Giants - Panthers Preview

by Luis Vazquez
Sunday Jan 8, 2006
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The last time the New York Giants were in the playoffs they were witnesses to the second greatest collapse in NFL Playoff history. The vision of Terrell Owens back on his plethora of receptions was the enduring memory of that game. The promise of an explosive first half offense disappeared in the second half. It has been four years since the Giants have played a second season.

The outlook however this time is very optimistic and they have a season of proven success to back their hopes of postseason potential. The Giants, winners of the NFC East, are playing the Carolina Panthers in one of the two NFC Wildcard games this weekend at Giants Stadium. The G-Men have been phenomenal at home losing only once. Yet the Panthers have been just as dangerous on the road winning six of eight.

These teams are evenly matched in talent and the difference will be experience and mistakes. The Giants losses this year were due for the most part to mental letdowns. The Giants are playing a team who played in the Super Bowl a scant two years ago and is just as capable.

The Panthers are led by quarterback Jake Delhomme, who threw for 24 touchdowns this season, The main target in the receiving corps will be Steve Smith, who led the NFL with 103 catches, 1,563 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. This will be the main strength of the Carolina attack since the Giants pass defense has been suspect. The running game is strong with DeShaun Foster bringing his 879 rushing yards with Stephen Davis complementing it with 12 rushing touchdowns.

The defense will depend on the pressure that Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker can bring to Manning. Peppers 10 sacks along with Michael Ruckerís 7 will have to be the Giants twin concerns. Chris Gambleís seven interceptions show him to be the one to avoid in the secondary.

The Giants will bring a lot offensively compared to past Giant playoff units. The young but poised quarterback Eli Manning will bring intangibles. His potential is starting to be realized as he threw for 3,762 yards and 24 touchdowns. His ability to orchestrate late comebacks on average days is a good portent. Eli is not alone because he has running back Tiki Barber, who had his best season running for 1,860 yards and nine touchdowns which placed him fourth in the MVP voting. The success of Barber was made possible also by a major contribution by rookie fullback Brandon Jacobs who made the tough yards which allowed Tiki to soar and give NY a one-two punch in the running game.

The passing attack for Manning is loaded with options in Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, and Jeremy Shockey.

The defense is where itís at and with Michael Strahan healthy and sacking at the tune of 11 - the Giants have won with pressure from the front line. The surprise coming from that line has to be the play of Osi Umenyiora, who posted 14 - sacks. These two, along with a quick reacting unit that plugs up the run, will be essential to victory. The passing defense will depend greatly on the games of these two disrupters. The loss of Antonio Pierce will be missed immensely but if the Giants can attack and fill gaps they should be in this game to the end. This contest will be close in the end but if Manning is in top form and Tiki is taking large pieces of real estate, the defense should pressure Jake and force errors while they close Carolinaís power running game. In the end this game will be decided in the trenches and the winner of that battle will be able to control this game and put their stamp first and advance to the divisional playoffs as the prize.


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