The regular season is almost upon us, but before the Patriots try to defend another championship, they’ll take on the New York Giants in their final preseason game Thursday night.

It’s games like this where the majority of the starters will stay firmly planted on the sideline. There’s no need to risk injury to anyone of importance in a meaningless contest and that’s why the Patriots will trot out a team made up of mainly second and third stringers.

This, of course, doesn’t mean a player can’t make his mark and end up on the 53-man roster. Last year, D.J. Foster put up 173 all-purpose yards vs. the Giants and ended up making the cut. Conversely, a poor performance could end up costing a player a spot on the roster.

Here are five things to watch when the Patriots take on the Giants:

BACKUP QUARTERBACKS

Tom Brady won’t play in this one, and there’s no guarantee we’ll see Jimmy Garoppolo, either. Last year was different as Brady played one more time before his four-game suspension, but typically, this final preseason game is all about the third-string quarterbacks (Ryan Lindley in 2015 and Tim Tebow in 2013 are two examples).

In the event that Garoppolo plays, it would nice to see him improve upon his up-and-down performance from last week. Another solid outing could help his free-agent market or trade value next offseason. For Jacoby Brissett, this is the last time he’ll probably see game action. He’s not a 100 percent roster lock, either. He needs a solid performance so there’s a lot riding on this game for him.

WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH

With Julian Edelman out for the season, it remains to be seen if the Patriots will keep an extra wide receiver on the 53-man roster. If they were going to, it would likely come down to Austin Carr or Devin Lucien.

Carr has had some nice moments in the preseason while Lucien shined in training camp, but both face long odds to land on the roster. A big game on Thursday could help one of them. With Malcolm Mitchell also dealing with a knee injury, the Patriots might be inclined to add another receiver. Of course, if they don’t like internal options, they could look elsewhere. It’s up to Carr and Lucien to make their case.

FOSTER TIME

Last year, Foster missed most of the preseason with a lower-body injury. He more than made up for it in the final preseason game catching nine passes for 110 yards. He also added 22 yards on the ground, 16 via punt returns and another 25 in a single kick return.

Foster might need another mega performance to stick around this time. The Patriots are loaded at running back – Mike Gillislee, James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden – so keeping another player at the position seems unlikely. However, the injury to Edelman could open up a spot to someone like Foster. He played receiver in college and has practiced at that position (both last year and this summer). The fact that he can also return punts is a huge plus.

VETERANS

If a veteran is playing in the fourth quarter, it’s a bad sign. Cut to Kony Ealy, who played in the fourth quarter last week and was released soon after. In this final preseason game, it’s a similar situation – if a veteran is playing, especially late, it’s a terrible sign.

Examples of veterans playing in the final preseason game with the Patriots include Aaron Dobson, Keshawn Martin, Leon Washington, Adrian Wilson, Marcus Bernard, Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard – none of whom were around long, so it’d be wise to keep an eye out and see who is playing in this contest (especially in the second half).

First look at Marquis Flowers

At this point, fans have seen just about everyone who will make and not make the Patriots 53-man roster out of training camp. Through three games, plenty of veterans, rookies and newcomers have played. The only player we really haven’t seen is Flowers.

The Patriots this past week sent a seventh-round pick to Cincinnati for the linebacker. Although Flowers is a core special teamer, it’ll be interesting if he can affect Thursday’s game on the defensive side. This wouldn’t be the first time Bill Belichick got more out of an under-utilized player.