Who’s have imagined, when the New York Giants were mired in a three-game slide earlier this season, that by mid-November they would be in the driver’s seat for a wild-card berth?
That’s the reality for Big Blue, who host the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. In a year of great parity — 12 of the 16 NFC teams are 4-5 or better but only the Dallas Cowboys have more than six wins — a win in prime time would move them to 6-3 and take a great deal of pressure off first-year coach Ben McAdoo and his charges.
Here are three things to know ahead of the Giants’ Monday Night Football matchup.
At 3-4-1, the Bengals look pretty toothless. Their traditionally strong defense ranks 25th this season, and their only wins are against the New York Jets (3-7), Miami Dolphins (5-4) and Cleveland Browns (0-10).
The rest of Cincy’s schedule was brutal. Before Sunday night’s game, the combined win percentage of the other five opponents was .700, with three losses coming to teams with at least seven victories.
The Bengals enter MetLife Stadium on Monday night as a battle-tested, and they’re coming off their bye.
Tigers burning bright
The real on-field concern for the Giants is the opposing offense. The Bengals, despite their struggles elsewhere, possess the No. 6 offense in the league.
Quarterback Andy Dalton (third in yards per pass attempt) relies heavily on receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert in the passing game. Running back Jeremy Hill (5.0 yards per carry) has been a force on the ground, too.
The Giants’ new-look defense faces a stiff test. Now would be a good time for them to finally boost their sack total from a league-worst 11. Fans are looking at you, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Bank on Beckham
At the midway point, Odell Beckham Jr. has 44 catches for 676 yards and five touchdowns. That’s a good pace for the rest of the way.
But most of his work has come in three games. Take those out, and in the remaining five he’s posted 25 catches for 287 yards and one TD.
Beckham must be more consistent the rest of the way, beginning against the Bengals. Cincinnati’s cornerback play has been lacking this season, so Eli Manning would be wise to target his star receiver heavily on Monday night.