The Cincinnati Bengals and New York Giants are headed in opposite directions. The Bengals have limped to a 3-4-1 record, winning just one of their last four games. The Giants, on the other hand, have won three straight after losing three in a row, finding their stride on defense and in the passing game on offense.
Monday night’s game is crucial for both teams as the Giants try to remain just two games back of the Cowboys in the NFC East, while the Bengals attempt to get back to .500. With a great sense of urgency for both squads, it’s certain to be a hard-fought game with a great deal of intensity. The desperation for Cincinnati will ultimately be the difference, as will the Giants’ injured offensive line.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
The Bengals are coming off a bye
The Bengals last played a football game in October when they tied the Redskins on the 30th of last month. They’ve had a full two weeks off with an additional day of rest thanks to Monday night’s kickoff. This time off has allowed the Bengals to rest up and get healthy, which will have an impact against the Giants. Michael Johnson is questionable with a calf injury, but it’s not likely to keep him from playing. Tyler Eifert has worked his way back from offseason surgery, playing in two games this season.
The extra time off usually benefits a team as they’re given two weeks to prepare for their upcoming opponent. Bye weeks haven’t had a profound effect on the Bengals since Andy Dalton took over, but there’s no question they’re better following a week off. Since 2011, the Bengals are 3-2 following a bye. In those games, Andy Dalton has thrown seven touchdown passes and six interceptions. Those numbers aren’t great, but consider the defenses he faced: Seattle, New England, Denver, San Diego and Pittsburgh – not exactly the easiest opponents.
The Bengals will take advantage of the bye and put together a game plan to exploit the Giants’ weaknesses.
Geno Atkins will wreak havoc with Justin Pugh out
Justin Pugh has been ruled out with a knee injury, giving way to Brett Jones at left guard. He’ll have a tough assignment in Geno Atkins, who’s one of the best defensive tackles in the league. Atkins will wreak havoc on the inside and provide a spark to the Bengals’ struggling pass rush.
His presence inside will force the Giants to focus more attention on him, thus opening up one-on-one matchups for guys like Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Domata Peko. Eli Manning isn't the best at eluding pressure, particularly when it’s in his face. Atkins should be able to win his matchup with Jones, which will create a domino effect for the rest of the defensive line.
The Bengals are desperate for a win, and I’d expect them to come out with relentless pressure and aggressiveness, given the circumstances. That’ll show in the trenches.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY SportsAaron Doster
Tyler Eifert is healthy and a game-changer
Tyler Eifert returned to his Pro Bowl form against the Redskins two weeks ago, catching nine passes for 102 yards. His addition to the offense drastically changes what the Bengals are able to do, taking pressure off of A.J. Green as the go-to playmaker. With Eifert in there, teams are no longer able to focus all of their attention on Green. Consequently, a safety like Landon Collins will be forced to cover Eifert in the middle of the field, preventing him from shading Green’s way. It’s similar to the way the Cowboys operate on offense. Teams can take away Dez Bryant if they’d like, but that leaves Jason Witten open – and vice versa.
If the Giants opt to double Green, it will give Eifert one-on-one matchups with safeties or linebackers. That won’t bode well for New York.
His presence, now that he’s completely healthy, elevates the Bengals’ offense to another level; that was evident against the Redskins. New York’s secondary has been good, but limiting both Green and Eifert will be nearly impossible to do. The Bengals didn’t have this luxury to start the year, and you’ll see a difference in the offense going forward.