Either the New York Giants or Carolina Panthers will be 0-3 by the time Carrie Underwood sings about how she has been waiting all day for Sunday night. No disrespect to the Panthers, but nobody outside of your ultra-optimistic Carolina fan was ever expecting the team to hang with the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta, Seattle and San Francisco this season. That's not the case for Big Blue, a team that entered the campaign eying more than just a fight for a playoff spot. Week 3 will either offer proof that the Giants really are better than 0-2, or that New York isn't as good on the field as the team looks on paper.
Giants at Panthers preview: Something's got to give
I have been quick to defend the play of quarterback Eli Manning, pointing out that over half of his interceptions were picks that were either not his fault or throws that didn't hurt New York's chances of winning that particular game. That aside, Carolina enters Sunday with a +8 advantage in team Give/Take Stats (Carolina is at 0, while New York is at -8). Something indeed has to give for New York to win, and that means limiting the amount of giveaways, hopefully to zero.
The Giants' defense of 2007 and, to a lesser extend, the one from two years ago could have survived the offense turning the ball over once per quarter. That's not the case in 2012. Manning must throw better passes, his WR have to run better routes and also make catches, and his running backs (looking at you, David Wilson) have to hold onto the football. It's a team effort, and it's a big part in New York pressing reset on a disastrous start to the campaign.
Giants at Panthers preview: The weak defense?
I've read a few game previews that pointed out that Carolina QB Cam Newton could be in for his biggest game of the season against a New York secondary that is somewhere between depleted and downright awful. When you take a look at the stats, you'll see that the Giants are giving up over 275 yards through the air per game. That's not good.
You'll also notice that Carolina is allowing 293.5 passing yards per contest.
His interceptions aside, the previously mentioned Manning has thrown for 812 yards and five touchdowns in New York's two losing efforts. His top three targets – Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle – are healthy and ready to face off against a secondary that itself isn't close to dominant. I have to ask: Which quarterback is in for a monster outing?
Giants at Panthers preview: 100 percent
Jason Pierre-Paul hasn't been his old self coming off of a summer operation on his back. That's to be expected. There's going to be some rust, not to mention tentative play considering that JPP missed all of training camp and the preseason.
All of that has to end this weekend.
“I’m not playing like I used to, because my brain is thinking what to do, but my body isn’t responding yet. I’m getting healthier, and it’s getting better, but it isn’t there yet,” Pierre-Paul told reporters earlier this week. Knowing the problem and fixing it are not one and the same. Pierre-Paul is the key man up front for Big Blue, one who frees up opportunities for teammates and also helps make life easier for a secondary that, as pointed out earlier, is far from stellar. He has to get out of his own head and fast.
New York is counting on it.
Giants at Panthers preview: Prediction
When dealing with two teams that have lost ugly, you have to go with the side that you trust more to close the deal late in the fourth quarter. Newton hasn't been able to do that, especially not in the first halves of seasons over the past couple of years. Manning has been here before, at 0-2 and in a place where many are doubting his ability to lead the offense past a losing record. It may not be pretty, but it could be a lot of fun.