by Will Brinson
As Ryan has already pointed out, this game, despite the "Homefield Throughout" nature in which it will be played, isn't the most "important" of the season, since both teams are all but playoff locked (if the Panthers lose out and the Bucs, Falcons and Cowboys win out ... well, then I'm a jackass).
But there's still puh-lenty at stake here. Namely: home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the likelihood of being favored to rep the NFC in the Super Bowl. The last one of course, is really just a semantical bonus for those that like to gamble.
Make no mistake though -- HFA is a huge deal to both of these teams, considering that they're a combined 14-1 this season at home. So, yeah, it's kind of important.
And as such, this should be a great game, even if it's kind of odd to see the seasonal arc that each team is taking. The Giants were, just a few weeks ago, already being penciled in to rep the NFC in Tampa. However, in just the course of two losses to the Eagles and the Cowboys, people have started to wonder how they can perform when they're not a full strength.
But, as Giants early season roll has slowed, the Panthers have only picked up the pace, moving from a tough team that looked like a contender to a powerhouse that rumbled over Tampa Bay for 300+ rushing yards in a Monday night blowout. Of course, there's the whole matter of DeAngelo Williams being secretly hurt -- yeah, it's weird. It also seems unlikely; he was, after all, tutored by Vinny Testaverde and that goes a long way towards maintaining health. But still, a shoddy performance or an early exit from "Dash" would make this a pretty big deal going forward.