There’s a lot that we know and don’t know about this Giants team and its head coach Joe Judge.
We know that this is probably one of the best coached Giants teams in years, a disciplined group that once gained a comfort level within the systems implemented by the coaching staff, has sharply reduced those backbreaking and stupid mistakes that cost them ball games.
We also know that this is still a developing team that is part of the worst football division, yet who is a team with a chance of securing the division title with a record that will likely end up well under .500.
And we know that when it comes to post-bye week games, the Giants don’t exactly have the best record out there. Specifically, they are 13-19 in games following a regular-season bye and are 4-11 in post-game byes played on the road.
But this isn’t your father’s Giants team, folks.
Head coach Joe Judge, who witnessed up close and personal how disjointed Philadelphia and Washington were coming off of their bye weeks, seems to have had an idea of how to steer the Giants clear of that pitfall.
“The bye is very important for getting physically refreshed, mentally refreshed. It’s also big for self-scout and getting a jump start on some of the opponents coming up. We did everything we were capable of doing last week to help the team.
“I’d say the biggest thing for me when you get into the game week of not kind of walking into it. You have to get back into working that routine you referenced—that’s very important to me.
“That being said, you can kind of slice it through the league, it’s probably close to fifty-fifty across the board in terms of teams coming out of bye weeks, and I think that’s more about how they prepare in that game week, and then execute for those 60 minutes on Sunday, more than the week off beforehand.”
He's right. Some teams will start up slowly coming out of the bye while others will jump right back into their routine. This year, however, teams have had the added challenge of working around COVID-19 protocols, though. For example, the Giants weren’t able to get on the field at all during their bye week thanks to some positive COVID-19 tests popping up.
But if Judge has shown nothing else, it’s that he’s very good at adjusting on the fly to whatever circumstances the virus throws at him.
Where does that leave the Giants, who visit the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, and their chances of recording their third win in a row and their first outside of the NFC East?
Why the Giants Will Win
If the Bengals without Joe Burrow are to have any chance of winning this game, they need to step up in two critical areas, which, by the way, the Giants have shown vast improvement the last several weeks.
The first is turnovers. The Bengals are well aware that Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has been a turnover machine, coughing up the ball 36 times in 23 career games.
With that said, Jones has played a turnover-free game the last couple of weeks, and what a difference playing a turnover-free game has made for the Giants, especially when those turnovers don’t lead to opponents scoring points that end up being the difference in games.
The second is the running game. Cincinnati has averaged 102 rushing yards per game, 23rd in the league, but was held to 70 yards on the ground last week by the Washington Football Team, who has a pretty good run defense.
They’ll be going against the league’s sixth-best run defense (100.9 yards/game), which, by the way, has allowed opponents just 91.3 rushing yards per game over their last three and which has stuffed opposing running games on the road to the tune of 90.4 yards per game allowed.
Those are all top-10 rankings for the Giants, who are occasionally susceptible to the big chunk play.
And speaking of the Giants defense, what’s not to love about the matchup between the Giants defensive line vs. the Bengals offensive line? Per PFF, the Bengals offensive line has allowed 136 pressures this year, of which 36 are sacks (second highest sacks allowed in the league behind the Eagles’ 40 sacks allowed).
The Bengals have also allowed eight sacks in their last two games, four apiece. Unless there are plans to shake up their offensive line--and it doesn't sound as though that will be the case, on paper, this matchup strongly favors the Giants, who have recorded 145 total quarterback pressures, 31 of which are sacks (fifth-best in the league).
Why The Giants Will Lose
There’s still so much we don’t yet know about Joe Judge’s team, such as how they will respond to the classic trap game.
That’s what this game is, a trap. The Bengals are reeling after losing starting quarterback Joe Burrow to a devastating knee injury last week. … There is reportedly some dissent in the Bengals locker room. … The Bengals don’t match up well against the Giants in any phase of the ball. … The Giants are refreshed after the bye. … You name it, and there is a reason why the Giants should destroy the Bengals in their home stadium.
Take any—or all of those reasons—and that’s precisely why one should be nervous about the Giants team’s chances.
Judge has practically begged his players not to read their press clippings because, “If you start reading headlines and you want to believe the good, then you better be ready to believe the bad because a lot of the same people are writing two different stories about you weeks apart.
“Whatever is said on the outside of the building may have some truth to it, but at the same time, we can’t let that dictate how we prepare or the flow that we have and the mindset that we have.”
To their credit, at least so far, the Giants haven’t shown any signs of reading or buying into their press clippings. They have echoed Judge’s strong sentiments that what they did in the past in games doesn’t necessarily help them for the future. But at the same time, it’s not unusual for a competitor to lick one's chops over facing a weaker opponent that doesn’t match up.
If the Giants head down that path, they’re in for a rude awakening.
What Will Happen
Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham always says that this game is about people and the matchups at the end of the day.
Unless Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has some hidden surprise he’s going to spring on the Giants, one might be hardpressed to find a single area where the Giants don’t have a competitive edge over their upcoming opponent.
With that said, that’s why you line up and play the game. I don't think this will be a blowout--the Bengals have some very good players on both sides of the ball that have to be accounted for. Given what the Giants have at stake and the pride with which they have been playing, I would be stunned if they don't leave Cincinnati with a win.
Giants 24, Bengals 16
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