After celebrating a much needed division win against the hated Saints, the Panthers are moving forward with the short work week as they prepare to welcome the Giants into The Bank tomorrow night. This will be the Panthers' first time in a prime time slot since
2008 2009*, so hopefully the bright lights of the national spotlight isn't too much of a distraction for the young Panthers squad.
*- Yes, I know we played a prime time game in 2010 against Pittsburgh, but as far as I'm concerned 2010 never happened.
Unfortunately for some Panthers fans, the game is on NFL Network* which means you won't be able to watch it unless you make a trip outside the comfort of your home to find a local watering hole to catch the game.
*- If you live in the Charlotte tv market, you can watch the game locally. If you don't, then it's NFL Network or nothing.
If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to have NFL Network or live in the Charlotte market, feel free to join me after the jump for five key things to look for as the Panthers square off against Eli and the Giants.
(Note: If you can't watch the game, you're still welcome to join us after the jump.)
1. Jordan Gross vs. Jason Pierre-Paul
This one is the biggie. Just like last week against New Orleans where the key to the game was containing Jimmy Graham, the key to this week's game is making sure JPP doesn't get too up close and personal with Cam Newton. He's their best player on defense and the one player who legitimately scares me. It's this simple gang - if the Panthers don't find a way to contain JPP on Thursday night, they will wake up on Friday morning 1-2 instead of 2-1. Hopefully the Panthers will give Jordan Gross some help by shifting a TE or RB over to double JPP, otherwise I'm not sure that Gross will be able to contain him for the entirety of the game.
If Carolina wants to win tomorrow, this can't happen.
2. Josh Norman/Chris Gamble vs. Victor Cruz/Hakeem Nicks
On offense the Giants have two legitimate weapons at WR who will test our young secondary, and with questions at the running back position the Giants are going to look to Cruz and Nicks to help Eli Manning carry the bulk of the load on offense. It's up to Gamble and Norman to make sure these guys don't take over the game and put the Panthers down into a huge hole, because if the G-Men go up by multiple scores - Cam and co. may not be able to climb back into the game.
Josh Norman has talked enough talk. It's time for him to walk the walk and shut down Nicks or Cruz tomorrow.
3. Cam Newton's Continued Momentum
Cam Newton had a great game against the Saints. If Carolina wants to come out of Thursday's game with a win, Cam has to continue playing like he played against New Orleans. If he can avoid costly mistakes against New York and protect the football like he did this past Sunday, then he will set his team up with the best chance to win the game. It's vital that he plays a good game, because it's highly unlikely the Panthers eek out a win against a formidable opponent with a poor effort from the most important player on the field.
Cam Newton scoring touchdowns means a higher chance the Panthers come away with a win.
4. Chud's Offensive Gameplan
Chud can't afford to get too cute in this game. The Giants are a good defensive unit with a great front four, and Chud can't afford to try and call the offense like he's playing Madden 13. The Panthers have to attack the Giants by playing to their strengths, which is running the ball with Double Trouble to set up the play-action game and allow Steve Smith to take advantage of the Giants' secondary. Chud should also feature TE Greg Olsen heavily as an outlet for Cam to loosen the stress of throwing downfield to prevent forced mistakes.
Don't get too cute Chud. Use the weapons you have, like you used Brandon LaFell last Sunday against the Saints.
5. The Battle for Field Position
Both teams are coming into this game on a short week. Both teams are going to be tired, and sore, and every other thing that happens to football players a few days after they played a hard fought game. Field position is important in every game, but in this one it could be the determining factor that decides who wins and who loses. If the Panthers can win the field position battle against the Giants, their chances of winning increase dramatically. It all comes down to superstar punter Brad Nortman, who will be tasked with pinning the Giants deep inside their own territory and forcing them to try and march down the length of the field to put points on the board. Punt returner Joe Adams also comes into play here, as he is responsible for ensuring that the Panthers get short fields to work with whenever the Giants are forced into punting situations. I know a lot of people make fun of the punter and don't think special teams is that important to the overall result of a football game, but trust me - it's going to have a major impact on this one.
Just look at it. It's a thing of beauty, isn't it? The perfect ball placement, the perfect leg angle...just sheer perfection at it's finest. Look, even the official is impressed (and why wouldn't he be?).
Okay Panthers fans, what are your keys to the game against the Giants? Who do you think has to step up to give the Panthers the best chance to win? Let's hear what you have to say!
Photo Credits: Brad Penner, Ed Mulholland, Bob Donnan, Jeremy Brevard, and Kim Klement | US Presswire