The Carolina Panthers and New York Giants closed old Giants Stadium last year and will open New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday in a rematch of a game that the home team would like to forget. New York (Diamond Sportsbook -6.5) suffered an embarrassing 41-9 loss to Carolina in the last game at Giants Stadium and hopes to return the favor with a big win in the first game at the team’s new home.
The Panthers and Giants each missed the playoffs last year after disappointing 8-8 campaigns that were simply not good enough to get them to the postseason in competitive divisions. Both teams are looking for fresh starts in 2010, and New York would love nothing more than to erase the memories of that painful loss to Carolina to begin the season.
The Giants dealt with a rash of injuries during the preseason, including a cut to the forehead of starting quarterback Eli Manning that required 12 stitches after the opener. They will be missing kick returner Domenik Hixon and cornerback Aaron Ross due to serious injuries while starting center Shaun O’Hara has the entire preseason with tendinosis in his ankle.
New York also lost backup quarterback Jim Sorgi to a shoulder injury, prompting the team to make a trade with Minnesota for reserve QB Sage Rosenfels and return specialist Darius Reynaud. Rosenfels provides a reliable backup in case Manning goes down again with an injury, and Reynaud should help fill the hole left by Hixon and Ross in the return game.
Defensively, the Giants will be looking to employ a more aggressive style of defense under first-year defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, hoping to maximize the potential of pass rushers Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora, all of whom are healthy entering the season. New York still has a veteran squad less than three years removed from winning Super Bowl XLII and also figures to have a major advantage at the quarterback position with Manning squaring off against second-year starter Matt Moore for the Panthers, who have covered eight straight games vs. NFC opponents and eight of their last 10 regular-season games overall.
Moore failed to lead Carolina to a touchdown in the preseason as the team finished with the least points scored, but he finished last season strong after replacing the departed Jake Delhomme. The Panthers won four of their last five games, including the rout of the Giants in Week 16. Moore threw eight touchdown passes and only one interception in the last five weeks of the season, but he got some major help from running back Jonathan Stewart, who filled in very well for injured starter DeAngelo Williams by rushing for 589 yards and five touchdowns during that same stretch. Stewart had a season-high 206 rushing yards on 28 carries against New York.
With a revamped defense that will concentrate on stopping the Panthers on the ground and the emotional charge of opening their new stadium, bet the Giants -6.5 at Diamond Sportsbook.