The Giants are a very ugly 1-1 on the young 2012 season. They lost the opening game of the NFL season to the Dallas Cowboys and then had to put up 604 yards of total offense to come from behind and beat Tampa Bay.
Carolina tied a franchise-low 10 yards rushing in Week 1 in its loss to Tampa Bay and then thumped a reeling New Orleans teams.
One of these teams will be above .500 come Friday, but it's anyone's guess if that team will have taken a step forward in anything other than the record book.
If Carolina is going to be that team at 2-1 on Friday, here are four suggestions to help them map out a game plan.
The Panthers offense runs better when it's a multifaceted attacking machine, and there's more to this than just saying the team needs to run and pass with like success rates.
There's much to be said about a balanced offensive attack, but for Carolina to have a better shot at success Cam Newton needs to run well and a running back needs to lead the team. According to the Charlotte Observer, Carolina is 6-3 when Newton rushes for at least 50 yards, but 1-4 when he is the team's leading rusher.
It seems quite logical that the Panthers would like to have Newton throwing and running the ball well—that would keep defenses on their toes. And if either DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart can lead the attack on the ground, it would take pressure off Newton to feel like he must do everything. It would also open up the passing game.
Speaking of the passing game, one of the more impressive aspects of Carolina's win Sunday was the fact that both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell shined. If LaFell can continue to put up huge numbers, he can take pressure off Smith and give Newton multiple looks in the passing game.
Be Physical with Hakeem Nicks
One of the more impressive efforts on Sunday was Hakeem Nicks and his attention grabbing 10-catch, 199-yard performance with a touchdown. Even more impressive is that he did that all on an injured right foot.
Nicks has been relegated to the weight room and other forms of getting work in since he can't be on the practice field because of his foot. This is an effort by the Giants to help his foot heal fully from offseason surgery.
Last week Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib played a very physical game against Nicks, bumping him at every opportunity to rough him up. Safety Mark Barron even stepped directly on his foot late in the game, according to the Post-Standard. Nicks still put up great numbers, but how much stress can his foot take, especially on a short week?
Safety Charles Godfrey and linebacker Jon Beason each notched an interception for this Panthers defense that should be able to take the ball away from teams often. This should especially be the case Thursday night against a New York team that has already coughed the ball up four times this year.
Manning had a few errant throws Sunday against Tampa Bay—more than the three picks he threw—and Carolina needs to be in a situation to take advantage of those. Because even with Manning being a little off target, he's going to throw for a bunch of yards.
If Carolina can stop a few New York drives by forcing a turnover, the Panthers will have a much easier time sending the Giants home with a 1-2 record.
Overcome Side Effects of Single-High Coverage
The Panthers have given up 293 yards on the ground through two games. Only four teams have allowed more. Part of the reason why that may be happening is that when the Panthers play single-high coverage it can leave the duties of stopping the run after the first wave of defense to just one safety.
In single-high coverage one safety often covers the tight end, therefore the other safety has to stop opposing running backs because the cornerbacks are in coverage too.
In both games this year Carolina has played against tight ends that need a lot of attention in the passing attack: Dallas Clark and Jimmy Graham. New York's tight end Martellus Bennett has nine catches already and has scored a touchdown in each game. Because of Bennett's prowess, expect a lot of situations where one safety will have to make plays.