Carolina Panthers (0-0, 0-0 ATS) at New York Giants (0-0, 0-0 ATS) NFL Week 1, Sunday September 12th, 1:00PM, Eastern New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Panthers +7/Giants -7
Opening week in the NFL will be highlighted by an interesting battle when the New York Giants host the Carolina Panthers from New Meadowlands Stadium. The interesting aspect to this battle is the fact both teams are trying to rebound from very disappointing 2009 campaigns. The Giants failed to make the playoffs for the first time since QB Eli Manning’s rookie season. The Panthers were favorites in the NFC South heading into 2009 before plummeting to a dismal 8-8 record while witnessing the end of the quarterback Jake Delhomme’s era in Carolina. However, both teams look to rebound in 2010 and get back to challenging for an NFC Title run. Still, there are still lingering questions around both ball clubs that have yet to be answered.
The Giants biggest difference in 2009 disappointing run was the lack of running game on the offensive side of the ball and the non-existent pass rush on the defensive side of the ball. Running back Brandon Jacobs was hampered with a knee injury that many felt held him back most of the season. Jacobs totaled just 835 yards on the season and just 3.7 yards per carry. Also, Ahmad Bradshaw got his share of carries amidst Jacobs’ struggles carrying the ball on the ground for 778 yards. However with Jacobs back to 100% entering 2010, all expectations point to Jacobs returning as the work horse for the Giants ground game. As for New York, they would definitely love to see the running attack get back to its dominating form from 2008 when they led the NFL in rushing.
If the Giants can get the ground game going then the offense may be extremely dangerous. Despite missing the playoffs, QB Eli Manning had career numbers with the help of some exploding young talent at the wide receiver positions. Manning completed 62.3% passing with 4021 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. The young trio of wide outs Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and Hakeem Nicks proved to be the most promising future for the Giants offense. The 3 standouts combined for over 2,800 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. WR Steve Smith led the team in receiving with 1,220 yards and 7 touchdowns. Considering the experience factor, most would assume all 3 wide outs to be even better heading into 2010 which is scary for any opposing defenses.
The other major problem the Giants had were the measly 32 total sacks amassed in 2009. The Giants defense could get no pressure on opposing quarterbacks which made the secondary look really bad throughout the season as well. The Giants brought in Antrel Rolle at the safety position and drafted DE Jason Pierre-Paul out of South Florida for the pass rush issues. Hopefully, they will fill some of the holes on defense for the Giants. The pass rush will definitely be the key to the game against the Panthers.
Delhomme was let go after 7 seasons starting at quarterback in Carolina. Matt Moore stepped in during the latter part of 2009 and showed some signs that he could perform. Moore completed 61.6% for 1053 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 2 picks. Also, Carolina drafted a promising quarterback in Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame. Clausen is a pro style quarterback with a lot of poise that is already familiar with pro style offensive schemes from his days under Charlie Weiss.
Clausen may find the playing field very early in the year because the Panthers are going to try to break him in quickly because he gives the biggest upside towards Carolina’s future. Still whether Moore or Clausen starts, both quarterbacks will have to control the football and look to get the ball to WR Steve Smith. Smith was held to just 982 yards in his worse season in over 5 years last year. However, the reason for the decrease in number solely reflects the quarterback issues that were ongoing. If the quarterback situation gets under control, look for Smith to have a big season.
Still, the key to the Panthers offense will come from their ground game. Carolina running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams both rushed for over 1,100 yards a piece last season as the most dangerous running duo in the league. No doubt the focal point for Coach John Fox will again be the ground game heading into an uncertain season. However, the questions still remain around he passing game and if it will be strong enough to make the Panthers a legitimate force in the NFC. On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are missing their two biggest players from 2009. Julius Peppers departed to Chicago after being franchised by the Panthers in 2009. Also, linebacker Thomas Davis is out for half of the season with a tore ACL. DE Everette Brown will look to replace Peppers dominance on the defensive front. However with two big time losses on defense, it does not give promising hopes to the defense improving in 2010.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Spread: I believe the Giants will probably win this game straight up but that the Panthers will cover. The Carolina o-line is VASTLY underrated this year which will in turn provide one heck of a running game. Generally speaking, teams that are able to run the ball well win/cover. Take the Panthers plus the points.