After 14 games, it looks like the Panthers' starting defensive unit might be "solidified." Barring a late-week injury, the Panthers will probably start the same unit that took the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 12. Injuries and decisions to start four games in the nickel package had forced the Panthers into 14 different lineups in 14 games.
Manning, offense difficult to get off field
The Giants' offense - led by the efficient ELI MANNING - ranks fifth in the league (382.7 yards per game). Manning is especially effective on third down, with a 116.9 passer rating, second behind Green Bay's AARON RODGERS (134.4). Manning will be going against a Panthers' defense that has become difficult to throw against (eight interceptions in the past four games).
Giants no longer sport bruising ground game
The Giants' rushing attack is not as dominant as last season. Remember New York pounding the ball for 301 yards on the ground in that epic 34-28 overtime victory against Carolina last season? The Giants' BRANDON JACOBS does not have a 100-yard rushing game this season.
QB has won three times against winning teams
Conventional wisdom suggests it's too early for a read on whether MATT MOORE has what it takes to be the Panthers' permanent quarterback. But he has this going for him: Three of his four career victories came against teams with winning records (Seattle and Tampa Bay in 2007; Minnesota this season). Another quality opponent looms today.
Record at Giants Stadium
Touchdowns in 30 games by Jonathan Stewart
Yards rushing by the Vikings against the Panthers last Sunday, a season low for the Carolina defense
Tackles by linebacker Jon Beason (needs 18 to break his team record set in 2007).
Team-leading sacks by defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
Average yards per rush in win against Panthers last December (301 total).
Points scored against Washington on Monday, most on the road since 1954.
Record in Giants Stadium (today is the final regular-season game there for the Giants).
I generally get depressed on the day after Christmas anyway. This year I went ahead and assured it by scheduling myself to fly into Newark, N.J., on Dec. 26.
What a game this was in 2008. Do you remember? Both teams were 11-3, and the game would be played for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
DEANGELO WILLIAMS scored four touchdowns in that one. If JIMMY HOFFA is really buried in one of the Giants' end zones, it was amazing DeAngelo didn't find him. But then Carolina's run defense disintegrated, JOHN KASAY couldn't connect on a 50-yard field goal at the end of regulation that would have won it, and New York won in overtime, 34-28.
Now the Giants are 8-6. Carolina is 6-8. New York is trying to eke out a playoff spot, and Carolina's players and coaches are trying to keep their jobs.
I underestimated MATT MOORE last week against Minnesota. I never expected Moore to throw for 299 yards and outplay BRETT FAVRE, but he did. That was the best NFL game Moore has ever played, but this will be a sterner test - on the road and in the cold, where Moore did not fare well two weeks ago against New England.
The Panthers continue to be difficult to predict. What sort of team loses to the Bills and Jets and beats Arizona and Minnesota? But I think ELI MANNING is too hot for the Panthers.
N.Y. GIANTS 24, CAROLINA 17