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What to watch for against Giants

08.29.13 at 8:00 am ET
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Expect it to be Tebow Time for a portion of Thursday's preseason finale against the Giants. (AP)

Expect it to be Tebow Time for a portion of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants. (AP)

What we’re looking for in Thursday’s preseason finale between the Patriots and Giants:

• Quarterback Tom Brady said he expects to play in the preseason finale. While the fourth game of the preseason has usually been given over to guys on the bubble, as well as third-stringers looking for quality playing time before the final cuts come down on Saturday, Brady actually has played in three preseason finales in the last 10 years — 2003, 2010 and 2011. In those three games, he’s played eight offensive series, or an average of almost three series a game, and has gone a combined 17-for-27 for 230 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him play the first quarter (or two series, whatever comes first) before yielding to Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow.

• Speaking of Tebow, he said earlier this week that no matter what’s happened, he’s “not worried” about his roster spot, adding that, “I learned very early on in my career at Florida to worry about what I can control and the things I can’t control, I’m not going to spend time worrying about. But I can control my attitude, my effort and focus every single day. Those are the things I’m going to worry about.” Tebow is 5-for-19 for 54 yards and one interception in two preseason games with New England.

• Don’t be shocked to see the Giants roll out their starters for this one, particularly on the offensive side of the football. Tom Coughlin said earlier this week they he expects his starters to go between 12 and 15 snaps Thursday against the Patriots. That includes the No. 1 offense, a group that has struggled to this point in the preseason — the Giants starters have scored just two preseason touchdowns.

“I’d like to see some continuity and some execution, some performance,” Coughlin told reporters when asked about the offense. “I’d like to see us get the ball in the end zone, I’d like to see us do well on third down. I’d like to see our passing game, with our protection, look like some type of an efficient operation. I’d like to see progress, that’s what I’d really like to see [Thursday].”

• That being said, expect the second half to be heavy with backups and third-stringers. While Belichick intimated the roughly 80 percent of the roster is set to this point, there could be some movement based on what goes on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. In our latest roster projection, we highlighted a handful of guys who could be playing for their jobs against New York, including LeGarrette Blount, Nate Ebner and Jake Bequette.

• And Thursday night will mark the final chance for the rookies to get their games straight before real football begins on Sept. 8 in Buffalo. Every one of the rookies has something to work on, but as has been the case over the course of the preseason, it will be interesting to watch the continued evolution of the Patriots passing game. Through three preseason games, it’s clear they are force-feeding the rookies: Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson lead the team in targets with 21 each.

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