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Fact or Fiction: X-factors & predictions for Sunday

FACT-OR-FICTION

The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Stopping the run is the biggest key to victory against the Panthers.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - Although the Panthers will try to recommit to their running attack on Sunday, they lack a top offensive line and a proven running back. Even if they run the ball with some consistency it is unlikely to be very explosive. It is far more important to put pressure on Sam Darnold, which could lead to some mistakes and turnovers that can completely change the tenor of the game. If the Giants can keep Darnold under siege they will have a good chance to win the game.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Matt Rhule's pledge to refocus the game plan on running the ball, but the team's fortunes are tired to turnovers. Sam Darnold threw just one interception in Carolina's 3-0 start; he has thrown six during the three-game skid. Win the turnover battle, win the game.

Lance Medow: Fact - Panthers head coach Matt Rhule emphasized this week he wants his team to pound the ball and there's likely some substance behind his words. In Carolina's first three games, all wins, they ran the ball and had a turnover differential of plus-1. In comparison, in their last three games, they've had to play a bit from behind and their turnover differential was minus-5. Rookie running back Chuba Hubbard has shown some flashes in place of the injured Christian McCaffrey and they'll look to get him as many touches as possible. On top of that, the Giants rank 29th in the NFL against the run and are surrendering 137 yards per game. Until they clean that up, why wouldn't opponents look to test them in that area.

Matt Citak: Fact - Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has not been shy to admit that he wants to pound the football on the ground. Carolina enters Week 7 ranked 10th in the league with 170 rush attempts, averaging out to 28.3 attempts per game. They have rushed for 100+ yards in four consecutive games and five out of six this season. Meanwhile the Giants' defense is No. 29 in rushing yards allowed at 137.2 yards per game, including three games of 165+ yards on the ground surrendered. While Patrick Graham's unit will not have to face Christian McCaffrey (on IR with a hamstring injury), they will see plenty of rookie RB Chuba Hubbard, who over the last four games has run for 271 yards on 62 carries (4.4 avg.). After allowing a total of 332 rushing yards in the last two weeks, the Giants will have to shut down Carolina's run game to have a chance Sunday.

Sunday will be a high-scoring game, much like the teams' previous two meetings.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Neither team is likely to reach 30 points in this game and you can expect the Giants' defense to slow down the Panthers' offense, especially if wide receivers Alex Erickson and Terrace Marshall aren't on the field. Meanwhile, the Panthers' defense is very fast and the Giants' offense is very banged up – they will likely be without Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Saquon Barkley and Andrew Thomas, among others. If a team gets to 24 points, they should be able to win the game.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Both sides are missing offensive firepower due to injury, and both sides want to run the ball and play turnover-free football to get back on track. In other words, you might not see a repeat of the past two meetings, which produced 137 combined points.

Lance Medow: Fiction - Many said the same about the game with the Falcons in Week 2 and that ended up a 17-14 win for Atlanta. The Giants have only scored 31 points over their last two games and have tallied 20 or less in four of their six contests this season. And they will also be without several notable offensive weapons. Carolina has also been hit-or-miss on offense this season.

Matt Citak: Fiction - The Giants' offense has been decimated by injuries. Three offensive linemen (Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, Andrew Thomas) from the Week 1 starting lineup are on IR, while the starting running back (Saquon Barkley), two of the top wide receivers (Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney) and the team's top tight end (Evan Engram) might all miss this game with injuries, too. That is not likely to help the No. 27 scoring offense entering Week 7, especially when going up against the Panthers' No. 6 scoring defense. While Carolina's offense has had more success this year, their 23.8 points per game only ranks 16th.

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers ahead of their Week 7 matchup.

Leonard Williams is the Giants' X-factor in Week 7.

John Schmeelk: Fact - He certainly can be. All of the Panthers' interior offensive linemen (Dennis Daley, Matt Paradis, John Miller and Michael Jordan) have struggled at different points this year. If the Giants can manufacture some 1-on-1 reps for Williams (and Dexter Lawrence) against those players he should have a disruptive game.

Dan Salomone: Fact – After allowing 82 points in the past two weeks, the Giants need to stop the run and affect the passer. Leonard Williams has the ability to be a factor in both departments.

Lance Medow: Fiction - Leonard Williams is a critical defensive player every week, but that entire unit has to play better. The true onus is on the offense to consistently manufacture points. Andrew Thomas landed on injured reserve, so Matt Peart and Nate Solder are your X-factors. The Panthers have 16 sacks on the season but just two over the past three games. They showcase two dangerous pass rushers in Haason Reddick, who had five against the Giants last season when he was with the Cardinals, and Brian Burns.

Matt Citak: Fiction - Williams is the X-factor on the defensive side of the ball, but for the Giants to emerge with the victory, they're going to need a strong performance from Daniel Jones. Jones' season got off to a good start, as the third-year quarterback put together solid outings in each of the first four games. He left Week 5 early with a concussion, and after clearing the league's concussion protocol in time to start last week, Jones went on to register a career-high four turnovers against a dominant Rams defense. The Giants' two biggest losses came over the last two weeks when Jones left the game early and then had his worst outing – this is no coincidence.

Giants vs. Panthers will once again come down to a Graham Gano kick.

John Schmeelk: Fact - Why would it be any different? Both teams likely will have trouble manufacturing points, which means it should be a close game.

Dan Salomone: Fact – According to NFL Research, there have been 23 games with a game-winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime this season, the most such games through the first six weeks all-time. This league is built for close contests.

Lance Medow: Fiction - The last two meetings resulted in a Graham Gano game-winning kick. In 2015, he nailed a game-winning 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift Carolina, 38-35, and, in 2018, he drilled a career-high 63-yard field goal with one second left in Carolina's 33-31 victory. What's the chances that happens three times in a row?

Matt Citak: Fiction - The Giants had three straight one-score games from Weeks 2-4, the first two ending with heartbreaking losses while the third resulted in a thrilling overtime win. However, the team's other three losses were not nearly as close. As mentioned above, the Giants are currently dealing with a plethora of injuries, including numerous offensive playmakers. But the defense also lost its anchor in Week 3 when Blake Martinez was lost for the season to a torn ACL. Since then, the unit has allowed just over 34 points per game. The Giants will need a tremendous performance from both sides of the ball for this game to come down to a Graham Gano field goal attempt.

View photos of the custom Giants helmet designed by Marvel ahead of Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

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Giants x Marvel Collection at Giants Team Shop

An exclusive collection of Giants x Marvel merchandise is now available at the Giants' online shop.

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