game. They brought in former Falcon defensive end Adrian Clayborne, who's an outstanding pass rusher, he had nine and a half sacks last season. Pro Bowler Dont'a Hightower anchors the linebackers. The secondary has been a weakness for the Patriots, their passing defense ranked 30th in the league last season. So they traded for Titans cornerback Jason McCourty to team with Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe. And no, you're not seeing double - McCourty's identical twin brother Devin starts at safety for the Patriots!

These teams have met many times before, including Super Bowl 38, and most recently last season in Foxborough, a last-second Panther win. Panther linebacker Luke Kuechly is excited to face them again in what he calls a tune-up for the regular season. “I enjoy playing those guys, it's a fun challenge,” said Kuechly. “They'll bring some interesting stuff to the table I'm sure, and we're going to be ready to go.”