John: It's week three in the NFL season. We're here to preview this week's Thursday night game as the Carolina Panthers play host to the defending Super Bowl Champion New York (Football) Giants. 

It's been confirmed that the Giants will be without their starting RB Ahmad Bradshaw and one of their starting WRs Hakeem Nicks, who is coming off a huge game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Are the injuries significant or can the Giants fight through them to come out victorious? 

As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to break down tonight's game. 

Standings after Week 2 (Straight Up) 

John 21-11 (Last week 12-4)

Mike 19-13 (9-7)

Bret 18-14 (10-6) 

New York Giants (1-1) @ Carolina Panthers (1-1) - 8:30pm ET 

Bret: This is a really tough game to call. As you can tell by my power rankings, I'm not particularly enamored with Carolina just yet. I still think they have questions marks on the offensive line, up and down performances from Newton, and a week defensive front 7.  

New York, when healthy, is the much stronger team. However, losing Bradshaw, Nicks, and Deihl really hampers what they can do offensively, and negates Carolina's weaknesses on defense.  

The Carolina offense has played well so far this year, ranking 6th in DVOA Passing and 10th in DVOA Rushing on Football Outsiders. I don't think it's been quite as flashy as everyone has expected, but they seem to be able to move the ball. The New York defense, on the other hand, has had trouble putting it all together. They haven't gotten enough of a pass rush to bail out their porous secondary, and as a result they've been thrown all over.  

On paper, my immediate reaction is to pick New York, but at this point in the season I think Carolina is the better team. I'll take Carolina. Carolina 21 New York 17

Mike: The first of a number of interesting games this week between 1-1 teams, in what is really a great slate of games overall, especially compared to last week.  The Giants are probably a little fortunate to be 1-1, needing a 25 point fourth quarter against the Bucs last week to pull out a 7 point win.  Carolina, meanwhile, looked a little off in week 1 against Tampa, but played more like what we would expect from a Panthers team in beating the Saints 35-27; lots of offense, not a lot of defense. 

We could be in store for more of the same this week, with Prince Amukamara back at CB for the Giants, but maybe not at 100%, and backup CB Michael Coe questionable for the game with a hamstring injury and definitely not at 100%.  Meanwhile Steve Smith looks to be ready to go, and Jonathan Stewart is banged up, but Carolina always has DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert to lean on.  If Carolina is able to move the ball through the air as you might expect them to considering the Giants will definitely have to be focusing on their ground game, we could see Newton & co. putting up a lot of points. 

Unfortunately for the Giants, having Hakeem Nicks, Domenik Hixon and Ahmad Bradshaw both out for the game means they are going to have to rely on Andre Brown and David Wilson at running back and Victor Cruz and…I don’t even know, is Ramses Barden their #4 wide receiver?  Andre Brown’s career stats prior to last week’s game were this: 2 rushes for -1 yards in 2010 for the Denver Broncos.  David Wilson is a rookie and has run the ball 5 times so far this year.  Ramses Barden has 16 career receptions in 3+ years with the Giants.  Just saying. 

While Carolina’s defense is a little suspect, they should be able to put two guys on Victor Cruz, do their best to limit Martellus Bennett’s effectiveness, thereby putting most of the pressure on Eli Manning to make things happen with an otherwise very inexperienced set of skill players.  With both sides healthy I think this would have been a much more fun game to watch.  As it is now, I think the Giants will have to be very impressive to get a win over Carolina.  Carolina 31 New York Giants 17

John: As my colleagues up above mentioned, the Giants are really banged up with their injuries to key players like WR Hakeem Nicks (had a monster game against the Bucs last week), RB Ahmad Bradshaw and their best OL David Diehl. They're all out. It's hard to replace quality starters of that caliber especially on a short week when you're coming off a hard fought comeback win and playing on the road against a capable offense like the Panthers. 

I think the Panthers will have success moving the ball against the Giants. Cam Newton had a very efficient game last week and we've seen in the first two weeks that the Giants are not doing a good job in defending the pass since they're giving up 275 passing yards per game. The Panthers like to run first, but they will take their deep shots so don't be surprised if Newton connects on a deep pass to Steve Smith or Brandon Lafell to get the Panthers some points early on. 

If the Giants win it will be because their WRs other than Victor Cruz step up huge. The question is how much do you think Eli Manning will be able to connect with Ramses Barden and Rueben Randle? I don't think it will be an easy task. They do have TE Martellus Bennett, who has proven to be a nice option over the middle, but I'm not sure if it's going to be enough to put up enough points to win this game. If you're the Panthers, you have to double Cruz as much as possible and I think they're smart enough to know that. Can the Giants get a run game from backups Andre Brown and David Wilson? It's possible because the Panthers defense is pretty average. I'm not sure they can be relied on too much though.   

From a betting perspective, I might make a small play later this evening. The line is Panthers -2.5, which I like since I'm picking them although I'm not confident enough to bet a lot on them. What I like more is that the over/under number is 49.5. That's pretty high. The Wednesday opener in week one and Thursday game last week each went under their number, so if you are looking for a bet you might consider the under because the offenses have struggled in the early games so far this year. Last week I was so sure that the Packers/Bears would be a shootout yet we saw them shit the bed. 

As for tonight, I'll go with the Panthers to beat up a banged up Giants team. In a different week maybe the Giants are better, but I think the passing attack is really going to miss Hakeem Nicks and that should make things easier on the Panthers very average defense. Cam Newton will lead him to victory. Panthers 27-14 

Thanks for reading. We'll see you again on Friday for the rest of week three. 

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Mike: @Mtmaloney 

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