Both the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Giants trail in their division, but remain in the playoff hunt, to varying degrees. Monday Night Football will feature each time trying to keep those postseason hopes alive as they clash in Week 10 at MetLife Stadium.
After a tie with the Washington Redskins in London prior to their bye week, the Bengals find themselves in third place in the AFC North. According to PlayoffStatus.com, Cincy’s got a 15 percent chance of winning the division, a 72 percent probability of missing the postseason, and the toughest schedule within their division. Every Cincinnati loss has come by eight or more points and they haven’t beat a team with a winning record yet. The Bengals lead the all-time series with the Giants, 6-3, but have never won on the road.
The Giants got a big win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9, moving them into second place in the NFC East. The victory gives them the best shot of any NFC team at securing the No. 5 playoff seed. New York’s gotten by on a stingy defense and a pass-heavy offense that’s relied on big plays. In the second half of eight of the past 12 seasons, Big Blue has a losing record. Plus, the G-Men are awful on Monday nights. Their 21-35-1 record is fourth worst in the NFL. Luckily, the Bengals are worse, having gone 10-22 (second worst in the league).
Here are the keys to victory for both teams.
Bengals Keys To Victory
Feed Tyler Eifert – The Giants run defense only allows 3.6 yards per carry (fourth fewest) and 93.9 yards per game (ninth least). Giants corners have shut down wide receivers—especially in the red zone—and their focus will be on A.J. Green, who leads the league in receptions, catches per game and yards per game. However, quarterbacks who’ve faced the Giants have targeted tight ends 76 times, fourth highest in the league.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz had a season-high eight grabs for 97 yards against the Giants in Week 9. Eifert had nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown in Week 8 against Washington. The Notre Dame alum should have another big game on Monday night as Dalton averages 8.2 yards per attempt (third highest in the league) and 12.2 yards per completion (fifth highest).
Quit Stalling In Enemy Territory – On offense, the issue hasn’t been moving the ball—the Bengals are sixth in total yards and seventh in first down percentage—it’s keeping the drive alive and converting opportunities. Cincy’s offense is 22nd in the league in scoring, averaging a little more than 20 points per game. Yet, they’re averaging 6.2 plays, 35.4 yards, and 2 minutes, 49 seconds per drive, which places them in the top-10 league-wide. Their red zone touchdown efficiency is 52 percent, which is slightly below the league average, and their third down efficiency is just below 37 percent (22nd overall). Andy Dalton’s 3.1 touchdown percentage is among the worst in the league.
Limit the Big Passing Plays – Opposing quarterbacks have averaged a quarterback rating of 96.8, 10th highest in the NFL, and a 5.7 touchdown percentage, which is tied for sixth highest league-wide. The pass defense has allowed 7.8 yards per attempt and 12 yards per completion, putting them in the bottom-10 overall.
Giants Keys To Victory
Find The Run Game – New York’s run offense is the worst in the NFL, but the Bengals run defense is allowing 4.4 yards per carry and 116.1 yards per game, which are both 10th most in the league. Rashad Jennings has lost snaps to Paul Perkins, who had two big plays against the Eagles in Week 9. This could be Perk’s breakout game, even without starting left guard Justin Pugh. Pugh’s replacement, Brett Jones, held his own against a ferocious Eagles defensive line. With a positive rushing attack, the Giants can increase time of possession and reduce three-and-outs.
Turn Off The Turnover Machine – The Giants offense is second in the NFL in turnover percentage, giving the ball away on 16.1 percent of drives. Eli Manning’s two picks at the end of Week 9 nearly cost Big Blue the game, though both weren’t his fault. His 2.9 interception percentage is tied for seventh highest overall. Manning has been average to below average in a lot of categories. It’s time he takes charge and plays up to his potential.
Time To Shift T.O.P. – The Giants offense only averages 2 minutes and 15 seconds per drive, which is second worst in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Giants defense has stayed on the field for 2 minutes, 51 seconds per drive, sixth worst in the league. Big Blue can get off the field on defense by getting to Dalton, who’s been sacked on eight percent of pass attempts (third highest rate in the NFL).
It’ll be yet another close contest for the Giants as Eifert and Burfict could give Big Blue fits. Andy Dalton will keep the New York’s defense on the field, but won’t be able to convert good drives into points. Should the G-Men protect the ball and take some shots down the field, they should hang on to a narrow victory.