Typically, the third preseason game is the one in which the projected starters will play the most minutes of preseason in a dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season.
The decision for Belichick will be who gets the nod as starting quarterback.
Tom Brady still faces a four-game suspension to start the season and his back-up, second-year man Jimmy Garoppolo, needs all the time he can get with the starting offense in preparation for the possibility that he is the quarterback for the first four games.
I think Brady will get the start and play at least a series or two but then give way to Garoppolo for the rest of the time that the starters are in the game.
This game also gives a Belichick the opportunity to evaluate several positional battles that have to be settled over the next ten days.
At receiver, 2013 second round pick Aaron Dobson might be playing for his job tonight. With veteran Reggie Wayne likely to make the team and veterans Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, and Matthew Slater locks to make the team, Dobson is competing with undrafted free agent Chris Harper for the last projected receiver spot. With LaFell still on the PUP list, Dobson and Harper might both start the season on the active roster but it's highly doubtful that the Patriots will keep seven receivers so tonight offers Dobson a chance to make his case for being a permanent part of the team.
On the offensive line, Bryan Stork's absence has created an opportunity for undrafted rookie David Andrews at center. While Stork will be the likely starter when he come back, Andrews has made a case to be kept as a back-up center and guard over veteran Josh Kline.
In the secondary, tonight will provide a chance to see who has the lead on winning the second starting spot at cornerback opposite Malcolm Butler. Logan Ryan and Tarell Brown seem to be the favorites and tonight's game will show who of those two will be the likely Week 1 starter.
NESN's decision to part ways with play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo is disappointing.
Orsillo is an excellent broadcaster and has made watching the Red Sox games on NESN a very enjoyable experience.
He has been there for World Series teams, last place teams, and everything in between and has been a trusted voice every night in the summer months. Partnered with Jerry Remy, Orsillo has built a great relationship with the team's color analyst and the "Don and Remy" shtick carried viewers through the nights when the team was not playing well.
Orsillo also has handled working with other partners - most noticeably when Remy has had to take several medical leaves of absence the past few years - and welcomed them into the nightly broadcast without distraction.
The national networks are likely to come calling for Orsillo, who has done postseason games for TBS the past few years, and he will land on his feet very quickly. NESN has already hired Dave O'Brien away from WEEI, the team's radio broadcaster, to replace Orsillo and he'll likely do an excellent job on television as he has done on the radio.
The unfortunate part is that Orsillo leaves and the fans of Red Sox Nation lose a trusted voice for no reason.
Good luck Don.
As I'm sure Dave Dombrowski has become a daily reader of this space, here's my advice to him for fixing the pitching staff.
First, throw six years and $180-million at David Price. He will offer an immediate upgrade for the staff and provide a much needed ace.
The second step is to trade several of the team's prospects for a young starter who will be under tean control for a few years at reasonable dollars.
Chris Sale of the White Sox and Sonny Gray of the Athletics should be the primary targets.
A package centered around Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, Rafael Devers, and Manuel Margot should grease the skids for the White Sox to part with Sale or the A's to give up Gray.
The final step is to bid adieu to Clay Buchholz. The Bill Murray routine of having Buchholz get hurt at least once a season should become someone else's problem and his affordable money over the next two seasons - $26.5-million total - and his potential may fetch the team a young prospect or two who could help Dombrowski land a pitcher like Sale or Gray.