Giants at Bengals -- Week 10
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Field turf, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: Giants by 4.5
Forecast: Partly cloudy with temperatures between 57 and 67 degrees. Wind out of the south at 19 mph.
Records: Giants (6-3 overall, NFC East 2-2); Bengals (Overall: 3-5, AFC North 1-3)
Past results: The Giants won the last meeting in overtime, 26-23, back in 2008.
Series record: The home team has won every game in this series (Bengals hold a 5-3 advantage over the Giants).
What matters: The Giants offense has been steadily declining since the impressive Week 6 win over the San Francisco 49ers. New York has been outgained and out-possessed for two straight weeks, the running game has been mediocre and the passing game is clearly out of sync.
Things won’t get any better against the Bengals, who feature an underrated front four and an experienced secondary. So instead of looking to make the big play, the Giants need to take what the Bengals give them. And if that means intermediate, five and 10-yard throws, then that’s what QB Eli Manning will have to do.
Who matters: WR Hakeem Nicks isn’t anywhere close to 100 percent, so it’s been largely up to WR Victor Cruz to move the chains on offense. He’s admitted to seeing more defensive attention since Nicks has been bothered by lingering knee issues, and the numbers back up his story. He’s been targeted 19 times in his last two games, making just seven catches for 90 yards.
Key matchups: Bengals WR Andrew Hawkins is compact and quick, which makes him very difficult to bring down. He specializes at turning short throws into big gains (ranks 11th in the NFL in yac), which means the Giants need a fast, physical defender to stay on Hawkins the moment he crosses the line of scrimmage.
Enter rookie CB Jayron Hosley, who has been routinely credited for his physical play throughout the season. Like Hawkins, Hosley is small (generously listed at 5-10), but he moves his feet well and has tremendous upper body strength given his small stature.
Injuries of note: RG Chris Snee (ankle) has only missed one game since the start of the 2005 season, but he’s listed as “questionable” for Sunday. If he doesn’t play, expect RT David Diehl to slide over to guard while OT Sean Locklear returns to the starting lineup.
The Giants will also be without CB Michael Coe (hamstring), S Kenny Phillips (knee) and LB Jacquian Williams, while RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and LB Keith Rivers are listed as “questionable.”
Inside stuff: Nicks (knee) is “probable” for Sunday’s game, but he hasn’t looked like himself since returning to the field in Week 6. He has just one touchdown reception this season and his declining production has affected WR Victor Cruz, who is starting to see more defensive attention.
For the Giants offense to really recover, it's going to come down to players like TE Martellus Bennett, WR Rueben Randle, WR Domenik Hixon and even FB Henry Hynoski making plays in the passing game. Manning hasn't done well checking down to receivers during his recent slump, and that has limited the Giants' ability to get first downs.
Connections: Rivers obviously has history with the Bengals (they picked him ninth overall in 2008, but traded him to the Giants for a fifth-round pick after four injury plagued seasons). The Giants also have Ohio natives like C Jim Cordle, LB Chase Blackburn and WR Domenik Hixon as well as TE Adrien Robinson, who attended the University of Cincinnati. SLB Mathias Kiwanuka is from Indianapolis, and will have friends and family at the game.
Stats you should know: The Giants have allowed 15 plays of 30 yards or more yards and 38 plays of 20 yards or so far this year. The defense has had its moments, but big plays are starting to become a problem for the unit.
A lot of the issues could be solved if the pass rush was back on track, but until that happens, the Giants secondary is going to have to stay with their assignments as long as possible.
The good news is that DE Justin Tuck (two sacks last week) appears to be improving.
Looking ahead: The Giants have a bye next week, so another loss would give them plenty to ponder while they’re away from the facility. They face the Green Bay Packers in Week 12, and after that it’s a visit to Washington to play the Redskins, followed by a home game against the New Orleans Saints.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Giants 16
Follow the Giants and Alex Raskin @CBSGiants and @AlexRaskinNYC.