The Giants are trying to do what no team has done since Nov. 30, 2014: beat the Panthers in the regular season.
Carolina, which won its final four games last season to make the playoffs, is now 13-0 in 2015 and the last undefeated team in the NFL heading into Week 15. The Panthers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 13 points per game, including a 38-point shutout of the Falcons in their last outing.
"It's an exciting time for us," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We are in the hunt here in the NFC East. This is a very, very good football team, an undefeated football team. We are excited to host them this weekend."
Here are three keys for the Giants to knock off the perfect Panthers:
1. CONTAIN CAM
Playmakers on the Panthers first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike
Like defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said this week, there are "a lot of keys" to containing Cam Newton, who is in the middle of an MVP-caliber campaign. Newton has thrown for 3,062 yards and a career-high 28 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. On top of that, he has rushed for 480 yards and seven more scores, making him the kind of dynamic player and dual threat that opponents rarely see. Newton runs the zone-read but also has a number of runs designed for him, from the draw to the lead and the counter. The Giants have some experience with the style, including last week when Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had four carries for 24 yards with a long of 12 yards. But Newton provides a unique skillset.
"On a regular basis, yes," Coughlin said when asked if Newton's skills present a unique challenge. "But we saw the option the other night, the zone read the other night. Did not defend that particularly well, but it is something that we will see. And then an extension of that is the various other runs which are designed runs on which he carries the ball."
Added Jenkins: "The guy has a rocket for an arm, he's athletic, hard to tackle, his running ability. I'd say he's probably the best running quarterback in this league, and you add that with his ability to pass and get the ball down the field, and then with the running game as well. They have a lot of weapons and this will be the toughest offense, most complete offense, that we've played."
2. WRAP UP
In order to match Carolina's physicality on Sunday, Coughlin said the Giants need to clean up the missed tackles, which cost them yards and downs last week in Miami. The Panthers rush the ball 51.2 percent of the time, making them the only team in the NFL who runs more than it passes.
"We need to [clean up the missed tackles]," Coughlin said. "Yeah, that was obvious the other night. We need to do a better job of that. If you look at this particular team on the defensive side of the ball, they do an excellent job of swarming to the ball carrier and gang tackling, open-field tackling, etc."
But how can a team improve tackling this late in the season?
"You can improve anything that you make an emphasis and continue to talk about the fundamentals and the basics that are involved in it," Coughlin continued. "Be in the right position, have leverage by virtue of the other people that are coming towards the ball carrier so that he doesn't have all the maneuverability. Sometimes it's important just to make sure that the ball gets turned back inside and you can then assure some type of a physical tackle. But you can improve anything, no matter what, as long as you make it very important to you and you drill accordingly."
3. PROTECT THE FOOTBALL
The Panthers and Giants have been two of the best teams in the turnover department throughout the season. Carolina is currently first in the NFL in takeaways (33) and differential (plus-18), while Big Blue is tied for second (25) and third (plus-10), respectively.
"They do a good job, they do a good job against the run," Manning said. "They get teams in third-and-long, they get a big lead on teams, so the second half, they're having to throw it. They get a lot of turnovers on defense, so they've got a lot of good things going for them."