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The Panthers’ Josh Norman is about to crush the Giants’ playoff dreams

Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers has held opposing quarterbacks to a 43.1 passer rating in coverage. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The New York Giants kept their playoff hopes alive with a 31-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. It was a huge game for quarterback Eli Manning and receiver Odell Beckham Jr, who connected on seven passes for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

They got it to a star player, and he made plays for them,” Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.

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The Giants will need them to continue to make plays to keep their hopes alive, especially next week against the undefeated Panthers.

According to the Upshot’s playoff simulator, the Giants now have a 21 percent chance at making the playoffs, most likely through winning the NFC East (19 percent chance). That improves to 38 percent with a win over Carolina but drops to 8 percent with a loss.

The key for New York will be finding a way to get the ball to Beckham. He almost single-handedly carried the offense Monday night and has been the focal point of the offense all season long. But that plan is going to get a lot more complicated against the Panthers with Josh Norman in coverage.

Norman has become one of the top cover corners in the NFL. Last season he held opposing quarterbacks to a 53.9 passer rating against while in primary coverage. This season it is even lower at 43.1. For context, when a quarterback throws a pass away the player registers as a 39.6 passer rating, so teams are almost better off just giving up completely on the play rather than testing Norman in the secondary.

In the first four games of this season, Norman intercepted four passes, defensed two others and returned two of for touchdowns. After that he rarely was targeted more than five or six times a game. Based on how the opposition’s No. 1 receivers have fared against him it is easy to see why:

  • Week 1: Jaguars’ Allen Hurns caught two passes for 14 yards. Allen Robinson was 0-for-3.
  • Week 2: DeAndre Hopkins caught 2 of 7 targets for 24 yards.
  • Week 3: Brandin Cooks went 2-for-3 for 23 yards with the third attempt an interception by Norman.
  • Week 4: Mike Evans was targeted once but didn’t make the catch. Vincent Jackson was 2-for-6 for 31 yards with a pass defensed and an interception.
  • Week 7: Jordan Matthews, no attempts made.
  • Week 8: T.Y Hilton went 1-for-3 for 15 yards.
  • Week 12: Dez Bryant and backup quarterback Matt Cassel were 1-for-5 for six yards.
  • Week 13: Brandin Cooks caught one pass for 19 yards.
  • Week 14: Julio Jones caught 4 of 6 targets for 33 yards.

Minimizing Beckham from the game would force Manning to rely on his other receivers, with whom he has produced a 90.7 passer rating, much lower than the 114.1 he has with Beckham. Barring that, the Giants would have to turn to a running game that is the third worst at producing yards per carry (3.6) and the second worst at scoring touchdowns (three). Neither should make you feel optimistic about the Giants’ chances for success.

They might have kept their playoff hopes alive Monday night. But they’re likely going to get snuffed out by the Panthers in Week 15.