The New York Giants (0-2) and the Carolina Panthers (0-2) face off Sunday in a contest in which both teams are in search of their first win. Both teams were projected to be better than they were a year ago, though to this point that hasn't been the case.
In last year's match-up, the Giants traveled down to Charlotte, N.C. and romped the Panthers, 36-7. But given the inconsistency both teams have displayed in the first two contests, there's no telling what we may see.
Eli Manning vs. Panthers secondary
The Giants rank first in the league in terms of passing yardage, but Manning also leads all quarterbacks with seven interceptions. Manning has been playing from behind and has had to force throws in order to try and create offense.
This week, Manning will see a depleted Carolina secondary, one that will be minus cornerbacks D.J. Moore and Josh Thomas, and safety Quintin Mikell,, all of whom have already been ruled out. The Panthers also placed starting safety Charles Godfrey on IR this week. And with injuries to James Dockery (thumb) and Josh Norman (thigh), how effective can Carolina's 11th-ranked passing defense be?
Aaron Ross steps in
Corey Webster is doubtful Sunday with a hip injury, likely leaving veteran Aaron Ross to slide into the No. 2 corner role opposite Prince Amukamara. It seems likely Amukamara will be tasked with covering the always-dangerous Steve Smith.
Of course, the Panthers have been unable to get anything moving through the air yet this season. Their passing offense ranks behind only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans. So one week without Webster probably won't hurt the Giants too much.
David Wilson showed he can hold onto the football in Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos, albeit in seven carries. But will the Giants be able to get Wilson -- or an overall running game -- going against Carolina?
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was blunt when he said the offense won't have success until the unit achieves some balance.Just ask Manning, who is bound to have a tired arm if he continues to pass at this rate. Perhaps Week 3 is the time for Wilson to prove he's capable of leading the Giants backfield and help the offense find its stride.
Giants D vs. Cam Newton, the read-option
Tom Coughlin and Co. spent much of the offseason preparing to face the read-option, a style of offense prevalent in the NFC East with Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles and the Robert Griffin III-led Washington Redskins. And now, they'll see it in chunks with Cam Newton.
While the Panthers pass offense has not been very impressive, their rushing attack has. Carolina ranks sixth in the league in rushing behind DeAngelo Williams, who is sixth in the league rushing, and Newton, who poses a constant thread with his legs.
Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Jordan Gross, Giants pass rush
Will this be the week the Giants get to the quarterback? Just two sacks in as many games, and half have been produced by Pierre-Paul. So where's the rest of the defensive line?
Carolina's offensive line has allowed seven sacks and 10 quarterback hits, and already Newton is losing faith in his protection. Standout left tackle Jordan Gross will try to meet the challenge of JPP, but if Gross succeeds, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and the rest of the pass rushers have failed to prove they're capable of generating pressure.
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