It might have little to do with the game itself and nothing to do with the X's and O's, but New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is grieving right now. He's mourning the sudden loss of his brother, John, which he says has been "an emotional tug of war."
This Giants team has always stressed focus and "doing your job," but football is emotional, and these types of life events can have a huge impact on teams.
Despite sometimes being perceived as an all-business hardliner, Coughlin has gained a tremendous amount of love and respect from his players. So while Sunday's game has little to do with Coughlin's personal loss, don't be surprised if the Giants kick some ass in Carolina as an ode to their leader.
Here's our final preview of that game, along with a prediction...
What New York must do to win, offensive edition
Avoid turning it over once a quarter, which is what they've been doing thus far. It would help if the running game gets things going, but the key Sunday, against what I still believe to be an inferior opponent, will merely be for the Giants to avoid shooting themselves in the foot.
What New York must do to win, defensive edition
Don't let Cam Newton do his thing. They held him in check when these teams met exactly one year ago, but the defense has suffered some losses since, and Jason Pierre-Paul isn't himself right now. If that struggling D lets Newton and DeAngelo Williams run wild, they could be in trouble on the road.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Prince Amukamara: Corey Webster has a hip injury, which means Amukamara will likely spend the whole afternoon with Steve Smith.
Justin Tuck: The pass rush is so integral to New York being successful, and if JPP isn't fully healthy, the Giants will need other guys to step up and deliver in order to mask the rest of their defensive deficiencies. The Panthers have struggled in pass protection, so Tuck has an opportunity here.
Will Beatty: The Panthers haven't been getting a ton of pressure early on, but we know they can bring it with Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson up front. Eli Manning needs his blindside protector to lead the way in pass protection.
Rueben Randle: This could be a big game for the second-year wideout. If the Giants utilize a lot of three-receiver sets against a thin secondary, Randle could have a chance for a field day if he matches up one-on-one on the outside against Josh Norman, who is terrible.
Spencer Paysinger or Jacquian Williams: Whichever linebacker has to cover Greg Olsen, who leads the Panthers in receptions, yards and touchdowns and had a big day against the Giants last year, will have his hands very full.
Injury analysis, Giants edition
Webster is listed as doubtful, which is scary considering how thin the Giants are back there. If Newton has room to work against a struggling pass rush, he could pick on that secondary all day. The good news is they have the solid Amukamara dealing with Smith, and Carolina isn't exactly deep in the receiving corps.
Injury analysis, Panthers edition
Carolina is a mess in the secondary, which is why I'm not stressing the run too much. That front seven is dangerous, but Eli Manning is great under pressure, and he might not need a ton of time to find an open receiver against a unit that will be/could be without Charles Godfrey (out), Quintin Mikell (out), D.J. Moore (out), James Dockery (game-time decision) and Josh Thomas (questionable).
Oh, and up front, the Panthers might not have Dwan Edwards.
B/R NFC East blog prediction: Giants 35, Panthers 16
Right when you're about to count Coughlin's team out, it goes on the road and hammers a team just like Carolina. The Panthers are better than they're given credit for, but this is a bad spot for them. The Giants blew 'em out last year, and they should serve up an encore performance Sunday.
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