The Panthers haven’t struggled to score points this season, but Cam Newton is going to welcome multiple weapons back against the Giants this Sunday.
On one hand, the Panthers bye came at the worst time for a team that was coming off a big win against the Bengals. On the other hand, this team really benefited from a week to get some key guys healthy. Specifically, Cam Newton is going to take on the Giants with several key returners on offense.
The most important player Newton should get back this week is Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner. He hasn’t played since Week 1 after suffering a concussion, but has returned to practice in the off week. He should really help the Carolina offense generate some more push up front. That should bode well for Christian McCaffrey’s ability to run the ball and Newton’s ability to stay clean in the pocket.
The return of Curtis Samuel may not have as much of an immediate impact, but it’s definitely something the Giants coaching staff will need to think about. He hasn’t played this season after undergoing surgery for an irregular heartbeat just before the regular season began. His return gives the Panthers receiving corps a real burner. Don’t be surprised if Norv Turner draws up a few plays to give him a chance to burn the Giants defense down the field.
If the Giants really want to have a chance in this game, they’re going to need to keep the score down. Eli Manning doesn’t have the arm strength to really test the Panthers secondary. Pat Shurmur’s game plan will be to dominate the time of possession by running Saquon Barkley. Sprinkling in some shots to Odell Beckham Jr. will fill out the playbook, but there’s no guarantee Manning can find him when he finds daylight against the Carolina secondary.
In the end, the return of several important offensive players for the Panthers will get a lot of attention in this game, but it’s their defense that will carry the day. Dontari Poe, Kawann Short and Luke Kuechly are going to dominate the middle of the field. That will make it impossible for the Giants to establish any kind of offensive consistency. Manning and company might make a few decent plays on the outside, but they won’t make enough to outscore the Panthers.
Look for McCaffrey to have another big day against a pretty average Giants defense. This one won’t get out of hand, but if the Panthers play anywhere near their capability, they should win easily. Expect the Giants to suffer another defeat at the hands of the NFC South.