Five reasons to watch tonight's game

Now, it's obvious that there are a good number of people out there who couldn't care any less about tonight's preseason game.

That's fine and, honestly, I don't blame them. However, week three is a little bit of an exception. If you are going to watch only one preseason game, it would have to be this one. As has been stated millions of times, the third week of preseason is like the "dress rehearsal" for the season. The starters usually play into the third quarter, there is some light game planning, less vanilla schemes.

If you want an indicator of what your team is going to look like in the regular season, this game is probably your best bet. Especially over the other preseason games.

Let's look at the last two years for the Patriots. Both years, the defense looked unstoppable in the first two games. However it was exposed in the third preseason game, especially the pass defense.

This was the case in the third preseason game with the St. Louis Rams in 2010, who defeated the Pats 36-35 and absolutely torched the defense, racking up over 400 total yards.

A quote that sticks out from Bill Belichick after that game for me: "In a game of no defense, we played less".

That turned out to be a pretty good indicator of what was a shaky defense that year. Things were no different in last year's week 3 of preseason against the Detroit Lions. The Patriots lost 34-10, gave up four touchdowns through the air and, again, over 400 total yards. After the defense looked dominant in the first two preseason games last year, they were exposed in that third game. Obviously, that Lions game showed a lot more about the Patriots than those first two games, or the fourth game for that matter, as the defense went on to give up the second most yards in the league.

If you watch one preseason game, watch this one. Now, after that long intro. Here's five things you should be watching for tonight.

1. Does the defense hold up? - If you read the above, you'll know exactly why this takes the top spot. The Patriots defense has held up very well in the first two games, which is impressive considering that the second game featured the second team defense vs the Eagle's starters treating the game as their "dress rehearsal" due to poor NFL scheduling. Can the starters show indications in the most important game of the preseason that they will be better this year? The first two games mean nothing, critics will put a lot more weight into their performance in this game.

2. Jeff Demps The Patriots brought an Olympic medal winning runner onto the team to help in the backfield and return kicks. Need I say more? Demps has an insane amount of speed and while he likely still has a long way to go after just joining the team last week, he has impressed both players and media members. This is going to be an exciting guy to watch, and it will be fun to get our first look at him.

3. Can Brandon Lloyd and Tom Brady connect? We have seen very little of the first team offense this preseason. After everyone rested for the second preseason game, and Brady only saw a couple of series in the first game, this is likely to be our only long look at the offense this preseason. Particularly of interest is newcomer Brandon Lloyd, who has yet to register his first catch with the Pats. Let's hope we see some long bombs as hints of what's to come.

4. Is the offensive line better? This has been the theme all preseason after the horrid performances of Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder at the right and left tackle positions respectively. The offensive line has looked dreadful. For those Pats fans skipping preseason games and still thinking Superbowl, you should take note. The good news is that this game could feature both Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer (over Marcus Cannon) for the first time all preseason. That would help significantly.

Both Bill Belichick and Dante Scarnecchia came out to defend Nate Solder this week. We'll see how well the man who will be protecting Tom Brady's blind side holds up tonight, because for the past two games he has looked downright bad.

5. Can Alfonzo Dennard and Tavon Wilson show something? Both of these players got off to rough starts to their rookie seasons. Both are in the spotlight for completely opposite reasons.

Tavon Wilson was seen as the ultimate reach in the second round, the ESPN analysts hadn't even heard of him. Dennard on the other hand was seen as the ultimate steal. A cornerback who had as high as a second round grade that dropped to the seventh due to an off-field incident.

Wilson will likely start in place of the injured Patrick Chung at safety, and it will be great for him to finally showcase something to fans wondering why he was drafted so high. Still, Dennard is the one battling for a roster spot. After sustaining a hamstring injury on the second day of camp, he just returned this week. That's a significant amount of time lost for a rookie. The coaches have barely had any time to evaluate him. This preseason game will give him a chance to showcase what he can do and could be the make or break performance for him earning a spot.

There you go! Enjoy tonight's game!