Giants (1-5) Panthers (3-3)
Last Sunday in Carolina, the Panthers fought
it out with the Minnesota Vikings. They were down by 11 points in the fourth quarter,
but forced the game into overtime. The Vikings won the coin toss, and went on
to win the game with a 34-28 score.
The Giants held a halftime celebration
of the 10th anniversary of their 2011 Championship team. By then they were losing
to the Rams 28-3. Things did not get much better for the home crowd fans as the
game moved on, with Giants taking a 38-11 loss.
Panthers won the division title three years straight from 2013 to 2015. That last
one was their best, as they were 15-1 during the regular season and went all the
way to Super Bowl 50, where they lost to the Denver Broncos. Ron Rivera was their
head coach, and quarterback Cam Newton was the NFL MVP of the year. In 2017, an
11-5 record had them in second place in the NFC South division, and they lost
in the wild card game to the New Orleans Saints.
Since then they haven't won
more than 7 games in a season. Matt Rhule is in his second year as the Panthers
head coach, and when they got off to a great 3-0 start in 2021, it looked like
things had been figured out. In the offseason the Panthers felt they checked all
their needs with 11 draft picks, free agent pickups, and a trade bringing the
Jets 2018 third-overall pick, Sam Darnold to the team.
Darnold got off to a good start in his new career with the Panthers, winning his
first three games. Since then the Panthers have dropped three, so what happened?
Well, Darnold had running back Christian McCaffrey in the lineup for those first
three games. Over that time, aside from running for a 3.9 average carry, McCaffrey
was 16 of 17 catching Darnold's passes, for an average 10.2 yards a catch. McCaffrey
missed the last three games, and is now out for at least the next two after being
placed on injured reserve with a hamstring issue. Darnold also lost another familiar
face right before the losing stretch when Carolina traded tight end Dan Arnold
to the Jaguars. The team had defensive needs after losing rookie cornerback Jaycee
Horn, their first round pick - eighth overall, to a broken foot.
two players, the offense took a step back, even with rookie running back Chuba
Hubbard doing well. Hubbard was drafted in the fourth round by Carolina, and as
a starter, is averaging over 4 yards a carry, and he can also catch the ball.
Catching the ball is something that was really lacking in last week's game.
Darnold's two top receivers came up short. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson combined
for six of eight drops. On top of that, Moore also turned the ball over on a fumble.
Darnold finished 17 of 41 for 207 yards with one touchdown and two turnovers,
after bringing his team back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit with two
minutes left. On that drive Darnold started from his own 4-yard line. He had to
get past two fouth-down plays, and did so with a 41 and a 25-yard completion to
force overtime. Minnesota won the coin toss and scored a touchdown to win the
defense ranked about average overall last year compared to other teams. They had
improved a bit from the year earlier with their rushing defense, but dropped markedly
in the areas of sacks and interceptions. In 2020 the Panthers had only 7 interceptions,
and 29 sacks. Despite that, they held other teams scoring to 25.1 points a game,
a nice improvement over the year earlier. In the offseason they didn't sleep on
their needs, signing pass rushers Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox. They also added
linebackers Denzel Perryman and Frankie Luvu. As we mentioned, for the secondary,
the Panthers drafted talented cornerback Jaycee Horn, and signed experienced cornerbacks
A.J. Bouye and Rashaan Melvin.
All this was working well for the first three
games where they gave up a total 30 points. In the next three opponents have scored
91. They led the league with 14 sacks after the first three weeks. Since then
only 2 sacks, and none last week against the Vikings where Kirk Cousins threw
for 373 yards, and 3 touchdowns. This defense is real tough on third and fourth-downs,
where they rank second in both areas. Opponents are 21-of-71 on third down, for
a 29.6 percentage, and on fourth down 28.6.
You won't win football games if
you can't score points, and that's the job of the offensive unit. Last week the
Giants scored just 11 points, their lowest of the season. That was in part thanks
to a late fourth quarter touchdown once the Rams were sitting on a 35 point lead.
The game started with the Rams giving up an opening drive field goal, and allowed
no more points to be scored for the rest of the game up to that point. It's hard
to score points when you can't field playmakers, and this week running back Saquon
Barkley has been ruled out of the game.
Daniel Jones needs someone to throw
to, and wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, have been ruled out.
Wide receivers John Ross, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, and tight end Evan
Engram are listed as questionable. Wide receiver David Sills has been signed from
the practice squad. Sills spent the 2020 season on IR after fracturing his foot
in training camp. In the 2021 preseason Sills had a team high 7 receptions, for
94 yards, and 1 touchdown.
Devontae Booker will be the go-to man for the running
game, and the Panthers defense has shown some weakness there. Opponents are averaging
4.7 yards per carry, and while they held each of their first three opponents to
under 50 rushing yards, they've allowed an average of 178 rushing yards per game
over the last three weeks. You'd expect the Giants to test that with Booker this
won't win football games if you don't stop the other team from scoring too many
points, and that's the job of the defensive unit. Right now the Giants have given
up 177 points, tied with the Miami Dolphins for the most in the league. It seems
they can't get past losing middle linebacker Blake Martinez, their leading tackler,
when he tore his ACL playing against Atlanta. Things have been off, and the defense
is giving up big plays. Opposing quarterbacks aren't being pressured and are completing
74 percent of their passes.
Even though they came up with two sacks last week
against the Rams, a team that had allowed a league-low 4 sacks, Matt Stafford
had all the time in the world to pick his targets. Edge rushers Lorenzo Carter
and Oshane Ximines have no sacks on the season. Rookie Azeez Ojulari did get off
to a great start with his three sacks, but he's had none in the last three games.
The Panthers offensive line is not one of the best. Sam Darnold can be pressured,
and he's thrown six interceptions over the past three games after throwing only
one in the first three. Darnold's been sacked 12 times the past three games without
Christian McCaffrey being an available outlet. Seeing how things have been going
with all the pressure on Darnold, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has stated that
he plans to put more emphasis on the running game. That could work out better
for the Giants for their secondary coverage, but they still have to stop the run,
and they rank 29th in rushing defense.
Panthers got off to a fast start this season, but now have lost their last three
games. The Giants looked to have turned the corner after an 0-3 start, when they
upset the New Orleans Saints, but they dropped the last two games by wide margins.
Each of these teams would love to close out the day with a win.
their fans would have loved to have seen two of the NFL's top running backs on
the field, but Christian McCaffrey is on injured reserve with a hamstring injury,
and Saquon Barkley is out with a bad ankle. One thing the Giants will have to
watch out for is Sam Darnold being suddenly inspired in his first trip back at
MetLife Stadium. The former Jet will be throwing to Robby Anderson, who was his
best touchdown target for two seasons when they were both playing for the Jets.
Sunday at 1:00pm Panthers (3-3)
at Giants (1-5).
Sunday at 1:00pm Washington (2-4) at Packers (5-1).
at 4:05pm Eagles (2-4) at Raiders (4-2).
No NFC East teams are favored to
win in these games.
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have at least one takeaway in each of their first six games for the first time
Graham Gano kicked winning
field goals the last two times these teams played when he was with the Panthers.
Gano made a 43-yarder in 2015, and a 63-yarder in 2018.
Nov 1 Giants at Kansas City
7 Las Vegas at Giants