The Giants travel to Carolina in a battle of winless teams with questions abounding.
Whether it’s a quarterback with interception woes, a running game that’s been lame or injuries on both sides of the ball, Big Blue is already at a crossroads after just two weeks.
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Three things to watch for ...
1. A semblance of balance
The Giants have the largest discrepancy between passing yards (390.5 per game) and rushing yards (36.5 per game) in the league, but that has equated to zero wins. Something has to change for Big Blue, because that lack of balance has been arguably the biggest reason quarterback Eli Manning has a league-high seven interceptions. As great and clutch as Manning has been at times, he can’t solely shoulder the offensive load. He needs help from his patchwork offensive line and a running game that features a running back with fumbling issues (David Wilson) and another who just rejoined the team and may have lost some tread (Brandon Jacobs).
2. Which team breaks its rut first?
The Panthers are also winless and have lost two close games in the waning moments, so they’ll be just as hungry as the Giants. They’ve found uncanny ways to lose ball games to both the Seahawks and the Bills, as young teams often do. The Panthers’ weakness, though, presents a great matchup for the Giants as Carolina’s secondary is depleted. They lost regular starter Charles Godfrey for the year with an injured right Achilles. Look for Manning to test the fill-ins early, which in turn may actually loosen up Carolina’s front seven so the running game can also get on track.
3. Strength versus strength
The Giants’ defense has actually done a good job against the run in their first two losses, despite Knowshon Moreno's 93 yards rushing last week. But the Panthers are an offense that would like to run the ball on all four downs if possible. Carolina's three-headed attack of running back DeAngelo Williams, fullback Mike Tolbert and quarterback Cam Newton poses a different kind of problem than the Cowboys and Broncos— especially since Newton can throw the ball as well as any passer in the league, but has the open-field running prowess of a top-tier running back. Giants middle linebacker Dan Connor (neck) was placed on injured reserve this week, making an already thin linebacker corps even more desolate. How well Big Blue can adjust to the Panthers’ triple-prong rushing attack will go a long way in determining how fluid Carolina's offense can be.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.