18 December, 2008


December 18, 2008

In three days, a scant two weeks after the “latest biggest game in franchise history”, to quote John Fox, our Carolina Panthers take the field at the Meadowlands for the single most significant regular season game the team has ever played. It will be a primetime game, seen by everyone who cares not only about the teams that will be playing, but those who simply love the game. I don’t have to tell you what’s at stake. This is a TITANONORMOUSMEGAHUGE, use all of the adjectives that fit, GAME! Three weeks ago, the Giants were the measuring stick of the league. After the Plaxidnent, the team became mortal. Now that injuries have started to pile up on the GeeMen, all of a sudden, the door’s been opened for a new challenger-


But it won’t be easy. First, the stadium will be under a full winter assault. This will obviously favour the running game. The winds will influence passing and kicking, as it always does this time of year. Second, the stadium will be filled with hostile New York fans making incredible decibels of noise, greatly affecting the visiting offenses’ calls at the line. Third, the home G’ints are a championship football team. Pride and heart are tremendous motivating factors, and they will sorely want to prove not only to the nation, but to themselves, that they are not falling apart despite looking bad in losing two straight games, one of them at home. But here’s the good news- John Fox and his staff, as you might already know, are quite familiar with the whole New York vibe. The Panthers have played here, in December, and played very well. They will be prepared, and they should have a sound game plan.

So what do they do?

I have a breakdown that I think is the blueprint for victory this Sunday night. On offense, it’s of the utmost importance that the running game be given a chance. The Giant’s defensive line has a gap- Nose Tackle Fred Robbins, their main runstopper, has been struggling with a shoulder injury, and hasn’t practiced. Obviously, the run will need to go through his replacement. If we can average AT LEAST 3.9 yards per carry, it will be tough for the Giants to keep us off the field. Both Stewart and Willams posses the kind of breakaway speed that demoralizes and beats up defenders. It’s also vital that the Panthers are able to neutralize the crown noise assault with an effective silent snap count. Drives stymied by false starts are not going to be acceptable in this game. It’s very likely that the Giants will commit a bulk of their defensive resources to stopping the run, and this is where Moose and Squirr- uh, Smitty come in. Should that happen, that would leave single coverage in the defensive backfield, and this is a matchup that favours the Panthers. Steve Smith has the explosive potential to make the Giants pay for the commitment to stopping the run. Should the Panthers find themselves in passing situations, the backs will have to commit to pass blocking, because Justin Tuck is every bit as formidable, if not moreso, that Julius Peppers. Failure to pick up the Giants’ pass rush in the event the run game is stuffed will doom chances for victory. John Fox knows quite well how to win here. I guarantee you he’ll be patient, and conservative to start. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him play the field position game at first, giving the running game a chance. We might punt a few times while we beat up the defense. And MOST importantly, WE MUST NOT TURN THE BALL OVER!!! That goes without saying.

On defense, our number one task, similar to the Giants’ game plan, will be to stop Brandon Jacobs and who ever else totes the rock for these guys. I guarantee you Jacobs will play, but he’ll be less than 100 percent. He’ll be attacking the spot Kemoaeuteu anchors, but Maake may also be less than 100 percent. This is where the strength of our defense should make a difference. Because the Giants will commit the run as well as we are, our edge in linebacking strength should contain the yardage potential. Having Davis, BEASTon and Diggs plugging up gaps in run defense should force Manning to pass- and that’s where our safeties had better be able to cover the tight end. I have this feeling that Kevin Boss will be the primary target for Manning in the absence of Burress. Without Plaxico, the Giants’ receiving corps is simply ordinary. On the defensive line, SOMEONE, whether it be Brayton, Johnson or Lewis will have to make a play should Peppers continue to face double teams. Peppers himself needs to find that next gear he has to bust through these counter-measures. As I said before, Pep is the wild card. Should the Panthers slow the running attack, then a ferocious pass rush will be needed, and the secondary will need to keep their coverage tight. Chris Gamble should be able to blanket the remaining best receiver, Amani Toomer, and Lucas had BETTER be able to cover the OTHER Steve Smith, the #12 for the GeeMen. I have a feeling that in the beginning, Coughlin will be every bit as patient and cautious as Foxy, and will be playing field position. Meaning, special teams could be huge in this game. Coverage on punts and kickoffs will be VITAL – the better team in this phase of the game gives them the best chance to win, given the conditions and fairly even matchup factors. And guess what? The Panthers are better statistically here. And THIS, this could wind up being the ultimate key to victory in this game.

There you go FanZ- That’s my prescription for victory. Should the Panthers do these things well, be prepared for three weeks of exhilaration not seen since our Super Bowl season! I absolutely cannot wait. I hope to see many of you this weekend-

If not-

In the lot in January!

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