The Carolina Panthers go on the road to face the New York Giants a week after a nice Monday Night performance by Eli Manning and Odell Beckham.
The Carolina Panthers face the New York Giants next on their schedule. The Giants are the only team they Panthers play in this last quarter of their season that are outside the NFC South. The Giants are part of the dysfunctional NFC East where all the teams are still alive for the divisional crown but none of them have a prayer at getting a wild card bid.
The Giants are therefore already in the playoffs as far as they are concerned. Every game they play from here on out will be a playoff game, which is a level of desperation that the Panthers do not have to deal with. The Panthers need one more win to snatch homefield away from Arizona for good, but their playoff and first round bye tickets are punched.
The Giants are therefore dangerous. Tom Coughlin teams have pretty good history of showing up when they need to. The Giants in the Coughlin have even defeated an undefeated New England Patriots team in the Super Bowl. So no one doubts the Giants can get up for this game.
Another thing the Giants have going for them is the good play of Eli Manning of late. Manning worked a clinic against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night. He threw four incompletions on his way to 337 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. The Dolphins defense had no real answer for him.
Nor did they have an answer for Odell Beckham. Beckham, a speedster from LSU, has taken the league by storm with spectacular catches over the past two years. He is the only wideout in last year’s draft that I would have taken over Kelvin Benjamin after their two respective rookie seasons. Beckham torched the Dolphins for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Cramps did not slow him down for any real length of time.
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This is the combination that the Panthers will be looking at on Sunday. Testing the Giants pass blocking will be one way they try to take down Manning’s efficiency. Allowed to stand, Manning threw at a 75% completion rate.
The Panthers have to be prepared for the Giants to move Beckham around formations to keep Josh Norman off him. This will be dangerous for the Panthers because their Nickelback at this point is the still adjusting Cortland Finnegan. It might not even be Finnegan but new signee Robert McClain if Charles Tillman is not back yet.
That would mean assigning safety help to Beckham, which would prevent Kurt Coleman from roaming wild in the secondary as he seems to do. Or it would mean trying to have linebackers bump at the line, which would take the best tacklers the Panthers away from doing their quick reaction thing.
However the Panthers approach it, putting away the Giants would be another sign that this team gets it. Home field is not locked up yet.