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New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers: 5 Players to Watch

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5 Players to Watch in Giants vs. Panthers

Howard Smith-USA Today Sports

Sunday features a matchup of reeling teams, who that are desperate to bounce back and restore the hope conjured in the preseason. Both the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants walk into Bank of America Stadium winless in their first two games, and have struggled to maintain the lead or come back in close games. Each team has been very busy over the past week watching film, studying their opponents apparent weaknesses while simultaneously critiquing their own play and recognizing the changes that need to be made, because both teams are overdue for change and improvement.

Despite the numerous deficiencies on each team, both of them have talented players that comprise even more impressive units, who stand in stark contrast to the sub-par position groups that stand in front and behind them. The Panthers boast one of the best front sevens in the NFL, spearheaded by last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly and powerful pass rusher Charles Johnson, and have a dynamic young quarterback in Cam Newton. The Giants always have a formidable front four, and their receiving core is as dynamic and explosive as they come.

Each team's strength will be paired against their opponents weakness, and the winner will be determined by who can exploit that matchup the most. The Panthers' vaunted seven goes up against a Giants offensive line that has struggled to protect Eli Manning and open holes for David Wilson and Andre Brown, and the Giants' receiving core is paired with a Panthers secondary that is without Quintin Mikell, D.J. Moore, Josh Thomas. Who will win? It all depends on these players, the players to watch on Sunday in Charlotte.

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Ted Ginn Jr.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Shula's conservative offense has shifted the emphasis in Carolina to minimizing turnovers, and the offense has withered as a result. Carolina needs some big plays in the passing game to bring new life to the offense, and those plays could come in the form of Ohio State speedster Ted Ginn Jr. He finally broke loose last week against Buffalo with a 40-yard touchdown, and hopefully he can bring more of that this week, or the Panthers will see more of the same in the win column.

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Hakeem Nicks

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Nicks has developed in a very dangerous receiver over the past few years with his combination of size and hands, and should figure to be a favorite target for Eli Manning on Sunday. The Panthers will look to lock down Victor Cruz, and will most likely double him with either a safety-linebacker or corner-safety combination. Leaving Nicks one-on-one with either Captain Munnerlynn or Josh Norman. If Nicks can exploit that matchup, then you can count on the beleaguered Giants offense to bounce back.

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Mark Herzlich

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The Panthers have reverted to a much more traditional offense under Mike Shula, and have concentrated on the power run game out of the I-formation to take pressure off of Cam Newton. Mark Herzlich will be asked to take the brunt of the Panthers' rushing attack, taking on blocks from Mike Tolbert and tracking down DeAngelo Williams, while also watching for Cam Newton on scrambles. Herzlich may be under the most pressure this game, and his performance will determine how the Giants' defense holds.

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Charles Johnson

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Eli Manning has struggled over the past two games, throwing for a league-high seven interceptions to five touchdowns despite throwing for 812 yards, third in the league. Most of those miscues have been caused by poor protection, and the Panthers specialize in pressure. The Panthers have a stout defensive front led by Charles Johnson, who totaled 12.5 sacks last year. Johnson will be bringing the heat on Sunday, and he could cause a few more miscues if he does, helping a hurting secondary.

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Charles Godfrey

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of a hurting secondary, the Panthers are missing three players in the secondary, leaving Charles Godfrey on an island. It's up to Godfrey to keep the Panthers secondary from imploding in the face of Nicks and Cruz, not to mention making sure they don't beat him over the top. The Giants will be looking to exploit the Panthers hampered with big plays down the field, and it will up to Godfrey to stop that. How he plays will the most indicative of the final score.