Bengals football is back, folks. The Bengals travel, again, to New Jersey to take on the 5-3 Giants. If we are serious about Cincinnati’s chances of making it to the playoffs, this nearly is a must-win game. The team has struggled against opponents with winning records and at 3-4-1, the Bengals need to start the second half of their year with a win.
New York is a weird team, with Odell Beckham Jr. as their only big target on offense and a defense that can take the bend but doesn’t break mantra to a different level, despite their recent free agent splash. The Giants are on a three-game winning streak, but they were all one-score wins. They’ve struggled to put up points, only scoring 16 against the Saints in Week 2, but they also held Drew Brees to just 13.
This is a winnable game for the Bengals, but we’ve said that before. Cincy’s porous defense and lack of pass rush could help the underachieving Giants offense have the breakout performance they’ve been looking for all season long. And Ken Zampese’s offense will need to deal with an improving Giants defense.
Here’s a list of five Giants players you should watch for on Monday. Mind you, this is not a list of the Giants’ five best players.
Sterling Shepard, wide receiver:
With the Bengals busy trying to cover Odell Beckham Jr. and with Víctor Cruz possibly out, the Giants’ rookie receiver, Sterling Shepard could have a huge game. The Giants offense relies heavily on the underneath game, taking advantage of the accuracy and consistency of their quarterback, Eli Manning. You might get tired of seeing a lot of quick slants on Monday.
Shepard has a nice rapport with Manning and Cincinnati’s defense has struggled mightily against slot receivers. Shepard is a very good route runner, due to his quickness. If the Bengals sit on their classic cover 3 zone defense, expect the rookie wide receiver to get targeted often.
Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end:
Not the same pass-rusher he was before his freak accident, Pierre-Paul is still very effective both in the ground game and on special teams. Cincinnati would like to establish their rushing attack early, and containing Pierre-Paul should go a long way.
The Giants haven’t gotten to the quarterback as often as they would like thus far this season, but the Bengals are also dealing with problems of their own among their offensive line. Andy Dalton is the third most sacked quarterback this season and the Bengals don’t want to let Pierre-Paul get to him on Monday.
Landon Collins, safety:
Want a mix of Shawn Williams’ decisiveness against the run and Reggie Nelson’s ball hawking abilities? Collins is your man.
He’s not quite as good as Nelson at making plays on the football, but he’s been much better in that category than advertised prior to the draft. The second-year player out of Alabama is on a roll as of late, wreaking havoc blitzing and also grabbing three interceptions in the last two games.
Andy Dalton has been very careful with the ball this season - maybe not against the Redskins in London, though. The Bengals will probably want to keep it that way.
Paul Perkins, running back:
The Giants rushing attack is among the league’s worst. They can’t get anything going, but Perkins has some speed that starter Rashad Jennings no longer boasts.
Cincinnati needs to keep Perkins in check. That will go a long way in stopping the Giants quick play-action fakes that give Beckham and Shepard a window in the middle. This is tricky I have to admit. Bengals’ linebackers are a very big weakness and Marvin Lewis might not want to make change on a defense that needs younger legs.
Janoris Jenkins, cornerback:
I wanted to put Justin Pugh here, but the left guard is not going to play and I’m projecting a shootout on Monday. Jenkins is a big-time corner who is prone to giving up big-time plays when he gambles. Enter A.J. Green and everything makes sense for Cincinnati.
Though, the Giants have a secret weapon in Leon Hall. The former Bengals cornerback can share with his current team advice on what other teams have done to stop Green, or at least to slow him down. Double Green with your second best corner and then dare other guys like Brandon LaFell or Tyler Boyd to beat your top guy one on one.
The Bengals will need to go through Jenkins if they want to produce on offense.