Cincinnati Bengals' defensive tackle Geno Atkins. - Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Five key things to watch Sunday during the Giants-Bengals game.
The last thing the New York Giants want is to head into their bye week on a two-game losing streak. To avoid that, the Giants (6-3) have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) on Sunday. Here is a look at some of the key things to watch as the Giants try to do just that.
[Related: Three key matchups]
Can the Giants find their passing mojo?
Eli Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass in two weeks, and last Sunday suffered through an awful -- and unexpected -- 10-for-24 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can Eli get back on track? Can the Giants find a way to get some space for Victor Cruz? Can the still-hobbled Hakeem Nicks make enough plays to take some pressure off everybody else? Can the Giants spread the ball around and get back to being the explosive offense they have shown they can be?
How will Perry Fewell defend A.J. Green?
Corey Webster had his best game of the season last week. Prince Amukamara has probably been better overall, but if the Giants assign a defender to follow Green best bet is it would be the veteran Webster. Will they double with a safety? A linebacker? Green is certain to get extra attention. Oh, and he better watch out for Antrel Rolle and his shoulder pads.
Can the Giants neutralize Geno Atkins?
The Giants might be without three-time Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee (ankle) on Sunday. Fortunately, Atkins plays the other side and will likely line up most of the time against Kevin Boothe and center David Baas. Atkins has seven sacks, 21 combined hits and quarterback hurries and is by far the highest-rated defensive in the league in the Pro Football Focus rating system, with a score of +27.8. How impressive is that number? Randy Starks of Miami is second in the league among defensive tackles with a score of +14.6. So, yes, that is an amazing number and the Giants have their hands full with Atkins.
Will the 'softies' take offense?
Coach Tom Coughlin used the word "soft" when talking about the middle of his run defense last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that is something a football player never wants to be called. Will the Giants' defensive tackles, and middle linebacker Mark Herzlich, use that as motivation and make sure Coughlin doesn't have reason to use the word again?
Can David Wilson impact the return game?
In his first four games, the rookie speedster averaged 30.2 yards on 13 returns. Since Week 4, though, when he totaled 217 yards on six returns, Wilson has been quiet returning kickoffs. He has averaged a pedestrian 24.3 yards on 18 returns the past five weeks. Can he give the Giants a game-changing play or two, making life a little easier on the suffling offense?