Scott Fowler

Double-cover Odell Beckham Jr. or risk the consequences

This is the game the Carolina Panthers are most likely to lose of their final three regular-season contests.

This is the game cornerback Josh Norman said he has had circled on his calendar since “about Week 2.”

And this is the game where – as fascinating as it would be to see Norman go against Odell Beckham one-on-one all day – if I’m the Panthers, I hedge my bets.

There are only two ways I see that the New York Giants can beat Carolina. One is if the Panthers commit at least three turnovers. The second is if Beckham goes off for at least 150 yards and two touchdowns. (Beckham has already scored 24 TDs in only two seasons for the Giants).

Beckham is Eli Manning’s man – the player he looks for when he’s in trouble and the player who can push Manning toward the “Good Eli” side of the equation.

There is a “Good Eli” and a “Bad Eli” all the time. “Good Eli” won two Super Bowls and went 27 for 31 last week, with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions. “Bad Eli” is capable of throwing three or four interceptions.

If I’m the Panthers, despite all the confidence I have in Norman, I double-cover No. 13 on every play in this game. Safety help. Linebacker help. All sorts of help.

If Rueben Randle or Dwayne Harris can beat the Panthers, so be it. I don’t think they can.

▪  I was surprised that this game wasn’t “flexed” to a Sunday night game, but it is still getting major-league treatment. One of my favorite announcing teams – Joe Buck and Troy Aikman – will be on the TV call for Fox.

▪  Isn’t this odd? Both the Panthers and Giants have the exact same number of turnovers this season (15), with the exact same number of interceptions (10) and lost fumbles (five). Despite being only 6-7, the Giants are very impressive in turnover ratio, ranked third in the NFL to Carolina’s first. Where the Giants are terrible is in total yardage allowed. They are dead last in that category, giving up 418.6 yards per game.

▪  Picking the Giants this week will be a trendy upset pick, given the team’s well-earned reputation for being giant-killers (most notably in the 2007 Super Bowl over New England). The absence of Jonathan Stewart will hurt, but I still think Carolina is playing too well to lose this one. My prediction: Carolina 33, N.Y. Giants 24.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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