Here's a quick look at what to expect in Thursday's two NFL preseason tilts.
New England at Detroit (-2.5, 46)
The Patriots are off to a flawless 2-0 start to the preseason, winning in Philadelphia and at home against Tampa Bay. Like most teams, they're treating this game as a 'dress rehearsal' for the regular season. Tom Brady hinted that the team will play with a sense or purpose on Thursday night at Ford Field. “We’re going on the road, tough environment; we went there a few years ago and didn’t do very well, which we’ve already heard about for three days now,” Brady said. “So we’re going to have to do better than we did the last time.” Guard Logan Mankins said that the team did watch Lions game film on Monday and also had crowd noise pumped in at practice in anticipation of a loud environment in Detroit. Brady has been wearing a knee brace at practice, but is still expected to play through the first half - along with the rest of the starting units. Wide receiver Danny Amendola isn't likely to be on the field, as he has yet to practice this week due to an undisclosed injury.
Detroit won its preseason opener against the Jets but followed it up with a stinker in Cleveland last week. Head coach Jim Schwarz hasn't tipped his hand as to exactly how long starters will play, but has indicated that quarterback Matt Stafford will see at least a half of action. Safety Glover Quin welcomes the challenge of facing Tom Brady and company. "Let me go into the preseason and measure up against the top guys. Tom Brady is considered the top quarterback? That's fine - bring him on, so we can get a live look at, 'Hey, this is where we are as a defense right now. This is where we are as a secondary right now." Wide receiver Calvin Johnson missed practice on Monday and Tuesday due to a bruised knee and remains questionable to play on Thursday. He did say the knee has improved and hopes to suit up. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill is 'nicked up' according to coach Schwarz and could miss Thursday's game as well. That would mean more playing time for third-stringer Kellen Moore.
Carolina at Baltimore (-3, 42)
The Panthers have kept things rather vanilla in their first two preseason tilts but are planning on ramping things up a bit in Baltimore this week. Quarterback Cam Newton expects to see progress against the Ravens. “There are just some things we just need to iron out. But all in all, I think we've moved the ball and executed really well. We can do better and we will do better as this preseason progresses.” In their first year under the guidance of Mike Shula as offensive coordinator, it's not a surprise that the Panthers haven't been willing to tip their hand in exhibition play. Carolina will once again be without running back Jonathan Stewart while fullback Mike Tolbert is still recovering from a hamstring strain. With that in mind, the Panthers can ill afford to over-work DeAngelo Williams. Ted Ginn Jr. is expected to return kicks for the Panthers on Thursday night, getting another shot at the Ravens after facing them as a member of the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Head coach Ron Rivera is taking this game seriously, stating “This is a big week because this is really your trial run."
Like the Panthers, the Ravens are also looking for more production from their starting offense this week. Quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled to get in rhythm with his targets while the ground game has yet to gain much traction at all. With the starters expected to play the entire first half, and possibly even into the third quarter, they'll have ample opportunity to do so on Thursday night. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell wants to work new additions, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley, into the offense this week. “Hopefully, we’ll get them a few more snaps." Caldwell said on Monday. He also told the Baltimore media that he wants to see improvement from his offense as a whole. “I think it’s very important just for us to play well, more so than anything else. Any unit that takes the field, we want them to go out there and be in sync, move the ball and put some points on the board. We’re looking forward to that.” Baltimore is off to a perfect 2-0 start to the preseason thanks to last week's fourth quarter comeback win against the Falcons.