By Curt Macysyn
Both the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants have started out the 2013 NFL season with identical 0-2 records, but that’s where the similarities end. The Panthers played the Seattle Seahawks tough, but quarterback Cam Newton could not rally the young Panthers to victory in their home opener. Seattle downed Carolina 12-7 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This past Sunday, rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel rallied the Buffalo Bills to a late TD that propelled Buffalo over Carolina 24-23 in Orchard Park, New York to drop the Panthers to 0-2.
Meanwhile, the Giants have given up 77 points – the most in the NFL – in losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos to start the season winless after two weeks. New York quarterback Eli Manning has been intercepted seven times in the two losses, as the G-men have turned the ball over nine times in just two contests.
Ground & Pound
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is the NFC’s version of Rex Ryan, except Rivera has a legitimate NFL quarterback and a solid running back in DeAngelo Williams. Williams gained 86 yards against the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense and 85 yards this past week against the Buffalo Bills.
The Giants defense gave up 109 yards to the normally inept Denver Broncos rushing attack, so expect a fair amount of carries for Williams.
Quarterback Cam Newton has gone from being the focal point of the offense to a game manager, but he still has the explosive Steve Smith running pass routes. Meanwhile, tight end Greg Olsen has become Newton’s top target with 12 catches in two games. After Smith and Olsen, the receiver corps thins out with only disappointing Ted Ginn and inconsistent Brandon LaFell in the rotation.
Newton has completed 37 of 61 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns so far this year. The signal caller from Auburn has been intercepted only once. The Giants normally struggle with mobile quarterbacks.
While Ginn has been a disappointment as a receiver, he represents a constant threat in the return game. The Giants gave up an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown to the Broncos Trindon Holliday on Sunday, so New York has already been exposed on special teams. Normally a steady punter, Steve Weatherford, struggled with height and direction against the Broncos.
Man in the Middle
Having played for the Chicago Bears, Rivera is certainly used to stellar linebacker play, and the Panthers have All-Pro Luke Kuechly patrolling the middle. Kuechly had 14 tackles against the Bills, after accumulating nine against the Seahawks in Week 1.
Outside linebacker Thomas Davis is solid in run support and has made 20 tackles in two games. The Panthers pass rush doesn’t set the league on fire, in fact, two of the three sacks the team has recorded have come by way of their safeties, Quintin Mikell and Charles Godfrey. But Godfrey tore his Achilles tendon on Sunday, and he will miss the remainder of the 2013 season.
The Panthers have been vulnerable in the secondary, giving up 320 yards to Russell Wilson in Week 1 and 296 passing yards to rookie E.J. Manuel this past week.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (5’8″) could be targeted in the red zone because of his height. Rueben Randle could pose a matchup problem for the diminutive defensive back.
Reunited in Carolina
Former New York Giants middle linebacker Chase Blackburn meets his former mates, as a reserve linebacker and special teams ace.
The Panthers new general manager is Dave Gettleman, former personnel director for the Giants.
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.