The New York Giants are now on an 18-game stretch in which they haven't lost back-to-back, but that could change Sunday as they battle a feisty and desperate Cincinnati Bengals squad on the road. Cincinnati's healthier and better rested, and the Giants aren't playing particularly good football right now, so I'm expecting this to be a great matchup.
Here's my final preview, along with a prediction.
What New York must do to win, offensive edition: Re-establish some balance so that Eli Manning can get back on track more comfortably.
What New York must do to win, defensive edition: Get pressure on Andy Dalton and shut down A.J. Green, who's become one of the most dangerous receivers in the game.
How New York can lose: By continuing to look confused on offense and by letting Dalton and Green hit a home run or two.
Five most important non-quarterbacks: Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Jason Pierre-Paul, Kevin Boothe, David Baas
Webster and Amukamara will be responsible for stopping that quality aerial attack and limiting Green, while Pierre-Paul has to lead the charge against Dalton up front. With Chris Snee likely out, a lot of pressure will fall on Boothe and Baas to open up holes for Ahmad Bradshaw while also handling the ridiculously explosive Geno Atkins.
Injury analysis, Giants edition
The G-men will again be without Jacquian Williams, while Keith Rivers' status is up in the air and Chase Blackburn will at the very least be short of 100 percent. And so the Bengals could find some openings running the ball.
Will Hill is likely to be active returning from suspension, especially with Kenny Phillips out. Hill was playing at a high level before his four-game ban, and the Giants won't miss Phillips much with him, Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle in the lineup.
On offense, as I mentioned, there's a decent chance they'll be without Snee, who has been their best interior lineman this season. That'll put extra strain on the running game against a solid defensive front. It could also mean Atkins has a big day against a very thin interior.
Injury analysis, Bengals edition
They'll probably downgrade from Reggie Nelson to Chris Crocker at safety after Nelson missed practice all week, but that shouldn't be a game-changer. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis back after missing Wednesday's practice, the Bengals are quite healthy right now.
B/R NFC East Blog prediction
I'd be all over the upset for a hungry Bengals team at home had the Giants not lost last week. I don't think Tom Coughlin's in a spot where he'll allow this team to lose back-to-back games right now, so I think they'll bounce back and win a very close affair.
Giants 27, Bengals 24