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Giants vs. Panthers: 10 Factors That Will Decided NFL Week 3 Matchup

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The New York Giants and Carolina Panthers are set to do battle on Thursday Night Football, and the country seems to be split on who to pick in this one. The Giants are Super Bowl champs and play extremely well on the road, but Cam Newton and his Panthers are no slouch this season. The Giants are also dealing with a plethora of injuries to key players.

This slideshow will highlight the 10 most important factors that will go into deciding this contest. On the surface, it looks like the Giants have struggled in the secondary in their first two games. They no doubt have had their issues, but they actually played better than people thought on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs did have a few big plays and Vincent Jackson did go off for 128 yards, but the Bucs only scored one touchdown that wasn't a direct result of a turnover, and that came when the Giants were playing bend-don't-break at the end and Michael Coe had been taken out of the game with an injury. The Bucs scored their first three touchdowns off three Eli Manning interceptions; to only give up 34 points in light of that is very respectable.

The Giants defense will have their hands full with Newton tonight. Are they up to the task?

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Can the Carolina Panthers' Defense Slow Down Eli Manning?


One of the toughest challenges, or maybe even the only challenge with the way the Giants run the ball, for the Panthers will be slowing down Manning, who exploded for 510 yards last week in the Bucs game. The Panthers struggled mightily last year on defense, but have looked much better this season. Still, the Panthers have a weak secondary, so it should be a party for Manning unless the Panthers put pressure on him consistently.

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Can Victor Cruz be Succesful on his Own?


One of the tough tests for the Giants will be replacing Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon in the starting lineup. Even if Rueben Randle and Ramses Barden play relatively well, the attention will be placed on Victor Cruz. Can he still dominate while being double teamed on a regular basis? I'm guessing yes.

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Can Ramses Barden and Rueben Randle Step Up?


Speaking of wide receivers, will the Giants be able to count on Barden and Randle to replace the production of Nicks and Hixon? So far this season the two young guys have been non-factors, but will be relied heavily upon as neither Nicks nor Hixon made the trip to Charlotte. Randle looked good in the off-season, but now it's time to show what he is really made of.

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Can Andre Brown and David Wilson Replace Ahmad Bradshaw

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

After Ahmad Bradshaw went out with a neck sprain last week, Andre Brown had a career game and provided a consistent running threat the Giants have rarely had over the past 12 months. David Wilson was still in Tom Coughlin's dog house and didn't help himself dropping an easy pass in the red zone on the Giants' first drive. Coughlin insists Wilson will be used more, but that seems to be more out of necessity than trusting Wilson. Can they make up for Bradshaw? We'll see.

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How the Giants Defends the Read-Option


One staple of the Panthers' offense is the read-option, a college play that seems to be making its way to the NFL with the mobile quarterbacks. They want to utilize Newton's athletic ability and he runs this play to near perfection. The Giants need to be disciplined on defense to have any hope of slowing them down.

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How Prince Amukamara Plays in his 2012 Season Debut

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara is set to make his debut tonight, and the Giants need him to play big. They do not have much talent behind him, Corey Webster and Jayron Hosley at the cornerback spot. Amukamara struggled in zone coverage last season, and that is a big part of Perry Fewell's defensive scheme. Hopefully he can take a step forward tonight.

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Can the Giants' Secondary Contain Steve Smith

Steve Smith
Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

It's amazing how the NFL world, outside fantasy football, has essentially lost Steve Smith in the shuffle. He's still a dominant deep threat and has two 100 yard games to start this season. The Giants will have their hands full and it will take a collective effort to slow him down.

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How the Giants Offensive Line Performs Sans David Diehl

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

The Giants will be without long time tackle David Diehl, but it honestly could turn out to be a positive. Diehl has been a liabilty over the past two seasons and they performed better against the Bucs after he went out. Sean Locklear will get the start at right tackle while Will Beatty will start at left tackle. It will be very interesting to see how this group performs with the Panthers being able to prepare for them.

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Cam Newton's Ability to Extend Plays

Cam Newton
Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

One of the most frustrating things about a player like Cam Newton is his ability to escape the pocket, avoid sacks and extend plays with his feet. He does a great job of looking down field and letting his receivers make plays, but he'll kill the Giants on the ground if they don't keep contain.

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Eli Manning Ball Security

Eli Manning

The Giants looked dead in the water after Manning threw three interceptions in the second quarter last week, all of which led to touchdowns. Manning was somehow able to shake them off and explode in the second half. I wouldn't count on him being able to do that every week. He has to take care of the football and put the Giants in a better position to win early.