Six Points: Panthers vs. Giants

The Panthers' Josh Norman may be the best corner in the NFL. And the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. may be the best wide receiver in the NFL. They will battle head to head, and whoever is on their game may earn their team the win.

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The Carolina Panthers (13-0) have already earned everything they need for their playoff push. They have the top spot in the NFC, and a first-round bye securred. But with a perfect 16-0 season growing more an more realistic, how can they let a game slip?

The Giants (6-7) don’t have it as easy. They are vying for an NFC East divisional title, and are in a current three way tie with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. The odds may be stacked against them, but they need to win this game.

Check out each team’s three key points to win the game.

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1. Let Cam Newton air it out early and often

With no Jonathan Stewart in Week 15, the Panthers would be smart to take advantage of Newton’s matchup with the New York defense. While the Giants haven’t been terrible, they’ve still allowed 4,092 passing yards and 23 touchdowns through the air this season. Newton, on the other hand, has been on fire as of late, and there’s no reason to make him slow down now.

2. Utilize the running backs in the passing game

Whether it’s Fozzy Whittaker, Mike Tolbert or even Cameron Artis-Payne, Newton should look to dump it down to his backs. The Giants have allowed opposing running backs to catch a whopping 76 passes for 651 yards and four scores this season. Whittaker and Tolbert are both strong pass-catchers, so don’t be surprised to see them get involved right out of the gate.

3. Send pressure in the face of Eli Manning

During the most recent victory for the Giants, Manning was sacked zero times and completed an incredible 87.1 percent of his passes. In the three losses before that? Manning was sacked nine times and never saw his completion percentage go above 54.5 percent. It’s not a huge surprise that these two stats go hand-in-hand, and the Panthers will likely look to send the house against Manning. Manning struggles with interior pressure.

1. Don’t rely solely on Odell Beckham Jr.

The Odell Beckham Jr. – Josh Norman matchup may be epic, but Odell Beckham Jr. may end up having a rough game. This year, Norman has been practically impossible to beat. He has given up 89 total yards to Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Denard Hopkins, Mike Evans and T.Y. Hilton this year. That means some of the top receivers in the NFL have only managed to average 17.8 yards per game against Norman. Dwayne Harris and Rueben Randle may end up being Eli Manning’s best option.

2. Force Carolina to run

With Stewart out of the lineup, the Panthers lose the man responsible for 54 percent of their total run yards. Newton himself has accounted for 26 percent of the run yards, but with the playoffs secured, and a first-round playoff bye already secured, there’s no way the Panthers want to increase his workload with Stewart out. Next in line for the carries? A split between Whittaker and Tolbert, who have combined for just 13 percent of Carolina’s run yards between the two of them. And if the the Panthers do play a conservative game for the sake of staying healthy, both Tolbert and Whittaker could see a lot of work. Whittaker is the more likely player to see a big day, so putting a stop to him will either force the Panthers to play the game they don’t want to play or continue working through the run game.

3. Go for it

This season, NFL teams have attempted a 4th down conversion 22 times against the Panthers this year. That’s more than any other team in the NFL. Teams have converted on 54.5 percent of those attempts. That’s the fifth-highest percentage among defenses with at least 10 attempts against. The Giants may find themselves behind against the top team in the NFL. If it’s a fourth down on Carolina’s 35 yard line, they need to just go for it. They can’t afford to not extend the drive against this team.