Week 15: Panthers @ Giants Defensive Preview

We all know what's at stake this Sunday, first place for the NFC playoffs, but for the Panthers there's even more on the line. The Giants have already clinched a playoff spot, the Panthers have not. If the Panthers lose out and Dallas, Tampa, and Atlanta win out, we would miss the playoffs because of tie-breakers. While I see the chance of that happening at less than 5%, I would rather step through the front door instead of sneak in the back. Yet again, since we don't play until Sunday night, we may already know our playoff future, meaning since all three of those previous teams will have played, if any one of them lose we clinch at least a playoff spot.

Getting back to the Giants. Our opponent this week can be a monster on the field, with their strength being the ground game. Stat wise, while the Giants have the edge, for the majority we are closely matched. The one glaring difference-Panther rushing defense at 18th and the Giants rushing offense at #1. For the Panthers' defense this will be the biggest challenge.

Giants Team Stats - Game Averages

Pts Yrds Pass Rush
Off 26.7 348.5 (9th) 199.8 (18th) 148.7 (1st)
Def 17.6 285.8 (6th) 195.4 (10th) 90.4 (4th)

Panthers Team Stats - Game Averages

Pts Yrds Pass Rush
Off 25.2 341.0 (12th) 194.9 (21st) 146.1 (4th)
Def 18.9 315.9 (10th) 204.4 (12th) 111.5 (18th)


Not considering any inactive players (Plaxico mainly), both teams do have some concern at injury. The Panthers DT Maake Kemoeatu was seen using crutches and a boot after Monday's practice. Also, RG Keydrick Vincent had to leave the game early against Denver. For the Giants, Brandon Jacobs is uncertain, and during the Dallas game RT Kareem McKenzie and LG Rich Seubert both left with injuries. It to early to tell if any of them will be able to play. Both teams are saying very little about their situations right now.

My gut feeling is that Kemo has less than a 20% chance of playing, but pure speculation. For the Giants, I have no idea about their O-linemen, but for Jacob's my gut is telling me 75% chance of playing right now. If Jacob's is out, the impact of Kemo missing a game is reduced but still significant. And vice versa, if Jacobs plays and Kemo is out, that could be the difference in this game.

We are not sure how the Panthers will adjust for Kemo being out. Anything from rotating DT Darwin Walker and Gary Gibson, to moving over either DT Charles Johnson or Tyler Brayton, or a combination of these options. The good news is that we have played 3 DE at times in passing situations but we will have to see how they fair against the run.

These two teams are built very similarly as well, power running game to setup the pass. Both Jake Delhomme and Eli Manning are more game managers and both have very similar stats.

Jake Delhomme Eli Manning
Games 14 14
Att 375 433
Comp 221 261
Comp % 58.9 60.3
Passing Yards 2853 2938
Yards / Att 7.6 6.8
TD 14 20
INT 12 10
Comp for 1st down 133 151
Sacked 19 23
Passer Rating 82.0 86.4

For the Giants, missing two starters on their o-line could be trouble. The Giants are better at run blocking than pass blocking and if either or both of their starting line is out could spell trouble. They gave up 8 sacks to the Cowboys and now 23 for the season. With the high likelyhood of the Panthers need to use a 3 DE set, keeping Eli upright would be that much harder.

The keys for the Panthers on stopping the Giants is pressure on Manning when they have to throw and limit the ground attack (unless a miracle happens, we are not doing to shut it down). Regardless of who is starting on our defensive line, Jon Beason is going to have to play his best game of the season and dropping eight in the box is not out of the question.

This means Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas will have to work a lot of single coverage with only one safety up top. Before Plaxico Burress was suspended this was causing teams major problems. While the Giants still have quality receivers losing their best receiver changes the way you have to defend against them. Just imagine the consequences to the Panthers if we lost Steve Smith.

Defensively this game has loads of challenges. The Panthers offense have been hitting their stride and hopefully that continues but without getting into their challenges, let just say they cannot do it alone this week. Against the Broncos the defense had one of it's best days in quite a few games, but was it because the Broncos had no running attack or that our defense actually stepped up. Probably some of both, but we will find out Sunday for sure.

Correction: Incorrectly listed Travelle Wharton as leaving the game against Denver Updated to Keydrick Vencent.

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