Game 3 – Bengals at Giants Pre-Game Thoughts
Game 3 – 2008 Bengals Season
Bengals at Giants, September 21, 2008 – 1pm EST
Preface: This is a “must win” game. With the season on the line, many jobs on the line and a possible regression to what was once referred to as “Bungledom”, there is no outwardly visible sense of urgency. If the head coach of an 0-2 NFL team even jokingly mentions being “happy” with where they are at, a greater philosophical and strategic issue is looming. The winds of change are picking up to more than a light breeze.
How will the Bengals Offense look?
Versus the Giants, Carson had better have his shoes laced up tight and be ready to pull it down and head upfield. He will need to be very vigilant about watching his right side as Justin Tuck will make every down an exercise in avoiding injury. He will need to also watch the left side, as Kiwanuka will be working to make every passing play unpleasant. Heck, Carson needs to watch every side, if that is possible.
Carson had another very ugly game last week against the Titans, completing only 10 passes in delivering the Bengals offense to some of its lowest combinations of productivity, efficiency and ratings.
How bad is it, you ask?
Total Offense: 31st in NFL – 184 YPG
3rd Down Efficiency: 5 for 26 – 19% (last)
Time of Possession: 25:36 (last)
Passing Offense: 105 YPG (last)
Completion Percentage: 49% (last)
By comparison, the Oakland Raiders with Jamarcus Russell on the trigger has a higher yards per game and completion percentage than our Pro Bowl passing offense. Against the World Champion Giants, Carson Palmer must step up, become a vocal leader and demand more from the O-Line, the RB’s, the WR’s and from himself. He must do this now, this week, or he risks becoming as marginalized as has happened to all the other talented players who came to Cincinnati and succumbed to the poisonous, losing mentality that still seems to cling to this franchise. This week will be a defining moment in forming Carson’s legacy as a purported elite NFL player.
In an NFL loaded with anonymous RB’s emerging as stars (or at least productive runners), like Earnest Graham, Ryan Grant and Derrick Ward, the Bengals RB’s have struggled as mightily in two games as could be possible. Mr. Perry is in the bottom quarter of nearly every rushing statistic. Much of this ineptitude is on the O-line but he must also be one to step up and extract more from himself and leave it on the field. He must get the extra yard, break a tackle and make an explosive play where none exist.
Against the Giants, a defense that is ranked 5th in the NFL vs the run and allowing only 76 YPG, there must be a better gameplan so as to exploit any weakness in their scheme. Tasking Mr. Bratkowski with such a research project seems futile at this point. StripeHype would like to point out that seeing more of DeDe Dorsey would give the Bengals Offense a dimension lacking in Perry and Watson: speed.
It all starts here, and again the Bengals O-line is facing a serious task in working against a premier defensive front. We will see if there is any better cohesion in protecting Carson and giving him time to work his progressions and also in getting the Bengals RB’s to the second level of the Giants unit. The Giants D-line is sure to bring confidence and swagger to the field, in stark contrast to the Bengals O-line. “Make-or-break” comes to mind this week when considering the future make-up of this unit.
Rust… Cobwebs… Out-of-Synch…
All terms currently being used to describe the Bengals Pro Bowl WR duo of Chad Johnson Ocho Cinco and TJ Houshmandzadeh and rightly so. A culmination of unprofessional behavior, ill-preparation and open disdain for teamwork, and these two can be directly seen as goats at this point. TJ, in a contract year, is the most disappointing. He had exemplified hard work and determination, turning his 7th round improbability into a league-leading ability. Lately, he has seemed disconnected and ineffective working with Carson Palmer and his play seems uninspired.
The issues with Chad are layers deep, miles wide and have been chronicled for several years. What more can be said? On any given Sunday, he is among the most talented athletes on the football field but his brain is that of an unlimited ego-maniac pleading with the public to love him. The downward trend in his fragile psyche has been steady and it ultimately damages the team with his lack of production.
With the Giants DB’s understanding the current problems at WR (and you know they do), I anticipate the Bengals WR to be challenged again physically off the line to get these two off their routes and frustrated early. Talk about a deviation from expectations. This ignores the issue at TE the Bengals have, as Utecht is out and Kelley must now do more than usual. Not having Utecht means one less weapon for Carson to use to get on track.
How will the Bengals Defense look?
The Bengals D-line will face a solid Giants line that can move the ball on the ground and in the air rating 4th in the NFL in total offense (12th in pass, 5th in rush). Getting pressure on Eli Manning must be done in order for there to be any hope of stopping the World Champs. Against the run, the D-line has to keep contain and resolve themselves to getting Brandon Jacobs held up before he can get in space for extra yardage. The fact that the Bengals D-line is limited in personnel options causes much consternation for StripeHype.
Getting a look at how the Bengals 1st round pick Keith Rivers will respond to a truly big game will be of keen interest. Playing for USC, he had no lack of big-game experience. Facing off against a very good Giants offense will tell us just how far along Rivers is. As for the LB corps on the whole, there must be attention payed to which RB is rotated in and LB assignments must be executed or Sunday will be a bloodbath of rushing yards.
Concerning are the injuries to Jonathan Joseph and Dexter Jackson. Joseph’s toe is the problem and is the most current in a series of injuries that have limited the former 1st round pick to only 9 starts last year. Jackson has a broken finger and is being replaced by a rusty Chinedum Ndukwe who has battled a knee problem to get on the field.
As a unit, they statistically are 3rd in the NFL against the pass which is misleading considering the defense is 30th against the run. Not much of a highlight when put in context. Facing them this week is an established WR unit that has a very good handle on what Eli wants from them. Working against Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer will be a pseudo-rookie in David Jones and a recent practice squad addition (from the Giants) in Geoffrey Pope. With only Leon Hall providing substantive NFL experience, the Bengals CB’s are at serious risk to be outmanned and outclassed Sunday.
How will the Special Teams look?
If there is any bright spot so far this season, it has been the Bengals return game. As a slice of competence off an otherwise incompetent hog of a team, Glenn Holt and Antonio Chatman have been solid. The Bengals coverage teams have been decent considering the poor consistency exhibited by punter Kyle Larsen. Shayne Graham’s miss last week again highlights a fall-off from yet another sure performer.
Stadium/Fans – Bengals have never won on the road against the Giants, but have won 5 of 7 all-time. Giants stadium will not be a welcome place for the Bengals Sunday.
Weather – Very good weather is expected, highs in the 70’s with sun.
Historically – Bengals lead 5-2, with both losses on the road.
Weird Stat: Well, it is more “significant” than “weird” but only 3 NFL teams have started 0-3 and made the playoffs, none in the last 10 years: the ’92 Chargers, the ’95 Lions and the ’98 Bills. If the prospect of going 0-3 does not get the Bengals to find a way to win, the season will be over with much of the coaching staff and several key players surely exiting after the season.
Prognosis: Bengals 17 – Giants 16