For the fifth time in the past six seasons, the Carolina Panthers will square off with the New England Patriots.
The Panthers will head to New England for their third preseason matchup, and this one will hold a little more weight than the first two. Ron Rivera announced that Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Luke Kuechly and the rest of the starters will play against New England.
Therefore, we will be set up for a very intriguing start to the game. It's very likely that Tom Brady will start -- so it will be the first real look at the 2019 Panthers. There are still position battles that are in the works, and this game could solidify roster spots going forward.
Here are four things to watch out for in this matchup.
Cam Newton's first game since his shoulder surgery
Newton is taking the field in a real-game scenario for the first time since his Week 15 last season, and it will be the first test to see where he's really at. He looked very comfortable throwing the deep ball in camp, and his new throwing motion had a lot to do with it.
Rivera said that Newton will play three or four series and that he will be closely monitored. This game will be a huge indicator on where Newton is -- but it'll also help the Panthers understand the severity of their backup quarterback situation.
Carolina went into training camp with peace of mind in regards to their backup quarterback -- but, none of the quarterbacks have separated themselves. Meaning that the Panthers could be in serious trouble if Newton were to suffer an injury. Kyle Allen and third-round rookie Will Grier have been fighting for the No. 2 spot, but they have both looked pretty average.
How the defensive front holds up
Carolina's front seven picked up a lot of hype over the offseason, and the talent they have justifies the hype. But, this defensive front looked out of whack and below average last week against the Buffalo Bills. The Panthers started both Gerald McCoy and Kawann Short -- and they had very little impact with both pass-rushing and run-stopping.
Kuechly will start against New England, and that should bring a sense of unity to this defense. The Patriots have arguably the greatest quarterback ever on their side, along with one of the best rushing offenses last season. So, the Panther's defensive front will get tested in a multitude of ways.
This will be a huge game for younger guys like Marquise Haynes and Christian Miller to show up big. Brian Burns proved himself in the first preseason game after recorded two sacks in 10 total snaps -- but this game could help him build confidence. Overall, the Panthers just need to see more unity and effort out of this ridiculously talented defensive front.
Who will start at nickel?
The Panthers have finally gained some clarity on who will start in the secondary, aside from the nickel position. Carolina signed Tre Boston in the middle of training camp, so he will be alongside Eric Reid as the starting safeties. James Bradberry and Donte Jackson are the team's two starting cornerbacks, and Corn Elder will likely be the guy to start at nickel.
Elder got the start against Buffalo, but he didn't necessarily do anything to impress or instill confidence in the coaching staff. Javien Elliot and Cole Luke are also options to gain the starting role, but it's a little concerning that no one has solidified themselves as the starters yet.
Can Joey Slye sustain his excellent preseason showing?
Joey Slye has been incredible this presason as the backup kicker for Graham Gano -- who is missing time with left knee soreness. Slye has an inspiring background story, and Panthers fans have been cheering him on since the first preseason game.
Slye hasn't missed a field goal or extra point attempt yet -- and he's attempted two field goals over 50 yards so far. Gano's $17 million contract takes up some space with the team's cap, and he has been dealing with an injury since last season. It's possible that Slye could make his case for the starting role if he continues this success.