NFL preseason 2013, Week 3: What to watch in Thursday's games

Jared Wickerham

Here's what to watch for in Thursday's preseason games. The Patriots take on the Lions, and the Panthers face the Ravens.

The third week of the preseason kicks off on Thursday with two games. The New England Patriots take on the Detroit Lions, the Carolina Panthers will take on the Baltimore Ravens. There's plenty to watch in these games, especially given the fact that teams often play their starters for a full half in the third week. We'll talk about the two games below:

New England Patriots vs. Detroit Lions (7:30 p.m. ET)

Tom Brady is always someone to watch. He's put up good numbers thus far in the preseason, and should be expected to keep it up. His running backs, Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount, figure to get a lot of playing time as the Patriots attempt to establish themselves as a true rushing threat, something they hadn't been for several years until Ridley showed up.

Detroit, on the other hand, is just trying to keep things going at a steady pace. Things came off the rails last season, despite quarterback Matthew Stafford playing well and wide receiver Calvin Johnson having a record-breaking year. Both are expected to play Thursday, with Johnson in particular excited about the chance to get in some significant work before the regular season.

Carolina Panthers vs. Baltimore Ravens (8 p.m. ET)

The Ravens are in transition, despite having just won the Super Bowl. A lot of pieces remain in place, but a lot of big names on the defensive side of the ball are now gone. Head coach John Harbaugh says that he plans to play most of his starters into the third quarter. Smart money is on most of those starters coming from the defense.

Carolina has fielded a pretty decent defense of late, but the offense has been lagging behind. Quarterback Cam Newton has only led the team on one touchdown drive this preseason, so he'll get plenty of time to try and show some consistency against the Ravens defense on Thursday.

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