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Can The New York Giants Passing Game Take On An Energized Carolina Panthers’ Defense?

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(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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By Ted Fleming

NEW YORK GIANTS BY THE NUMBERS
2012 Record: 1-1
All-Time Record vs. Carolina: 3-3
Last Meeting: Giants 31, Panthers 18 (Sept. 12, 2010)

After two weeks of the 2012 NFL season, the New York Giants are looking more like the team that just barely made the playoffs last season than the one that ran the table to capture their second Super Bowl under head coach Tom Coughlin. The core of that team is still intact, but the team seems to be suffering from a Jekyll/Hyde complex as they try to defend their title. They lost to division rival Dallas in Week 1 (the Cowboys followed that up by losing to the Seahawks) and barely eked out a win this past Sunday against a revitalized Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that toppled the Carolina Panthers in the season opener.

This will be the seventh meeting between Carolina and New York, and the winner will snap a three-all tie between the two clubs. They have met once in the postseason and the Giants came away with a 23-0 whitewash of the Panthers in the 2005 Wild Card Game. That was then and this is now.

From a points-differential standpoint, so far there isn’t much difference between 2011 and 2012. When they closed out last year’s 9-7 regular season, the Giants had scored six fewer than they gave up (394-400), and they are break-even after two games so far at 58-58. What may have Giants’ fans more concerned is quarterback Eli Manning, who threw three picks in the first half against Tampa Bay before rallying to pull out a late-game victory.

Manning has thrown four TDs, but had been sacked three times, losing 26-yards in the process. Despite all of his troubles, he still has a presentable 91.6 QB Rating which, if the season ended today, would be the third best of his NFL career that started in 2004. A 510-yard passing day will do that to your stats.

The Panthers’ defense has come alive this season, limiting the Buccaneers to just 16 points at home (the Bucs hung 34 against the Giants on the road) and “holding” a very potent Saints’ offense to 27. Although the Saints game dropped them from 5th to 20th in the league in points allowed, they rank 7th and 11th against the rush and pass, respectively. Even with the New Orleans game on their record, Carolina’s defense ranks 8th in yardage allowed.

That could spell trouble for the Meadowlanders despite leading the league in passing and being second in total offense. Manning has some excellent targets in receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz along with tight end Martellus Bennett, but if New York cannot establish a solid running game (they currently rank 24th in that department), there might be a few more interceptions in Mr. Manning’s future.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has just 94 yards in two games and Andre Brown, fourth on the depth chart at that position, has given his team 71, all coming in the Tampa Bay contest.

It’s unlikely Manning will throw for another 500 yards on Thursday — it was the second highest total in the team’s very long history — but it’s unlikely Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will, either, given the strength of Carolina’s ground game with running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.  The Giants are in the middle of the pack in the NFL against the run, but Newton should also but salivating at facing a 22nd-ranked pass defense.

The Panthers will need to concentrate on holding on to the ball because the Giants have forced at least one turnover in 33 of their last 35 games. All things being equal, this could be a close game and a key turnover could make the difference between a win and a loss.

Coughlin has a career regular season mark against the Panthers of 5-1 (he has the same mark against Atlanta and Kansas City), three of those wins coming with the Giants. Carolina’s Ron Rivera is has no record against New York, as the second-year head coach is meeting the Giants for the first time.

GIANTS NOTABLES: Kicker Lawrence Tynes has an impressive streak of 163 consecutive extra points, breaking a team record that was previously held by Pete Gogolak from 1967-72 (133 straight). The last time he missed was Oct. 21, 2007 against San Francisco. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants are the first team in NFL history with two players with at least 10 catches and at least 175 receiving yards in the same game (Cruz had 11 for 179 yards and Nicks added 10 for 199 yards last week vs. Tampa Bay). With the Giants’ win on Sunday, Tom Coughlin moved into a tie for 18th place on the career regular season victories list with Marv Levy and Jeff Fisher at 143.

For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Panthers news, see CBS Sports Charlotte.

Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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