Revenge is the obvious motivation here for a Giants team that not only finished 2009 in embarrassing fashion, but was also blown out, 41–9, by this same Panthers team in the final game ever at old Giants Stadium. The chance to open their new, $1.7 billion palace against the team that slammed the door on their old place? It’s just too juicy. And it’s served as motivation for the Giants ever since the schedule came out in April.
Two keys for the Giants
• The Giants have to hold the line of scrimmage, especially on defense. They were pushed around badly over the last half of last season, but no one did more damage than the Panthers. Playing without their No. 1 tailback, DeAngelo Williams, they still lit up the Giants for 247 yards on the ground.
• They need to run the ball on their own. They never once generated a consistent rushing attack in 2009. They’re healthier now and have given their No. 1 running back job to Ahmad Bradshaw. That better be the answer, or John Fox will have his defense blitzing Eli Manning all day long.
Two keys for the Panthers
• The Panthers have to ride their main horses. There aren’t many better running back tandems in the NFL than the Williams-Jonathan Stewart duo. Yeah, the Giants will be keying on that, but they did that last year too when Stewart hurt the Giants for 206 yards. They need to continue to be relentless.
• Don’t ask Matt Moore to do too much. The Giants made him look a little like Tom Brady last December (15-of-20, 171 yards, three touchdowns). He’ll see a lot of open field in the middle of the Giants’ “read and react” secondary, but if he gets too greedy it’ll lead to turnovers instead.
The Giants have had redemption and revenge on their minds since January, and there’s too much at stake for them to flop again. The Panthers are one-dimensional and the Giants have something they didn’t have last year: Depth and health. Giants 24-20.