As the schedule quickly flips into Week 3 of the NFL season, the weekly opener on NFL Network will not disappoint. The defending Super Bowl champions, The New York Giants are coming into Carolina to take on the young scrappy Carolina Panthers. This game is set-up for any NFL fan to enjoy. With many exciting plays and with the Giants involved this game is sure to come down to the waning moments.
Let’s see what’s on tab for tonight’s matchup.
New York Giants:
It did not come as a shock to anyone when Ahmad Bradshaw came up on the injury report and would be called out on Tuesday. With the short layover and the impressive play of running back Andre Brown, the Giants did not want to rush Bradshaw back. Although, after appearing questionable, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was still thought to play after his 199-yard performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. On one of the final plays of the game Nicks was stepped on and limped it off, but came back in and played well following the injury. Again, the short layover has led to the Giants making very cautious decisions, as there are still many games left to play. As a matter of fact, it has been reported that the Giants will dress only four, count it four, wide receivers in tonight’s game.
Now to the people playing tonight.
After such an emotional win and a statement like that on Sunday, you have to think the Giants will come out with that momentum. If Eli Manning play’s it cool in the first half and keeps his composure, the Giants will hang tough.
Playing the Panthers on a short week is brutal. Cam Newton dances around teams like he is a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. A tired Giants defensive line is in for a track meet tonight. Another worry is the secondary, who has looked horrific in their first two matchups. The defensive backs have let Mike Williams and Kevin Ogletree run right through them and have big games—not the recipe for champions. The defense must play the way they did down the stretch and contain Newton, Steve Smith, and emerging threat Brandon LaFell.
Are we talking about big wins? How about the Carolina Panthers for making a statement? After a lackluster opening game against Tampa Bay, Ron Rivera’s club came out and beat the collapsing New Orleans Saints in the Super Dome. Cam Newton ran the ball like the Newton who carried Auburn to the National Championship, and even the two-headed monster at running back contributed in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.
Tonight the Panthers are in luck once again—they are taking on yet another vulnerable team in the New York Giants. The battered champions are tough though and won’t give this game away, but it is Carolina’s to lose.
Carolina must do exactly what they did last week in New Orleans—run. The Panthers are a run-first team, no questions asked. With so much talent in the backfield and your quarterback being so agile this team must run. Newton is an average passer, so to open up the big plays for the receivers, the running game must be established. If the Panthers could control the game while running the ball, the passing game will open up and that is how this game will be won for Carolina.
Even though I spoke of Jonathan Stewart and his great play on Sunday, the short week issue will most likely get to him to as it is being reported that he is unlikely to suit up tonight, but will be a game-time decision. As well, Steve Smith, the Panthers number one target is probable for the game and expect to see him out there and get many looks against this weak Giants secondary.
What to Watch:
Andre Brown: The journeymen might have found his place in the league, for now. As I noted earlier, after Ahmad Bradshaw came out with a neck injury, Brown stepped in for David Wilson, who may be in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse. Brown did not disappoint, gaining 71 yards on 16 carries and a score. Brown will be a valuable part to this Giants offense tonight as they are very scarce at receiver and Eli Manning will depend on the backup to open up this Panther defense. Brown must have a couple of big runs during the early stages of this game to give the Giants an opportunity to put points on the board.
Brandon LaFell: Possibly the most pleasant surprise this year not only out of Carolina, but also in the entire league. LaFell has caught nine passes for 155 and a touchdown in two games this year. The emergence of LaFell gives the Panthers a whole new look on their offense. Although, teams are not as much focused on the former LSU standout as they are on veteran star Steve Smith. So, Brandon LaFell could have the Victor Cruz effect—people know that your there, but they have bigger issues to worry about so you are not the priority. Since your are not the priority the receiver has room to roam and go off on defense after defense and becomes the quarterbacks number one target in the process. LaFell will only continue this trend tonight with his perfect matchup against the very weak Giants secondary.
Giant Wide Receivers: No Hakeem Nicks, no Domenik Hixon, just four guys who play the wide receiver position for the New York Giants. We all know Victor Cruz will be the number one target on Manning’s radar; followed probably by talented tight end Martellus Bennett, but after that who knows? Somebody needs to step up and salvage this game for the Giants tonight. If I had to my money on it I would say Ramses Barden will have an impressive performance if anybody was to. The Giants game rests on their receivers tonight, and with the world watching can a relatively unknown player step into the limelight?
After such a great game how can I not pick the Giants right?
Unfortunately, not in this matchup.
With Carolina also bringing in a lot of momentum, the injuries will get to the Giants in this one. The short week is going to bring the Giants down in this one, and the jovial Panthers squad will overpower the ailing Giants. Do not worry though the defending champions will rebound with a long week to recover from their injuries. However tonight, I like the Panthers in a close game until the Giants dig themselves a hole to big to climb out of.
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