DEALING WITH INJURIES
The Giants entered Week 6 with 13 players on injured reserve, which did not even include the likes of Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton, all of whom missed last week's game against the Rams. Two more players joined the long list, as starting left tackle Andrew Thomas and wide receiver/kick returner C.J. Board were both added to IR following the loss.
Thomas, who was already dealing with a foot injury, hurt his ankle, while Board suffered a fractured forearm. In addition, rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who had been enjoying a breakout over the last few games, aggravated his ankle injury and was forced to miss most of last week's game. Toney, along with Barkley and Golladay, have not practiced all week and have been ruled out for Sunday's contest. Evan Engram was also an addition to the injury report with a calf issue, and his status remains up in the air as he was listed on Friday as questionable.
The Panthers lead the all-time regular season series, 6-4. Carolina also won the only postseason meeting during the 2005 playoffs, 23-0, in the NFC Wild Card game. Carolina took home the victory in the last meeting between the two teams in 2018, when former Panthers and current Giants kicker Graham Gano connected on a 63-yard field goal. Carolina has won each of the last three games against the Giants.
- Out: RB Saquon Barkley (ankle), WR Kenny Golladay (knee), WR Kadarius Toney (ankle)
- Doubtful: DL Danny Shelton (pec)
- Questionable: TE Evan Engram (calf), WR John Ross (hamstring), WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring), WR Kadarius Toney (ankle)
- Out: LB Shaq Thompson (foot), WR Terrace Marshall (concussion), FB Gio Ricci (concussion)
- Questionable: OT Cam Irving (illness), WR Alex Erickson (concussion)
WHO STEPS UP AT WR?
The unit would benefit from the presence of Sterling Shepard if he's able to suit up, although the veteran was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. Shepard returned to the field last week after missing two games with a hamstring injury and caught 10 of 14 targets for 76 yards against the Rams. He is up to 28 receptions for 299 yards in 3+ games. The Giants are optimistic they will get Darius Slayton back this week after the young receiver missed the last three games with his own hamstring injury. Between Slayton, John Ross, Collin Johnson, Dante Pettis and hopefully Shepard, the Giants will need their group of receivers to step up against a tough Panthers defense.
"We've got guys who have stepped up and we've got guys who can make plays and guys who can do a lot of things, who bring a lot of different things to the table," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "It's about playing to those strengths and I'm confident, and I think we're confident as a group, that we'll be able to perform."
ESTABLISH THE RUN
Devontae Booker has taken over as the team's lead back. While filling in for Saquon Barkley after he hurt his ankle in Dallas, Booker recorded 19 touches (16 rushes, 3 receptions) for 58 yards and a touchdown. The 29-year-old was more efficient against the Rams, rushing the ball 12 times for 41 yards (3.4 avg.) while adding four receptions for 28 yards.
"When you look at Devontae, he's had success in some zone schemes, but there's also a lot of things he does in some of the gap schemes, the pin and pulls, where he can stick his foot in the ground and get vertical down the field that he does very well," Coach Judge said. "Kind of more run to his size and one-cut type ability… You see Book every game make some kind of a tough catch, even on a checkdown or whatever it is…"
The Panthers sport one of the league's top defenses, but they have been susceptible against the run. Opponents are averaging 4.7 yards per carry against Carolina, which ranks 27th in the league. While they held each of their first three opponents to under 50 rushing yards, their defense has allowed an average of 178 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks, all of which resulted in losses.
DJ BACK ON TRACK
Daniel Jones had a strong start to his third NFL season, averaging just under 300 passing yards per game while rushing for 188 yards and two touchdowns on just 27 carries, good for an average of 7.0 yards per carry. But he was forced out of Week 5 in the first half after suffering a concussion, and then struggled against the Rams last week, registering a career-high four turnovers with a 56.9 completion percentage.
The Panthers' defense has thrived in the passing game, as their 196.8 passing yards per game allowed is the second-best in the NFL. They are tied for 16th in passing touchdowns though, having given up 10.
Andrew Thomas, who was enjoying a strong second season, has been placed on injured reserve, meaning the shuffling along the offensive line will continue. Nate Solder and Matt Peart will start at the two tackle spots, with practice squad call-up Korey Cunningham rotating in, as well.
"You'll see all three tackles play this week," Judge said. "I would expect all of our guys to play both right and left. That's what we're going to practice and prepare this week. You'll see Nate, Matt and Cunningham out there."
