Here's the kicker: Stephen Gostkowski is now the holder of a shiny new contract extension. Good play call.
1. Banta-Cain, Burgess and the pass rush. This game should be a good measure of the Patriots' ability to generate pressure with a standard four-man rush, specifically from the outside linebacker position. Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess should start, providing the first look at the likely top combination on the edges. The Rams had protection issues in their first preseason game -- they have two young tackles in Jason Smith (right) and Rodger Saffold (left) -- and are starting a rookie quarterback in Sam Bradford.
2. Laurence Maroney's place on the depth chart. After dressing but not taking a snap last week, the fifth-year running back would seemingly be in line to see his most extended work as part of the rotation the coaching staff has adopted this preseason. Maroney has played just 12 snaps this preseason. If he doesn't get the chance to prove himself Thursday night, it could be viewed as a sign of him slipping behind Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and perhaps BenJarvus Green-Ellis in their competition.
3. Run-defense gets a good test. They don't get much tougher than Rams running back Stephen Jackson, and so the Patriots' revamped front seven in the 3-4 alignment -- linemen Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork and Mike Wright, and linebackers Derrick Burgess, Tully Banta-Cain, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes -- will be tested with their "fits" in the running game. Overall, the Patriots have checked out fairly well in this area the first two games.
4. Rotation at inside linebacker. While 2009 starter Gary Guyton returned to practice this week and should play, it looks like rookie Brandon Spikes will still start next to Jerod Mayo. Both could be tested in pass coverage against Jackson, who is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. Overall, this will be the first glimpse of how the Patriots might rotate their top three inside linebackers, while also seeing where 2009 third-round pick Tyrone McKenzie, rookie free agent Dane Fletcher and second-year player Thomas Williams potentially fit into the mix.
5. New look of the second-unit offensive line. The reserves on the offensive line struggled last week against the Falcons, which probably sparked the team's trade for Quinn Ojinnaka. Look for Ojinnaka to get his initial work at right tackle as the offensive line is an area the Patriots have some tough roster decisions to make when balancing present needs and future development of young linemen.
- Andy Hart offers his post-camp practice observations.
- Patriots Today - What to watch for against Rams. (5.34 min. video)
- PFW In Progress - 8/24/10 Edition. This edition discusses the Patriots 28-10 win over the Falcons and previews New England's game with the St. Louis Rams tonight at Gillette. (2:3:00 audio)
- Mike Reiss points out the compromise both sides made with Stephen Gostkowski's contract extension.
- Albert Breer says tonight's Week 3 preseason game against the Rams is the last real chance to judge the Patriots.
- Ian Rapoport talks about tonight's 'dress rehearsal,' the most important preseason game before the real thing.
- Ryan Hudson NFL Preseason, Rams at Patriots: Sam Bradford to make first pro start.
- Mike Reiss projects a different OLB combination for tonight's preseason game against the Rams.
- Tom E. Curran gives us Five things to watch for in Pats-Rams.
- Christopher Price tells us what to watch for tonight against the Rams.
- Robert Lee offers Five storylines to watch in Thursday's Patriots-Rams game.
- Ian Rapoport lists his five things to watch for tonight. I'm sensing a theme.
Chris Gasper posts a video preview of what to watch for when the Patriots host the Rams. (3.32 min.)
- Albert Breer focuses on the future of the offensive line and whether there is stability up front.
- Christopher Price notes Dan Connolly is now walking the line as a regular at left guard.
- Tom E. Curran says the Patriots pulled a punch with Mankins, making his agent Frank Bauer wrong again.
- Christopher Price sees the positional battles getting clearer for the Patriots.
- Mike Reiss looks at who's on the Pats' roster bubble heading into tonight's game.
- Karen Guregian reports the Patriots have no worries when it comes to their safeties.
- Christopher Price reveals Jake Ingram thinks the new rule protecting long snappers is "awesome".
- Mike Reiss cleans out his Patriots notebook with some quick-hit thoughts and soundbites.
- Mike Reiss takes note of big deals that are happening across the NFL despite the uncertain labor forecast. Then he applies that to Logan Mankins.
- Jerry Thronton tells us why Rex Ryan is the perfect villain.
- Kirk Minihane continues his 'Hard Knocks' Diary: Torture, f-bombs and one noodle arm.
- Mark Farinella reports the Jets lead the NFL in talking, little else.
- Albert Breer notes New England will get the CBS top crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms for Weeks 1 and 2.
- Albert Breer names the three Patriots - Brady, Seau, Hannah - deemed by SI.com to be the best ever to wear their numbers.
- Jeff Howe talks about Ross Ventrone getting an early ride on the undrafted free agent roller coaster.
- Gary Marbry previews the Patriots oponents: Detroit Lions.
- Christopher Price writes Roger Goodell is moving ahead with plans for an 18-game season.
- Ian Rapoport reports Forbes Magazine names the Patriots as the NFL's No. 3 most valuable franchise.
- Ian Rapoport Patriots Notebook: Gostkowski was rewarded with a contract after not complaining about only getting the RFA tender offer; Pats starters might begin the 3rd quarter tonight in preparation for the regular season; CB Jonathan Wilhite sees himself improving this year.
- Shalise Manza Young Patriots Notebook: Stephen Gostkowski agreed to a 4-year contract extension; Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the Giants in 2007; Forbes ranks the Pats as the 3rd most valuable NFL franchise.
Jerry Spar notes ESPN analyst Marcellus Wiley joined the Dennis & Callahan show on WEEI and he didn't have much confidence in the Patriots this year. Pfffft
- Tim Graham (ESPN) SI.com rates Tom Brady the greatest No. 12.
- SI.com Best NFL player by jersey number: 00-49.
- Tim Graham (ESPN) AFC East: Most indispensable players.
- Doug Farrar (Yahoo! Sports) The kids are all right: 10 under-the-radar rookies to watch. Aaron Hernandez makes the list.
- Tim Graham (ESPN) 'Knocks' reveals Jets' internal depth chart.
- Len Pasquarelli (Fox Sports) 18-game season coming, but not soon.
- Michael Lombardi (GQ) Introducing the GQ All-Brains All-Stars. Smartest players in the league, without a mention of Tom Brady? Bogus!
- Nando Di Fino (NFL Fanhouse) Inside man: Going behind the curtain with a distinct NFL agency.
VIEW FROM ST. LOUIS
- Bill Coats (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Bradford strives for consistency.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch Rams vs. Patriots: Five things to watch.