Five Things to Watch: Panthers at Giants

1. PASSING A GIANT CHALLENGE: Head coach Ron Rivera offered a powerful one-word assessment of what he saw from the Giants duo of quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. on Monday Night Football.

"Frightening," Rivera said. "Odell burst on the scene last year and is continuing to do it this year. And Eli is one of those quarterbacks that should be talked about with the top-tier guys. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for what he does."

Beckham caught seven balls for 166 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over the Dolphins, and that accounted for only half of the output from Manning, who had just four incompletions on 31 attempts while racking up 337 yards and four touchdowns. The combination is one of the most dangerous in the NFL.

"They're very capable," safety Roman Harper said. "We can't just give them things; we've got to make them earn it. We've got to make them drive it. We can't give up explosive plays over the top because that's the quickest way to lose this ballgame."

2. TIMING IS EVERYTHING: In the second NFL season for Beckham and the second campaign for Ben McAdoo as Giants offensive coordinator, the pass game is clicking.

"Eli is very decisive in where he wants to go with the football, and he's not making many mistakes," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "They've got a great game plan in getting the ball out fast and keeping him protected and keeping their offense in a good rhythm. We have to do something to disrupt that rhythm."

Davis and Co. have been disruptive all season, with the Panthers ranking third in the NFL with 40 sacks. Davis, via blitz opportunities, has already recorded a career high 5.5 sacks. Kawann Short leads the team with nine sacks, the second most in the NFL among defensive tackles.

Short readily admitted his hopes for a double-digit season of sacks.

"It's a goal, especially as defensive tackle," Short said. "That means I'm doing something right. It's big. Not a lot of defensive tackles do that."

3. EYES ON THE BALL: When Manning does get the ball out, it's up to a new-look secondary to close the deal. Cornerback Bene Benwikere was lost for the season to a leg injury last week, but Charles Tillman is listed as probable after missing the last four games with a knee injury. Tillman likely won't immediately pick up where he left off, because of conditioning and because Rivera wants to see what newly signed corner Robert McClain can offer.

"I can't overthink things," said McClain, a seventh-round draft pick of the Panthers in 2010 who hasn't played for the team since his rookie year. "I just have to go out there and play the sport that I've played for a long time and play my role and do what I'm asked."

Cortland Finnegan, who has contributed as a nickel corner in each of his first two games with the Panthers, could also get a look on the outside.

4. PRECIOUS CARGO: The Panthers lead the league with 33 takeaways, but the Giants aren't far behind, tied for fourth with 24 takeaways.

"They take the ball away," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "Those guys have great ball skills."

A robust running game could help the cause by putting quarterback Cam Newton in better, safer situations when he throws the ball, but the group will be without leading man Jonathan Stewart. Fozzy Whittaker, Mike Tolbert and rookie Cameron Artis-Payne will get a chance to carry the load, Whittaker having played well in Stewart's stead after halftime last week and Artis-Payne fresh legged after being inactive the previous six games.

"We'll start off with Tolbert and Fozzy as the primary starters, but I expect to see Cameron in there early," Rivera said.

5. NEW YORK'S MINUTE? The Giants have been there before, and they've done that. In 2007, the Giants famously pushed a dominant 15-0 New England Patriots team and then knocked them off in the Super Bowl. In 1998, a 5-8 Giants team took down a 13-0 Denver Broncos squad.

"They're a team that seems to play well when the pressure is on and are a team that traditionally plays well at the end of the season," tight end Greg Olsen said. "This is a team that we can deliver when they have to."

Aside from the unbeaten Patriots of 2007, seven teams have started at least 10-0 since the Panthers franchise debuted in 1995. All seven suffered their first loss at the hands of a non-division opponent, and the Giants represent Carolina's last non-division opponent.

The Panthers, however, aren't focused on history. They're not even focused on making history. They are, and will be, focused solely on the Giants.

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