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The Hard Way Is the Only Way for Giants

No Hakeem Nicks might mean Giants have Panthers right where they want them

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Sep 20, 2012  |  Updated 10:38 AM EDT
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We've finally figured out what the problem was for the Giants in their season opening loss to the Cowboys.

They came into the game with all of their key players in the lineup, they were playing on their home field and people couldn't come up with too many reasons why they wouldn't start their Super Bowl defense with a victory. So, naturally, they lost. 

Against Tampa, players kept getting hurt and Eli Manning kept throwing interceptions until the team was down 14 in the third quarter. That was all the Giants needed to kick it in gear and rally to a victory. 

If there's a hallmark of the Tom Coughlin era as Giants coach, it is that the team underachieves mightily when things look like they are set up to go their way and that they wildly outperform expectations when conventional wisdom says that the decks are stacked against them. That should mean good things for the team in Carolina on Thursday night. 

Three offensive starters plus third receiver Domenik Hixon will all miss the game and one of them, Hakeem Nicks, is the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his exploits against the Bucs last weekend. Ahmad Bradshaw and David Diehl will also miss the game, leaving the team reliant on a lot of players who have spent very little time playing leading roles. 

This would be a much bigger concern if it wasn't Manning under center. When he's on, you could have the cast of "Parks and Recreation" rounding out the offense and the Giants would find their way into the end zone. 

Carolina showed its vulnerability on defense against the Saints last weekend and there's no reason to think that Manning can't get into rhythm and pick apart the Panthers even without Nicks in the mix. The bigger fear should actually be on the other side of the ball. 

It's about time that someone other than Jason Pierre-Paul stepped up and started making plays in the front seven. Justin Tuck, in particular, needs to come up with a big game after two invisible performances to start the season. 

Osi Umenyiora could also stand to show his face, but Tuck's the one who points his finger at teammates when asked about areas where the team is struggling. You could say that's the role of a team leader, although it's hard to be much of a leader when you are playing like a member of the faceless masses. 

Cam Newton isn't going to be easy to stop even if those guys pick up their games. If they don't it's nearly impossible to see them stopping him. 

That probably means the Giants can already celebrate their victory, but we can't be sure that their plan isn't to lose this one so that there's extra time for people to shovel dirt on them before yet another resurrection. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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