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Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Next Level Preview: Giants vs. Panthers

By ESPN New York staff

The Giants have a quick turnaround Thursday after their thrilling 41-34 win over the Buccaneers in Week 2. New York trailed by as many as 14 points on Sunday but was led by Eli Manning’s 243 passing yards in the fourth quarter to complete its comeback. Manning struggled in the first three quarters, compiling a Total QBR of just 15.1. But, as usual, the fourth quarter was Manning’s time, as he compiled a Total QBR of 99.6 out of a possible 100. The Giants will travel to Carolina to face a Panthers team that also bounced back after a Week 1 loss. Cam Newton led the Panthers past the Saints 35-27, as Carolina rushed for 219 yards. Here are some areas to keep an eye on this Thursday:

 • Eli Manning threw for 250 yards on throws of 15 or more yards in Week 2, his most since 2007, and was especially effective in the fourth quarter. Manning threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns on throws of at least 15 yards in the final period against the Bucs, after throwing for just 65 yards in the entire game against the Cowboys in Week 1. Manning was especially effective when targeting Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on throws of at least 15 yards, with four of his six completions and 193 of his 250 yards going to those two receivers. While the Giants had success against a porous Tampa Bay secondary in Week 2, they may find it tougher to throw downfield against the Panthers on Thursday. Carolina has allowed just one pass play of at least 30 yards this season and is one of 11 teams in the NFL to not allow a touchdown on throws of 15 or more yards.

 • Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were outstanding against the Buccaneers, combining for 378 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The duo was especially effective with yards after the catch in Week 2. After amassing a combined 21 yards after the catch in Week 1, Nicks and Cruz combined for 146 yards after the catch on Sunday, with 86 yards coming in the fourth quarter alone. While Nicks and Cruz are the big receiving threats for the Giants, New York’s defense will need to contend with Carolina’s Steve Smith. The five-time pro-bowler has 101 yards after the catch this season, which is sixth in the league, and his four receptions of 30 or more yards leads the NFL.

 • After allowing the league’s third-most rushing yards outside the tackles in Week 1, the Giants held Doug Martin and the Buccaneers in check in Week 2, allowing just 20 yards. Last week the Panthers had the most rushes (17) and yards (138) outside the tackles, and also tallied five first downs in such situations, tied for the most in the league. The Giants will also need to be ready for Carolina’s read option. Over half of the Panthers’ rushes last week were read options, where the Panthers gashed the Saints for 145 yards and 6.3 yards per carry.

 • Cam Newton had 57 rushing yards outside the tackles against the Saints, after rushing for a career-low four yards outside the tackles in Week 1. While the Giants will need to contain Newton on the edges, they also have to be mindful of Carolina’s passing attack. Newton has thrown for 319 yards this season on throws of 15 or more yards, which ranks second in the NFL behind Michael Vick (363). New York excelled with its deep passing in Week 2 but defensively the Giants’ secondary has struggled to limit big plays. The Giants have allowed 319 passing yards on throws of at least 15 yards this season, third-worst in the NFL. New York has also allowed four touchdowns on throws of 15 or more yards downfield, tied for the most in the league.