3TFO: Giants @ Bengals, Week 10
This AFC/NFC matchup finds the 6-3 New York Giants traveling to Cincinnati to take on the 3-5 Bengals. The last time these two teams met was in 2008 where, led by Carson Palmer, the Bengals were able to push the defending champion Giants to overtime, but ultimately lost 26-23.
This time around, the G-Men are also defending a title, but have looked vulnerable lately — they nearly lost to the Redskins in Week 7, won in Dallas the following week thanks more to Cowboys turnovers than offensive production, and lost last week to a Steelers team who ran all over them for a total of 159 yards while their leader, Eli Manning, completed only 10 passes.
The Bengals, led by sophomores Andy Dalton and AJ Green, have had a tougher season so far. They’ve been competitive in every game except a Week 1 blowout loss to division rival Baltimore Ravens, but have only three victories to show for it. Let’s take a look at some factors that will help determine who walks off the field Sunday with a W.
Eli’s talent can no longer be doubted, but he has been prone to disappointing performances over the years. His play over the past three weeks has not been elite — he has four interceptions and one TD pass (the 77-yard score where the Redskins let Victor Cruz run right by them) in that span. Part of his struggles have been the pressure opposing defenses have been putting on him; in those past three games the Redskins, Cowboys and Steelers were generated a combined 38 pressures on him. The two-time Super Bowl MVP’s QB passer rating drops from 95.0 to 58.2 when he’s under pressure, while only one of his 12 TDs have occurred under these circumstances. The Bengals’ defense (or journeyman Terence Newman to be exact) grabbed two interceptions off Eli’s older brother last week, but their pass rush was astonishingly non-existent (one knockdown and two hurries). Can Eli end his slump this week? The Bengals certainly hope not, though this Giants team has shown it can win without him posting impressive numbers.
Blocking Geno Atkins
Geno Atkins, the 2010 fourth-round pick, currently leads all defensive tackles in our Pass Rushing Productivity Signature Stat (9.7%). Atkins isn’t a one-trick pony, though, as he’s also fourth in Run Stop Percentage among DTs with 16 stops, making it no surprise that he made our Mid-Season All-AFC North Team. In his worst pass-rushing performance by far, the Broncos limited him to only one hurry last week, though Peyton Manning has a tendency to do that to opposing defenses.
Atkins primarily lines up at right or left defensive tackle and could get a shot at every Giants offensive lineman. LT William Beatty should be the biggest challenge as he’s allowed only one sack and no other hits, but that one sack was concerning — it happened with 5:14 left in the Redskins game where Rob Jackson, who has no other sacks and only one hit on the year, gave him a stutter step move before putting him on the ground en route to Eli.
Beatty also happens to be our fifth-highest rated tackle in the league in terms of run blocking (+7.8). The weakest links on this line are center David Baas and former LT-turned-RT David Diehl, a name PFF readers will no doubt recognize. Baas has been an asset in the ground game, but not in pass protection, allowing a sack, 10 hurries and six QB hits (one to Barry Cofield which won’t show up on the stat sheet because of an offensive holding flag on the play). Diehl somehow managed to wrestle his job back from Sean Locklear, who was responsible for only three hits and 17 hurries in 481 snaps at RT. The long-tenured Giant repaid the coaching staff for their confidence in him by allowing a hit, two hurries and a sack on what would be the Giants’ last offensive play of the game last week. RG Chris Snee (also known as Tom Coughlin’s son-in-law) has rebounded after a disappointing 2011, while LG Kevin Boothe has been serviceable at best. They will all have their hands full with Geno.
AJ Green vs. Giants Secondary
It is clear that sophomore AJ Green is freak. He is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league, hauling in all eight catchable passes thrown 20 yards or more, which is fourth best among wide-outs in our ‘Deep Passing’ Signature Stat. Green has scored on several teams’ No. 1 cornerbacks (Joe Haden, Rashean Mathis, Sean Smith) and recently added Champ Bailey to that list last week.
The defending Super Bowl champions have struggled in coverage this year, with FS Kenny Philips’ injury early in Week 4 playing a role. In his place, Stevie Brown has not been a liability with five interceptions (though one was a fourth-down desperation throw from Tony Romo that would have benefited New York more if he had not picked it off) and only one touchdown surrendered (a 62-yard bomb to impressive rookie Josh Gordon). Talkative strong safety Antrel Rolle, meanwhile, continues to be a weakness, gifting QBs a 91.3 passer rating when targeting him despite having more interceptions (two) than TDs given up in his primary coverage (one).
Green should see a lot of Corey Webster, who mostly followed Mike Wallace around last week. Webster has struggled throughout this young season, tied for 27th in our coverage signature stats among CBs, with 537 yards and four scores allowed. The Giants will have to be more worried if Green ends up in the slot versus Jayron Hosley, though; the rookie is surrendering a 72.4 completion percentage along with, most notably, getting beat by Santana Moss for two scores in the Week 7 game. Expect the phenom WR to always have at least two defenders focused on him — but even that may not be enough.
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