No NFC game has meant more than the game between the current No. 1 and 2 seeds in the NFC. The Panthers have been on a roll and the Giants have been reeling recently, but one thing is for sure, and that is this will be a physical game in a potential snow storm.
Can the Panthers get it done on the road? Can the Giants come back after a recent two-game slide? It may all hinge on whether the Giants' "Earth" of the "earth, wind and fire" three-headed monster plays and his name is Brandon Jacobs.
Last week, the Giants could not get anything going without Jacobs. Jacobs gives defenses headaches and teams have to respect the run to open up the pass. The Giants are clearly a run-first team now and in a cold-weather game like tomorrow, nothing will mean more than to have the 264-pound beast playing.
The Panthers will try hard to play similarly to the way the Eagles and Cowboys beat them the past two weeks, and that is to control the clock and keep moving the chains. If you keep the Giants' offense off the field, you are forcing them to be impatient and to fall behind.
The Panthers' own two-headed monster in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart won't make things easy for the Giants defense. Both teams are used to cold weather but it will be a factor nonetheless, especially if it snows again.
The Panthers x-factor is Steve Smith, who has burned just about every team in the league this year. Smith has been unstoppable and even though Delhomme has been inconsistent, he still finds Smith on a few bombs a game.
Who wins this monstrous battle?
Sunday night game: CAR@NYG Prediction: CAR 21 NYG 23
I like the Giants to rebound in this game. Every time they have their backs against the wall, they always turn the table. If last year is any indication of how this team can rebound, the Panthers may not want to wake a sleeping "Giant."
I think it'll be a close game and you have to start most of your Panthers and Giants, but I'd keep my expectations low for QBs Jake Delhomme and Eli Manning. If it's a snow storm, then these teams will run more and it will make things much harder on the passing game.
If you have better options than Delhomme and Manning, I'd use them. If Jacobs plays, you have to start him, because he's matchup proof and start both defenses. I would not have much confidence in any of the Giants receivers right now. They have been playing so poorly that they had to sign the ageless Joe Horn.
DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith (CAR)-Williams has also been match-up proof and can burn just about any defense right now. Smith can blow by defenders at any point and should hook-up with Delhomme on at least two or three bombs and probably a TD. The Panthers are going to try and run first so Williams is a must-start. Predictions: Williams 75 rushing yds 1 td 3 catches 30 yds Smith: 6 catches 80 yds 1 td
Brandon Jacobs (if he plays)-Jacobs is a beast when he plays and is a must-start when he's on the field. He is questionable and may be limited, but if he plays then you know the Giants will have to use him. He's been very impressive this season and can help the Giants rebound nicely. Prediction: 80 rushing yds 1 td 2 catches 20 yds
Both defenses-Both of these defenses have played well just about all year. The Panthers defense has been a little inconsistent at times, so they may not have a huge game. But with the way the Giants have been playing recently, you have to start them. The Giants defense will be fired up for this game and I expect them to try and harass Delhomme. Predictions: CAR defense: 4 sacks 2 int 23 PA NYG: 5 sacks 2 int 1 fr 21 PA
Eli Manning-He has not played well for a few weeks so you can't expect him to have a big game. His receivers have been dropping passes and the weather will limit the passing game. I'd bench him if I had a better option. Prediction: 230 passing yds 2 tds 2 ints
Jake Delhomme-Delhomme has been inconsistent and hasn't played very well on the road. The Panthers will rely on the running game to control the clock so Delhomme may not be airing it out like has has recently. The Giants pass-rush could make Delhomme's night a nightmare.Prediction: 200 passing yds 2 tds 2 ints 1 fumble
Giants wide receivers: I would not be confident in any of them right now. Hixon has been injured and inconsistent and the same can be said for Amani Toomer and the other Steve Smith. Bench them this week.
Monday Night: GB@CHI Prediction: GB 24 CHI 27
Both defenses have struggled to stop anybody all season and injuries have taken a toll. The Bears may not have anything to play for by game time, because if the Vikings win they clinch the division.
If the Bears are playing for something, then I would not want to be in the Packers' shoes. They will also be looking to avenge their 37-3 beat-down at Lambeau Field in their last meeting.
Matt Forte is questionable to play, but Forte is expected to play and will be licking his chops for the Packers soft and generous rush-defense. I would bench Kyle Orton even if he is playing against the Packers. I'd start all your regular Packers and Bears except for Orton and I'd bench both defenses.
All Packers and Matt Forte, Devin Hester and Greg Olson
Neither defense has played well, so expect big numbers from your stud players from each team. Ryan Grant torched the Bears for 145 and a TD in their last meeting and the weather could limit the passing game and both teams will be looking to control the clock.
Grant has been very inconsistent this season, but you'll regret benching him if he has another big game this week. Predictions: Forte 90 rushing yds 1 td 5 catches 40 yds 1 td Hester: 4 catches 40 yds 1 kr for a td Olson: 6 catches 60 yds
Both defenses-You can't start either defense in this game. These teams hate each other and will be scoring at will. Bench both of them. Predictions: GB defense: 3 sacks 1 int 1 fr 27 PA CHI defense: 4 sacks 1 int 1 fr 24 PA
Kyle Orton-Orton has not played very well since returning from his injury. The Packers secondary has struggled recently, but the Bears don't have the weapons to expose it. The Bears will try to run the ball so don't expect much out of Orton.
These games will be fun to watch so enjoy the games and will have next week's predictions shortly after Week 16.