Folger’s Forecast: Giants at Cincinnati
Last week’s loss to Pittsburgh saw all three of the Giants’ units play poorly. Post-game, their remarks were unanimous in denying the effects that Hurricane Sandy had on their individual and collective psyches.
We disagree. Watching them struggle, we thought it obvious that the Giants just weren’t prepared to compete.
The Bengals are coming off a loss to Denver, but more specifically, to a vintage Peyton Manning performance. The Bengals did not play that badly. Their offense is dangerous, while their defense has a bunch of young up-and-comers. This will not be an easy game.
Giants on Offense
The passing game is the Giants’ biggest concern. Until they can get Hakeem Nicks up and running at full throttle, the passing game will struggle.
Without Nicks at top form, defenses are throwing enough things at Victor Cruz to keep him and Eli Manning from working off the same plan.
Manning was spoiled last year at season’s end by the healthy troika of Cruz, Nicks and Mario Manningham, all of whom were playing at the top of their games. It would behoove the Giants to decide on the identity of their third receiver and stick with him.
It looks to us like rookie Rueben Randle has the most talent, but it would be tough to place too many expectations on a rookie.
The Giants’ offensive line is another concern. The return of David Diehl to the starting lineup did not work out well. Diehl came up short at the end of both halves when Manning usually is money, but Manning and the offense failed at both critical junctures, which is something that doesn’t happen very often.
Diehl will continue to be targeted at key moments until he steps up and plays big in big moments.
We’re still waiting to see more definitive play from TE Martellus Bennett, who has had solid numbers to date, but needs to do more as a receiver.
Bennett’s blocking also hasn’t been quite as good as advertised, as perhaps he’s still dealing with that hyper-extended knee that he suffered four games back.
The other element of this offense that needs to step up is Manning himself. His decision-making has to get better. He’s also gotten into a bit of a deep-throwing rut and needs to start checking the ball down when there’s nothing there. He has good pass catchers in the backfield and needs to utilize them more.
The Bengals defense has been inconsistent this year, but facing the defending Super Bowl champs will surely bring out their best. They generally stop the run well and have size and talent on the defensive line, but the pass rush is inconsistent, which leaves their pass defense open to probing.
They have few recognizable names on their defensive roster, but it’s these types of high-profile opponents that invariably bring out the best in a young team.
Giants on Defense
The Bengals big-time talent is all on the offensive side, particularly at the skill positions. WR A.J. Green is considered a Top 3 talent at the position, while TE Jermaine Gresham is another young talent on the verge of stardom.
Second-year QB Andy Dalton looks like the real deal, while the Bengals are developing some intriguing complementary talent for him on the outside. We are very concerned that the Giants’ spotty pass defense will not hold up under this potential onslaught.
However, the Bengals are not strong along the offensive line or particularly talented in the backfield. This could be the game that the Giants’ pass rush finally takes command. The defensive line has played well in spurts and seems to be coming on, but they’re still not quite there.
We’d rather the defense be playing its best ball at the end of the year which is why we’re not overly concerned about last week’s poor showing. The softness in last week’s middle was caused primarily by the injury absence of Chase Blackburn and the complete no-show performance of Chris Canty, whose lack of impact may have been due to a groin injury. Rocky Bernard should start and add some physicality against the run.
The continued loss of talented LB Jacquian Williams has been a key element in the defense’s spotty play. Williams had a big day in San Francisco in Week 6, which just happened to be the defense’s finest hour.
The Giants need to be careful in getting his knee injury fully healed, which is why he won’t play until have next week’s bye.
The worst player on the defense last week might have been Jayron Hosley. The rookie’s growing pains in the slot are hurting a defense that is far from clicking on all cylinders. Until Kenny Phillips returns after the bye Hosley will remain in the lineup, but he’ll need to play much better to hold onto that spot.
Giants on Specials
The special teams played a terrible game last week, particularly in coverage. Specials have missed Jacquian Williams more than expected.
Mark Herzlich’s move to the starting lineup really took a lot of his focus away from specials last week, and that’s all on Herzlich. Somebody needs to step up and give this unit’s leader Spencer Paysinger a hand. We think that Adrian Tracy could be that man.
The Bengals gave up a kickoff touchdown last week which could signal some opportunities for David Wilson. Their returner, Brandon Tate, is dangerous and needs to be schemed. Their punt returner Adam Jones is also dangerous.
The Bengals kicking tandem of P Kevin Huber and PK Mike Nugent is a good as the Giants. Specials does not look like a great matchup for the Giants, who will really need to compete just to survive.
This game will not be an easy win. The only redeeming quality about this inter-conference match-up is the Giants’ ability to pick up their game on the road. Most of the team’s recent clunkers have come at home, we don’t know why. We think the Bengals will go toe-to-toe with the Giants and stay in this game to the end, which is why we give Manning the slight edge over a very competitive Andy Dalton, who scares us.