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Fact or Fiction: Ranking Linebackers


Luke Kuechly is the best middle linebacker in the NFL right now.**

MICHAEL EISEN: Fact -He is a sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker who led the NFL in tackles as a rookie. He's at the top of his game and the top of the list.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -But if you asked me this question in another year my answer might be different. There's also the question of whether you want to include 49ers inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman in the this conversation even if they aren't traditional MLB's. Sean Lee is in this discussion as well. Kuechly is as talented as any of them and with a little more seasoning could be the best in the league. He never leaves the field and can play the pass and the run.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -If we're not including the interior backers in San Francisco, then yes, Kuechly is probably the best traditional middle linebacker. I'm hesitant to say that after only a season and two games, but he seems to be the real deal based on what people say about him around the league. He's a tackling machine, but he also can cover, as evidenced by his four career interceptions. He notched one just last week.

Eli Manning will not pass more than 35 times against the Panthers.

MICHAEL EISEN: Fiction -Running game is struggling and Carolina has a strong front seven with banged-up secondary. Sounds like a recipe for an aerial show.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -This will have to do more with game situation than anything else. I expect the Giants to be playing from ahead for much of the game on Sunday, and will therefore be able to commit to the run more even if it doesn't work initially. The Panthers front seven is formidable, however, and it might be tough sledding on the ground again this week.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -Throwing 91 times in the first two weeks is uncharacteristic of the offense, but the in-game circumstances have dictated otherwise. After being knocked out of their element to start the season, I think the Giants' main focus this week will be balance. They've had recent success doing so against the Panthers, averaging 170 yards on the ground in their four victories over Carolina in the last five meetings.

The best player drafted No. 1 overall since Eli has been Cam Newton.

MICHAEL EISEN: Fiction -I'll go with Andrew Luck. Drop back quarterbacks – not running quarterbacks - win Super Bowls.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Two words: Andrew Luck. Even though it is only his second season, Luck is already a better prospect than Newton. He has just as much speed, and is a much more accomplished passer. Mario Williams is also in this conversation and Jake Long is a four time Pro Bowler.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -I'm going to give the offensive line some love and say Jake Long, the offensive tackle taken first overall in 2008. In his first four years, he made four Pro Bowls with two All-Pro selections (one second-team). Right behind him, for me, would be Andrew Luck. I'm a big believer in him, and it will fun to see where his career goes.

Victor Cruz will post his third straight 100-yard game of the season.

MICHAEL EISEN: Fact -See No. 2 above.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -The Giants will spread the ball around a bit, and Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks will have a little more success against a very small and injured Panthers secondary than Victor Cruz. I like the size of Randle and Nicks against the Carolina group in the defensive backfield.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -I'll keep saying fact until he does otherwise this season. His lucky number must be 118 because that is the number of yards he has gone for in each of his first two games. With Cruz, 100 yards could nearly come on one play at any time.

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