Carolina-New York: Can the Panthers Spoil the Giants' Playoff Hopes?
To start things off, I have one question that has been on my mind since the Panthers' win Sunday night over the Minnesota Vikings: "Where the heck did that come from? Where has this team been all season?!"
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a makeshift offensive line, a backup quarterback, a future Hall of Fame wide receiver who has been virtually ineffective all season, and a defense that has been average at best would have beaten a then 11-2 Vikings team.
Oh yeah, Carolina was also without star running back DeAngelo Williams as well!
So, the Panthers' offensive line blocked exceptionally well for running back Jonathan Stewart, who rushed for 109 yards against the Vikings defense, a feat that hasn't been accomplished by any team in Minnesota's previous 36 games (almost 2.25 years) until last Sunday.
Beleaguered receiver Steve "The Asset" Smith racked up 147 yards on nine catches, and a touchdown as well.
Backup quarterback Matt Moore made an even bigger statement why the Panthers should take him and his quest to become the Panthers' new starting quarterback a little more seriously, throwing no interceptions and passing for almost 300 yards.
As for the Panthers defense, it made Vikings running back Adrian Peterson look even more overrated, limiting him to one touchdown and 35 yards rushing for four quarters.
The defense also kept a steady stream of pressure on the Vikings' receivers, exploited the offensive line and quarterback Brett Favre, who threw an interception in the end zone to defensive back Chris Harris at the end of the game.
As for the slight post-loss rift between Vikings head coach Brad Childress and quarterback Brett Favre, I'd be pissed too, had I just lost to a team of underachievers.
Moving on, the Panthers once again travel to the Meadowlands of New Jersey and Giants Stadium. This time to face the better of the two New York teams, the Giants.
This season Carolina is 0-1 in East Rutherford; if you want to count the preseason, this will make it their third trip to New Jersey and a record of 0-2 on the season.
This time around, things are a little different for the Panthers than a month ago, when they traveled to play the Jets.
Jake Delhomme was officially placed on the Reserved/Injured list, DeAngelo Williams is listed as "doubtful," and yet another of Carolina's offensive linemen (right tackle Jeff Otah) is also on IR.
The popular choice this week is to go with the Giants, like the popular choice last week was to go with the Vikings...I know I did.
The G-Men have a talented offense from quarterback to receivers and runners. Their offensive line is getting a little long in the tooth, but they still manage to get the job done.
All that hype over beating the Redskins last week? Well, I don't buy into it that much. Washington has been a bad team all season long. Carolina beat them earlier in the season, too.
The Panthers are a beatable team. What Carolina needs to do going into this game is try and keep the momentum from their win over Minnesota rolling. If they can do that, they will be able to keep up with the Giants.
The difference between the two clubs is Carolina has nothing to play for other than spoiler, pride, and jobs; the Giants have everything to play for, along with keeping themselves in the hunt for a Wild Card position.
The Giants have to play this game with the intensity they showed last week against the Redskins, and not the effort that delivered six losses in their previous nine games.
Given that this game is being played at home for the Giants, and Carolina is coming off an emotional roller coaster of a win, I'll go with the popular choice and pick the Giants to win this one, by a score of 24-17.
It worked last week, maybe it will work again Sunday.
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