Giants Week 12 Opponent Preview | Cincinnati Bengals

Jackson Thompson

A road trip to Southeast Ohio awaits the Giants after their bye week when they take on a rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals team and this year's No. 1 overall draft pick, quarterback Joe Burrow.

The Giants will be looking for their first win as an organization at Paul Brown Stadium, a venue in which they are winless in six meetings dating back to 1972. Conversely, the Giants are undefeated in four meetings against the Bengals in New York.

Most recently, Eli Manning outdueled Andy Dalton on a Monday Night Football matchup at Metlife Stadium in 2016, a game that set the Giants on course for their first playoff appearance in eight years.

As two of the worst teams in the NFL in 2019, the Giants and Bengals are both heading into 2020 without their respective franchise quarterbacks of the last decade.

Manning's retirement and Andy Dalton's departure for the Dallas Cowboys marked the end of an era for both franchises, who now hope to find success with Daniel Jones (Giants) and Burrow (Bengals), respectively moving forward.

Burrow, who is one year older than Jones despite coming into the NFL a year later, brings many of the same attributes that Jones brought as a prospect.

Both have been praised for their football IQ, accuracy, leadership qualities, and ability to traverse the pocket, while not necessarily boasting elite scrambling speed or the biggest of arms.

However, Jones has had the benefit of studying under Manning while Burrow is expected to be thrust right into the starting quarterback role without Dalton there to offer guidance or an overshadowing veteran presence. 

By The Numbers

  • Bengals lead series 6-4
  • Since 2000 series is tied at 2-2
  • First Meeting: December 3, 1972, Giants 10 at Bengals 13
  • Last Meeting: November 14, 2016, Bengals 20 at Giants 21
  • Largest Giants margin of victory: December 11, 1994, Bengals 20 at Giants 27
  • Largest Bengals margin of victory: November 11, 2012, Giants 13 at Bengals 31

Key Matchup: Giants Running Backs vs Bengals Front Seven

Giants running backs Saquon Barkley and Dion Lewis might be on the watchlist for big fantasy numbers in Week 13. They will be running fresh of their bye week and going against a Bengals defense that ranked last in run defense last season.

But Barkley and Lewis will also face a unit with its fair share of new additions from 2019.

The Bengals added defensive tackle DJ Reader in free agency. They took linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither in the fourth round of this year's draft, hoping to improve upfront, as both will likely fill in as starters for Cincinnati in 2020.

Meanwhile, Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap will be another key to Cincinnati's efforts in containing Barkley. Dunlap is coming off a career-year in which he registered the best PFF grade of his career, in which he earned a career-best PFF grade of 89.7, including the best run-defense grade of his career.

On the inside, Reader and veteran defensive tackle Geno Atkins are expected to man the interior of the Bengals' defensive line this season. They could be a punishing tackling combination for Barkley, and Lewis on runs up the middle.

Atkins has been one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL for several years, and remained effective against the run in 2019 with a 69 percent stop rate, according to Football Outsiders.

However, he took a step back in 2019 in terms of penetration and ability to disrupt the offensive backfield. Atkins registered just four tackles for loss last year, which was the fewest he's had since his rookie season in 2010.

But the addition of Reader might prove to be an even stronger presence for the Bengals run defense in 2020, as he was rated a 78 percent stop rate against the run in 2019, according to Football Outsiders.

Barkley will look to hit the holes around and between Reader and Atkins, as the Giants running game prioritizes plays between the tackle Barkley. According to Rotowire, 113 of Barkley's touches in 2019 were inside rushes, and with Jason Garrett taking over the offense, that trend will look to continue.

When Barkley reaches the second level, he is always a threat to break off for a huge play, and he should have his opportunities against a re-tooled and unproven Bengals linebacking core.

The Bengals added veteran middle linebacker Josh Bynes in free agency to potentially fill a hole in the middle of the front. Still, they will be at a disadvantage when tracking down Barkley in the open due to lesser speed.

The drafting of Davis-Gaither gives the Bengals a young athletic tackler with hustle, but an over-aggressive one that might miss some tackles on the shifty Barkley and Lewis, which both running backs can take advantage of with big gains. 

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