by Chris Lovi - Columnist, NFLWeather.com | 09-19-2012 22:00
Thursday night’s matchup features two teams looking to prove themselves as playoff contenders early on in this 2012 season. The banged up New York Giants squad will travel down to Charlotte to take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on what looks to be a clear night at Bank of America Field. NFLweather.com forecasts show clear skies with lows in the upper 50s and light winds. With weather not likely to have an important role in Thursday’s game, look for other factors to affect the outcome of this matchup.
The Giants injury report has grown once again this past week with key players Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl, Domenik Hixon, and just recently Hakeem Nicks ruled out for Thursday’s matchup with various injuries. However, with injury comes opportunity. The Giants will most likely turn to Andre Brown to start at running back with David Wilson being a close backup. Expect Brown to see a heavy workload against a Carolina defense who was ranked dead last against the run last year and has already surrendered 5.2 yards per carry against opposing running backs this season.
Since it will be a clear night, Eli Manning will look to air it out as always. With Nicks out, Victor Cruz will likely see most of the targets from Manning. Although tight end Martellus Bennett is off to a fast start and could be an option for Eli in the red zone. As for other receivers filling in for injured Hicks and Hixon, 2012 third round draft pick Reuben Randle has yet to see an increased workload but these injuries have created opportunity for him and this could be the game he breaks out of his shell.
As for the Panthers offense, we have stressed the importance of containing Cam Newton and Thursday night will be no different for the New York Giants defense. Last week we saw Newton tear up the Saints defense by throwing for 250 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 73 yards and a score. The giants have been average against the run this year and should be able to keep Newton in check with their athletic defensive linemen. Panther’s running backs this season have been extremely inconsistent in terms of workload with Mike Tolbert now receiving carries with D’Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart inside the red zone. This is something to keep in mind when setting your fantasy roster.
The real problem for the Giants defense this year has come against the pass. The Giants secondary has surrendered 550 yards and 5 touchdowns through the air in two games. Panther’s offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will most likely start out with short throws to keep Cam comfortable in the pocket on this cool night then try to expose an injured Giants secondary with receivers Steve Smith and Brandon Lafell. Since Smith is a legitimate deep threat, he is likely to have safety help over the top. This opens up the field for Lafell, who has been a top-ten fantasy receiver the first two weeks and will most likely continue that trend.
Given the clear skies Thursday night and Bank of America’s natural grass surface, making strong cuts shouldn’t be a problem for defenders. In a game with two high-powered offenses, it will likely come down to turnovers. And with both teams likely to air it out a lot, it will be interesting to see which defense steps up.
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