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What to watch for: Saints-Patriots

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The NFL season officially begins in earnest this week with the start of the preseason for all 32 teams. Around The NFL's Conor Orr dissects what you can expect to see from the 16 games this weekend.

Here's what to what to watch for ...


New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (7:30 p.m., NFL Network)

» How will Jacoby Brissett look in his debut? The Patriots' third stringer is one injury away from playing in the season opener, which was no doubt on Bill Belichick's mind during the last few weeks. Jimmy Garoppolo is obviously the quarterback to watch, but we've also seen enough of Garoppolo against NFL talent to gauge his readiness. With Tom Brady planning to sit altogether vs. the Saints, Brissett has the most to gain from the open snaps.

» How does Sheldon Rankins look? After picking off Brady during joint Saints-Patriots practices, Rankins has been elevated to must-watch territory for Saints fans. The defensive tackle is quite possibly the best chance the Saints have of turning their defense around, and will hopefully give us a preview of his hybrid role on Thursday night.

» Malcolm Butler vs. Brandin Cooks Round 2? The pair battled it out during joint practices throughout the week and should highlight some of the early first-quarter battles we're able to see Thursday. Cooks is looking to prove that he can handle the workload of a true No. 1 wideout and hopes to gain some momentum heading into the regular season.

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