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Beckham vs. Norman should be heavyweight classic

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) raises his arms after scoring a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Miami Dolphins on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

The world was deprived of Beckham vs. Revis two weeks ago. This Sunday should provide some consolation for those who thirst for premiere receiver-cornerback matchups.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Panthers corner Josh Norman figure to be sparring for most of the game. Norman has slid into the conversation of shutdown cornerbacks this season, and has routinely covered — and quieted — the most dangerous threat on whatever team the Panthers have faced. On the Giants, there’s little question about who that player is.

“Odell is a tremendous football player, I think Josh is a tremendous football player, and I think it’s going to be a marquee matchup, I really do,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday. “I think both guys are going to bring a lot to the table and we’ll see how it goes. This is one of those matchups you hope to see and I think it’s going to be a good one for this game.”

Beckham is coming off a game in which he caught two eye-popping second-half touchdowns in a win over the Dolphins. Norman is coming off a game in which he held Julio Jones to four catches for 33 yards in a trouncing of the Falcons.

Like most brash cornerbacks, Norman is not afraid to express his confidence both on the field and off.

“He tries to talk himself up a little bit, but he makes plays and he backs it up,” Giants receiver Rueben Randle said.

It’s a collision course of greatness, although it may take some maneuvering.

The Giants move Beckham around the field on offense, often sliding him into the slot to create favorable matchups and also diagnose defenses. Tom Coughlin said that the Panthers have typically left Norman on the outside when a star receiver goes in, leaving others to cover.

However, Coughlin said he has no intention of hiding Beckham there to avoid Norman, at least any more than the Giants normally would. And Rivera said Beckham may force the Panthers to change their approach with Norman.

“We do use him to shadow,” Rivera said. “Some of the things will dictate whether or not we’re shadowing or lining up opposite him. We’ll see how it goes.”

Norman’s style is more athletic than physical, which is generally not a good way to try to contain Beckham. The Dolphins tried to give Beckham a buffer rather than disrupt him at the line of scrimmage and he burned them for seven catches and 166 yards … while fighting a stomach bug.

Rivera paid Beckham what might be the biggest compliment any receiver can get.

“He really has an opportunity, I think, to be one of those guys who you’ll start talking about he and Jerry Rice,” the Panthers coach said in a conference call on Wednesday. “I’ve had the great fortune of watching Jerry Rice, and man, I see a lot of flashes. I played against Jerry as well. I see a lot of flashes in Odell’s game and I think he’s a tremendous football player.”

Rice, of course, is considered to be the greatest receiver in football history and one of the greatest players. Beckham has played 25 games, but what he’s shown in that brief window puts him on track for a place in that conversation, according to Rivera.

“Watching him and watching what he’s done in his first two seasons is just tremendous,” Rivera said.

Still, he thinks he might have an answer to it on Sunday in Norman.

“I’m comfortable with it,” he said of the matchup, “but we’ll see. You play the game and there’s a reason you play it.”

On Sunday, Beckham vs. Norman will be a reason to watch it too.

The league’s best receivers have all had difficulty when facing Josh Norman. According to NFL Network, here is what they have managed when matched directly against him:

Player // Rec // Yards

DeAndre Hopkins // 3 // 35

Mike Evans // 0 // 0

T.Y. Hilton // 1 // 15

Dez Bryant // 1 // 6

Julio Jones // 4 // 33

As a team, the Panthers have allowed only three players to go over 100 receiving yards in a game this season, including two wide receivers:

Oct. 4 -- Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers WR (10-147)

Oct. 18 -- Jimmy Graham, Seahawks TE (8-140)

Dec. 6 -- Brandin Cooks, Saints WR (6-104)

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