PRESEASON GAME II: Match-ups to watch

On Saturday, August 20, the Carolina Panthers travel up to New York to face the Giants in preseason football action. The Carolina Panthers are 1-0 in the preseason, dominating the Washington Redskins 28-10, while the Giants are rebounding from their 17-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns. How will the teams stack up? Only after kickoff, at 8 pm Eastern, will we be able to tell. However, here are the key match ups to look for.

KEY MATCHUP 1 – Giants Offensive Line vs. Panthers Defensive Line
The Redskins were built for speed, but the fact that Patrick Ramsey didn't have time to throw downfield completely negated Washington's revamped receiving corps in the first quarter. While the Panthers didn't register any sacks against Washington, they were able to get in the quarterbacks' faces enough to disrupt the passing game efficiently.

The Giants offensive line, however, gave up five total sacks; one for a massive 12 yards against up and comer Eli Manning, and a whopping three against Tim Hasselbeck against Cleveland's pass rush, which isn't notorious for the pressure it produces.

With Eli coming into his own, and Hasselbeck vying for the second string position, Carolina's dominant defensive fronts (first and second string) should be able to generate pressure. New York will have to rely on quick outs, screens, and timing routes in order to compensate.

KEY MATCHUP 2 – Tiki Barber/Brandon Jacobs vs. Kris Jenkins/Atiyyah Ellison
Tiki Barber was limited in action last week, as he produced only 8 yards off of two carries. Barber should see roughly the same amount of carries, as chances are he'll only play the first series or two. However, he is always a threat, and the fact that his fumbles are more limited as of late should make him more of a threat up the middle.

Brandon Jacobs

The Giant fans, however, are enamored with Brandon Jacobs, the rookie out of Southern Illinois. Jacobs' 73 yards on 12 attempts are nothing to sneeze at. He will be looking to prove his performance wasn't a fluke, and will be hitting the holes hard on Saturday. Jacobs will probably get some playing time against both the first and second string defenses of Carolina, and after such an impressive first outing, the Panthers will be looking to shut him down before he gets his legs churning.

Jacobs will also be a threat in the backfield because of his receiving skills. Against the Panthers aggressive pass rush, a quick screen can be potent enough for big gains. The Panthers will have to watch for a dump off that can leave them out of position, yet still get enough penetration to shut the run down.

KEY MATCHUP 3 – Giants Receivers vs. Panthers Pass Coverage
There are several interesting match ups in the is category. The Giants new toy at wide out, Plaxico Burress, is looking to prove that he is worth the contract the Giants gave him. Chris Gamble is finally entering his own, and should stay toe to toe with Burress. Gamble's six interceptions last year tied for the conference lead, and in one quarter of action against Washington, he was able to pull down a horrific pass by Ramsey in Washington's first drive. He will definitely be looking for another momentum-shifting pick against the lanky Burress.

The other match up to look for will be easy to spot, as it will take place in the middle of the field. Thomas Davis likely will have his first start at outside linebacker, and chances are he will come face to face with controversial tight end Jeremy Shockey at some point in the first quarter. Shockey has the skills to be a premier tight end, and Davis has a penchant for the big hit. This will possibly be the most bone-crunching match up of the game.

If Gamble and Davis are able to effectively control the passing attack by New York, Carolina's front four will have the crucial few seconds they need to make big plays in the backfield. However, Burress has a slight height advantage over Gamble (6'5" against 6'1"), and Shockey can be crafty against a rookie, and both have big play potential.

Of interest on Carolina's side of the ball:
Carolina's third string offensive line – Late in Saturday's game against Washington, Carolina's Eric Shelton was struggling to find an open lane to run through. While some of it seemed to be rookie jitters and technique issues, the line doesn't seem to get much push off of the snap. Line Coach Mike Maser will definitely have a talk to these guys before the game, and it could possibly spring Shelton for the big gain he's searching for.

Carolina's Wide Receive Battle – There aren't many spots available on Carolina's deep and talented roster, and the receiver battle should heat up for the one, maybe two, open jobs. Look for the undrafted rookies to make a big showing on special teams. The one player that performs the best in this area has the best shot at making the final roster, as they all seem to be fairly equal in their receiving roles.

The Giants don't seem to have much in the way of huge camp battles, and their roster is almost all but set in most areas. The real question Coach Tom Coughlin will have is how well his rookies and depth will perform, especially after losing against Cleveland in the final minutes. The starters should play one or two series for the Giants and the Panthers. However, Carolina's battle-tested back ups should have the edge against New York's lackluster depth.

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