The difficulty of writing this type of post is coming up with some keys that are not simply repeats of the previous 14 games. After all, by now some things are very standard for the Panthers: run the ball, convert 3rd downs, avoid turnovers, stop the run. Well, I can't get away from that last one.
#1 Stopping the Run
Both teams will focus on this aspect of the game. Look at the last three Panther losses and yards given up on the ground:
- Lawrence Maroney 94 yards, Patriots 180+
- Thomas Jones 75 yards and a TD; Jets 130 yards+
- Ricky Williams 119 yards and 2 TDs
The Panthers must keep Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw under wraps or the Giants will control the clock and limit the Panthers scoring opportunities. If they are unable to do that then I see no way a Matt Moore led Panther offense will be able to keep up.
#2 Limiting down field completions
I took notice of Eli Manning's down field work against the ‘Skins and thought our secondary might be in trouble. The key will obviously be getting pressure on Manning. If allowed to run the crossing routes freely the Panthers will give up YAC big time. If instead they keep the passes in front of them as Meeks always prefers they the Panthers might force more FGs than TDs.
The weather is calling for cold and wet conditions meaning it will be important to wrap up. The Panthers have been guilty of going for the big hit instead of wrapping up earlier in the season. A missed tackle by the Panther secondary in this game could easily give the Giants 7 points.
#4 Running between the tackles
Though Jonathan Stewart has shown he has the quickness to bounce a run outside he still needs to run effectively between the tackles so it opens up the play action. If he can force the Giants to protect the middle of the field it will slow the pass rush down on the play action and allow Matt Moore to go down field to the ‘playmaker'. Speaking of the playmaker...
#5 Continue to Establish the Rules and Regulations of the Game (ie...Get the ball to #89)
Panthers OC Jeff Davidson seems to have realized (about time?) that getting the ball in Smitty's hands in any fashion is imperative every week. For example, Smith actually operated out of the wildcat formation last week and converted a 3rd down. I'm not saying fancy runs are the way to use Smith but there is no denying this guy needs 8 to 10 touches a game in some fashion. If the Panthers can do that they can keep up the Giants as long as the defense does its part. It also wouldn't hurt for some young Giant DB to talk smack to Smitty at the start of the game. Say something like "You'll know my name when this one is over" would be a good one.