The Carolina Panthers have quite a few obstacles to overcome in Week 7. And none of them, ironically enough, should be the actual opponent they’re facing.
Curious as to what that means? Well, check out our top storylines for Carolina’s upcoming clash with the 1-5 New York Giants and find out.
The ghosts of MetLife Stadium
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Is Sam Darnold being haunted by those MetLife Stadium ghosts in that picture or is he just doing the “Thriller” dance? Either way, the Panthers better hope they don’t see the former of those two possibilities this Sunday.
Darnold’s recent struggles are certainly a cause for concern. Carolina’s ineffective offense has been led into the ground, in part, by their quarterback’s shortcomings—his inefficient footwork, lack of touch and overall loss of control.
Those were all prevalent themes during his time with the New York Jets, even within his home confines of the Meadowlands. Much of Darnold’s game comes down to the mental aspect, so he’ll have some demons to exorcise as he tries to bounce back in Week 7.
They might be Giants
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These won’t be your dad’s New York Football Giants on the field. In fact, they won’t even look like your New York Football Giants.
“Big Blue” is black and blue, having already ruled out running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wideouts Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle). They’ll also have to make a trio of decisions on tight end Evan Engram (calf), Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and Darius Slayton (hamstring).
Those aren’t some run-of-the-mill names, folks.
That group is, literally, the absolute core of their offense’s firepower. Quarterback Daniel Jones, in addition to missing his left tackle Andrew Thomas, can very well be without any of his top weapons to throw to.
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Speaking of injuries, the Panthers will have a pair of important close calls to make themselves.
The first could come on Saturday, when the coaching staff will presumably make their final determination on newly-acquired cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Being that the 2019 AP Defensive Player of the Year has just become eligible off the injured reserve, his conditioning must be on par for the team to give him the green light.
The second call, on starting left tackle Cameron Erving, may come closer to gametime. If he’s unable to shake off an illness, Carolina will likely go with rookie Brady Christensen.
This move is especially intriguing considering Christensen, who manned the left tackle spot to critical acclaim at Brigham Young University, may be the future of the blindside.
Stop the snowball
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The narrative around these 2021 Panthers, and its head coach, has changed as quickly as it was built. The excitement and promise of that 3-0 start has been extinguished by three succeeding weeks of sloppy play and game management.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, but it always ultimately falls on Rhule. And, to his credit, he’s never shied away from the responsibility.
Hopefully for Rhule, though, there won’t be any burden to shoulder after this one. Given the Giants’ army of injuries and the fact that they’re just not good, this is a game the Panthers simply cannot afford to lose.