The New York Giants are coming off of an exciting win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the Carolina Panthers are coming off an excellent win over the New Orleans Saints. Both teams will be looking to go 2-1 tonight as they face off against each other on Thursday Night Football.
The big story for the New York Giants is the injuries. They will be without Hakeem Nicks, last week’s NFC Offensive Player of the Week, who seemed to aggravate his foot injury in the last couple of minutes last Sunday. The Giants will also be without third wide receiver Domenik Hixon, starting right tackle David Diehl, and starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
In place of Nicks and Hixon, Eli Manning will have Ramses Barden and probably a mix of Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle to throw to. Randle, this year’s second-round pick figures to finally get some consistent reps with the offense while spending the first two weeks buried on the depth chart.
While the Giants don’t need Randle to have a big game they will need to him to play a mistake free game. Drops by Manning’s receivers in this game might be a lot more costly than normal, especially if the running game has trouble getting started.
The running game will be tested tonight as Andre Brown will get the lion’s share of carries behind Manning. Last week, the running game underwent a transformation when Brown carried the ball behind Sean Locklear at right tackle and Will Beatty at left tackle. It will be worth watching to see if this offensive line alignment does well again, not only in keeping Eli Manning from getting pressured while waiting for young receivers to get open, but also for opening holes for Brown to run through.
David Wilson, who saw only 6 plays on offense last week, after getting benched for a dropped pass, will need to finally show he can be productive in the NFL. He will need to hold onto the football at all times or Tom Coughlin will quickly turn to Da’Rel Scott to spell Brown. This is Wilson’s best chance to finally make an impact and show Coughlin that he can protect the ball.
The Giants defense will have their hands full with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. Newton is a bigger version of the Michael Vick from his Atlanta Falcons days, with better offensive weapons around him. Steve Smith is still one of the best receivers in the game and will give Corey Webster a run for his money. Joining Smith is receiver Brandon LaFell who seems to be poised to have a breakout year. He will test Prince Amukamara, who is finally making his 2012 debut, and Jayron Hosley, who will be playing in his second NFL regular season game.
The Giants secondary has had its depth tested all season long. Injuries have caused Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell to scramble to find players that can help neutralize the opposing team’s secondary. Michael Coe and Justin Tryon were used and exposed the first two weeks. With Amukamara seeing his first action and Hosley still very inexperienced, expect the Panthers to try to exploit the young Giants cornerbacks.
The defensive line will face its toughest test of the season so far in the extremely mobile Cam Newton. The Giants cannot over-pursue on Newton or his next stop will be running into the Giants’ secondary. Most likely, the Giants will employ a spy on Newton to help contain him.
With such a short week following a very emotional win, the Giants will have to avoid the letdown. Eli Manning will need to be as good as he was in the second half last week. He won’t need to throw for 510 yards this time but he will have to avoid mistakes. That will be a challenge with a running back making his first NFL start and two of his top three receivers getting their first taste of consistent playing time.