The Panthers have 16 sacks on the season, tied for the sixth-most in the league, led by Haason Reddick's 6.5. Reddick registered five sacks against the Giants last season as a member of the Cardinals. Right behind the veteran edge rusher is Brian Burns, who has picked up three sacks.
"There's a lot of speed off the edge," Judge said about Carolina's pass rush. "You've got to account for how they play. They're very disruptive, they get up the field, they do such a good job on early downs because that speed really coming up the field and the speed on the second level with the backers scraping over the top, they really disrupt your run lanes."
DARNOLD RETURNS TO METLIFE
After spending the first three seasons of his career with the New York Jets, Sam Darnold will make his return to MetLife Stadium for the first time on Sunday. It's been an up-and-down season for the Panthers QB. In the first three weeks of the season, all Carolina wins, Darnold accounted for six total touchdowns (three passing, three rushing) and only two turnovers (one interception, one fumble). But over the last three weeks, all Panthers losses, the 24-year-old has six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) to go with seven turnovers (six interceptions, one fumble). Those seven giveaways since Week 4 is the most in the NFL.
"I think he's been very productive," Judge said on Darnold. "I think he's a big, strong quarterback. He's got a big arm and he's very aggressive with a lot of throws. You can't forget about this guy's legs. It's the one thing you see a lot of teams right now, they're dropping you in the zone or letting the man kind of a carry them out of it. He does a good job keeping his eyes downfield. When he sees an opportunity, he pulls it and runs."
PANTHERS OFFENSIVE PLAYMAKERS
The Panthers have a clear alpha dog among their group of talented wide receivers. Fourth-year receiver D.J. Moore is off to the best start of his young career, catching 40 passes for 513 yards and three touchdowns through the first six games of the season. He is tied with Houston's Brandin Cooks for the fifth-most receptions in the league, while his receiving yards ranks seventh heading into Week 7.
"I think one, his explosiveness," cornerback James Bradberry said on what makes Moore, his former teammate, such a talented receiver. "He's very fast and quick. Two, he's able to judge the ball well down the field. Also, he's a very good runner after the catch. I'm not sure what his stats are, but I know when I played with him, he was very good at catching the ball on slants and creating explosive plays off of that."
Moore is joined in the WR room by veteran Robby Anderson. Anderson spent three seasons with Darnold on the Jets, and after a slow start to the receiver's season, that chemistry has started to show in recent weeks. Over the last three games, Darnold has targeted Anderson 29 times, including two games of double-digit targets. Those targets resulted in 10 receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
With Christian McCaffrey on IR, Chuba Hubbard has stepped up as Carolina's lead back. He's started the past three weeks and gained 219 yards on 53 carries (4.1 avg.) with the one touchdown.
ATTACKING CAROLINA'S DEFENSE
Carolina's defense has been excellent this season. Going into Week 7, the unit ranks sixth in points and third in yards allowed, and has surrendered the second-fewest passing yards in the NFL. Over the first three games of the season, the Panthers gave up a total of just 30 points. Their numbers have gotten worse over the last three weeks, though, as they have allowed 91 total points to the Cowboys, Eagles and Vikings.
A significant factor in Carolina's defensive success has been their ability to get off the field on third down. Opponents are 21-of-71 on third down – that's a 29.6 percentage (second-best mark in the league), while their 28.6 fourth-down percentage also ranks second.
"Really good. They're really good on defense," Garrett said about the Panthers defense. "The defensive line is excellent, they've got very good outside pass rushers, they're strong and stout inside with playmakers, the linebackers can run, there are good cover guys on the back end, they're opportunistic, they play fast. When you watch them play on tape, their defense leaps off the tape how they play, so it'll be a great challenge for us in all three phases."
The unit might have a new face on the field this Sunday, as Stephon Gilmore could make his Panthers debut against the Giants. Carolina acquired the talented cornerback in a trade with the Patriots a few weeks ago, with Week 7 being the first time he is eligible to come off the PUP list. Gilmore dealt with injuries during the 2020 campaign, only appearing in 11 games, but was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 for his dominant performance with New England.
"Well, they have a lot of really good players at all three levels of their defense and he's certainly been one of the best players in the league at his position throughout his career," Garrett said about Gilmore. "The biggest thing we have to do is focus on us and play at a high level, but you certainly have to be aware of a player like that and come up with a plan if he is playing. Got great respect for him, he's been a really good player for a long time."
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.