By Steve Reed
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Here’s a look at Friday’s NFL preseason games. (All times EDT):
EXTRA MVP TIME
—New England at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
NFL MVP Cam Newton will see his most extensive playing time of the preseason against the Patriots, while Tom Brady may have to take a back seat to Jimmy Garoppolo.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton and the rest of the starters from last year’s NFC championship team will play into the third quarter. Newton has played sparingly the first two preseason games, leading five drives culminating in one touchdown and two field goals.
Not surprisingly, Patriots coach Bill Belichick hasn’t disclosed his plans for Friday night’s game, but it’s expected Garoppolo will start and see the majority of reps to get ready for the regular season. Brady is suspended for the first four games for his role in “Deflategate.”
“Like always, your guess is as good as mine,” Garoppolo said. “We’ll find out together, I guess. I’m preparing like I’m going to be the starter. You never know. Last week was a good example. You never know what’s going to happen, and we’ll go from there, I guess.”
Brady was scheduled to start the second preseason game against the Bears before accidentally cutting his right thumb during a pregame mishap with scissors. He returned to the field this week after what he called “a silly accident.”
‘BIG TEST’ FOR WILLIAMS
— Buffalo at Washington, 7:30 p.m.
The Redskins’ third preseason game against the Bills will be the first for four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who has been held out with a sore right knee. There hasn’t been significant concern about Williams, who tends to play through minor injuries, but this chance is important to him.
“This game is really big for me because I haven’t had any live reps thus far,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a huge test for me. It’s just one of the things you’ve got to overcome.”
With Matt Jones out for the remainder of the preseason with a separated left shoulder, the Redskins will also get to see what they have in rookie running backs Robert Kelley and Keith Marshall and second-year back Mack Brown.
WR Sammy Watkins is set to make his preseason debut for Buffalo after spending the past three weeks testing his surgically repaired left foot. Coach Rex Ryan anticipates Watkins will see limited playing time to continue re-establishing his chemistry with quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
GET READY FOR BIG BEN
—Pittsburgh at New Orleans, 8 p.m.
The Saints have struggled in recent seasons on defense, but believe they’ve improved from last year. They’ll get a big test in preseason Game No. 3 when they host Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
“It’s a good team we are playing — really good offensive football team,” Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons; obviously, those guys haven’t played in the preseason. I don’t know what the plan is as far as those guys are concerned. Obviously we have a lot of respect for the Steelers, Mike Tomlin and their offense. Todd Haley is your coordinator, so it’ll be a good challenge for us.”
—Cleveland at Tampa Bay, 8 p.m.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon is expected to make his return to action, along with first-round pick Corey Coleman. Gordon, who missed the first two preseason games with a quadriceps injury, led the NFL in yards receiving in 2013, but was suspended all of last season. He will serve a four-game suspension to start this season as well.
The Bucs will face eight opponents this season who play a 3-4 defense, so playing the blitz-happy Browns is expected to be a good tuneup for Jameis Winston and the offense. The first of those eight 3-4 defensive teams will be the Cardinals in Week 2.
Further complicating matters, the Bucs are battling injuries on the offensive line to guards J.R. Sweezy and Al Marpet.
RODGERS MAKES A CAMEO
—Green Bay at San Francisco, 10 p.m.
Aaron Rodgers will make his one and only preseason appearance on Friday night at San Francisco. That will give Rodgers some experience working with new tight end Jared Cook. However, Jordy Nelson is not expected to play after returning to practice this week.
“Well, we haven’t had Jordy in a team period yet, so we’re just going to keep expectations at a reasonable level,” Rodgers said of his standout wide receiver who is returning from major knee surgery.
For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick will get to make his case for the starting job after sitting out the first two preseason games with a tired shoulder. Coach Chip Kelly has said he wants to see Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert get time with the first-team offense before picking a starter. Gabbert has been unimpressive so far this preseason, completing just 52.6 percent of his passes, but he has not thrown an interception or taken a sack.
“I’m going to go out and show everything I can these next two games to make sure I put my best foot forward to show this organization, this team, this coaching staff what I’m capable of,” Kaepernick said.