Giants vs. Panthers: How Giants Win Sheds Insight on NFC Contenders

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 20:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants celebrates after a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The New York Giants' shellacking of the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football restored the NFC to its familiar hierarchy. The Giants can still turn the switch on when they need, while Carolina is stuck in the dark looking for it.

Carolina was armed with all the reasons to take this prime-time game at home against the defending champs. New York was playing its third game in two weeks, while the Panthers were playing at night for the first time since N-Sync broke up.

The Giants, though, suffocated their hopes in four straight drives with an offense full of replacement players.

That’s right: The Giants put up 33 points on the Panthers with an injury-riddled lineup that the NFL talking heads were so worried about.

No Hakeem Nicks, no Ahmad Bradshaw, no David Diehl, with Andre Brown and Ramses Barden starting on four days' rest?

Ain’t no thing.

As for the Giants, Brown and Barden weren’t just amiable replacements in the Giants offense; they were the stars of the game. Brown rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while Barden caught nine for 138.

In four days' time, the New York coaching staff had three backups ready to punch a healthy Carolina defense in the mouth. When this team gets healthy, they’ll be just as dangerous as last season.

Even if they don’t get Bradshaw, Nicks and Diehl back, who needs them? That’s how deep this Giants team truly is.

Which contenders want to face New York in January?

There’s Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco, but New York beat them all en route to last year’s championship.

Sure, there’s the Cowboys and Eagles in the NFC East as well, but the Giants have gotten over the hump more than the others, until further notice.

Wait, is that all of the NFC contenders? There has to be another team I left out, right?

Or perhaps the Giants are that formidable. Steer clear, NFC.

On the other hand, Carolina settles in their rightful place in the NFC hierarchy. It might be good enough to finish in second in the NFC South, depending how Tampa Bay and New Orleans fair.

Not a playoff team yet, though. The offense has not been as explosive as some thought.

This Cam Newton-led offense is going through growing pains, and a lot of it has to do with the loss of the running game. John Fox has been gone from Carolina for two years, and the run-first mentality went with him.

The Carolina offense has been forced to throw, which has kept the defense on the field more often. That's not a good sign for one of the worst defensive units from last season.

The Thursday night game has sent two teams on different paths, and it looks a lot like last season.