If the Cincinnati Bengals want to avoid extending their current losing streak to five games, then they'll need to defeat the visiting New York Giants this Sunday. The Giants are coming off of a loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week and have yet to put up back-to-back weeks without a win, while the Bengals most recently fell to the Denver Broncos.
Yes, the Bengals are playing host to both Peyton and Eli Manning in back-to-back weeks and, interestingly enough, will need to approach Eli's Giants in a similar manner to which they played Peyton's Broncos.
Here's the game plan for the Bengals this week.
Cut off the Deep Passing
The elder Manning has had a better time of passing in the past few weeks, as well, so Cincinnati's effectiveness in preventing him from going deep should translate well to their similar attempts against Eli.
Interestingly, Cincinnati's best cornerback last week was also their worst. Terence Newman notched two interceptions of the elder Manning but also allowed two touchdowns. He was followed closely by Leon Hall, who allowed all six passes thrown his way to be caught, albeit for no scores. Clearly, the key was limiting yards after the catch—they gave up just 128, which wasn't terrible, considering the one-two punch of Thomas and Eric Decker as Peyton's biggest targets.
All the Bengals need to do is play Nicks, Cruz and the rest of the Giants receiving corps as they did their Broncos counterparts last week and they can hold the Giants to low yardage and likely few points.
The A.J. Green Show
There's been a lot of talk about the Giants defense, mainly their high-pressure front seven, but lost in the discussion is how poorly their secondary in particular has played the pass. As long as Dalton can get the ball out accurately, there's no doubt he'll be able to exploit New York's 26th-ranked pass defense as long as he can get the ball to Green.
Clearly, the Giants struggle even when they know who needs their best coverage, so the Bengals must find ways to keep Dalton protected from New York's pass rush and make sure the ball gets into Green's hands early and often.
Last week, Green caught seven of nine passes thrown to him for 99 yards and a touchdown, despite Dalton being sacked five times. Against an even worse secondary, Green should have a monster day, again likely augmented by the safety valve that is tight end Jermaine Gresham, who had six catches for 108 yards last week.
Obviously, Dalton cannot throw deep with every drop back, and the Bengals will need to augment their passing with runs from BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But if Cincinnati is going to win, the Dalton-to-Green connection needs to be the focal point of their offensive attack.