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Fact or Fiction: Predictions for Giants vs. Panthers

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The best cornerback Odell Beckham Jr. will face this year is Carolina's Josh Norman.


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JOHN SCHMEELK:Fact. Josh Norman is the best cornerback in the NFL this year, and he is by far the best cornerback Odell Beckham will face this year. We all missed out on a matchup with Darrelle Revis a couple weeks ago, so I'm excited to see Beckham challenge a player in his prime like Norman. Opposing quarterbacks have a microscopic 50.5 quarterback rating when throwing in his direction this year. In five games against DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, TY Hilton, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones this season, quarterbacks are 9-25 for 89 yards and no touchdowns when throwing to those players against Norman. That's flat out ridiculous.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact. Since Darrelle Revis missed out on the Beckham matchup due to a concussion, it has to be Norman. He has shut down No. 1 receivers all season, was the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September, is part of the No. 1 defense in yards per pass and interceptions, and plays on the last undefeated team in the NFL.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact:There's a lot of hype surrounding Josh Norman this season, but based on his stats and his consistency on the field, he's been backing up the chatter.  Every week Norman has gone up against the opposing team's best wide receiver and every week he's essentially answered the call.  Case in point, here are some of the notable wideouts he's defended: DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, TY Hilton, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones.  Norman held that group to 89 combined yards.  He has four interceptions (returned two for touchdowns), two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and has helped the Panthers put together, arguably, the best defense in the NFL.  Considering Beckham did not go up against Jets corner Darrelle Revis because the latter was still recovering from a concussion in Week 13, Norman is clearly the best corner left standing.  New England's Malcolm Butler deserves some consideration as part of this conversation, but I still give Norman the edge.

**

Cam Newton is the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL.
JOHN SCHMEELK: **
Fact: This is not even close, either. Who else is better than Newton as a runner and passer? Since 2011, only Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch have more rushing touchdowns than Newton. Even more impressive is the progress Newton has made as a pocket passer. He can beat you from both inside and outside the pocket. He is reading defenses much better, and has always had one of the best arms in football. His improved passing numbers have come with nothing close to a Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver, with Kelvin Benjamin getting hurt in the preseason. Greg Olsen, his tight end, is his top target. Cam Newton, in my opinion, is the league MVP.

DAN SALOMONE:Fiction. Give me the guy who's gone to back-to-back Super Bowls and won one. Since Seattle drafted him in 2012, Russell Wilson's rushing yardage is essentially the same as Newton's -- he's 12 yards short -- and he has a better average (5.9 to 5.2) and more 10-yard runs (92 to 79). In terms of passing through their first four seasons in the NFL, Wilson is more accurate (64.7 to 59.5) and has thrown more touchdowns (98 to 82) with fewer interceptions (33 to 54). Wilson is also 44-17 as a starter in the regular season and 6-2 in the postseason. Through Newton's first four years, he was 30-31-1 in the regular season and 1-2 in the postseason.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact:Based on this season, it's hard to argue against this statement.  Since he entered the league in 2011, he's always demanded attention as a runner, but now that his arm strength and accuracy has continually improved over the last five seasons, he's just as dangerous with his arm as he is with his legs.  This season, Newton has an NFL-high eight touchdown passes of 25 or more yards, and only Tom Brady (36) has more combined passing and rushing scores than Newton (35).  However, 33 of Brady's 36 touchdowns have come through the air whereas Newton has 28 passing and seven on the ground.  The best stat to support Newton's cause is since 2011, only Marshawn Lynch (51) and Adrian Peterson (43) have more rushing touchdowns than Newton (40).  Lynch is currently sidelined with a sports hernia, but it's quite impressive that this season he and Newton have the same amount of carries (111).  Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith all belong in the conversation, but given Newton's experience, volume of work on the ground and his durability (on track to play in all 16 games in four of his first five seasons), I'm not putting any of those other names in front of him.

Rashad Jennings will have at least 20 carries again on Sunday.

JOHN SCHMEELK:Fiction: Unfortunately, I don't think the Giants will be able to generate the yards this week that they did against the Dolphins on Monday night. It will make it too difficult to stick with the run enough to get Jennings 20 carries. The Giants have also had the tendency to move from running back to running back when one doesn't have a lot of success early. I'm not even sure Jennings gets to 15, but I do think as a group, the running backs should get close to 25.

DAN SALOMONE:Fiction. Before Miami, no Giants running back had more than 14 carries in a game this season. That included games against the Jets (currently No. 1 in run defense), Buccaneers (No. 8) and the Patriots (No. 10). And now the Panthers, who are No. 4, will be the fourth team the Giants face in the top 10.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction:Prior to Monday night's game, the most carries Rashad Jennings had in a game this season was 13.  Given that stat, after one game with 22 carries, it's hard to say this will become a trend moving forward.*  *Plus, just two running backs have had at least 20 carries against the Panthers this season (Doug Martin – 20, Frank Gore -22).  That's mainly because very few teams have played with a comfortable lead against Carolina, so they haven't had the luxury to stick with the ground game.  The Giants have been relying on a running back by committee for weeks, and I don't see that gameplan drastically changing despite a strong performance by Jennings against the Dolphins.

*Carolina's 13-0 start is more impressive than Golden State's 24-0 start in the NBA. *

JOHN SCHMEELK:Fiction: Here's why Golden State's streak is more impressive. With 82 games in the NBA, and all the travel and the back to backs, it is easy to come out one night and simply not have the legs or energy to play well. It happens to the best of teams all the time. The Warriors didn't let that happen, even in games where a loss wouldn't have hurt their season in any appreciable way. The Panthers, on the other hand, are still playing for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Every game is so important in the NFL, getting up for each one is easier than it is in the NBA. The Warriors are also the defending NBA Champions, which means teams are bringing their top game every night. No one expected the Panthers to do this when the season started.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact. Come on. This is the NFL, where Denver's Brock Osweiler knocks off the 10-0 and reigning Super Bowl champion Patriots in his second career start and where the then 4-7 Eagles go into Foxborough the next week and do the same. As we all know, anything can happen on any given Sunday. The parity in the NFL is unmatched by the NBA. And don't forget that the Panthers won their final four games last year, meaning they have not lost in the regular season since Nov. 30, 2014.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction:First, let me preface my answer by saying I think they're both extremely impressive.  With that being said, I give the edge to the Warriors.  Winning 24 straight games (28, if you include the previous season, 2nd longest streak in NBA history) with seven sets of back-to-back contests is quite an accomplishment given the grind of the season and the toll those contests take on players' bodies.  Now, I could say the same thing about the NFL where the injury rate is much higher but you get a week off in between games to recuperate.  Plus, since 2005, six NFL teams have started 13-0.  When was the last time a team started 24-0 in the NBA? (I'll give you a hint: you won't find it in the archives).  The latter is a much rarer feat.

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