Eli will be fine. You know the “mini slump” he has experienced the past three games? New York won two of those three contests (and had a four-game win streak before last Sunday’s loss), and the Giants were leading 20-10 in the fourth quarter before their implosion against the Steelers.
The Giants’ passing offense is awesome, but they rely a little too heavily on the big play and need to recalibrate their red zone offense. Their running attack is still a force, but needs to be more consistent from week to week. Their offensive line is one of the NFL’s best (left tackle Will Beatty has given up just one sack and ten hurries), and consistently opens broad lanes for ball-carriers and gives Manning the time he needs to throw. Their defensive front seven still attacks the passer, and their secondary still forces turnovers.
These dimensions will not change dramatically in the foreseeable future. And the most cathartic fact for G-men fans should be that the rest of the division can’t even crack a .400 win percentage. Oh, and one more thing…
Enter the Cincinnati Bengals! Cincy has lost four straight and has proved to be an elixir for any franchise’s woe or ailment (the Bengals most pitiful statistic is that they rank last in passing DVOA on third down according to Football Outsiders). Here is why this game won’t be very close.
Opponents have utilized tight physical press coverage with extra attention to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (by dropping more defenders deep and resisting the blitz) to slow down the Giants’ pyrotechnic passing attack. Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan created the blue print in Week 8, and Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau executed it successfully in Week 9.
Manning was 2-for-11 on intermediate to deep throws against Pittsburgh, showing that New York’s offense can be stunted if made to achieve first downs in intervals. (The Giants manufactured thirteen first downs against Pittsburgh and eleven against Dallas.)
Unfortunately for Cincy, they have Leon Hall, Nate Clements, and Terrence Newman as their corners instead of Pittsburgh’s Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen. According to ProFootballFocus, Cincy’s pass coverage is ranked 21st in the NFL, and the Bengals don’t have a sledgehammer security blanket like safety Ryan Clark either.
A team with good pass coverage and a capable four-man-rush can flummox the Giants offense (Manning was 8-18 with 84 yards under no pressure against the Steelers), but the Bengals do not have the skilled defensive backs to shutdown New York’s passing game. Bengals’ defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a beast, and is posting league-best numbers for his position in the pass-rushing statistic according to PFF, but Clements has been victimized too much this year to be deemed reliable. Giants’ offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will magnify Clements’ bad play Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were also able to run the ball down the Giants’ throats using whichever healthy running back was available (Isaac Redman ended up getting the majority of carries due to Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendehall’s injuries), and their offensive line’s blocking was superb.
While the Giants’ run defense has not been dominant this year, it will not need to be against Cincy. Primary back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has not recorded a 100-yard rushing game this season, and the Bengals collectively have not achieved over 100 rushing yards as a team since September.
The one-dimensional transparency of the Bengals offense has resulted in Dalton throwing 11 INTs to 14 TDs, as the Red Rifle only has two viable receiving targets in A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham.
Green may be among the very top receivers in football, but if stacked against enough multi-coverage, any playmaker can be rendered ineffective (see Johnson, Calvin).
Giants cornerback Corey Webster has been the weakest link in New York’s secondary this season, and even he has just played two very good games in a row. Safety Kenny Phillips is expected to miss Sunday, but the team’s coverage has been strong of late (Ben Roethlisberger was limited to 5.6 yards per pass play). Ultimately, the predictability of the Bengals offense, and poor front-line blocking, should render them obsolete against an increasingly effective pass rush (according to Football Outsiders the Bengals are 27th in adjusted sack rate).
The Giants have 11-5 written all over them, and as a short aside, the NFC playoff seeding will unfold like this. New York is headed for a No. 3 seed in the playoffs, with the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons grabbing No. 1 and No. 2. The San Francisco 49ers’ will win their division, likely grabbing No. 4 (due to the head-to-head loss against the Giants). Green Bay and Seattle will fill in as No. 5 and No. 6, with the Packers just edging out the Seahawks due to a soft remaining schedule.
Every signal for this Sunday has the Giants beating the tar out of the Bengals. The Giants are on the road, Manning just lost to his 2004 NFL Draft peer Big Ben, and New York is playing a bad team from an inferior conference. Additionally, Manning is primed for a huge game. Eli had a mere 114 net passing yards against the Steelers. He has not thrown for 200 yards in three of the Giants last four games. He has played mediocre enough that he is in danger of dropping out of the top ten for QBR, which has Peyton ranked No. 1.
No way Eli allows Peyton to upstage him for another consecutive week. The Giants are going to clobber the Bengals, and the side chatter about what is wrong with Eli will cease for a week.
Giants 34, Bengals 10