Here’s what to watch for tonight:
Depleted Giants: The Giants' offense will go into hostile territory without key players. Hakeem Nicks remained home and was a surprising scratch after initially being ruled questionable. Nicks couldn’t do much in the Wednesday morning jog thru and the team decided it was better to give him two weeks of rest before their next game against Philadelphia rather than have him play in two games in five days.
Of course, something tells us that the Giants might actually surprise some tonight. They sometimes tend to defy logic. Do the odds seem stacked against them trying to beat Newton shorthanded on the road? Absolutely. But the Giants have a way of playing well on the road and they take joy in trying to prove people wrong. Remember New England last year? The Giants beat Tom Brady in his house without Nicks and Bradshaw.
Ramses time: Manning will be without two of his top three receivers. He still has playmaker Victor Cruz. But if Cruz sees a lot of defensive attention tonight -– and he should –- Ramses Barden will have to help shoulder the load.
Barden will move up to the No. 2 receiver spot and this is his big opportunity to shine and show what he can do. We’ve seen him in flashes in the preseason and how he can look good on slants and using his body to make catches. But this is his biggest opportunity to date.
Second-round pick Rueben Randle also should get his first crack at significant playing time. Randle and Jerrel Jernigan could see time as the third receiver. Outside of Cruz, nobody can be the explosive playmaker that Nicks is. But Manning is going to have to find somebody else to step up and make big catches.
The two helped keep Manning clean and prevented any sacks during the Tampa game. The line will need to do the same tonight with the margin for error smaller with no Nicks, Bradshaw and Diehl. The linemen also have to stay healthy since the line is thin at the moment.
Andre the Giant? Brown is expected to get his first career start in place of the injured Bradshaw. He gave the team a spark on Sunday and will have to do the same again against Carolina to help Manning and his depleted aerial attack out.
Wilson could see more touches according to head coach Tom Coughlin. With Nicks out, the Giants sure can use Wilson’s ability to catch out of the backfield. But is he ready for a bigger role?
Also, Brown will have to protect Manning once again with Bradshaw, the team’s most trusted pass protector in the backfield, out.
A Fewell good men: The Giants’ defense has to pick up more of the slack for the offense tonight. The pass rush has to pressure and contain Newton. The front line and linebackers will have to slow down Carolina’s rushing attack.