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Giants vs. Bengals: Five things to watch Monday night

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Several matchups are worth paying attention to

NFL: International Series-Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Can the New York Giants win their fourth straight game Monday night when they face the Cincinnati Bengals? Here are five things to watch as they try.

The wide receiver matchups

How will the Giants handle A.J. Green? How will the Bengals match up against Odell Beckham Jr.?

Green leads NFL receivers with 59 catches and is second in receiving yards with 896. Jenkins, in his first year with the Giants after signing a rich free-agent contract, has been the team’s best cornerback. He has, for the most part, shadowed the best receiver on the opposing team. Odds, are he will be following the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Green on Monday night.

“He's a great corner,” Green said of Jenkins. “He's fast, athletic and is very quick, that's everything you want in a corner.”

Beckham works against Jenkins in practice all the time.

“He’s playing at the highest of highest levels. He’s not really giving up much,” Beckham said.

Giants’ cornerback Leon Hall, who spent nine years with the Bengals, knows what Jenkins or any corner lining up with Green is up against.

“He’s a big problem. There’s not a lot he can’t do. He can run the short routes, he’s agile enough to run some bigger routes and stuff like that. He can pretty much do it all,” Hall said. “He goes up and gets it, he can run. He’s pretty strong at the point of attack on press coverages and stuff like that. Everyone knows what he can do week in and week out. He’s done that for years now. It’s going to be a challenge for everyone.”

“He is fast, physical, rangy, long, has a big catch radius and they like to give him the ball,” said Jenkins, who would not say whether he will be shadowing the Cincinnati star. “Whatever job the coach gives me, I will do. Like I told you all, I won’t get into all of that. I will do my assignment and do it to the best of my ability.”

Beckham, of course, is the Giants’ biggest play-maker. Cincinnati’s corners are Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. Will one of them follow Beckham? Will they just play sides and try to bracket him, as some teams have done?

“He is a very good player. He is strong at the catch, he is good with the ball in his hands, he does an excellent job, he is explosive out of the breaks and the cuts and he has a great radius to catch the football, obviously, so you have got to do a very good job of always being conscious of where he is. He is a handful,” said Bengals’ coach Marvin Lewis.

Can Giants handle the Bengals’ defensive front?

Somehow, when we talk about what to expect from the Giants, it always comes back to what they get from their offensive line. This week is no exception.

The Cincinnati front, led by All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who has 18.5 sacks in his last 24 regular-season games, presents a formidable challenge.

That challenge is made even more difficult by the absence of the injured Justin Pugh. In Cincinnati’s standard 4-3 alignment, Atkins will line up over Pugh’s replacement, Brett Jones. That’s a tall task.

“I think every guard faces a big challenge when they go against Geno,” Giants’ coach Ben McAdoo said. “He's got a tremendously quick first step. He's built low to the ground, that's an advantage for him and he's very disruptive.”

Dunlap will usually line up over second-year right tackle Bobby Hart.

How the Giants handle those two players will go a long way toward determining how they do offensively.

Still running on empty?

The Giants made some offensive alterations last week aimed at helping them try to get their moribund running game, worst in the NFL, going. Rookie running back Paul Perkins and rookie tight end Jerell Adams, a better blocker than Larry Donnell, saw increased playing time. There were some different formations and plays attempted. Still, the Giants ran for only 2.3 yards per carry against the Eagles. With a chance to close the game out with their four-minute offense they couldn’t get it done, and wound up needing a defensive stand.

There were a couple of glimmers of hope. Rashad Jennings got 17 yards on his first three carries, but finished with just 26 yards on 11 attempts. Perkins had runs of 14 and 9 yards, but lost yardage on each of his first three carries and gained only 32 yards in his 11 carries. The Giants had five runs that lost yardage. Two of them, with utterly atrocious blocking, are shown below. The first happens to be the play on which Justin Pugh was injured.

No running back has a chance with “blocking” like that.

Controlling Tyler Eifert

Covering opposing tight ends has long been a bug-a-boo for the Giants. This season, with Landon Collins starring and rookie Andrew Adams emerging at safety, and Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson proving capable in coverage from the linebacker spot, that issue has been mitigated somewhat.

It is, however, still there. Last week, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caught 8 passes in 8 targets for 97 yards. In Week 7, Lance Kendricks of the Los Angeles Rams caught 7 passes in 9 targets for 55 yards. In Week 6, Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens had six catches in 10 targets for 36 yards. That’s 21 receptions in 27 targets for opposing tight ends in the last three games. In all, Football Outsiders ranks the Giants 24th in the NFL in covering opposing tight ends.

Cincinnati has another tight end who could pose a problem for the Giants. Tyler Eifert made the Pro Bowl last season when he caught 52 passes in 13 games. An Ankle injury sidelined him at the beginning of the season, but Eifert caught nine passes in the Bengals’ last game, a 27-27 tie.

“He is another dynamic player and he gives the quarterback another option, gives the defense another threat to defend, so those are the good things that he provides,” said Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis.

“We have to know where he is. They can use him all over the formation,” McAdoo said. “He's a big target with some range. He has sneaky speed, he can chew up some ground with his stride length. But, again, big targets that are smart and get football, in the red and green zone, are an advantage for the offense.”

The Giants will, of course, be focused on Green on the outside and stopping running back Jeremy Hill and the Bengals’ ground game. They will, however, also need to find a way to contain Eifert.

Can the Giants stand prosperity?

The Giants have won three straight games. They haven’t won four straight since the middle of the 2013 season, a streak that followed an 0-6 start to the year. Monday Night Football has not exactly been their friend. They are 23-37-1 on MNF, including 1-4 in their last five appearances.

The Giants have pushed their record at the halfway point of the season to 5-3. This is the second game of a three-game homestand that will conclude with the Chicago Bears before the Giants go on the road to face the 0-8 Cleveland Browns.

Opportunity knocks. Will the Giants open the door and take advantage, or will they trip themselves up?