As the 1-1 New York Giants prepare to play the Carolina Panthers tonight in Charlotte, N.C., they should know that since 1990, 54 percent of the teams that started the season 2-1 have reached the playoffs while only 24 percent of teams starting 1-2 have done so. That's according to ESPN Stats & Information, and they're never wrong. So with that in mind, here's one reason for Giants fans to be feeling good and one reason for concern.
Feeling good: It's a four-quarter game, and that means that Giants quarterback Eli Manning is never out of it. After leading his team to 25 points in the fourth quarter Sunday and his ninth game-winning drive in the past calendar year, Manning has further burnished his credentials as the game's best clutch quarterback. He's especially potent throwing the deep ball in the fourth quarter. According to Stats & Info's "Next Level" stats, Manning has a completion percentage of 64.3, a 25.5 yards-per-attempt average, eight touchdowns and no interceptions on throws 20 or more yards downfield in fourth quarters the past two seasons. In the first three quarters of games, those numbers on such deep throws are 35.7 percent, 13.3 yards per attempt, four touchdowns and four interceptions. We'll see how much the absence of deep threat Hakeem Nicks affects these numbers if the game is close in the fourth.
Cause for concern: Part of the reason for the Giants' success in recent years has been their ability to generate pressure on quarterbacks without blitzing -- relying on their defense's front four to get after the passer. So far this year, they've sent four or fewer rushers on 69.4 percent of opponents' drop-backs, which is about where they were on that last year. But they're allowing 10.2 yards per attempt and a Total QBR of 92.3 in those situations through two games this year, wheras they allowed 7.8 yards per attempt and an opponents' Total QBR of 67.7 in 2011. Also, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is averaging 10.4 yards per attempt this year when opponents send four or fewer. Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora simply have to play better tonight than they've played so far this season.