Can the Giants pull off the upset? That’s the question with which we’re all faced. The answer to that is, “of course they can.” This is football, and anything can happen on any given Sunday.
But will they? Well, that is an entirely different question.
The answer to that, to me, comes down to which Giants team we see take the field against the Carolina Panthers. All week long we have tried to figure out what is wrong with the Giants’ offense. The Giants’ scheme itself isn’t a sorry, broken thing like what Ben McAdoo fielded, but the result has been little different from the previous two years. The opportunities have been there for plays down the field, but too often they have been passed up for safer options — or the safer option was taken before the bigger play could be made — unless the team was desperate. Far, far too often, the Giants have played offense like a team frightened of losing, rather than playing like a team bent on winning. The discussion has gone back and forth, whether it is the fault of Eli Manning — the quarterback making the decisions — or Pat Shurmur for coaching the offense this way.
But at this point, at 1-3 with their season already on life support, it doesn’t matter. Either Shurmur needs to coach to win or Eli needs to rediscover some of the “gunslinger” he had before McAdoo arrived and he had to adapt to a conservative West Coast Offense.
I do believe both are capable of it. Despite all the pessimism that has already built up, we have seen sparks of that old Eli in this offense, and we have seen this offense attack defenses in Minnesota without the plethora of talent it currently has. If that offense comes out of the tunnel in Carolina, they can win and it wouldn’t even be an upset, because they can be so much better than they have shown.
But will they? So far we’ve only seen that only sparingly, and that isn’t enough to inspire confidence from me.
Final score: Panthers 27, Giants 20
Season record: 1-3
The key to the Giants success is of course going to be what the offense looks like. The Carolina defense hasn’t been the top-10 unit it’s been in the past, but it’s still in the top-10 in a few places on defense. The Panthers rank eighth in DVOA against opposing No. 1 receivers, sixth against No. 2 receivers, and ninth against running backs in the passing game. Those just happen to be where the Giants are good on offense. The weaknesses in the Panthers’ pass defense — 22nd against “other” wide receivers and 30th against tight ends — just aren’t places the Giants can exploit right now.
What we’ll see — rather quickly, probably — is whether the Giants think they need to take downfield shots or if they’re content with the short passes they’ve gone with for the first four weeks. The Carolina defense ranks 30th in big play rate allowed, so this would be the time to take some shots. But the Panthers will also have Eric Reid at safety, which is an upgrade to the back end of their secondary.
On the other side of the ball, it’s all about stopping Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, which the Giants haven’t really shown they can do. The Giants are surprisingly eighth in DVOA against opposing running backs in the passing game, and while they held Alvin Kamara to 47 receiving yards last week, they let him run for 134. Between play-action and option plays, the Panthers are going to use a lot of deception to open up big plays. Once they get into the open field, it’s anyone’s guess if they get tackled. Curtis Riley is tied for fifth among defensive backs with four missed tackles — a 22.2 percent rate — and quietly Alec Ogletree is tied for third among all defenders with five broken tackles for a 31.2 percent rate. Newton and McCaffrey aren’t easy to bring down when the defense has a good angle. Without it, it’s almost impossible.
Final score: Panthers 27, Giants 17
Season record: 3-1
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...
Okay, so you know how the old saying goes. When I see this Giants team, I see a group that has a lot of talent but for whatever reason is just not coming together like a lot of us (okay, me) thought they would by this point in the season.
Head coach Pat Shurmur and the players continue to preach patience. They continue to insist they’re getting closer. I’m sorry but we heard the getting closer line a lot last year only to have our hearts broken week in and week out.
I do believe that the Giants are on the right track, but I also think they have a long way still to go before everything comes together. They’ve yet to show the can handle the zone read with any consistency, and after seeing how Alvin Kamara hurt them last week, I shudder to think what Chirstian McCaffrey is going to do.
Final score: Panthers 28, Giants 20
Season record: 1-3
Luck was not on the side of the Giants this season. This early stretch of the year has been rough, especially because of the talented teams they have had to face. It does not help they have to take on another NFC South contender this Sunday.
Facing the Panthers is not what the Giants needed to overcome a rough first quarter of the season. Despite having a good opportunity to put out a good offensive showing, a win does not appear in the Giants’ future.
The most daunting part of this match up is the Panther run game. Coming in with a league best 166 rush yards per game, it is hard to imagine the G-Men will stand much of a chance. The double headed monster of Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey will prove to be too much for this Giants defense that has struggled mightily to stop the run. Last week they faced a similar running back who is an elite pass catcher in Alvin Kamara, and got torched.
While the secondary should expect to have a good game, run defense will be the determining factor.
Final score: Panthers 33, Giants 24
Season record: 1-3
I see no reason for the Giants defense to be able to stop the Panthers’ top-ranked run game this week, and if that run game helps Carolina get to a lead early, the Panthers won’t have a reason to stop running, either. And while Eli Manning and the Giants offense may yet right the ship, expecting that to happen on the road against Carolina this Sunday doesn’t seem like the time or the place for it.
Final score: Panthers 26, Giants 16
Season record: 2-2
Can this offense get right in a hurry? That’s the question facing Eli Manning and company, and they’ll need to do it against a defense that boasts a tough front seven. If there is one silver lining in facing this Carolina Panthers defense, it is that the secondary keeps it pretty vanilla in the back third. The Panthers are a zone-heavy team for the most part, often using a lot of Cover 3. There should be opportunities on those comeback routes and out routes that Manning missed in the direction of Odell Beckham last week.
As we have seen with this offense, however, opportunities do not always translate to points. Until we see better execution from this unit it is hard to feel confident about their chances.
Final score: Panthers 26, Giants 14
Season record: 1-3
There’s no doubt that the Giants have the talent on their roster to win most weeks. That’s the part I can’t figure out. I want so badly to be able to pick the Giants to win every week but the more I pick them to win and the more they disappoint, the harder it is for me to pick them moving forward. So this week, instead of being left disappointed after another Giants loss, I am going to pick the Panthers to win decisively. The Giants will stick in this game for one half, but Carolina pulls away late to get the Week 5 win.
Final score: Panthers 24, Giants 14
Season record: 1-2 (no pick made in Week 4)
Maybe this is the key for the Giants. For the second time this season I’m about to make it a clean sweep — with everyone here at Big Blue View picking the Giants to lose. The last time this happened, Week 3 vs. the Houston Texans, was the week the Giants actually won a game.
No big analysis here. Simply this — until the Giants show they can play good offense and win a game I’m just going to continue to pick them to lose.
Final score: Panthers 30, Giants 24
Season record: 0-4