CINCINNATI — The Bengals have a lot to overcome against the Giants on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
They're going to be without star quarterback Joe Burrow for the first time this season. The 23-year-old suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the Bengals' Week 11 loss to Washington.
With Burrow out, the Bengals are expected to turn to Brandon Allen, who was on the practice squad for the first 10 games of the season.
Here are three keys and a prediction for Sunday's game.
The Bengals' defense has to find a way to force multiple turnovers. They're facing a quarterback that is used to giving the ball away.
Daniel Jones has 36 turnovers in 23 career games. He's had a turnover in 20 of his first 23 NFL contests. The Bengals know this is crucial to their success on Sunday.
"That’s going to be key these next couple weeks," Jessie Bates said on Monday. "That challenge, it raises the bar for the defense as far as, there’s not going to be a lot of high scoring games, more than likely, honestly. That’s just calling a spade a spade. I think our defense is ready for the challenge. I’m excited to see who’s going to lay down and who’s going to raise up to the occasion. It will be very clear."
Bates has three interceptions this season. The Bengals would love for him to add to his total on Sunday against the Giants.
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The Bengals are averaging 102 rushing yards-per-game (23rd) this season. If they're going to survive without Burrow, then they need to get the ground game going.
Giovani Bernard is expected to play on Sunday, despite suffering a concussion last week against Washington.
The Bengals should also use Semaje Perine and Trayveon Williams. Establishing a consistent rushing attack won't be easy, but they may have their best run blocking offensive line on Sunday.
Quinton Spain is going to start and there are some rumblings that he could replace Michael Jordan at left guard. If that happens, then Alex Redmond would move back right guard.
An offensive line consisting of (from left to right) Jonah Williams, Spain, Trey Hopkins, Redmond and Bobby Hart should be competent in the run game.
Leonard Williams is the Giants' best pass rusher. Putting the two best and most consistent guards on the field could make a big difference in the Bengals' quest to contain Williams.
This could be a key for all six of the Bengals' remaining games.
Zac Taylor won't have the better quarterback on Sunday. He doesn't have the more talented team.
Can he outcoach Joe Judge?
Taylor and the rest of the Bengals' coaching staff need to outcoach their opponents if they're going to win a few games down the stretch.
Burrow hid so many flaws. He made Taylor look better than he was as a play-caller, he helped the defense and made things much easier on the offensive line.
Without the star rookie, it's up to Taylor and company to outscheme and out prepare their opponents.
"This is life in the NFL. We are all professionals. Ultimately, winning is what it comes down to," Taylor said on Wednesday. "We have to find ways to finish off games and get a complete game in all three phases from our team because we got to go win."
Taylor is 4-21-1 since being named Bengals head coach in 2019.
The Bengals lead the all-time series 6-4. The home team has won every game in this matchup. The Giants won the last meeting, 21-20 at MetLife Stadium in 2016.
Prediction: The Bengals are in a tough spot. They're missing multiple pieces on offense, including their best player.
They're facing a team that has won two-straight games and is very much alive in the NFC playoff race.
The Giants need to win this game. They've had a couple letdowns this season. That won't be the case against the Bengals on Sunday.
That doesn't mean Cincinnati won't play hard. They'll come out hoping to shock the world and show the rest of the league that they aren't going to go down lightly. Unfortunately for them, losing Burrow is too much to overcome.
Allen didn't have a preseason and didn't get many reps in practice until this week. He will make a few mistakes and the Bengals won't be good enough on defense to consistently stop Jones and company.
Final Score: Giants 27, Bengals 13
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