It’s only Week 3, but Sunday is as close to a “must-win” as possible for both teams when the New York Giants visit the Carolina Panthers. Each club enters the contest having lost their first two contests.
It’s difficult, but not impossible for a 0-2 club to make the playoffs. Since the NFL went to a 12-team postseason season system in 1990, eight percent of playoff teams began the year with two straight losses. In 2007, the Giants were beaten in the first two weeks and went on to win the Super Bowl. Starting off at 0-3, however, is much different. Only three teams in history have started off with three consecutive defeats and made the postseason. The Buffalo Bills last did it in 1998 when Doug Flutie took over as the starting quarterback and won nine of the final 11 games.
The Giants have hopes to win their division every year. Eli Manning is consistently one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and they have a number of weapons on offense. The quarterback, however, has made too many mistakes in 2013, overshadowing his 812 passing yards. Manning leads the league in interceptions with seven.
In addition to the quarterback’s woes, no team has been worse with their ground attack than New York. They are last in the league with 73 rushing yards, averaging just 2.2 yards per carry. David Wilson has disappointed in his first year as a starter, rushing for 36 yards and losing two fumbles. As a result, the Giants were forced to re-sign Brandon Jacobs last week, but he picked up just four yards on seven tries in his first game back. New York will need one of them to get going if they want to get out of their funk.
New York was blown out by the Broncos is Week 2 and never had a lead in the opener against the Dallas Cowboys. The Panthers, on the other hand, let two potential victories slip away. They had a fourth quarter lead on the Seahawks in Seattle, but couldn’t respond to a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson. In their next matchup against the Buffalo Bills, they lost on a last-second score from rookie E.J. Manuel.
Cam Newton has yet to play like the rookie that set numerous records in 2011. His No.1 wide receiver Steve Smith says the issue comes from the quarterback trying too hard.
Newton might not have to force things against the Giants. New York has given up 38.5 points per contest. The 24-year-old hasn’t run as much this season as he has in the past, but he might find some success on the ground against a weak linebacking corps.
If Newton can have a good game, this could turn into a shootout. Manning leads the league in picks, but he’s also just one yard shy of Aaron Rodgers for being tops in the NFL. Carolina won’t have an easy time stopping the likes of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Starting free safety Charles Godfrey has been lost for the season with a torn right Achilles. Safety Quintin Mikell will also be out with an injury and starting cornerback Josh Thomas won’t play because of a concussion.
Because the injuries, a point spread that once had Carolina favored now has the panthers getting two points. In all three weeks, the betting odds opened with the Giants as the underdog.
New York will play at 1 p.m. ET for the first time this season. FOX will air the game on TV, but viewers with a subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket Max can watch a live stream online.