After sitting 26 players in their last game, the New England Patriots will field most of their starters against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday night at Raymond James Stadium.
The preseason game starts at 7:30pm eastern time, and you can watch streaming online here.
New England lost 27-17 to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. Friday will be the second of three preseason games in the span of 10 days for the Patriots, so resting their starters against Philadelphia was a precaution.
Back-up Ryan Mallett went 10-for-20 for 105 yards and one touchdown in place of quarterback Tom Brady, but the New England offense struggled and managed only three field goals for the rest of the game.
Brady participated in practice Thursday and will play Friday, but receiver Wes Welker did not dress and is questionable against Tampa Bay.
Rookie safety Tavon Wilson will take the place of veteran Patrick Chung, who injured his shoulder against the Eagles. Wilson joins the Patriots' top cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington, who also sat out Monday's game. Overall the secondary hopes to improve on a poor showing in 2011 that saw the Patriots ranked 31st in pass defense, giving up 293.9 yards per game.
While healthy, Tampa Bay is reeling after a 30-7 blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. The Buccaneers gave up 216 total rushing yards, including 13 first down rushes and 5.8 yards per carry. Tennessee's top running back Chris Johnson had 10 carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
The Buccaneers secondary was the lone bright spot against the Titans. Rookie defensive back Ahmad Black set up Tampa Bay's only touchdown after a 29-yard interception return put the Buccaneers on the Titans' two-yard line. Quarterback Josh Freeman capitalized and shoveled a two-yard pass to receiver Mike Williams.
Despite the touchdown, Freeman had a rough outing against Tennessee and went 4-of-10 for 21 yards. Tampa Bay signed wide receiver Vincent Jackson to give Freeman a proven target, but he had difficulty finding the former San Diego Charger. Jackson finished with one reception for eight yards and was targeted only three times in his first game as a Buccaneer.
If the passing game continues to struggle, Tampa Bay's running game cannot make any significant strides. The Buccaneers turn to rookie running back Doug Martin, who is expected to start Friday night in place of incumbent starter LeGarrette Blount. Blount is doubtful after straining his groin against Tennessee. Martin has 14 carries for 44 yards in two preseason games.
Prediction: The Patriots' offense will be near full strength and Brady should continue finding his targets for big gains. Tampa Bay's secondary will have to repeat its performance against Tennessee to keep the Buccaneer's in the game.
Predicted Score: New England 27, Tampa Bay 10