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Big Game for Big Blue

by Photo of Patrick Cranna

Giants look for first win tomorrow afternoon against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers

Big Game for Big Blue

It's hard to call the third game of the NFL season a must-win, but for the 0-2 New York Football Giants, that's exactly what this week is. Looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1996, the Giants travel to Charlotte, North Carolina for a match-up versus the Carolina Panthers. Despite the Panthers also losing their first two games of 2013, they are seemingly an improved team and are certain to be a formidable opponent for a struggling Giants squad. As both teams search for their first victory this season, there are three key match-ups to look out for: 

Eli Manning vs. Carolina's Secondary

With a total of 812 yards passing in the first two games this season, Eli Manning leads the NFL. However, he also has thrown the most interceptions with 7. For a quarterback and an offense looking to cut down on turnovers, an absolutely decimated Panthers secondary is a welcomed sight. 

Last week Carolina lost starting safety Charles Godfrey to a season-ending achilles injury, and are also likely going to be missing defensive backs Josh Thomas and James Dockery as well as cornerback D.J. Moore, who is out with a knee injury. Safety Quintin Mikell will also be sidelined for the game. 

Panthers head coach, Ron Rivera, said the injuries to the team's secondary were "concerning" given Manning's experience and history of picking apart defenses -- which he did with ease last season in a 36-7 Giants route over Carolina. Having no choice but to start players from the practice squad and re-signing the previously cut corner Drayton Florence, the Panthers should have a difficult time slowing down the Giants' high-powered air attack. 

Giants defense vs. Cam Newton and Panthers running game

Although the Panthers haven't had much luck moving the ball through the air this season, they've had success on the ground behind DeAngelo Williams, who is sixth in the NFL in rushing yardage. Aside from Williams, the Giants need to game plan for the dynamic quarterback Cam Newton, who is always a threat to change a game using his legs. 

"Cam is a great quarterback," said Giants safety Antrel Rolle. "He can hurt you with his legs as well as his arm. He's a multi-talented guy. We just have to stay disciplined and understand who Cam is and how he can hurt you."

Luckily, the Giants have spent plenty of time watching film preparing for mobile quarterbacks and read-option offenses, with the likes of Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III playing for divisional rivals Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. It'll be largely the responsibility of defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka to play contain and keep Newton in the pocket. If Cam Newton consistently eludes pressure and escapes the pocket, pressuring the defense with his running ability and prolonging plays, enhancing the threat of the passing game, I expect it to be a long day for the Giants defense. It's critical for the Giants to keep Newton as one-dimensional as possible.

Effectiveness of the Giants running game

David Wilson, the Giants second-year running back, had high expectations heading into the 2013 campaign. After recovering from a slow start as a rookie, Wilson finished the season strong -- and continued this past pre-season -- showing big-play ability and breakout speed that could change a game with one play.  However, Wilson, like last year, fumbled the ball (two times) on opening night resulting in an obvious diminishment in confidence as well as carries. Although the Giants re-signed former running back Brandon Jacobs to share the load with Wilson, it is absolutely essential Wilson finds his groove and becomes that reliable explosive threat the Giants desperately need.   

If Wilson can break a couple of big runs and regain his confidence, opposing defenses will be forced to respect the run, which will open up the field for Eli Manning and the Giants receivers. Manning has already thrown the ball a whopping 91 times this season, a pace which surely can't continue, and therefore, the Giants offense needs to find some sort of balance.  


With both teams playing desperate, I expect this game to be a relatively close one. The Panthers put up tough games against teams such as the Seattle Seahawks and the much improved Buffalo Bills, and I think they'll show up to play at home this Sunday against New York. With offensive weapons such as Newton, Williams, and wideout Steve Smith, the Giants defense will be tasked with slowing down an offense with explosive ability. 

However, I believe the Giants are simply the more talented team and I don't see them losing this week. I predict Eli Manning will pick apart the Panthers depleted secondary and David Wilson to have a strong showing because of the emphasis that will subsequently be put on slowing down Manning. For a team which expressed Super Bowl aspirations throughout the pre-season, losing to an inferior Panthers team will put the chances of a playoff birth in serious jeopardy -- something I doubt the veterans and coaching staff of this team will allow to happen. Despite a competitive game from an improved Panthers team, I expect the Giants to prevail 31-21. 

Let CHARGED.fm get you the best NFL tickets throughout the 2013 season! 

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