The Carolina Panthers (1-1) and New York Giants (1-1) are set to kick-off on Thursday night at 8:20 PM EST in Charlotte, North Carolina, in what will surely be a high profile duel between two opposing quarterbacks.
The last time the Panthers and Giants met was back in September of 2010; the Giants winning comfortably over the Panthers, 31-18.
Both teams are coming off hard fought wins in week two, which kept them both clear of dreaded 0-2 starts.
Thursday night’s game marks the first time this season that the Panthers will play a team from outside of their division. With only three full days to recover and prepare, this will also prove to be Carolina’s toughest test so far.
However, the early advantage points in favor of the Panthers, who didn’t have to travel this week, giving them extra time and rest before Thursday night.
The Giants find themselves at a slight disadvantage for opposite reasons. In such a short week, the amount of time and effort spent on traveling becomes magnified. Their travel time will cut into a small window of preparation before kick-off.
To make matters worse, the Giants learned today [Wednesday] that they will be without running back Ahmad Bradshaw, receiver Domenik Hixon and Pro-Bowl tackle David Diehl. The Giants will have to lean on running back Andre Brown with Bradshaw out. Brown rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown in week two
Panthers star running back Jonathan Stewart was held out of practice on Tuesday and is listed as “questionable” for Thursday night. Linebacker Thomas Davis is also listed as “questionable.” Both players are expected to be game time decisions.
The main focus on Thursday night will of course be on the quarterback matchup. Carolina’s Cam Newton and New York’s Eli Manning are coming off high-quality performances in week two after their poor performances from a week earlier in week one.
Despite three turnovers from Manning last week, he still threw for 510 yards and three touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newton’s efforts came on the ground with 71 yards rushing and a touchdown, while also adding 253 yards through the air with a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints.
There will definitely be fireworks on display if both quarterbacks show up to play on Thursday night.
The key for Carolina offensively will be a little different from previous weeks. They will of course still need to establish a run game, but their priority should be to attack through the air in this matchup. The Giants are allowing an average of 259 yards passing through the first two weeks and after last week, they clearly proved to have holes in their secondary.
Newton must attack deep with receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, but tight end Greg Olsen needs to make plays early on in order for the Panthers to utilize their downfield threats frequently. If Newton can get Olsen going early, then look for Smith and LaFell to have huge performances.
Carolina’s dynamic offense was on display in week two and they will need it again this week if they hope to defeat the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Defensively, the Panthers are still vulnerable when it comes to stopping the run.
The Giants are a pass first football team, leading the NFL in passing yards this season and will be prone to passing often in week three. Stopping the run is never easy, but if Carolina can’t get it together this week, then they probably never will.
The Giants are a grind it out kind of team. Nothing rattles them throughout the course of a game. Carolina must come at them relentlessly on defense. The Giants will be forced to pass more than normal with Bradshaw out of the lineup, giving Carolina plenty of opportunities to hurry Manning in the pocket. Granted, the Giants are used to playing against high pressure defenses within the NFC East, but that can’t deter Carolina from playing aggressive up front.
With Diehl and Bradshaw sidelined for the Giants, look for the Panthers to attack any weakness shown by the Giants’ offensive line, both in their ability to protect Manning and run the football.
The short week of preparation will certainly play a role on Thursday night. It will be interesting to see how both teams respond, with quarterbacks poised for high-octane performances and defenses looking to attack.