After two days of highly competitive (and highly physical) practices together in Foxboro, the Patriots and Panthers will face off on Friday night in each of their second preseason games of 2022.

The game will kickoff at 7pm from Gillette Stadium and can be watched locally on WBZ Channel 4 and nationally on NFL Network.

Here are the odds for Friday night’s game from our exclusive wagering partners at BetOnline.ag:

Odds – Patriots vs. Panthers

Spread: Patriots -2.5

Total: 39.5

Moneyline: Patriots -145/Panthers +125

Storylines

New England started their preseason 0-1 last Thursday night with a 23-21 loss to the Giants. As I noted in my Five Takeaways from that game, however, the score was far from the full story.

Rookie wide receiver Tyquan Thornton played in his first NFL game, and the kid might actually be the real deal. He debuted his in-game release package that showed just how quickly he can get separation from defenders, and also flashed his impressive hands.

New England’s linebackers looked much faster than they did in 2021, a sign that the Pats are actually changing with the times. Mack Wilson, Raekwon McMillan, and Anfernee Jennings should be able to help cover backs out of the backfield and stop the outside run.

The Panthers come into Foxboro 1-0 in the preseason having beat the Commanders 23-21 last Saturday. Their main storyline this camp is the quarterback competition between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold.

Mayfield and Darnold both got some playing time last week. Baker went first, going 4/7 passing for 45 yards. Darnold then got his turn, going 2/3 for 16 yards and connecting with Rashard Higgins on an impressive touchdown pass:

Throughout practice with the Patriots this week, however, Mayfield clearly had the upper hand.

The biggest storyline that came out of joint practices was all of the dang fighting that went on outside of Gillette Stadium. On Tuesday there were two scrums that resulted in Kristian Wilkerson, Kendrick Bourne, and James Ferentz getting kicked out of practice.

Wednesday was no different. After Wilkerson went down with a head injury during a kickoff drill, Panthers safety Kenny Robinson looked to celebrate over him – and more fighting ensued.

As much as I like the competitiveness that both teams showed – the fighting was just downright ridiculous. You’re all supposed to be professionals – act like it.

Anyway, here are my players to watch on Friday:

Patriots Players to Watch

Mac Jones

My guess is that the Patriots will use Friday night as their dress rehearsal game, which means we should see some Mac Jones. Though they used Tuesday and Wednesday to get a majority of their first team reps in, game day is game day. It will be telling to see where Jones and the offense are at in a game-situation on Friday night.

Rhamondre Stevenson

After the retirement of James White last week, reports are that the Patriots will look to Rhamondre Stevenson to take on the pass-catching RB role. Stevenson has showed his hands in practice over the last several weeks, and looks well-suited to contribute even more than he did in his rookie season.

Occasionally taking the first-team reps over Damien Harris – it’ll be good to see just how expendable Harris is. It sounds harsh, but you don’t want to give second-contracts to running backs in this league if you don’t have to.

Christian Barmore

Notice a trend here? I’m looking forward to see how all of the Pats 2021 draft picks fare on Friday – especially Barmore.

Barmore was a monster last season, and looks even more dominant in 2022. The moose of an interior d-lineman was all over Baker Mayfield during joint practices, disrupting anything Carolina tried to do offensively. I can’t wait to see it in game action.

Marcus Jones

Rookie cornerback Marcus Jones will make his NFL debut on Friday, having not played a down against the Giants last Thursday. The third round pick out of Houston was working as the team’s top slot-corner in practice over the past two weeks after they moved Jonathan Jones outside. Marcus could cement himself a spot with the starters on Friday night.

Ja’Whaun Bentley

The slower of the linebacker bunch, Bentley is still the top dog in the room. I’d assume they’ll give the fifth year LB out of Purdue some run on Friday after sitting him against New York last Thursday. It would be nice to see some improved speed from Bentley, who was toasted by McCaffrey more than once in the passing game this week.

Prediction/Pick

Hopefully we can keep the fighting to a minimum on Friday night and get some nice, competitive football on tape.

The Patriots were just all around better than the Panthers this week, and I expect them to be better on Friday as well. New England wins by 10.

Prediction: Patriots 24 – Panthers 14

Side: Patriots -2.5

Total: UNDER 39.5

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Mike covers sports betting and the Patriots for CLNS and is the host of the Patriots Beat podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mikekadlick.

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