Tonight in Charlotte, two of the league's top three aerial attacks in terms of yards per attempt go head-to-head, with a chance to score a lot of points against somewhat soft opposing secondaries. But both the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers will be less than 100-percent healthy on offense, and there's no telling what's going to take place on short weeks like these.
Still, we'll try.
What New York Must Do to Win, Offensive Edition
With Hakeem Nicks, Domenik Hixon and Ahmad Bradshaw out, the Giants can't shy away from giving less-heralded fill-ins a chance to shine.
Quarterbacks like Eli Manning can make things happen without superstars, so New York has to let David Wilson, Rueben Randle and Andre Ware step up. The key might be letting Wilson do his thing against a defense that has already missed 29 tackles this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
What New York Must Do to Win, Defensive Edition
As I mentioned yesterday, Big Blue has to help out a somewhat shorthanded and struggling defensive front by blitzing often, especially if Cam Newton doesn't have safety valve Jonathan Stewart at his disposal.
How New York Can Lose
If Manning tries to lean too heavily on Victor Cruz, Sean McDermott's defense will make him pay. That could be the difference in what should be a close, hotly contested matchup.
Five Most Important Non-Quarterbacks
Martellus Bennett, Rueben Randle, Michael Boley, Jason Pierre-Paul, Corey Webster
Bennett and Randle will essentially be replacing Nicks and (to a lesser extent) Hixon. Both are new to the team but have had a full offseason to develop chemistry with Manning.
Boley will be an important second line of defense against Newton, while JPP will be counted on to provide the charge up front. Webster has struggled this year, but they need him to step it up against Steve Smith.
Injury Analysis, Giants Edition
Out: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), T David Diehl (knee), WR Domenik Hixon (concussion), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), DE Adewale Ojomo (hamstring)
Wilson and Brown will likely share the load, with the hotter hand emerging as the game progresses. Same deal with receivers Ramses Barden, Randle and Jerrel Jernigan. Losing Diehl doesn't hurt much, if at all.
Questionable: CB Michael Coe (hamstring)
Who knew the Giants would be this reliant on Michael freakin' Coe early on? According to PFF, he's been the secondary's top cover man two games in. Prince Amukamara should play, but they don't know what they're going to get from him. They could really use Coe here.
Probable: CB Prince Amukamara (ankle), LB Keith Rivers (hamstring), RB Da'Rel Scott (knee)
If indeed he's good to return, Rivers will help greatly against Newton and the Panthers' backs.
Injury Analysis, Panthers Edition
Out: G Mike Pollak (shoulder)
This will not have any effect on the game.
Questionable: T Byron Bell (ankle), LB Thomas Davis (hamstring), S Colin Jones (shoulder), RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle)
Davis would be helpful in coverage against Bennett, but Stewart is the injury to watch. They could really use him.
Probable: LB Jon Beason (elbow), C Ryan Kalil (ankle), WR Kealoha Pilares (foot), WR Steve Smith (knee)
All four will play fairly important roles Thursday night.
B/R NFC East Blog Prediction
I don't like this matchup for the Giants, especially with all those injuries. Webster's struggling, Coe and Amukamara aren't 100 percent and Newton's getting into a groove. The short week gives Carolina a huge edge at home. Unless New York's pass rush finally steps up big, the Panthers will prevail in a close game.
Panthers 30, Giants 27
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