- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants head to Carolina with an 0-2 record and desperate for a victory that would keep them from starting 0-3 for the first time since 1996. Their hosts, the Panthers, are also 0-2 and desperate for a win. Someone's going to be very worried Sunday night. Here are four things to watch for in the Giants-Panthers game at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The Giants' wide receivers should feast. Carolina is without its two starting safeties and one of its starting cornerbacks due to injuries suffered in last Sunday's loss to Buffalo. Josh Norman, their top backup corner, was limited in practice for much of the week with a leg injury. Giants receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle and tight end Brandon Myers should be able to consistently win their matchups against whomever the Panthers assign to guard them. And even if Eli Manning is as erratic as he was throwing seven interceptions in the first two games, there aren't going to be very many experienced Carolina defensive backs there to take advantage and catch his wayward throws.
Opportunity for the pass-rushers ... The Panthers' offensive tackles had a rough game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills' pass rush, which collected six sacks, including 4.5 by Mario Williams. The Giants' pass rush has been quiet for quite some time, with only five sacks in its past seven games dating back to Nov. 25. Jason Pierre-Paul got a sack in the opener in Dallas, but that's his only sack in his past nine games. He continues to work his way back from offseason back surgery, and he and Justin Tuck believe there's a week coming in which they'll look like their old selves and terrorize whichever poor quarterback they happen to be facing. The opportunity is there for them to have that game against Carolina's Cam Newton on Sunday.
... if they're careful. Newton is hard to bring down because of his size, and he can be hard to contain because of his foot speed. The Giants' defense must do a good job of containing Newton in the pocket while also finding a way to put pressure on him. They were able to limit him in last September's meeting, and forcing five turnovers helped the Giants control the game on both sides of the ball. But Knowshon Moreno's ability to get outside on his two touchdown runs Sunday was an alarming sign for New York's ability to contain runners out of the backfield, and Newton's a better runner than Moreno is.
Don't expect Andre Brown Part II. First of all, Brown is out with a broken leg, so he obviously won't be reprising his 113-yard, two-touchdown performance from last year's Week 3 trip to Carolina. But second of all, whether it's David Wilson or Da'Rel Scott or Brandon Jacobs carrying the ball this time, they're going to face a much tougher Carolina front than they faced a year ago. The addition of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and the emergence of Luke Kuechly as one of the league's best playmaking linebackers have toughened up the Carolina run defense. The Panthers might be banged up in the secondary, but their front seven is a fearsome one. Against a Giants offensive line that has had trouble creating running lanes, Carolina has a chance to control the game by pushing the Giants around up front.