It’s hard to call a Week 12 interconference game must-win when the division lead is just half a game away. But for the New York Giants, Sunday’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals is about as close as you can come.
Big Blue’s December schedule is daunting, as they play all four games against winning teams. With the NFC East crown up for grabs, a victory against the bad and banged-up Bengals to pad their record before entering their Christmas-time gauntlet is almost imperative. Cincinnati was already one of the easier matchups on New York’s schedule, and that was before their star rookie quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a brutal season-ending knee injury against Washington last week. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Bengals will start Brandon Allen at quarterback on Sunday. Allen, who started three games for the Denver Broncos last year, had been on Cincinnati’s practice squad all season.The Bengals will also be without running back Joe Mixon, who remains on injured reserve with a foot injury.
The Giants, on the other hand, are getting healthier than they’ve been in a while. Rookie safety Xavier McKinney, EDGE Oshane Ximines, linebacker Tae Crowder, and cornerback Ryan Lewis all figure to make their returns on Sunday. They should provide a nice boost to a defense that’s been playing admirably in their absence.
Latest Giants News
According to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, New York will be without tight end Kaden Smith, tackle Matt Peart, and receiver Dante Pettis, who all tested positive for COVID-19 on November 20th. None of those players are starters, though, so Big Blue shouldn’t miss them too much.
As an extra bit of incentive, the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving. Now, if New York wins on Sunday, and the Philadelphia Eagles lose to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, the Giants would move to first place in the NFC East.
With Cincinnati’s promising young backfield on the shelf, the Giants have no excuse to not bank a tidy victory ahead of their difficult December slate.
Here’s an overview of everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game, followed by a prediction for the final score.
Where and When
Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST/10:00 a.m. PST
Most Concerning Matchup: WR Tee Higgins vs. CB Isaac Yiadom
The second outside cornerback spot continues to be the glaring weakness on this Giants defense. Yiadom will likely man the position again this week, although there’s a chance Lewis, fresh off of injured reserve, will replace him. Neither player is of starting caliber, so New York needs to make sure they give their second corner plenty of help. James Bradberry should get charged with covering veteran A.J. Green. That leaves Yiadom (or Lewis) on the rookie Higgins.
The Bengals’ 2020 second-round pick has impressed. He’s graded out at a solid 71.7 per Pro Football Focus, and he leads Cincinnati with 14.6 yards per reception. The ball skills he displayed at Clemson have translated to the NFL. If the Bengals get competency from the quarterback position, his downfield playmaking ability could burn the Giants if they’re not careful.
Most Promising Matchup: DL Leonard Williams vs. OG Michael Jordan
The Bengals’ offensive line has been one of the NFL’s worst position groups for years now. This season hasn’t been an exception. Cincinnati ranks 31st in sacks allowed per game, and 22nd in rushing yards per game. Jordan, the Bengals’ left guard, might just be the worst member of a bad group. He has a pitiful 56.9 grade according to Pro Football Focus, and his sloppy footwork gets him in touble in pass protection. Jordan is still raw at age 22, but right now he’s a liability.
Williams should be poised to take advantage of the inexperienced Jordan. The former New York Jet is on pace to set career-highs in sacks and quarterback hits. He’ll be lined up over the Bengals’ second-year guard for much of the afternoon. Expect him to command double-teams or be in the backfield all game.
Keys to Victory
Don’t get comfortable. New York enters this game as a road favorite for the first time all year. The Bengals look like easy pickins after Burrow’s injury. But the Giants need to remember that they’re not exactly world-beaters themselves, and this game is vitally important in their pursuit of the NFC East crown. As long as Big Blue doesn’t take victory for granted, and plays with the same discipline and toughness they have for much of the year, they should leave Cincinnati with a third straight win.
Final Score Prediction: Giants 24 – Bengals 14
The Giants aren’t built to blow teams out. This game should go much like the Eagles game did two weeks ago. New York will put together a couple touchdown drives in the early going, and then play conservatively the rest of the way. They’ll make just enough plays in the second half to secure the victory. This won’t be the drubbing that some are expecting, but a win is a win. At this point in the season, that’s all the Giants should be aiming for.