The New York Giants scratched and clawed their way to a 1-1 record with a thrilling 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but immediately had to turn their attention to a Thursday night battle with the Carolina Panthers on three days rest. The Giants will be without four offensive players in tonight's game – Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl, and Domenik Hixon, all out with injury.
The Panthers are also 1-1 coming off their own impressive victory over the New Orleans Saints and will be looking to build on that momentum in front of their home crowd tonight.
Make limiting the big plays for the Panthers offense the priority defensively and force them to methodically move the football
The Panthers are a big play football team. Cam Newton is extremely dangerous outside of the pocket and has the strength, vision, and instincts to gash defenses for 20 and 30 yards on quarterback draws. The Giants have got to keep him in the pocket and try to limit the pressure of defending his athleticism. On the outside, Steve Smith is going to have to see double teams for the majority of this game. Brandon LaFell is at this point in his development an average number two wideout in the league, and Smith is the clear big play threat for this offense in the passing game. Corey Webster has not been at his best as of late and the Giants can not afford to let Smith get rolling tonight. He has got to see a ton of attention in an effort to frustrate him early in the football game.
Get David Wilson involved offensively
Hakeem Nicks out, Ahmad Bradshaw out, Domenik Hixon out, the offensive line a little banged up – this is the time when the Giants really need some firepower offensively and Wilson has the skill set to give them just that. A few swing passes out of the backfield, draw plays, screens, and opportunities lined up in the slot for Wilson could be just what the doctor ordered. He's just got to hold on to the football and make the most of this opportunity.
Get creative in the front seven with the pass rush
Look, this Giants pass rush is clearly filled with some of the most talented defensive ends in the game. That being said, they are struggling right now, and need a shot in the arm to get their momentum going. The Giants should look to move the versatile Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka around up front and give Cam Newton several different looks right out of the gate. Jason Pierre-Paul is a machine, but he's had to deal with unrelenting double teams to start the season, and New York should really be putting an emphasis on finding ways to free him up for some one on one opportunities.
With Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon both out, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how the Panthers secondary will approach this football game. Double Victor Cruz often and force Barden and the rookie Randle to win on their routes. If that doesn't happen, the Giants are really going to struggle to move the football in this game because their rushing attack isn't one that is going to blow a game open. Barden and Randle have got to step up and make plays, particularly in the red zone as the Giants have got to be efficient with their offense this banged up.
BIG GAME ALERT
RB David Wilson
This is the time for the Giants first round draft pick to come up big and showcase his explosive playmaking ability when the Giants need it most. He's just electric if he gets a head of steam or space to work with and if he can focus on holding onto the football and limiting mental errors this could be the breakout game for Wilson.
This is a tough one. Coming off an emotionally draining 41-34 win at home, on short rest, with a lot of injuries offensively, the Giants are going to need a huge bounce back performance from their defense and more magic from Eli Manning to get to 2-1 tonight.
I hope I'm wrong, but this looks like a tall order for the G-Men under the circumstances. A lot of it is going to come down to how much Ramses Barden, Rueben Randle, and David Wilson can take advantage of their opportunity. And of course how many impactful shots the Giants defensive front can get on Cam Newton early in the game.
PANTHERS 28, GIANTS 20
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