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10 things to watch for against the Panthers

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1. SPOILER ALERT


NEWS
> [The Coughlin Corner: Exclusive interview](http://www.giants.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/The-Coughlin-Corner-Momentum-down-the-stretch/ceb5c6b5-86a7-47ae-99a3-0bcbba39a25e)
> [Fact or Fiction: Week 15 Predictions](http://www.giants.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/Fact-or-Fiction-Predictions-for-Giants-vs-Panthers/56db719c-0d05-4b16-a344-e5a95e7b2583)
> [Read Panthers Scouting Report](http://www.giants.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/Scouting-Report-Breaking-down-the-Panthers/6f2ff42d-a0e0-4143-8c3f-261fdd87b738)
PHOTOS
> [5 Players to Watch vs. Panthers](http://www.giants.com/photos/photos/5-Players-to-Watch-vs-Panthers/1ddad9d3-24e4-42e4-b181-4e70cc7f1e3a)
VIDEOS
> [Papa's Perspective: Keys to victory](http://www.giants.com/videos/videos/Papas-Perspective-Keys-to-victory-vs-Panthers/5d7efdef-0074-4a64-b488-173101f490b0)


In the thick of their playoff hunt, the 6-7 New York Giants welcome the 13-0 Carolina Panthers to MetLife Stadium in Week 15. As the last undefeated team in the NFL, Carolina already wrapped up the NFC South title and a first-round bye, but the team is still out to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Meanwhile, Big Blue, which is in a three-way tie with Washington and Philadelphia atop the NFC East, has a history of spoiling bids at perfection. The Giants defeated the 13-0 Broncos in 1998 and 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

"I don't think there's anything about our preparation that's different," coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's obviously the excitement about being involved in a game against a team of this ability and the natural competitive instincts that I would hope everyone at this level has in terms of playing against someone such as this and putting your best foot forward."

2. ELI VS. CAM

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Carolina Panthers this Sunday

Two No. 1 overall picks meet again on Sunday, and both are on top of their games right now. Eli Manning was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after completing 27 of 31 passes for 337 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in Miami. Manning's 87.1 completion percentage was the highest by a Giants quarterback in a regular-season game (minimum 20 attempts) and the second-best mark in franchise history behind Phil Simms' 88.0 completion percentage (22 of 25) in Super Bowl XXI. Meanwhile, Cam Newton has thrown for 3,062 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in his fifth season. He also has 480 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground.

3. GIANTS INJURY REPORT

Out: LB Devon Kennard (foot/hamstring), DT Markus Kuhn (knee), DE George Selvie (concussion).

Questionable: LT Ereck Flowers (ankle), WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder), LB J.T. Thomas III (ankle).

4. PANTHERS INJURY REPORT

Out: RB Jonathan Stewart (foot), LB David Mayo (hamstring).

Doubtful: S Colin Jones (groin).

Probable: TE Greg Olsen (knee), CB Charles Tillman (knee), WR Brenton Bersin (groin).

5. KEEP POUNDING?

Without Stewart, the NFL's third-leading rusher entering Week 15, the Panthers can turn to running backs Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whittaker. Carolina rushes the ball 51.2 percent of the time, making it the only team in the league that runs more often than it passes. A lot of that, of course, is due to the dual threat provided by Newton, who is second on the team behind Stewart in carries (111) and rushing yards (480).

6. GIANTS ENCOURAGED BY RUNNING GAME

The numbers didn't jump off the page, but the Giants saw flashes in their run game last week, especially late when they needed to pick up first downs and grind out the clock. Rashad Jennings took the bulk of the workload, rushing 22 times for 81 yards, which were both highs by a Giants running back this year.

7. MR. DECEMBER

Odell Beckham Jr. has eclipsed 125 receiving yards and caught a touchdown in each of his six career games in the month of December. Beckham averages 9.3 receptions, 153.5 yards and 1.7 touchdowns per game in December. Meanwhile, his upcoming matchup with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is the one to watch on Sunday. Norman and the Panthers allow 6.0 yards per pass and have 21 interceptions as a unit, which are both tops in the league. 

"As far as I'm concerned, the Giants play the Panthers," Beckham said. "There's [10] other people on the field and everybody has a one-on-one matchup. So no matter who you're going against, the goal is to win your matchup and that's the plan for us is to try and win the matchup the most amount of times we can."

8. GIANTS USING THREE SAFETIES, RELEASE MERIWEATHER

The Giants recently released veteran safety Brandon Meriweather, who signed with the Giants in the middle of the preseason. Meriweather started 11 games and had two interceptions before missing the last two weeks with a knee injury. That leaves the Giants with three safeties: rookie Landon Collins, Craig Dahl, and Cooper Taylor. All three saw extensive action in last week's game in Miami.

"We're going to play three safeties," coach Tom Coughlin said earlier in the day. "[Taylor is] going to get his opportunity to play. You have guys that are involved in special teams as well. When it comes time for them to have a blow, they get a blow. And if it's working out, they may take an extra drive. But they're all three going to play."

9. FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

Super Bowl XLII-winning defensive tackle Barry Cofield is back with the Giants. The 31-year-old has started 129 of 135 games in the NFL, spread between the Giants (2006-10) and Redskins (2011-2014). He has not played in a game since Nov. 28, 2014.

"Everybody, once they hit like year eight or nine, they should take a year off," Cofield said. "It's been almost a calendar year since I hit anybody and it definitely shows in the way that I feel. I'm excited about that, I feel like it was a fountain of youth, and I feel like I can play a few more years, that's my goal."

10. FINISH

Everyone knows the stats by now. Six of the Giants' seven losses have been by a combined 18 points, including five that saw the Giants leading in the final two minutes. However, they righted that wrong last week in Miami and will try to against the Panthers, who are outscoring their opponents by an average of 13 points.

"Well, we were able to finish a game," Manning said. "I think that was important. We've done it sometimes, but haven't been able to do it enough. We've been in a lot of close games and we were able to finish the game strong and have a great fourth quarter and make the comeback to get the lead and then hold onto it. That was good, but hey, it's a brand new week. It'll be a new situation and we have to go out there and play great football."

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