Before the Carolina Panthers kicked off week two, the doubters were all over the place. The New Orleans Saints came in thinking they would pick up an easy win, but the Panthers showed them that nothing would be easy in the NFC South during the 2012 season. As early season dark horse favorites, the Panthers had fallen from favor for many experts after laying an egg in the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, they are looking once again like a team that could make some noise in the NFC. Now comes the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. Can the Panthers manage to beat them in this huge prime time showdown? That largely depends on three things:
Will the read-option hold up against the Giants quick defense?
The Panthers have looked completely different in their first two weeks and the run game is a huge reason why. In week one, the Bucs held the Panthers to a franchise worst rushing total. Week two saw a revival of massive proportions as the Panthers ran seemingly at will on the Saints. Which one will show up against the Giants?
The Tampa Bay defense is young, but they are lightening quick. They also stacked the box against the Panthers and the passing game did not respond well. They actually seemed rather shocked by this defensive move and the Panthers struggled. The Giants have a fearsome front seven that could give the Panthers fits if they do not run the read option well. Everything was clicking against the Saints. I believe that the Panthers would have been successful running against anyone on Sunday, as Cam was making every read beautifully. I remember only one time where he should have pulled the ball out and ran and he missed it. The other times he was running the offense well in the running game.
What gives me hope is the passing game, however. Cam looked like a surgeon out there and that is good news. The Panthers should be able to move the football, although I expect the Giants defense to put more pressure than the Saints did. How Cam responds will be important to the outcome.
Will the Panthers be able to stop Eli.....at all?
The Panthers defense has been opportunistic, aggressive and pressure packed on opposing quarterbacks. That said, they have given up a ton of yards through two games. Granted they did face Drew Brees in week two and a vastly improved Josh Freeman in week one. Those guys you would expect a few yards from. Eli Manning, however, has been on a different planet this season. Manning is a guy that generally won't kill you with yardage, but he knows how to make the plays that matter. In week two, he did it all with over 500 passing yards in a victory over the Bucs. If that same Eli shows up, the Panthers will struggle.
Will Carolina play turnover free football?
The Panthers are a vastly different team when they don't turn over the football. Most teams are that way, but the Panthers rarely pull out wins when they turn it over. This is particularly so against solid teams like the Giants. If Cam Newton keeps his mistakes to a minimum and does not turn over the football, I like the Panthers chances. If not, then the Giants will be too much for them.
Although the Giants will give the Panthers fits at times, I expect that the Carolina Panthers will take another step in their journey to respectability. They are far better than anyone realizes and they proved that in week two. I expect being at home will get the season rocking for the Panthers and they will come out and put the rest of the league on notice.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers 34 New York Giants 21
*Southern is a huge Carolina Panthers fan that is convinced that he will see a Super Bowl Trophy in Charlotte within five years.
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- Carolina Panthers Rookie Josh Norman Backing Up His Trash Talking: Fan's Opinion
- Grading the Rookies for the Carolina Panthers After Preseason Week One: Fan's Opinion