This Monday Night Football matchup pits two of the top six passing offenses against each other in a prime-time showcase. The Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1), led by quarterback Andy Dalton, take their fourth-ranked passing attack into MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants (5-3) and two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants hope to counter the Bengals high-flying aerial attack with their own sixth-ranked air show.
After Monday night, both offenses could be even higher in the offensive rankings. The Bengals defense is 25th in total defense and tied for 19th in scoring defense. Cincinnati gives up 262.4 yards a game through the air and has allowed 16 touchdowns. The Bengals are 0-3-1 when an opponent passes for 250 yards or more. Their opponents are averaging six yards per play.
The Giants have the 23rd-ranked defense in the NFL. This unit gives up 371.2 yards a game. The Giants have the 25th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. New York is tied for a league-low 11 sacks generated. The Giants have not been able to consistently get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing.
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Though both teams have had success passing the football, the Giants have had struggles getting their rushing attack going this season. They rank last in the NFL, averaging only 68.2 yards a game. Some of those issues belong to the offensive line's inability to open holes. Others blame the loss of running back Shane Vereen to a triceps injury in the preseason. Giants head coach Ben McAdoo thinks they have a good young player in rookie running back Paul Perkins. So does Manning.
“Paul does some good things. Did a couple of nice jobs on the screen. Had a screen earlier too and I thought he rushed it a little bit and got tackled. On the next couple, he did a good job being patient, setting up the blockers, having a better feel. He's good in the pass game and protections and running the ball well for us,” said Manning when asked about the increased playing time for the runner from UCLA.
If Perkins is to help improve the Giants running game, he will have a chance against a Bengals run defense that gives up an average of 116.1 yards a game. A once fundamentally strong defense led by coordinator Paul Guenther, the Bengals miss too many tackles and have produced 57 penalties. The defensive line has been impressive as pass rushers, getting 25 sacks on the year, but their insistence on getting to the passer has opened up run lanes.
Another rookie who could play a major role in the outcome of the game against the Bengals is wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Starting wideout Victor Cruz has a sprained ankle and could miss the Bengals game. This will put Shepard into the starting spot against a defense that gives up tons of yardage to passing teams.
Another rookie the Giants were counting on to play a significant role, cornerback Eli Apple, was benched against the Philadelphia Eagles. Apple, the Giants' first-round selection out of Ohio State this year, had at least three mental mistakes against the Eagles and found himself on the sideline. “We're going to dust Eli off and we're going to put him back out there, and he's going to get better and learn from it,” said McAdoo of the rookie defender.
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has made a living out of embarrassing NFL cornerbacks, Pro Bowlers and rookies alike. Green is second in the NFL in receiving yards with 896. Against a secondary that continues to give up big plays, the Bengals will be attacking cornerbacks Apple, high-priced free agent Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with Green deep.
Coming off their bye week should work wonders for Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert. Eifert missed the early part of the season due to issues with his back. Now 100 percent healthy, Eifert is a tough matchup for any safety in the NFL. On Monday night, Eifert will be facing safeties Landon Collins and Nat Berhe. Collins has three interceptions on the year and is an improved coverage player. But his true strength lies in his physicality in the run game, not as a coverage player. Berhe is a smart player and will need to use his brains to hold up in coverage against a more athletic player in Eifert.