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Giants aim to spoil perfect Panthers to stay in playoff hunt


The Giants have the perfect opportunity on Sunday.

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The 13-0 Carolina Panthers, the NFL's last undefeated team since New England fell three weeks ago, come to MetLife Stadium in the thick of the Giants' postseason hunt.

Carolina already clinched the NFC South and a first-round bye but is still out for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. It can wrap that up with a win and an Arizona loss or tie, or a tie and an Arizona loss. So Tom Coughlin doesn't see the Panthers resting any of their players on Sunday. He expects them to go all out.

"Oh, I do," the head coach said before Wednesday's practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. "And I don't know what questions they're being asked down there, I can only imagine. They are in the playoffs. But still, I think they'll play. Obviously, they have something to secure."

The Giants, on the other hand, are in a three-way tie with the Redskins and Eagles atop the NFC East at 6-7. Both rivals are at home in Week 15, Washington plays 6-7 Buffalo and Philadelphia takes on 11-2 Arizona on Sunday night. Dallas, which dropped to 4-9 last week, hosts the 8-5 Jets on Saturday night.

Seeding aside, the Panthers also have a shot at history.

They are looking to become the fifth team in NFL history to go undefeated in the regular season. The Chicago Bears did it in 1934 and 1942, the Miami Dolphins in 1972, and the New England Patriots in 2007. Only Miami went on to remain perfect in the postseason and win the championship.  

The Giants, of course, have a history of spoiling bids at perfection, most notably giving the 18-0 Patriots their first loss in Super Bowl XLII.

Coughlin was asked why his teams have a knack for rising to the occasion against unblemished teams.

"I don't think there's anything about our preparation that's different," said Coughlin, whose team took then-undefeated New England down to the wire earlier this season in Week 10 but ultimately lost by one point on a last-second field goal. "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."

The Giants will attempt to do so without starting linebacker Devon Kennard. Coughlin confirmed he will miss his third consecutive game with a foot injury and his fifth overall this season. The second-year pro has 58 tackles, four passes defensed and an interception in nine games.

Coughlin, however, hopes to get back rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers, who left in the fourth quarter of Monday night's game in Miami. The first-round draft pick re-aggravated an ankle injury that he has dealt with at times throughout his first season.

"Flowers, we hope—it is a short week," Coughlin said.

On the other side of the ball, Coughlin said the Giants will continue to play three safeties, like they did in Miami with Landon Collins, Craig Dahl and Cooper Taylor.

Playmakers on the Panthers first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

Taylor, who was waived, signed to the practice squad, and then re-signed to the active roster all in the span of the last two months, played extensively last week and had five tackles, including one for a loss.

"We're going to play three safeties," Coughlin said. "He's 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."

Added Coughlin: "[Taylor] made two tackles on special teams. He was down at the line of scrimmage and made a nice tackle on a go-screen the other day. So he's improving."

Meanwhile, quarterback Eli Manning was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season following his career night against the Dolphins.

Manning completed 27 of 31 passes for 377 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His completion percentage of 87.1 (a franchise record) and passer rating of 151.5 were career highs. He also rallied his teammates before the team broke its three-game skid. 

"Well, I don't know about the vocal," Coughlin said. "There are certain times during the week when he does speak with a gathered group, but they come at basically the same time, whether it be a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning or whatever it might be. But the way in which he prepared, and again, we'll approach this somewhat the same way—we really don't know much about the Panthers, we didn't know much about the team we played last week. So it's going to take extra time and extra study. He did a very, very good job of that last week. I think he practiced very, very well. And yes, I do expect to do the same."

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