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Friday, November 9, 2012
Next-Level Preview: Giants at Bengals

By Michael Bonzagni, Evan Kaplan and Kimberly Meyer | ESPN Stats & Information

The Giants will travel to Cincinnati on Sunday to face their second consecutive AFC North opponent. After taking a 20-10 lead in the third quarter last week against the Steelers, the Giants gave up 14 unanswered points and fell 24-20 to Pittsburgh.

Despite winning in Dallas two weeks ago, the Giants offense has sputtered over the last two games, averaging 244.0 yards per game. Eli Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass in each of the last two games, the first time he’s done that since Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2008 season.

The Giants are facing a Bengals team that has lost its last four games and given up an average of 26.5 points per game during that stretch. Despite Cincinnati’s recent struggles, the Giants will need to contain one of the league’s best young receivers in A.J. Green. Here are some areas to watch for in Week 10:

• Eli Manning completed 41.7 percent of his passes in Week 9 against the Steelers, his second-worst completion percentage in a game in his last five seasons. Manning has had an especially tough time throwing the ball downfield recently. Over the first seven weeks of the season Manning completed 13 pass plays of at least 30 yards, which ranked first in the NFL. But in his last two games Manning has completed just two such pass plays, and has struggled on throws more than 10 yards downfield. Manning posted a Total QBR of 97.5 on throws of more than 10 yards in the first seven weeks of the season. Over the last two weeks his Total QBR has dropped to 41.3 on those throws, which is the second-worst in the league among qualified quarterbacks.

• One of the main reasons Manning is struggling to complete passes downfield is that defenses are not sending added pressure and are dropping more players into coverage. Manning has faced four or fewer pass rushers on 49 of his 57 dropbacks (86.0 percent) over the last two games, after facing such pressure on 70.4 percent of dropbacks over the first seven games. The four-man pass rush has sacked Manning twice over the last two weeks but got to him for one sack over the first seven weeks. Manning will face a Bengals team in Week 10 that sends four or fewer pass rushers on 75.3 percent of opponents’ dropbacks, the 12th-highest rate in the league.

• The Giants must contain A.J. Green Sunday, and to do that, they must limit his catches along the sidelines. Of Green’s 51 catches this season, 35 have come on throws outside the painted numbers, the highest percentage in the NFL of any receiver with at least 30 total targets. Green has yet to drop a pass on a throw to the sideline. Five of Green’s six 30-plus yard plays have come outside the numbers, as well as an NFL-leading six touchdowns. Defending Green will be a tall order for a Giants defense that has allowed the second most 30-plus yard plays outside the numbers (10) and the eighth-most yards (1074).

Andy Dalton has struggled all season on third down passing, and enters Sunday’s game ranked among the league’s worst in Total QBR (6.2) and completions (30). Additionally, Dalton has a 22.4 first down percentage on third down, the worst in the league. Fortunately for Dalton, he is facing a Giants defense that has struggled defending on third down. Opposing quarterbacks have a 63.8 completion percentage against the Giants on third down, including an 88.9 completion rate by Ben Roethlisberger in Week 9. The Giants have also allowed 32 passing first downs and four plays of 30 yards or more, which equals the number of pass plays of at least 30 yards they allowed the entire 2011 season.