Today, of course, marks the final time the New York Giants will play a regular-season game at the soon-to-be bulldozed Giants Stadium. Of more immediate concern, it is another must-win game for the Giants as they try to keep the pressure on Dallas and Green Bay in the hunt for a playoff berth.
So, let's take a look at the keys to the game in our usual 'Kudos & Wet Willies' preview style.
There will be lots of 'Kudos' Monday if ...
- The pass rush shows up again. The Giants' compiled five sacks and had a more consistent pass rush Monday against Washington than they have shown since early in the season. They have to do it again today, hopefully forcing young Carolina quarterback Matt Moore into some mistakes.
- Eli remains masterful. Manning has a 136.2 quarterback rating the past two weeks. He needs to keep playing at a high level if the Giants are going to make the playoffs.
- The B&B Backup Show continues to be a hit. That is, the 'Beatty & Boothe Show'. It looks like Will Beatty will play right tackle for Kareem McKenzie again, and Boothe will likely have to fill in at left guard for Rich Seubert. Both players did exceptionally well Monday night against Washington, and they will have to continue that fine play against the Panthers. By the way, Pro Football Focus graded Beatty as the Giants best lineman against the Redskins, with a +3.3 rating.
- The offense stays balanced. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has managed to achieve that the past few weeks. Carolina is 26th in the league against the run, so there should be some holes for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. A handful of big running plays would be a huge help.
There will be lots of 'Wet Willies' Monday if ...
- Carolina runs the ball effectively. Star running back DeAngelo Williams is unlikely to play. With or without him, though, the Panthers will try to pound the football. If they can, that will slow the Giants apparently rejuvenated pass rush.
- Julius Peppers has a big day. Peppers, of course, is one of the league's premier pass rushers. Don't be suprrised, or terribly upset, if you see Kevin Boss or a running back used consistently to help slow Peppers. Gilbride hinted at that earlier in the week, and keeping Peppers away from Manning has to be the top priority for the Giants this week.
- The special teams don't hold up. Monday, for the first time in what seems like ages, there were no breakdowns on special teams. The Giants are better than the Panthers, and they can't afford to keep them in the game by gift-wrapping opportunities with bad special teams play.
- The Giants don't turn the ball over. Matt Mosley pointed out that Carolina has forced 17 fumbles this season. Again, the Giants are the better team. They can't give the Panthers extra chances.