Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 11/17/14

The Giants head to Bank of America stadium Thursday coming off an impressive come-from-behind victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.  In the first three quarters of the game, it looked as if the defending Super Bowl champs were on their way to an 0-2 start. Eli Manning tossed 3 interceptions, one of which was returned for a defensive touchdown. With the Giants trailing the Buccaneers by 11 points going into the fourth quarter, Manning engineered four scoring drives in the final frame to secure the win. 

Eli Manning did this past Sunday what Cam Newton has never done in his brief NFL career; recover from an interception and lead his team to a fourth-quarter comeback victory. This type of performance is not unusual for Eli, who does his best work in crunch time. Manning threw almost half of his touchdown passes and one-third of his passing yards last season in the final frame. Cam, however, has done just the opposite, starting games strong and struggling in the second half.  Newton threw two-thirds of his touchdown passes and accrued a stellar 95.8 passer rating in the first half, which was more than eight points higher than Eli. In the second half, however, Cam threw one-third of his touchdowns, 11 of his 17 interceptions, and had a passer rating more than 30 points lower than the eventual Super Bowl MVP’s. 

Football games are often decided in the second half and it is clear that the play of both of these quarterbacks reflected each team’s fortune last season. The Panthers winded up 6-10 and were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs early in the season while the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. If Thursday night’s contest comes down to the fourth quarter, it will be interesting to see if Cam can overcome his second-half woes from 2011 and make the necessary plays to win the game for the Panthers.

The monstrous improvements on the defensive side of the ball are what really sets the 2012 Panthers apart from last season. In their first two games, the Panthers have shown that they can and will rely on their defense to win football games. In Week 1, the Panthers defense held the same Tampa Bay offense that put up 34 points on the Giants to just 16 points. If the Panthers defense can hold Drew Brees and the Saints offense under 30 points, they should be able to have the same success against Eli Manning and the Giants, especially because the Giants are without All-Pro wideout Hakeem Nicks and starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw. 

The Panthers should be able to have a lot of success on offense, especially rushing the football against the Giants. The Buccaneers and Cowboys have averaged a combined 4.6 yards per carry against the Giants. Josh Freeman and Tony Romo both had big days throwing the ball against the Giants secondary throwing for a combined 550 yards. There is no reason to believe Cam won’t have the same success as his colleagues and eclipse 250 yards passing against a weak Giants’ secondary. If the Panthers want to make a playoff run, Cam is going to have to prove he can win a close game in the fourth quarter like Eli has done many times in his career. Thursday nights matchup with the New York Giants will not be that game. The Giants have too many weaknesses on defense and the Panthers will make a big statement to the defending Super Bowl champs and the entire NFL on prime time with a dominating rushing performance led by DeAngelo Williams.  

Prediction: Panthers dominate the defending Super Bowl Champs at home, 41-17.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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