Even after a 28-point effort last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, most analysts would agree that the New York Giants’ offense has under-performed for most of the season. The story is pretty much the same for the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense.
Which of these groups will step up and give their team an advantage when they meet Monday night at MetLife Stadium? Let’s look at the matchup.
By the numbers
Points per game: 20.1 (24th)
Yards per game: 339.9 (22nd)
Passing yards per game: 271.6 (22nd)
Rushing yards per game: 68.2 (32nd)
Points per game: 23.6 (20th)
Yards per game: 387.5 (25th)
Passing yards per game: 262.4 (21st)
Rushing yards per game: 116.1 (23rd)
This is really all about the Giants’ offense
No offense to the Cincinnati defense, which does have some talented players, but in terms of looking at the matchup when the Giants have the ball it is, to my mind, really all about the Giants’ still under-performing offense.
Let’s look at five things.
When is the breakout coming?
The Giants scored a season-high 28 points last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, but it took a pair of interceptions that gave them short fields of 31 and 30 yards to do so. There are three NFL teams averaging more than 28 points per game, six averaging at least 27 points per game and 23 teams scoring more points than the Giants.
Four times this season, with an offense expected to be among the best in the league, the Giants have scored fewer than 20 points. The Giants scored 30 or more points seven times last season. To match that in 2016, they would have to score at least 30 points in seven of their final eight games.
Head coach Ben McAdoo promised weeks ago that a breakout was coming on offense. It really hasn’t come yet. Will it finally come on Monday against a Cincinnati defense that has, statistically, been mediocre.
Will the Giants ever run effectively?
“Despite all the negativity out there in the run game, we made some progress there late in the second half.”
That was head coach Ben McAdoo speaking on Monday about the Giants’ running game.
Perhaps McAdoo is right. The Giants turned to rookie Paul Perkins late in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he did churn out runs of 9 and 6 yards on the Giants’ final possession, added to a 14-yard run earlier in the game.
Statistically, though, the Giants finished with just 54 yards on 24 carries, 2.3 yards per attempt. Their league-worst yards per game average went down to 68.2. The Giants average 3.2 yards per carry, with only the Los Angles Rams (2.7 yards per carry) worse.
The Giants featured Perkins, the rookie fifth-round pick, more against the Eagles as he had a career-high 11 carries. His role will likely continue to increase. They did more from under center. They used Marshall Newhouse as an extra tight end on a handful of plays, and used Dwayne Harris as a blocking wide receiver.
Still, they are searching for real success with the run game. The Bengals allow 4.4 yards per rushing attempt, 22nd in the league. Can the Giants finally find sustained success running the ball?
The young and no longer restless
Wide receiver Roger Lewis Jr. (37 snaps, a 30-yard touchdown catch). Tight end Jerell Adams (14 snaps, three receptions in four targets). Perkins (22 snaps, 11 carries for 32 yards).
The Giants turned to this trio of young players more Sunday against the Eagles. That is a trend that is likely to continue.
“That’s how I grew up in this business, to get young players and everyone involved in game days that is up. Give them all the support they need to be successful. The way to get young players acclimated to the varsity team is to get them out there and get them going,” McAdoo said. “They have to earn the opportunity. They don’t just get to play. They have to earn that opportunity and prove that they’re trustworthy and accountable. I think it does a lot for your team. It gives 46 guys an opportunity to play. I think it helps the veterans and breathes some life in the veterans in the long season. They have young guys that are champing at the bit. They bring excitement and energy. It’s fun to see the young guys have success.”
You have to expect that trend to continue for the Giants.
How much does the loss of Justin Pugh hurt?
Brett Jones did an excellent job Sunday filling in after Pugh got hurt. He did an excellent job filling in a few weeks ago at center when Weston Richburg got himself tossed from a game against the Washington Redskins. He may play well enough during Pugh’s weeks-long absence that he puts himself in line to eventually replace John Jerry at right guard. Let’s all root for that.
Let’s not, however, think that the loss of Pugh won’t hurt the Giants. It will. He has been their best offensive lineman this season having, as the Giants hoped he would, gone from an adequate right tackle to an outstanding left guard. Pro Football Focus, in fact, named Pugh to its midseason All-Pro Team. PFF said:
The Giants may have been okay with Justin Pugh playing right tackle, but they have an All-Pro player on their hands when he plays left guard. Pugh has built on his performance there from a year ago, and through the first half of the season, has yet to allow a sack, and has been the league’s best run blocker at the position, even though the Giants’ run production would never show it.
No matter how well Jones plays, you don’t take your best offensive lineman out and not feel the impact somewhat.
Will the Giants ever protect the Duke?
Call them unfortunate, cheap, fluky, whatever you want, the Giants still turned the ball over two more times on Sunday vs. the Eagles. That means they have 16 giveaways this season, and have yet to play a game without a turnover.
That, obviously, has to stop.
About the Cincinnati defense
None of the above has been meant to overlook the Cincinnati defense. The Bengals’ defense is middle of the pack statistically so far this season, but there are several talented players the Giants need to be wary of.
The defensive front is led by two-time All-Pro tackle Geno Atkins, one of the game’s most dominant interior players for the past few years, and quality pass-rushing defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
At the linebacker level, Cincinnati has the talented but enigmatic Vontaze Burfict and veteran Karlos Dansby.
The secondary is led by veteran Adam Jones, who might have the responsibility Monday of shadowing Odell Beckham Jr.
Cincinnati is coming of a bye week, and the team’s web site indicated this week that there will be some personnel changes for the Bengals on Monday night. We will have to see what that might mean, but tweaks in personnel and scheme are things the Giants will need to be prepared to deal with.