The Bengals are set to face off on Sunday against the New York Giants in Cincinnati. The Giants are a team that just nine months ago slipped past the Patriots on their way to another Super Bowl Championship. They are also a team that has won three of their four games on the road this season and holds a season record of 6-3. Compare that to the Bengals 1-3 home record and 3-5 season record, and the Giants could spell disaster for the distressed Bengals.
There is an upside to the matchup for Cincinnati, though. It lies in the Giants quarterback, Eli Manning. Where Eli’s big brother Peyton is a skill player, the younger Manning brother is more of a situational player. That is how he has managed to one up his brother with championship wins in his career. Eli’s play has never been consistent, but his players are able to come up big when he needs them the most.
Manning’s stats over his career tell his story. In his rookie season in 2004, Eli played in nine games. That season he threw six touchdowns, nine interceptions, was sacked 13 times, and fumbled three times. The next season he started 16 games in which he totaled 24 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 28 sacks, and nine fumbles. Eli’s third season was almost identical in stats only he threw one more interception and was sacked three less times. In Manning’s fourth season he threw almost as many interceptions as he did touchdowns; 23 TD’s, 20 INT’s, he was sacked 27 times and fumbled 13 times.
Midway through his career, the Giants quarterback looked like he had it all figured out. He came out that season throwing 21 touchdowns, a career low 10 interceptions, was sacked 27 times, and only fumbled the ball five times. He followed that up the next season when he threw for a career high 27 touchdown passes, with just 14 interceptions, 30 sacks, and 13 fumbles. Manning looked like he had gotten rid of the interception bug and was improving every year.
That was short lived though, as Manning came out in his seventh NFL season and threw a new career high 31 touchdown passes that were over shadowed by his career high 25 interception passes. The quarterback was sacked 16 times and fumbled seven times that season. In last year’s Super Bowl season, Eli threw 29 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, he was sacked 28 times for a loss of 199 yards and he fumbled eight times.
Then comes the current NFL season; the one that brings Manning to Cincinnati on Sunday. So far this season, the quarterback has thrown 12 touchdowns, nine interceptions, he has been sacked eight times for a loss of 53 yards and fumbled three times throughout nine games. In Eli’s past three games he has thrown just one touchdown and four interceptions. His only touchdown pass in three games was a 77 yard bomb to Victor Cruz three weeks ago to start the slump.
Since the Redskins game where Manning threw his last touchdown to Cruz, he has thrown for 317 yards in his last two games combined. In fact, in three of his last four games, he has not thrown for 200 yards in a game. His two go-to receivers, Nicks and Cruz, have only combined for 24 catches in their last three match ups. Both are capable of 24 snags each in a game.
Eli Manning has proven over recent seasons, that when he struggles the team loses. The Giants quarterback also has a pattern to his struggles this year. When teams have high ranked pass defenses, the quarterback cannot seem to get anything done. When opposing teams have lower ranked pass defenses, Eli can and will throw for 300+ yards. His best game this season came against a Tampa Bay team with a 32nd ranked pass defense. Manning threw for 510 yards in that game.
Eli is coming into Cincinnati in a hole and will be looking to dig out of it in Paul Brown Stadium. As we can see throughout his career, Manning has no middle road. The quarterback is either elite or terrible at any given point in a season. The Bengals will have a chance against the youngest Manning brother on Sunday. Their pass defense will be entering the game right down the middle, ranked at 18th. They are not the best but they are not the worst.
If the team can manage to cover Hakeem Nicks and the elusive Victor Cruz, they will be able to get into the struggling Manning’s head and hold him under 200 yards for the third consecutive game. However, we in Cincinnati know how that our backfield has struggled keeping up with and taking opposing playmakers out of the game. So, if the men up front for the Bengals can also get pressure on Eli, the defense will have a better chance to win this game for their fans, who have all but turned their backs on the team completely.
It will have to be a complete defensive effort, but Cincinnati has all of the tools they need to get the job done. Terence Newman knows Manning as well as anyone and Geno Atkins has a nose for the quarterback. The Bengals biggest weapon in the win, though, will be the inconsistency of Eli Manning himself.