Though many view the final preseason game as meaningless, it's a life or death game for Pats' players fighting for a few remaining roster spots. Here are some battles that are worth watching:
1.) James Develin v. Brandon Bolden: RBs James Develin and Brandon Bolden know that they must shine on Thursday night. One of them at most will earn a spot. Of the two, Develin, a throw back FB, has looked better in the preseason games. Bolden's ball security issues last week in Detroit really hurt him. But, his abilities on special teams may save him, with a good rushing performance on Thursday;
2.) Tim Tebow: In what may be his final game in the pros, Tebow must impress to have any chance of earning a roster spot. Another clunker like he had against Tampa Bay would likely finish him. He has no practice squad eligibility. So, it's either earn a roster spot, or be gone. Josh McDaniels loves him...and BB would like to keep him around in order to have a practice QB, who can help to prepare the "D" for read option type teams;
3.) Michael Hoomanawanui v. Daniel Fells: With Zach Sudfelds and Jake Ballard likely to stick, and the availability of Gronk still a question mark, at least one or both of these guys may be cut. Personally, I'd prefer that Gronk be placed on the PUP list, so that, when he eventually returns, the odds are greater that he'll be 100%. In any event, it would appear that Hoomanawanui has the edge, based on the fact that he's four (4) years younger. If one or both of these guys gets cut, they will most certainly be picked up by other TE needy teams, such as the Ravens, Jets, and Dolphins;
4.) Jake Bequette v. Michael Buchanan v. Jermaine Cunningham: One of these three will stick, and, possibly two, if BB still has faith in Cunningham. The fact that Cunningham was caught using performance enhancing drugs last year should work against him. The loser of the Bequette/Buchanan battle may make it to the practice squad.
5.) Jeff Tarpinian v. Mike Rivera v. Steve Beauharnais: BB could try to sneak Beauharnais on the practice squad. But, Jeff Tarpinian still has practice squad eligibility, and may be easier to slip through waivers. Five LBs appear to be locks to make the team: Mayo, Spikes, Fletcher, Hightower, and rookie Jamie Collins. Rivera made the team last year, primarily due to Dane Fletcher being lost for the season due to a knee injury. With Fletcher back, and seemingly fully recovered, Rivera's days as a Patriot may be numbered. Both he and Tarpinian are effective special teamers. Will the Patriots choose to keep seven (7) LBs?
6.) Scott Vellone v. Joe Vellano: The Pats are paper thin at DT. So, these guys have a golden opportunity to earn a roster spot with an impressive performance against the Giants;
7.) Marquice Cole v. Ras-I Dowling v Tavon Wilson: Does BB continue to pray for Dowling's return to good health? Does BB put Dowling on the PUP list (again), delaying his decision? Wilson has been terrible in the preseason games. But, because he was such a high draft choice, and the fact that it would cost the Pats more to release him than to keep him, we'll likely have to endure him for one more year.