Folger’s Forecast: Giants at Carolina

Now that the 0-2 Giants have the league right where they want ‘em, it’s time to win a game by the skin of their teeth and go on a run. 

What a script that would make, right? The reality is though that anything less than a win on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers and this season could turn into a disaster.

The Panthers, by the way, are also 0-2.  They stayed with the Seahawks on opening day and should have won last week against Buffalo.  Carolina may be snake-bit, but eventually the bounces are going to start falling their way.

The offensive line’s run blocking last week was simply atrocious.  Without a threat of the run, opposing defenses will crash quarterback Eli Manning’s pocket and take away that potentially great passing game that we’re all waiting to see.

David Baas and Chris Snee are the veterans who need to play better, but injuries and age may prevent them from doing anything about it.  Baas was particularly pathetic last week, but it was his first game back, albeit from yet another injury.  Let’s hope he quickly gets back up to speed.

The running backs are another issue.  Tethering David Wilson doesn’t seem quite right when he has so much to offer.  Yes, he has to hold onto the ball with two hands, but he can still do that and attack the creases with his great speed.  He needs to get more touches than the seven he got last week.

Brandon Jacobs did a serviceable job in his return.  His toughness and combativeness gave the team a chip on their shoulder that was missing.

The good news for the offense is that Carolina’s secondary has been decimated by injury.  Their strategy may be to give the Giants the run and protect against the pass, which should open things up for the run game.  If the run game can’t take advantage of this situation, then shame on them all.

Carolina’s linebacker unit is the strength of their team, but the front four does not rush the passer, so look for linebacker blitzes on passing downs.  Manning and company need to have a big game, but will only do so if the offensive line can create running room and only if the backs and offensive line can pick up those blitzes.

The Panthers had a tough time pass blocking last week. Quarterback Cam Newton tends to hold onto the ball a little too long at times, so the Giants’ defensive line must be licking their chops at the sack possibilities.  They have a chance to overwhelm the Carolina front, but only if their defensive ends come to play.

The defensive tackles’ play has been consistent but the defensive ends have been invisible.  Besides not producing a pass rush last week the defensive ends lost edge contain on both of Denver’s running touchdowns.  Giving Justin Trattou and Damontre Moore a few snaps could help light a fire under these guys.

We are concerned about the Panthers’ skill position people.  Running back DeAngelo Williams is still very good, and Newton not only has loads of talent, he has receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen to throw to.  Holding down all those weapons will not be easy.

The Giants’ secondary has played well so far, especially safeties Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy.  It’s the Giants’ linebackers that concern us most.  Right now, the starting trio of Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, and Keith Rivers probably isn’t creating much, if any, headaches for opposing offensive coordinators.

The bottom line is stopping the run remains Priority No. 1.  If the defense can’t contain Williams, then they have big problems.  The good news is that the defensive tackles have been good.  Cullen Jenkins particularly seems primed for a big game.

Suiting up only four linebackers last week was a recipe for special teams disaster.  Activating newly-acquired hitting machine Allen Bradford should help.  Every special teams needs an enforcer out there.  Right now, the Giants don’t have any, with Will Hill still two games away.

They also don’t have much of a return game.  Rueben Randle is nothing more than a sure-handed guy back there.  He’s too big and long-legged to be much of a threat.  David Wilson is the answer on kickoff returns, but Carolina’s Graham Gano was 6-6 in touchbacks last week, so don’t expect much help there.

Steve Weatherford needs to have a bounce-back game.  Veteran speedster Ted Ginn, Jr. returns punts for Carolina, while their punter has a big leg.  We’re not sure where the Giants can win the special teams battle this week.  Josh Brown is their only weapon right now.

Going 0-3 seems unthinkable for the Giants, but the Panthers are in the exact same boat.  Manning always seems to come up big after playing not particularly well, and Carolina’s secondary is ripe for the picking.  If Manning doesn’t have a big day, we’d be very surprised.

We’re concerned that Panthers receiver Steve Smith hasn’t exploded yet out of the blocks, and think he’s a big play game waiting to happen.  Barring turnovers though, the Giants should win because they have more talent than the Panthers

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