By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, December 27, 2009: This is the last game the Giants will play at Giants Stadium. Being 42, all I have ever known is the Giants playing their home games there. The New York Football Giants have called this stadium home for 34 NFL seasons. Think of the history. There have been seven Wild Card playoff teams, seven NFC East Division Championships, four NFC Championships, and three NFL Championships. And then there are the players – Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Mark Bavaro, Joe Morris, Rodney Hampton, Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan, Jessie Armstead, and Amani Toomer to name just a few. I’m not sure it has really hit home to fans yet. It is going to be even tougher for those fans who have been season ticket holders for years.
So for one last time at Giants Stadium, here are our New York Giants, battling tooth and nail for a playoff spot in a key game in December. If you are privileged enough to be able to attend this final game, be loud and support your team. And don’t be in such a hurry to leave early in order to beat the traffic. Sit there and take it all in. Appreciate the moment and be sure to say goodbye to the old stadium properly.
Let’s hope the 2009 New York Giants do us proud and make the game at the old stadium a memorable victory.
Giants on Offense: Carolina is in the middle of the pack defensively in terms of points allowed per game (20.6) and yards allowed per game (323.1). But it’s been far harder to pass on Carolina (4th in the NFL in pass defense) than it has been to run on them (26th in the NFL).
Stating the obvious, the Giants are on a roll offensively. And the key figure in this explosion has been quarterback Eli Manning. If Manning continues to play at the level that he has demonstrated the past three games, the Giants will be fine on offense.
The number one priority to help Eli is pass protection. The Giants will have their hands full this weekend with DE Julius Peppers, who is coming off a monster game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Panthers will move Peppers around so both tackles will have to deal with his explosive quickness. On the left side, that will be David Diehl, who has had his problems at times with quick rushers. On the right side it will be the gimpy Kareem McKenzie (knee) or the rookie Will Beatty. These are potential scary match-up concerns for New York. The Giants may have to keep in an extra tight end or back to help out.
If I’m the Giants, I pound the football at the Panthers. Their defensive line is not what it used to be, especially inside at tackle. So like the Giants attacked the Eagles, I would run Brandon Jacobs up the gut until the Panthers prove they can stop it. That’s another way to minimize the pass rush potential of Peppers as well.
When the Giants do put it up, just keep doing what they are doing. Spread the field with their dangerous set of wide receivers and Kevin Boss. Continue to throw to the running backs to keep the opposing defense off balance. The Giants have also been doing a nice job of scoring in the red zone of late.
Giants on Defense: Again stating the obvious, this is where the bulk of the concerns remain. The defense performed vastly better last week, but did so against a team that has struggled on the offensive side of the ball. The challenge will be tougher this week because Carolina can rush the football. Even if DeAngelo Williams (ankle), who is one of the very best backs in football, does not play, Jonathan Stewart is very dangerous. In fact, Stewart was named “NFC Offensive Player of the Week” for his 109-yard, 2-touchdown effort against the Vikings. No player had rushed for over a 100 yards against the Vikings in two years until Stewart did so last week.
This is a game where the Giants need Chris Canty and Barry Cofield to play very well. This is why the Giants signed Canty. Force the double team, tie up the offensive line so his teammates can make the tackle at or near the line of scrimmage. The ends need to play the run tough too and hold the edge. That’s been a problem at times for Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Osi Umenyiora. Jonathan Goff (hamstring/ribs) is a bit beat up. And while Michael Boley is fast and quick, he can struggle against the run.
The Giants have to be very wary of the Panthers running in “obvious” passing situations. They will run the football on third down out of the shot gun. The Giants need to play disciplined football and watch out for that.
The good news for the Giants is that the Panthers do not have a dynamic tight end, the kind of player that has hurt the Giants this year. But the Panthers will throw to the tight end, including Jeff King (23 catches, 2 touchdowns), Dante Rosario (26 catches, 2 touchdowns), and Gary Barnridge (12 catches).
The biggest receiving threat is obviously Steve Smith, an explosive player at wide receiver who the Giants need to double all game long. Problem is that CB Corey Webster (knee) and CB/S Aaron Ross (hamstring) are still ailing. Kevin Dockery and Bruce Johnson will likely be on the spot again.
The weakness of the Giants defense is their safeties. Not only do they tend not to make plays, but they aren’t very smart either. They tend to bite on play-action and the Panthers love play-action. If Aaron Rouse, Michael Johnson, or C.C. Brown play the run too aggressively, the Panthers may burn them for long gains and touchdowns.
The best friend a defensive back has is a strong pass rush. Carolina has had some problems at tackle due to injury issues. Let’s see if the Giants’ much-maligned defensive line can put two strong pass rushing games back-to-back. Key match-ups will be Justin Tuck versus RT Geoff Schwartz and Mathias Kiwanuka/Osi Umenyiora versus LT Travelle Wharton. LG Mackenzy Bernadeu may have his hands full with Chris Canty too.
Stop the run. Rush the passer. Double Steve Smith. Don’t bite on play action.
Giants on Special Teams: The Giants were much improved on special teams last week, especially kickoff coverage. Fred Robbins amazingly has blocked three extra points this year. A field goal block would be huge. Can Domenik Hixon break one again?