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Panthers vs Giants defensive preview: A bounce back opportunity

The Panthers defense has cooled after a hot start, but they have an opportunity to turn the heat back up in the Meadowlands.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers were the best defense in the league through three weeks. Admittedly, those three weeks were against bad offenses, but still, this defense was fearsome. Then they got rolled by the Cowboys, looked good against the Eagles, then got rolled again by the Vikings. It’s been a rough three weeks.

But the Cowboys are a very good offense, and the Vikings have a lot of talent on that side of the ball even if their production is up and down. None of those things can be used to describe the New York Giants offense, except for maybe down.

The Giants rank 27th in the NFL in offensive DVOA (25th in passing and 30th in rushing) and it’s been worse in recent weeks against good competition. They’ve scored 31 points total in those two games, and 15 of those points came from touchdowns scored late in the fourth quarter with the Giants down by at least three scores. Their offense has been bad, and it’s also very injured.

The Giants top three wide receivers—Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton—have all missed time with various ailments. In their absences, rookie Kadarius Toney broke out in a huge way, but now he’s likely out with an injury of his own. Fifth string wide receiver John Ross has been limited as well with hamstring troubles.

Meanwhile, running back Saquon Barkely is recovering from a sprained ankle and is yet to practice this week. Oh and tight end Evan Engram was added to the injury report yesterday with a calf injury that kept him out of practice. So for those of you keeping track at home, that’s the Giants top five wide receivers, starting running back, and starting tight end all with their status in doubt for Sunday’s game. Half of those are muscle strains. What are they doing up there in New York?

Up front, the Giants boast an offensive line that is okay in the running game but bad at pass protection. Daniel Jones is the quarterback.

All of that is to say the Giants don’t have much going right for them on the offensive side of the ball.

So the Panthers have a chance to have a very strong showing on the defensive side of the ball on Sunday. Here are the things that will make that happen.

  • Be thankful this game is in New York. Daniel Jones has some of the most absurd home/road splits for his career. On the road, he has a 25:7 touchdown to interception ratio with a 93.6 passer rating. At home, he has a 9:14 touchdown to interception ratio and passer rating of 74.3. He’s also fumbled the ball 19 times at home, losing 10. That’s 24 total turnovers in 16 career home games. With the wounded weapons around him and a shaky offensive line, the Panthers should feast on Jones and force him into plenty of mistakes. Even better that it’s at his home stadium, where he’s seemingly extra uncomfortable for some reason.
  • Contain Daniel Jones the runner. Jones didn’t have much of a reputation as a runner coming out of college outside of a few draftniks that hinted at the ability. He’s really unlocked that skill at the pro level though. He’s currently the Giants leading rusher with 201 yards on the season, and he carries the ball a little over five times per game. He can break some big ones too. He had a 46 yard run against Washington, and another 57 yard touchdown run that was called back due to a penalty. Last year, he broke off this infamous 80 yard run that was ended by a tackle by the turf monster. Daniel Jones the runner is probably the biggest threat to this defense.
  • Assuming he plays, contain Sterling Shepard in the middle of the field. Shepard seems like the most likely to go of the Giants core wide receiver group, and he’s been quite good this season when healthy. He was targeted 14 times against the Rams last week, though he was held to just 7.6 yards per catch. He made some big plays at the beginning of the season, but he was used more as an underneath wide receiver against the potent Rams front. He’s the most dynamic play maker the Giants are likely to have at their disposal, so the Panthers need to keep him under wraps.

This is a great get-right game for a Panthers defense that has faltered in recent weeks. They badly need a win, and the defense can carry them to one on Sunday.