NFL Thursday: Giants at Panthers

Published on Sept. 20, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

The defending Super Bowl champions will hit the road for the first time this season when they travel to Charlotte tonight to face Carolina at 8:20 p.m. Eastern on the NFL Network.

From Sunday night to early Wednesday afternoon, most betting shops had the Giants installed as one or 1 ½-point favorites. However, as of late Wednesday afternoon, most books had adjusted the number and made the Panthers two-point favorites.

As of early this afternoon, most spots had Carolina as a 2 1/2-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 49 1/2. Gamblers can now take the G-Men on the money line for a plus-125 return (risk $100 to win $125).

New York (1-1 straight up, 0-2 against the spread) bounced back from a 24-17 season-opening loss to Dallas by rallying for a 41-34 win over Tampa Bay in Week 2. The Giants trailed the Bucaneers 24-13 at intermission and were still down 27-13 with one minute remaining in the third quarter.

Eli Manning shook off three interceptions, including a pick-six with only eight ticks left in the first half, to throw for a pair of touchdowns in the final stanza. Manning finished with a career-high 510 passing yards, but the G-Men failed to cover the spread as 8 ½-point ‘chalk.’

Subbing for running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who sustained a neck injury in the first half, Andre Brown rushed 13 times for 71 yards, including a two-yard TD plunge for the game-winning points with only 31 seconds remaining. Brown, a North Carolina St. product, had just two career carries going into the game.

He’ll get the first start of his career Thursday since Bradshaw has been ruled ‘out.’ Also, Tom Coughlin’s club will be without two other starters on offense, OT David Diehl and WR Hakeem Nicks.

The loss of Nicks, who didn’t make the trip due to a foot injury, is especially disconcerting. Nicks went wild against the Bucs, garnering NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after hauling in 10 receptions for 199 yards and one TD.

The Giants won’t have back-up WR Domenik Hixon, either, because of a concussion. But they will have Victor Cruz, who had 11 catches for 179 yards and one TD against Tampa Bay.

Carolina (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) lost a 16-10 decision at Tampa Bay in Week 1, but it responded nicely by knocking off New Orleans by a 35-27 count as a three-point home underdog. The 62 combined points sailed ‘over’ the 53 ½-point total. The Panthers hooked up money-line supporters with a plus-150 payout (paid $150 on $100 wagers).

Cam Newton was the catalyst against the Saints, connecting on 14-of-20 throws for 253 yards and one touchdown without an interception. Newton also rushed for 71 yards, including a five-yard TD scamper.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined to run for 120 yards on 25 carries, while Steve Smith had three receptions for 104 yards.

Carolina’s defense intercepted Drew Brees twice, but the unit is surrendering 146.5 yards rushing per game and it allowed the Saints 486 yards of total offense.

These NFC rivals last met two years ago in Week 2 with the Giants capturing a 31-18 win as 5 ½-point home favorites. They haven’t played in Charlotte since 2006 when New York won 27-13 as a three-point road ‘chalk’ behind three TD passes from Manning.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–In comeback mode most of the day, the Giants produced 604 yards of total offense compared to Tampa Bay’s 307 yards. New York had a 31-14 advantage in the first-downs department.

–The Falcons have gone west of the Rockies five times during Mike Smith’s tenure and they’ve returned home to Atlanta with a victory in each instance. They are three-point underdogs Sunday at San Diego on a short week after beating Denver on Monday Night Football.

–San Diego RB Ryan Mathews (clavicle) was upgraded to ‘probable’ on Wednesday and is expected to make his regular-season debut.

–Atlanta RB Michael Turner will not be suspended against the Bolts after getting a DUI following MNF earlier this week.

–Houston’s defense limited the Jags to merely 117 yards of total offense last week.

Click here for my Power Rankings going into Week 3.

Click here for my pick on tonight’s game.

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