3TFO: Giants @ Panthers, Week 3
The Panthers come into this game off their second close loss of the season. This has become a running theme for the Panthers. In the past two seasons, eight of their 11 losses have been by 6 points or fewer. This trend seems to be continuing into 2013. In the Panthers’ Week 2 loss, there were positive signs for the offense, especially along the offensive line. Outside of Byron Bell, the other four starting offensive lineman graded positively.
The New York Giants are also coming off a second straight loss to start the season. Unlike the Panthers, the Giants’ losses have not been close battles. The Giants have given the ball away 10 times already this season, which is nearly half of their 2012 total (21). After having a tough time stopping Peyton Manning and all his weapons, the Giants should be excited to play the Panthers.
Panthers Defensive Line vs. Giants Run Game
The strength of the Panthers’ defense has been the front four, who are led by the leader in our ‘Race for the Rookie of the Year’, Star Lotulelei (+7.6). Most of Lotulelei’s grade has been based on his run defense. Lotulelei has a Run Stop Percentage of 8.3%.
The Giants’ running attack has been very poor this season, especially after all of the hype on David Wilson who hasn’t looked anything like a starting running back. While the Giants’ running back has struggled to gain yards, (65 Yards) the offensive line has not been able to create any openings (46 Yards After Contact).
After Week 1, it looked like the Panthers might have one of the best defensive lines in the league. The Bills managed to dominate the Panthers’ front four — apart from Lotulelei. If the Panthers can get the same production from their front four that they did against Seattle, the Giants will struggle to get any help from their running game.
Justin Tuck vs. Byron Bell
Justin Tuck might not be the player he once was, but he showed promising signs of his old form in Week 1. Tuck produced his second-highest grade since the 2011 Super Bowl because of a 14.8 Pass Rushing Productivity. However, in Week 2 Tuck did not record a single pressure in 31 opportunities.
This week verses the Panthers, Tuck should find life a lot easier facing Byron Bell. Bell is currently ranked as the third-worst graded right tackle (-6.5). In Week 1, Bell did a respectable job against the Seahawks, however last week he struggled mightily against Mario Williams, giving up three sacks and four hurries for a 87.0 Pass Blocking Efficiency. The problem did not end in the passing game for Bell, as he also graded poorly (-3.4) in run blocking. If Bell performs the same way in Week 3, the Panthers’ offense could be facing a lot of difficulty. The same can also be said for Tuck. If he can play at the same level that he did in Week 1, the Giants’ front four can once again become the strong unit that helped win a Super Bowl.
Eli Manning vs. Panthers Secondary
As everyone knows by now, Eli Manning has thrown seven interceptions this season. However, what you might not realize is that Eli has a positive PFF grade this season (+1.8). On the other side, the Panthers’ secondary has had some issues early this season. The starting secondary already lost Charles Godfrey. While he isn’t going to be confused with Ed Reed in his prime, Godfrey is still an improvement over Michael Mitchell who is rumored to be taking Godfrey’s place in the starting lineup.
The communication has already been an issue with the Panthers, as Sam Monson explains in the Analysis Notebook: Week 2. Communication could be an area to watch, as the Giants like to challenge defenses with three receivers on the field. In the past two seasons, Eli has thrown for over 1,000 yards on deep passes alone.
Eli, however, has struggled in developing a strong connection with Rueben Randle. Four of Eli ‘s seven interceptions have come from throwing to Randle. The connection between Randle and his QB has been particularly off on deep throws. Eli has targeted Randle five times, resulting in one catch for 26 yards and two picks. The relationship between these two could be the factor in determining which Eli Manning we will see. Will it be the 2011 playoff version where Eli seemingly can’t make a mistake, or will he be the good quarterback who is still turnover prone?