Giants v Panthers Preview
Champions leave New York for the first time this season after mixed start
By Paul Higham. Last Updated: September 20, 2012 1:42pm
Eli Manning: Record recovery after poor first half last week
It's been an eventful season already for the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, and things get no easier as they visit the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night, live on Sky Sports.
After losing their opening day clash in disappointing fashion against Dallas, Big Blue then needed a huge turnaround and record performance from Eli Manning to dig out a win over Tampa Bay last week and avoid a woeful 0-2 start to the campaign.
Manning bounced back from three first half interceptions to throw for over 500 yards against the Bucs, and it is that record form that the Giants will need if they are to win in Carolina against a Panthers team who also got their first win of the season last week.
Two-time Super Bowl winner Manning is as good as any QB in the league with the game on the line, and if nothing else the Giants have huge confidence and belief meaning they never give up even if they find themselves in a big hole early on.
While Manning is the typical pocket passer, Panthers QB Cam Newton offers a different challenge to the Giants defence, with his powerful running ability making him amongst the best dual-threats from under centre in the league.
Victor Cruz finally started to find his feet last week as he caught a TD pass and had 179 yards receiving - but still 20 yards behind Hakeem Nicks who has started the season well but will miss the game with a foot injury.
With Domenik Hixon also out, it is two big losses for Manning and more targets will go to Cruz and tight end Martellus Bennett - who has two scores already this season and has the size and speed to be a real red zone threat.
Tom Coughlin is without starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw for the game, meaning Andre Brown could get his first NFL start after 71 yards and a score last week, and with rookie David Wilson not quite having the full trust of the coaching staff after fumble issues in the opener.
The Giants have hardly been super effective on the ground with just 88 yards averaged over two games, but with Carolina coughing up 147 yards per game rushing and with two receiving options out Coughlin may turn to the run on Thursday.
With an offence looking able to score at will, much will depend on how the Giants can handle Newton, and in particular his passing with the New York secondary struggling badly in their first two games.
The front seven of the Giants are as solid as they come and they will need their stout pass rush to hustle and harry Newton as often as possible to stop him lighting up their hurting secondary.
With 556 yards through the air in two games Newton can hurt you with his arm as much as his legs, but after he galloped for 71 yards and the two ran for 219 overall against the Saints, Carolina could also focus more on running the football.
The short week may also be a factor in tactics, with an arm wrestle up front to see who cracks first being a good option so the opening exchanges at least should provide plenty of ground and pound action.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart make up one of the better running back partnerships in the NFL, and added to Newton's own abilities it offers Carolina the chance to mix-up the run game like few other teams.
Steve Smith though has had two 100-yard games so far this season and he will be championing and air campaign and licking his lips when watching the Giants cornerbacks on film.