By Paul Dottino
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It’s obvious that the Giants have not played well, but have you looked at the rest of the NFC East?
All four teams in this once-proud division are struggling to find answers to gaping holes in their game. None of these teams seems to know who or what they can count on at kickoff. However, there is little question that the Giants (0-2) should have a big edge going into Carolina (0-2) on Sunday.
Let’s take a look at this week’s three key matchups:
1) Giants WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks vs. Panthers’ secondary — Why the secondary in general? Because the Panthers have only one healthy defensive back going into this game — RCB Captain Munnerlyn. They may not know who they are going to start or how many adjustments they might have to make as the game unfolds. Cruz and Nicks are averaging nearly 20 yards per catch between them and should have a feast against whoever Carolina puts out there. Nicks, who likely will draw Munnerlyn, is particularly excited because this will be his first pro game before his hometown fans in Charlotte. He’s got two dozen friends and family who can’t wait to see him, since he was unable to play in last year’s visit because of injuries. Carolina prefers to play a deep zone, so it’s likely that they will keep it that way so as not to further expose their subs, which means there will be plenty of holes for short- and medium-range passes.
2) Giants DEs Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Panthers RT Byron Bell — The Giants’ ends have not provided the pass rush that is required of them after two games. The team has only two sacks, although Tuck played well in the opener against Dallas on a night when JPP got an uncontested sack. Gross has been a Pro Bowl player, which means that JPP will have to scrape the rust off of his game in a hurry if he is going to have an impact this week. (He says he is getting close to feeling like himself again.) Tuck must prove that last week’s subpar performance was a blip on the radar. Last week, Bills DE Mario Williams used a combination of power and outside moves to accumulate 4.5 of his team’s six sacks against the Panthers, beating Bell for 2.5 and Gross for 2.
3) Panthers WR Steve Smith vs. Giants CB Prince Amukamara — Smith has been one of the most technically-sound receivers in the NFL over the past decade. He also thrives on emotion. He tends to build on early momentum to try to get into an opponent’s head and then take advantage of their mistakes to create big plays. On the flip side, Smith also has shown a tendency to get frustrated — which hurts his game — when a defense has success neutralizing him early. Amukamara will likely try to get physical with him from the start. The Panthers will move Smith around. He’ll see plenty of time in the slot, where he would draw Terrell Thomas, who has played very well.
PREDICTION: Giants 31, Panthers 13
PREDICTION RECORD VS. THE SPREAD: 1-1
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