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The Carolina Panthers desperately need a win.
They’ve lost three consecutive games after starting the season 3-0 and haven’t shown much improvement. Perhaps this is the week they can change things.
Defensive back Stephon Gilmore is eligible to come off the team’s Physically Unable to Perform list. And coach Matt Rhule said Gilmore still has the potential to play. Rhule said Gilmore will practice Saturday, and they will determine his status after the practice.
“We’ve prepared as if he is playing and not playing,” Rhule said.
Starting left tackle Cameron Erving popped up on the injury report Thursday with a neck injury, and on Friday he missed practice with an illness. Rhule said it was a head cold and that he was questionable for Sunday.
If he doesn’t play, Rhule said he’s prepared to start rookie Brady Christensen at left tackle.
The Panthers face the Giants (1-5) at Met Life Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.
Let’s break down the matchup:
When the Panthers pass the ball ...
Quarterback Sam Darnold struggled for the third consecutive week last week. He threw an interception and fumbled. He now has seven turnovers in the past three weeks.
The Panthers won’t be able to win if Darnold continues to give opposing teams extra possessions. It certainly didn’t help that his receivers had eight drops last week, too.
Fortunately for the Panthers, the Giants haven’t fared well against the pass this season. They’ve allowed 14 passing touchdowns in six games, and opposing quarterbacks are averaging 264 yards passing per game.
The Giants haven’t been able to get after the quarterback much. They have only 10 sacks.
Where the Giants have had some success is creating turnovers, however. They have three fumble recovers and five interceptions, which would make this a dangerous game for Darnold.
Former Panthers cornerback James Bradberry is tied for the Giants’ team lead with two interceptions.
When the Giants pass the ball ...
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, a Charlotte native, has the talent to make this a difficult day for the Panthers. He can run and throw.
But he has struggled recently. He has thrown for 1,524 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions in six games. Against the Rams in a 38-11 loss last week, Jones was sacked four times and threw three interceptions.
The Giants are dealing with injuries to their starting offensive linemen. Three of their five Week 1 starters on the offensive line are out for Sunday’s game.
This may be an area where the Panthers can take advantage. The Panthers didn’t have a sack against the Vikings last week. Because of that, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins had time to gash them for 373 yards and three passing touchdowns.
The Panthers must get pressure on Jones, and that may be easier said than done. The 6-foot-5, 221 pound quarterback is hard to bring down.
When the Panthers run the ball ...
Chuba Hubbard will make his fourth consecutive start on Sunday, and it may come with an increase in carries, too.
On Monday, Rhule said the Panthers would fundamentally change their offense to become a more balanced team, after the Panthers lost their third consecutive game. Hubbard ran for 61 yards on 16 carries in the loss to the Vikings. As a team, the Panthers ran it 23 times for 118 yards.
Rhule said he wants to run at least 33 times a game. Last week, the Panthers got away from the running game, which was working well.
This is the perfect week to start that. The Giants allow 137 yards rushing per game, which is fifth worst in the NFL.
Hubbard has rushed for 281 yards on 72 carries and one touchdown this season. His best game was against the Eagles when he ran for 101 yards two weeks ago.
There have been multiple times where it has looked like he was about to break one for a touchdown. Hubbard seems to be finding his groove.
When the Giants run the ball ...
The Giants will likely be without star running back Saquon Barkley, who sprained his ankle two weeks ago. That should be a huge relief for the Panthers. In that case, running back Devonte Booker would likely get the start. He has 35 carries for 105 yards rushing this season.
But he’s not the only person the Panthers would have to worry about. Jones can also run. He leads the Giants with 201 yards rushing and averages 6.1 yards per carry. He also has two rushing touchdowns.
This is the area Jones is most dangerous, and where the Panthers have to be mindful. The Panthers allowed Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to rush for 140 yards rushing on 29 carries. He also had a touchdown.
The Panthers have struggled against the run in two of the past three weeks and it has directly affected their pass rush. After leading the league in rushing defense through Week 3, the Panthers are now 16th in the league, having allowed 111.5 rushing yards per game.
It’ll ultimately come down to whichever team can take care of the ball and keep pressure away from the quarterback.
Panthers 34 Giants 30
Panthers: LB Shaq Thompson (foot) OUT, WR Terrace Marshall (concussion) OUT, FB Giovanni Ricci (concussion) OUT, LT Cameron Erving (illness) QUESTIONABLE, WR Alex Erickson (concussion) QUESTIONABLE.
Giants: WR Kadarius Toney (ankle) OUT, WR Kenny Golladay (knee) OUT, RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) OUT, DT Danny Shelton (pec) DOUBTFUL, Evan Engram (calf) QUESTIONABLE, John Ross (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE, Sterling Shepard (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE, Darius Slayton (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE.