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Analysis: Super matchup among Patriots preseason slate

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We're officially in springtime - even though it doesn't quite feel like it outside yet - but a breath of late summer blew into Foxborough today when the Patriots unveiled their 2018 preseason opponents. The headliner is a Super Bowl LII reunion with the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium.

For the second time in three years, New England will host its first two exhibition opponents, starting with the Washington Redskins before the reigning champion Eagles fly into town. In Week 3 of the preseason, the Patriots make their first road trip of 2018, visiting the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. The Panthers are a familiar third-game foe of late, having hosted New England in 2016 and '15 and made the trip to Gillette in '14.

None of New England's preseason opponents is more familiar, though, than the Week 4 Giants, who've been on the schedule in this spot since 2005. This summer, it's New York's turn to host the preseason finale for both sides, in what has become a predictable alternating rotation between the two clubs.

Joint training camp practices have become another recent NFL tradition which Bill Belichick's Patriots have embraced. Two seasons ago, New England welcomed the Saints and Bears for joint sessions in consecutive weeks prior to their respective preseason games at Gillette. The Patriots also traveled to Washington's training camp location in Richmond, Va. in advance of Week 1 of the 2014 preseason. The summer before, Belichick brought his team to Philadelphia for joint practices with the Eagles to start the preseason.

So, if history holds true to form this year, it's likely there will be discussions between Washington, Philly, and New England in the coming days to coordinate joint training camp practices in early August here at the double fields behind Gillette Stadium.

Patriots training camp practices are always well-attended, as they're historically free of charge, open to the general public, and limited in number, giving fans a rare opportunity to see their favorite team up close. The bleachers and hillsides abutting the practice fields are frequently packed with people, even during the week when the Patriots are practicing.

From a fan perspective as well as a team one, joint sessions are always an even more popular draw here in Foxborough. It's not uncommon for tens of thousands of fans to descend on Gillette's grounds when a preseason opponent shares the practice field with the Patriots. The excitement level is akin to a game-like atmosphere, or as to close to one as you can get in that environment.

Precise dates and times for the 2018 preseason are expected to be finalized once the full regular season schedule is announced later this month. And stay tuned for any news regarding potential joint practice sessions. That could come later in the spring or early summer.

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