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Patriots at Tampa Bay: 3 storylines to watch

Three storylines to watch as the Patriots travel to Tampa Bay.

1. Will it be a starry night?

It was great to have football back last week. But where were all the Patriots’ stars?

On the bench, that’s where.

It will be interesting to see how many of his team’s usual starters coach Bill Belichick decides to use tonight. Will Tom Brady get his first action of the preseason? And if so, will he connect with Chad Ochocinco? Fans are dying to see it in a game.

We already know that Albert Haynesworth won’t suit up tonight, but teammates Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork could get some reps early on.

2. How will Ryan Mallett look this time out?

Rookie New England quarterback Ryan Mallett was getting the bulk of the snaps with the first team during Tuesday’s training camp practice — the last real workout before tonight’s game.

That should mean he’ll be making an earlier debut in the game this time around.

Mallett had a strong outing last week, hitting on 12 of 19 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. The Pats scored 28 points with him under center in the second half.

How he performs against a far steadier Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is another story entirely, though.

3. Keep an eye on the kick return game

Never has special teams been a hotter topic around the NFL than it is now, ever since the league decided to move the ball up to the 35-yard-line for kickoffs.

In doing so, the NFL has created the opportunity for kickers to boot many more touchbacks, causing more than a few complaints among fans.

The idea was to make the game safer, but is it coming at the expense of action and entertainment? The rule could also eliminate jobs, as guys like New England’s Brandon Tate and Chicago’s Devin Hester

become far less valuable.

 
 
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