The New York Giants (6-7) host the unbeaten Carolina Panthers (13-0) on Sunday in a monumental Week 15 clash.
Carolina continues to march toward perfection while the Giants are battling to stay on top of the NFC East. The Panthers have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, but are jockeying for the No. 1 seed with the Arizona Cardinals.
Here's a short breakdown of what to expect as well as a prediction:
Game: Week 15 against Carolina
Last season: Did not play
Last meeting: Panthers won, 38-0, on Sept. 22, 2013
All-time series: Panthers lead 5-4
How the Giants will win: Odell Beckham Jr. has been far and away the Giants' best player all season long. However, he is about to face his most daunting challenge in the form of Josh Norman, who has arguably emerged as the NFL's top cornerback in 2015. Norman has been as close to a lockdown cornerback as there has been this season. Elite wide receivers such as DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones have been held to a combined nine receptions for 89 yards while being defended by Norman. Meanwhile, Beckham has ripped off six consecutive 100-yard receiving games. Beckham will need to continue his streak to give the Giants a chance to knock off Carolina.
How the Panthers will win: MVP candidate Cam Newton will have to play like, well, an MVP. Newton has thrown 13 touchdowns over the past four games -- five apiece against Washington and New Orleans before a pedestrian three last week in a rout of Atlanta. The Giants defense has played better of late, but would seem to be a bit shaky against a high-octane Panthers offense that has topped 30 points each of the last four games. Even without Jonathan Stewart, Newton can spearhead Carolina's running game, which has set up big plays down the field to Ted Ginn Jr. and Co.
How the Giants will lose: Can the Giants offense stay hot against the Panthers? The Giants exploded for 31 points on Monday night in Miami, but were held in check the three previous games -- all losses -- to the Jets, Washington and New England. For context, the Giants offense found success against the NFL's No. 26 defense in the Dolphins, but struggled against the league's No. 10, 17 and 8 defenses the three games prior. Here comes Carolina, which has the No. 5 defense. Can Eli Manning and Co. take advantage of the few opportunities they'll get?
How the Panthers will lose: Injuries have piled up on Carolina, starting with running back Jonathan Stewart, who is 11 yards shy of reaching 1,000 on the season for the first time since 2009. Stewart is out against the Giants. The good news is star tight end Greg Olsen will play, though he's also dinged up with a knee injury.
Whether head coach Ron Rivera will be cautious with his team or play whoever is necessary to win their 14th game of the season remains to be seen. But if newcomers such as Cameron Artis-Payne and other receivers don't step up, Carolina could find itself in trouble.
Prediction: Panthers 27, Giants 21
Why: Even at less than full strength, the Panthers seemingly have an edge against the Giants in every major statistical category heading into their Week 15 tilt. Newton is playing at an MVP level, and he's having success throwing down the field to Ginn and with the short-passing game to Olsen. No team in the NFL runs the ball more than the Panthers, which could lead to the Giants defense being exploited yet again. While the Giants have a history of pushing the NFL's best to the brink, they may be in a bit over their heads on Sunday. In the NFC East, a loss won't knock them out of the playoff race, pending the outcome of the Philadelphia-Arizona and Washington-Buffalo games.