Panthers, Giants using wins over Purple as springboard to hot streaks

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When the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants played the Vikings back-to-back weeks in October, they were struggling to say the least.

Carolina was 1-3, having put up just six points against Arizona the week before, and Cam Newton was looking like the turnover machine some Panthers fans have come to expect, throwing five interceptions in those first four games.

The Giants were an atrocious 0-6, one of those losses coming on the road in Carolina, when they were shut out 38-0.

Then the Vikings came around.

Carolina sent Minnesota to their first truly bad loss of the season, a 35-10 drubbing in which Cam Newton hit his stride, and Matt Cassel came back down to earth after winning his first start as a Viking against Pittsburgh.

The three Purple losses prior to the Carolina game were by a combined 15 points, two of those coming at the hands of co-NFC North leaders Chicago and Detroit.

Carolina's offensive exhibition sparked a five-game winning streak, one they take into tonight's Monday Night Football matchup with the New England Patriots. Newton has 10 total touchdowns to just three interceptions on the five-game run.

The next week the winless Giants hosted Minnesota, in what may be the ugliest game of the NFL season thus far.

It was a 23-7 victory for the Giants that saw Josh Freeman make his first start for the Purple, an outing some called the worst quarterback performance they could remember.

The Giants offense didn't do a whole lot out of the ordinary in that contest, but their defense, which had allowed 30-plus points five of their first six games, held Minnesota to zero on offense.

Since, the Giants D has been nothing short of massively better, having held opponents to less than 12 points per game during their four-game win streak.

The Panthers, now 6-3 and a game-and-a-half behind division leader New Orleans, have a chance to get their first signature win of the year tonight against Tom Brady and New England on the national stage, though their 10-9 win over the 49ers last week wasn't too shabby either.

The Giants are suddenly in the middle of a division race as well, just one back in the loss column of NFC East-leading Dallas.

Who can they thank?

Those clad in purple definitely deserve some of the credit, and Vikings fans will cringe knowing had they won just one of these two games and either the Cleveland game (Hoyer-to-Cameron with 51 seconds left) or the Week 2 Chicago clash (Cutler-to-Bennett with 10 seconds left), they would be just two games out of the NFC North lead with short-handed squads Green Bay and Chicago up next.

Instead, reality hits, and Minnesota is just 2-8, acting as an elevator for opponents playoff hopes.

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