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Eli Manning

COMMENTARY | After losing their first two games of the season, the New York Giants face a critical test against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, September 22.

Last season, the Giants crushed the Panthers, 36-7, but it should be a closer game this time around. In fact, the G-Men are listed as a slight underdog in Week 3. If the Giants are going to pull off an "upset," they'll need contributions from these five players:

QB Eli Manning -- Despite having seven interceptions, Manning has thrown for 812 yards -- one behind Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers -- and completed 60.4 percent of his passes. He'll take aim at a banged up Panthers secondary which has allowed 300 and 287 yards passing in the first two games of the season, respectively. Remember, Manning picked apart the Panthers for 288 yards and one touchdown on 27-for-35 passing in Week 3 of last season.

WR Hakeem Nicks -- It's going to be a homecoming of sorts for Nicks, who played high school and college football in North Carolina. More importantly, he's put together back-to-back strong games to start the season with a combined nine catches for 197 yards and is looking at a favorable match-up against the Panthers. Carolina has allowed 28 catches for 413 yards and two touchdowns to opposing wideouts this season. Look for Nicks to hit pay dirt this week.

DE Damontre Moore -- The Giants' pass rush needs a boost -- it has only two sacks in the first two games of the season -- and Moore may be able to provide it. He had an outstanding preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers before a shoulder injury set him back. But the rookie defensive end, who had 26.5 sacks in three seasons at Texas A&M, is not on the team's injury report this week and could see extended time against the Panthers.

LB Mark Herzlich -- Herzlich has reclaimed the starting middle linebacker job from Dan Connor, who is out for the season with a neck injury. And he may be the key to the defense this week, as the Panthers will come at the Giants with running back DeAngelo Williams and mobile quarterback Cam Newton. Herzlich must help in containing both players. The Panthers have been more adept at running the ball than passing it so far this season, ranking No. 6 and No. 30 in those categories, respectively.

RB David Wilson -- New York's running game has been nearly invisible through the first two games of the season with a combined 73 yards. That's the second-worst total in the National Football League. Wilson isn't totally to blame, as the offensive line has been horrible, but he needs a strong game. Watch to see if the Giants try to get Wilson involved early on. If he gets off to a good start, it'll boost his confidence and take pressure off Manning.

Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience covering amateur and professional sports for several print and online media outlets. He tracked the New York Giants for Yahoo Contributor Network during the team's Super Bowl run in 2011-12. Adam can be found on Twitter @Pegcitysports.

Sources

Pro-Football-Reference.com.

The Official Site of the New York Giants.

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