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Giants vs. Panthers, Week 14: Cam Newton may be too hot for Giants' defense

How do you slow down an unstoppable force?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There are folks out there who want to stop Cam Newton from dancing. There are people who think that the Carolina Panthers are a lucky team who don't deserve to be undefeated. There are even people who think the New York Giants defense isn't holding them back from becoming a legitimate contender. All of those people are wrong.

This week, the Giants are looking to replicate history. Well, sort of. Everyone is talking about how you shouldn't count out this team against a 13-0 high-flying offense such as Carolina's. Nonsense. Like opening a parachute while sitting shotgun in a convertible, this defense has been dragging this team down to unfathomable lows.

Yet, here we are in Week 14 and the Giants still have a chance at the division crown. To get there, they'll need some luck, but is anyone foolish enough to count out a Tom Coughlin-led team entirely? Not me.

Stats At A Glance

Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards Points
Carolina Panthers Offense 141.9 (2nd) 224.0 (25th) 365.9 (10th) 31.6 (1st)
New York Giants Defense 110.2 (16th) 308.4 (32nd) 418.6 (32nd) 24.6 (20th)

Defensive line

This week's signing of Barry Cofield is the smoke signal that likely indicates Markus Kuhn won't be available for Sunday's game. Those of you who have been frustrated with the poor play of Kuhn over recent weeks/months/years were likely whipped up into a frenzy about the Cofield signing. While it's unlikely that he will provide much improvement over the hobbled German, Cofield is at least a true nose-tackle. His presence should allow the team to avoid the constant flip-flopping of their defensive tackles between the 1-technique and 3-technique positions.

Even with Cofield back in the lineup, don't expect much of anything from the Giants' front four against Carolina. Their interior line is rock-solid this year, and even a weak link such as Michael Oher at right tackle has impressed. Should Jason Pierre-Paul and company manage to crack the protection, they still have the tough task of actually bringing down the quarterback. Newton is a slippery bugger. Tall, lean and quick. He's a tough match even for an elite pass rush, but against a team like the 2015 Giants, he may be unstoppable.

The one shining hope is that the Panthers are without Jonathan Stewart for this game. Fozzy Whitaker and Mike Tolbert will likely split duties in the backfield, and neither pose a rushing threat capable of keeping Steve Spagnuolo and the boys up at night. In fact, what's much more likely is that Newton runs all over this defense. Last week, Ryan Tannehill had some success with read-option plays, so Super-Cam should have a whale of a time.

Linebackers

Greg Olsen might be the best receiving tight-end in the NFL this year. I'll certainly take Olsen over a banged-up Rob Gronkowski, a Seattle-soiled Jimmy Graham, or even the surprisingly good Tyler Eifert. In his ninth year in the league, Olsen is set for his second-straight 1,000-yard season. Add to this the fact that he hasn't missed a game since his rookie year, and insane reality that he still seems to be getting better. The Giants are in trouble.

The linebacker group for the Giants will probably be tasked with shutting down Olsen as the safeties are drawn back by deep shots on the outside. This would be their primary focus as shutting down Tolbert and Whitaker should be much easier than if they had to keep Stewart in check. I would be surprised to see Olsen in double coverage, but for both of those defenders to be linebackers.

Secondary

"How many times will Ted Ginn beat these corners deep?" and "How many times will he actually catch it?" are two very distinct questions that present two very different outcomes. You almost have to guarantee that he will get past everyone at least once, but the ability to minimize the impact will be key. Ginn is a speedy guy that would have twice the amount of touchdowns he currently has were it not for his strange ineptitude at actually catching the ball.

If the Giants get lucky, Ginn may not get a long score. The secondary simply cannot afford to allow deep passes because the front seven are going to let the other team dink-and-dunk on them all day. Another weapon in the Panthers' arsenal would be a fatal addition to an already deadly offense. It's up to Landon Collins, Cooper Taylor and Craig Dahl to keep the back end clean. Each are prone to their own kind of mistakes, so it'll be interesting to see how these are managed on game day.

I think elsewhere on the field, the secondary should be able to keep their receivers to limited numbers. Jerricho Cotchery and Philly Brown aren't scary many people. Trevin Wade and Prince Amukamara are well up to the task. This, of course, relies on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie being entirely healthy. He seems to get knocked down at least once per game, but much like Chumbawumba, he gets back up again, though they need him to be full speed against Ginn because we have seen Amukamara struggle with burner-style receivers in the past.

Final Thoughts

The Giants have a habit of playing up or down to whatever opponent they come up against. Whether it's a three-point win over the 1-4 San Francisco 49ers or a one-point loss to the 9-0 New England Patriots, these guys always somehow manage to make it a close one.

If they manage to continue that trend against the 13-0 Panthers, I wouldn't be surprised but I doubt any competitive element to this game will be brought about by a strong showing from the Giants defense. It will take turnovers, efficient special teams, and a high scoring offense to make this game worth watching. Could this be the week this team surprises everyone in a good way for a change?