The Cincinnati Bengals face the seemingly terrifying prospect of playing host to Eli Manning‘s New York Giants this weekend, in a game where Manning will be desperate to reverse his team’s, and his own personal, recent fortunes. Both the Giants and Bengals are looking to get what would be an important victory this week, while Andy Dalton is in a similar position to Manning as both are under-performing right now.
If the Bengals are to beat the Giants, they will need some big performances from many of their important players. Fortunately for the home side, the Bengals do have some areas of strength that match up with potential soft spots on the Giants’ roster.
Here are a few to watch out for:
David Diehl v. Geno Atkins
Diehl and James Brewer, both tackles, have been working at right guard this week because of the absence of Chris Snee. Diehl is likely to be the starter on game day and is coming off a horrible display at his natural position across from LaMarr Woodley. Diehl gave up a sack and multiple pressures against Woodley last week and should significantly struggle with Atkins in one-on-one matchups.
At 32 years of age, Diehl is a shadow of his former self and doesn’t have the same athletic ability as he once did. Dealing with Atkins’ combination of speed and power rushing, while being out of position, is a major problem for the Giants. The Giants’ interior offensive line play isn’t impressive with Snee, who is performing well this year, so without him Atkins could be in Manning’s face all day regardless of how the Giants approach him.
Atkins is on pace to set a franchise record for sacks, as he has seven in the first eight games. More importantly he has only been kept away from the quarterback completely in three games this year, two against an all-pro talent in Alex Mack. Manning is outstanding at making throws against pressure, under pressure, through pressure and whatever else way you need him to, but if Atkins can wrap his arms around him before he throws the football at least a few times, that would be a major advantage for the Bengals.
AJ Green v. Corey Webster
Green generally has a match-up against whatever cornerback is assigned to trail him all day, so much so that he generally sees double coverage coming his way. While Webster is a very good cornerback, Green’s significant height advantage makes this matchup notable however. Webster is a very aggressive cornerback who excels in press coverage, but he is only 6’0 compared to Green’s 6’4 frame. That impact of that size advantage will be accentuated in the red zone if Green and Webster are put in single coverage against each other.
At the goal-line, Green will always be an option unless the Giants switch out a safety, most likely Antrelle Rolle. By doing that the Giants would be giving up many things. Most significantly they would be putting a safety, even though he is a former cornerback, in single coverage with arguably the best wide receiver in the whole league right now. By moving Rolle, you are also either sacrificing run support in tight by moving a cornerback inside, or risking a mismatch by playing a linebacker with an instinct to stop the run in a play-action situation.
The knock-on effect of Green’s abilities are prominent all over the field, but in this game they will be massive in the redzone.
In the Trenches on Offense
Even though the Giants’ defensive line is almost a thing of contemporary NFL legend, last week it was exposed against a group of less talented Pittsburgh Steelers‘ offensive linemen. The Steelers’ exposed the Giants’ inability to stop the run up the middle. Isaac Redman, a backup, ran for 147 yards with multiple big runs going clean through the middle of the defense. The Giants moved Mark Herzlich into the starting lineup last week and he was exposed along with the Giants’ interior defensive linemen.
While the Bengals’ have their own issues on the interior of their line, with Trevor Robinson not proving capable of getting much push in place of Jeff Faine last week, the Steelers primarily relied on Willie Colon at left guard to create holes last week. If the Bengals can do the same with Kevin Zeitler, they would be in good position to establish the run.
On the edges, Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith didn’t have their best games of the season last week, so should be motivated to improve this week. Against Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, the duo definitely have a big task on their hands, but neither end was able to really impose themselves on the game last week against lesser tackles in Max Starks and Mike Adams. Todd Haley’s play-calling kept the Giants’ ends off balance all game and that is a game plan that Jay Gruden is certainly capable of replicating.
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