No one knew for sure if the New York Giants (5-3) would be a playoff contender in 2016, but most expected the Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) to be just that. Halfway through this NFL season, the reverse is true. Fortunately, the Bengals still have time to right the ship under veteran head coach Marvin Lewis. A big step in that direction would be a signature victory on Monday Night Football over Big Blue at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Bengals on Offense
Cincinnati certainly has a franchise quarterback and multiple weapons at its disposal. The team ranks sixth in the league, averaging 395.6 yards per game. While offensive production seems robust, the Bengals’ scoring offense has sputtered. The team ranks 21st overall, averaging 20.9 points per game through eight contests. It is not hard to figure out why, because Cincy’s red zone touchdown scoring percentage stands at only 52 percent.
Statistically at least, Andy Dalton has been as effective as ever. He sits in the top 10 in most passing categories, except touchdown passes (9). And if Dalton is a top-10 passer, then A.J. Green is a top-four receiver. Green leads the NFL with 59 catches, and he is the only wideout averaging more than 100 yards per game (112 yards per game). Once again, touchdown efficiency rears its ugly head, as Green has only three touchdown grabs this year.
The two-headed running back tandem of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard has over 800 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns between them. Hill is starting tailback, and Bernard provides a change of pace with 31 catches out of the backfield.
Bengals on Defense
While Cincinnati’s offense has been effective, most of the team’s drop-off can be attributed to their defense. As a unit, the Bengals give up 382.5 yards per game, ranking them 25th in the NFL. Head coach Marvin Lewis has always been a defensive mind, so the current state of that side of the football must have him somewhat perplexed.
Momentum-changing turnovers have also been lacking this season. The Bengals have seven interceptions but only four forced fumbles, and they are without a defensive score this season. The team ranks 21st in the NFL with 16 quarterback sacks, and the Giants have to contain the trio of Carlos Dunlap (5 sacks), Will Clarke (3 sacks) and Geno Atkins (3.5 sacks).
The discussion on linebacker Vontaze Burfict usually focuses on both the good and the bad. Burfict was suspended by the NFL for three games at the start of the season for “repeated violations of player safety rules.” Translation: he’s a dirty player. On the other hand, Burfict has accumulated 39 tackles in just five games since his return.
Players to Watch: A.J. Green and Geno Atkins
When you lead the league in several receiving categories, there’s not much else that can be said. The Giants need to be prepared to cover Green. In addition to his speed, Green is also a big-bodied receiver at 6’4″ and uses that to his advantage. The Giants will likely play some match-up with Janoris Jenkins, and hopefully that works.
Geno Atkins is a renaissance defensive tackle. He can stuff the run and rush the passer. Atkins has been to four Pro Bowls in his first six years in the league. The Giants’ weak rushing attack may not get any better this week, due to the presence of Atkins. Keep in mind that the G-Men will be without their best offensive lineman, Justin Pugh, so keeping Atkins at bay will be that much more difficult.
For the Giants, there are some match-ups that do not bode well for the squad, at least on paper. Can the Giants get a ground attack going with big Geno Atkins stuffing rushing lanes? Can Janoris Jenkins be physical enough to match-up with A.J Green?
On the other hand, the G-Men have been trending in the right direction, as head coach Ben McAdoo has started pushing all the right buttons. The Bengals have never won a playoff game under Marvin Lewis, and they may not get a chance this year. Take the Giants in a close contest at MetLife Stadium.
Post Author: Curt Macysyn.