Thursday, September 20, 2012

What to Watch For: New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers

Thursday, September 20, 2012
New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers
What to Watch For

On a short week, the short-handed Giants will travel to Carolina to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers.  It is the second primetime game for the Giants this season and hopefully this one goes better for the Giants than the first one did against the Dallas Cowboys.  Here are a few things to watch for in the game tonight.

-Lacking Some Firepower

The Giants will be heading into a tough environment tonight without some key players.  Starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was a surprise scratch Wednesday night after originally being listed as questionable.  Nicks did not even make the trip, as he struggled to do much of anything at practice this week and the team decided it would be better for him to sit this one out. 

Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw will also miss the game tonight with a neck injury and starting tackle David Diehl is out with an injury to his right MCL.  Diehl’s prognosis is still unknown, as his injury may be severe enough to keep him out for an extended period of time. 

Eli Manning will also be without third receiver and return man Domenik Hixon, who suffered a concussion Sunday afternoon and was not cleared to play this week.

The odds are stacked against the Giants but that is something they are used to and embrace.  Do not be shocked to see them come out firing with a chip on their shoulder.

-Who is Going to Step Up?

With so many injuries to playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, the Giants will need some people to step up and fill the shoes of the starters.

Manning still has Victor Cruz and Martellus Bennett to rely on, but another receiver has to step up.  Look for Ramses Barden to start opposite of Cruz with Rueben Randle and Jerel Jernigan splitting time as the third receiver. 

This is a huge chance for Barden, as he was in danger of getting cut this past preseason.  If he can put on an impressive showing, the Giants may have the second coming of Cruz.  Last season, it was week 3 in which Cruz had his breakout performance.  Barden should come out ready to show that he is a worthy NFL receiver and someone the Giants should give more playing time to.

Randle and Jernigan will not only have to make up for Hixon as the third receiver, but also on punt return.  Randle had an impressive return that was brought back because of a penalty Sunday against the Buccaneers but both should have opportunities to show the Giants what they are capable of.

-Will the Running Game Show Up

The Giants running game struggled all of last season and hasn’t been strong through the first two games of this season either.  With Bradshaw going down with an injury, someone is going to have to step up and that someone is Andre Brown.

Brown is expected to make his first career start Thursday night over rookie David Wilson after an impressive showing against the Buccaneers.  Brown, who entered the game with -1 career rushing yards, finished the game with 71 yards rushing on 13 attempts and a touchdown in addition to 2 receptions for 19 yards. 

Brown will also be responsible for blocking for Manning, as Bradshaw is the Giants best blocking running back.

Brown will need a breather here and there and that is where Wilson will come in.  Wilson may not be getting the start, but he will play a pivotal role in the offense this week as he has the ability to be a weapon in the passing game, something the Giants will need with Nicks being out.

-Which Defense Will Show Up?

With the offense being so depleted, this is an opportunity for the defense to make up for some of their short comings the first two weeks of the season and carry the team.

The Giants secondary has been getting torched on and off the field, as injuries have been piling up week after week.  This week, Prince Amukamara is expected to make his return from a high ankle sprain, giving the Giants an upgrade that is sorely needed.

The secondary will have their hands full tonight, as the Panthers employ a talented receiving core highlighted by All-Pro Steve Smith.  They also have an up and coming second receiver in Brandon LaFell who will need to be watched and a more than capable tight end in Greg Olsen.

One problem the secondary has struggled so much is that the front seven has not been playing up to their potential.  The Giants are not generating much of a pass rush with their star studded defensive line of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, putting the cornerbacks in a tough position. 

The job will not get any easier for the front seven tonight, as the Giants will need to figure out a way to contain the dynamic Cam Newton.  The key to slowing down Newton is to contain the run game and force him to become a passing quarterback.  This season alone shows that, as the Panthers struggled week one when they only ran the ball 13 times but beat the Saints in week 2 running the ball 41 times.

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