As the New York Giants (6-3) travel to take on the Cincinnati Bengals (3-5), the game will likely come down to the obvious — will the Giants offense rediscover their mojo? Can Big Blue fix their Swiss Cheese defense? Will A.J. Green continue his impressive sophomore campaign?
With a little help from Pro Football Focus, here are three key match-ups to keep an eye on during this interconference showdown.
Eli Manning v. the Bengals’ pass rush
After completing just 10 passes against Pittsburgh last week, Manning will need to bounce back to give the Giants a chance v. Bengals. I hate to sound cliche, but in the case of the Bengals, statistics and the record don’t tell the full story.
In his last three games, Manning has thrown 4 interceptions compared to just one touchdown. His passer rating has dropped in each of his last five contests.
Believe it or not, Eli’s slumping.
Much of his struggles have stemmed from opposing defenses bringing the heat. Washington, Dallas and Pittsburgh generated a combined 38 pressures on Manning, which lowers his passer rating from 95.0 to 58.2.
A.J. Green v. the Giants’ secondary
The Bengals’ second-year wideout has been among the best in the league in 2012. Green has scored at least one touchdown in seven of the team’s eight games this season, averaging 92 yards in each.
Green, who said the Giants’ defense had holes earlier in the week, will now have a chance to back up his talk. The Giants, ranked 26th in the league against the pass, is also the No. 2 defense in terms of takeaways with 26.
The weakness lies in the safety position. Antrel Rolle has allowed opposing quarters to earn a 91.3 rating when targeting him.
Corey Webster will likely be assigned to covering Green. Webster, who was responsible for Mike Wallace last week, is rated the 27th corner in the NFL, having allowed 537 yards and four touchdowns.
In other words, the Giants will need to have safety help over the top.
Geno Atkins v. the Giants’ offensive line
One of the most unheralded players in all of the league, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins leads all players at his position in pass-rush productivity and is fourth in run stop percentage, according to PFF.
Atkins has the capability to line up at right or left defensive tackle, and will likely be matched up against Giants left tackle Will Beatty. This year, Beatty has allowed just one sack on Manning.
If Atkins changes where he lines up, he could face center David Baas or David Diehl. Baas has allowed a sack and six QB hits through nine games this season, and Diehl allowed a sack last week after retaining his job.
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