If the Cincinnati Bengals upset the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon they need to have a successful rushing attack. Why? Because the Giants' suddenly dormant offense will likely wake up against a Bengals defense that is allowing 27.3 points per game.
The Bengals aren't built to go toe-to-toe with the Giants' explosive passing attack, despite both teams being close statistically in this area so far in 2012. Big Blue clearly has the better quarterback in Eli Manning and while Victor Cruz and A.J. Green are comparable, the rest of the Giants' weapons in the passing game are better—despite what the stats say.
If the Bengals are to win Sunday they will need to rush for well over 100 yards and play keep-away from the Giants' offense. The Bengals' production in the running game this season suggests this is not possible. They are only averaging 95.9 yards per game (YPG) on 3.8 yards per carry (YPC).
The Giants, however, have allowed certain teams with poor rushing attacks to be successful against them this season on the ground as the chart below suggests:
3.6 YPC (30th in the NFL)
83.4 YPG (28th in the NFL)
Week 1 - 143 yds/5.5 YPC*
3.9 YPC (22nd in the NFL)
104.9 YPG (21st in the NFL)
|Week 9 - 158 yds/4.5 YPC|
*DeMarco Murray not Felix Jones got the bulk of the carries in this game
On the flip side, they have also been stingy against other teams with strong rushing attacks:
|Tampa Bay Bucs||
4.7 YPC (6th in the NFL)
131 YPG (9th in the NFL)
|Week 2 - 79 yds/3.6 YPC|
4.4 YPC (10th in the NFL)
116.3 YPG (12th in the NFL)
|Week 3 - 60 yds/3.0 YPC|
|San Francisco 49ers||
5.6 YPC (1st in the NFL)
168.6 YPG (1st in the NFL)
|Week 6 - 80 yds/4.7 YPC|
Based on this breakdown, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Bengals run for 150 yards this week. Then you look at their main running back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who will likely get 90 percent of the carries for Cincinnati on Sunday, and doubts of a great rushing performance start to creep in.
Despite being on pace for close to 1,000 yards, The Law Firm has been a subpar running back by any standard you measure him this year. He is averaging a woeful 3.4 YPC, has only rushed for three touchdowns and his longest run is for only 20 yards.
How many yards rushing will the Bengals have against the Giants?
He has also uncharacteristically fumbled three times this season, losing two. Prior to 2012, Green-Ellis had never fumbled in his first four years in the league.
Green-Ellis' previous track record doesn't suggest that he is simply having a bad year. Despite back to back double-digit touchdown seasons in 2010 and 2011, he has never averaged more than 4.4 YPC in his five year career. In 2012, Green-Ellis is on pace to average less than four yards per carry for the second straight season.
His talent and lack of explosiveness suggests that he is an average back at best and subpar on most days. Unfortunately for the Giants, that is exactly what you could say about Isaac Redman before he torched them for 147 yards on the ground last week. Redman had never had a 100 yard game in the regular season before his career day against Big Blue and is averaging a very ordinary 4.2 YPC in 239 career totes. If Redman can do it, why not Green-Ellis?
The Giants will likely shut down Green-Ellis and the Bengals' running game on Sunday and force Cincinnati to beat them with the pass. Despite the Giants' defense not stopping poor rushing offenses on occasion this season, the Bengals rushing attack seems too pedestrian to follow in the footsteps of the Cowboys and Steelers before them.
It may not hurt, however, if Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell tell the defense that the Bengals have a top 10 rushing attack.