WHERE: Giants Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, 1:00 ET
SERIES: 8th meeting. Bengals lead series, 5-2
LAST MEETING: Bengals won, 23-22, at Paul Brown Stadium on 12/26/04.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals have been outscored 41-17 through two games in large part due to their scuffling offense that has converted just five of 26 third downs. Pass protection has been an issue, which is a daunting thought preparing for the Giants, who already have seven sacks. As poor as QB Carson Palmer has played, he needs RB Chris Perry to step up and lead a ball-control offense that can help protect Cincinnati's banged-up defense. ... With SS Dexter Jackson out and FS Herana-Daze Jones and CB Johnathan Joseph looking iffy, the Bengals had better stop RB Brandon Jacobs on first and second down and then get after QB Eli Manning before he has time to look downfield. The problem is the Giants should be able to wear the Bengals down on the ground and then feast on the thin secondary off play-action.
KEY INJURIES: Joseph (ankle) would be replaced by David Jones; Jackson (thumb) is out and Herana-Daze Jones (hamstring) didn't practice midweek; TE Ben Utecht (chest) is not expected to play. Giants: None.
FAST FACTS: Palmer's passer ratings of 35.3 and 41.3 the past two weeks are the two worst of his 63-game career. ... Manning has completed only one pass to a tight end this year, and it was negated by a penalty.
*CB Johnathan Joseph did not practice this week because of an ankle sprain. If he can't play, David Jones would start at corner opposite Leon Hall.
*SS Dexter Jackson (thumb) is out for the Giants Sunday.
*SS Chinedum Ndukwe (knee), who was hurt the second week of training camp, was limited in participation Thursday but is expected to start again Sunday at the Giants because of Dexter Jackson's injury.
*TE Reggie Kelly (head), who missed practice Wednesday, returned to practice fully on Thursday and Friday.
*S Herana-Daze Jones, a solid defensive backup and strong special teams player, did not practice Thursday because of a hamstring injury. He is expected to miss his second game in a row after playing in the opener.
*DT John Thornton (knee) improved to return to practice Thursday in limited capacity.
*TE Ben Utecht (chest) did not practice and is not expected to play Sunday.
*S Kyries Hebert (hamstring) was added to the injury report as limited in practice..
*Second-year FS Michael Johnson, who won the job vacated by Gibril Wilson (UFA-Oakland) in summer camp, has a neck burner and is aware that the team's first round pick, Kenny Phillips, is looming just on the horizon. "I'm okay," he said. "I'll be fine. I'm going to play." *Head coach Tom Coughlin, without actually putting it to words, appears concerned at the sprained ankle injury suffered by DE Mathias Kiwanuka on the final play of the opener when he was hit by Redskins LT Chris Samuels. "He's playing and it looks like everything is okay," Coughlin said, "but you can't tell about those things. It could linger for a long time."
Kiwanuka played most of the game in St. Louis last week but had a "zero" stat line.
*Rumors are rampant that veteran CB/KR R.W. McQuarters might be headed to Injured Reserve for the remainder of the season. He has a sprained calf muscle, but the more crucial factor is the emergence of Domenik Hixon as the punt return star who can also impact a game as a receiver.
*There is still no word on the condition of PK Lawrence Tynes, leading to speculation that he might be headed for Injured Reserve. His "temporary" replacement, 44-year-old John Carney, hasn't missed a thing yet -- making all five field goals, all six extra points and getting deep kickoffs as well.
*Starting TE Kevin Boss hasn't caught a pass yet this season, nor has either of his two backups (Darcy Johnson and Michael Matthews) but QB Eli Manning isn't concerned. "That means everybody is doing his job," he said. "I know where Kevin is and I know he can catch the ball, but when I read down the passing tree the guys who come first are open."
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Bengals right tackle Stacy Andrews will have one of the key individual matchups in the game Sunday at Giants Stadium.
In just two starts last season, though he played in all 16 games, Tuck collected 10 sacks. He added two in the offseason and has three this season. He was part of a six-sack performance by the Giants last week against the Rams. Tuck had two sacks, an interception he returned 41 yards for a touchdown, three solo tackles, two quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, and another pass knocked down.
At 6 feet, 5 inches, 274 pounds, Tuck will be Andrews' responsibility.
Though the Bengals have allowed just three sacks of Carson Palmer in the first two games, Palmer was especially harried and hurried in the opener at Baltimore.
Andrews, the Bengals franchise player designee, displaced 12-year starter Anderson, whose contract was terminated Aug. 30.
As a unit, the Bengals offense and offensive line has not played well. They are 30th in scoring (8.5 points a game), and one of the two touchdowns this season was scored by the defense. The Bengals are 31st in total offense and 32nd in passing (105.5 yards).
As a defense, the Giants are third overall and fifth against the pass and run. Tuck has emerged as the dominant player after the retirement of end Michael Strahan and the season-ending injury of Osi Umenyiora.
"He's a good player, no doubt. He comes hard every time, pass and run," Andrews said. "It's going to be a dogfight out there this weekend. You have to be technically sound out there and just block him. I'm going to have to go out there and be fundamentally sound, everybody, and just take care of our jobs."
The Giants are understandably cautious when it comes to speaking about the Cincinnati Bengals, a team with an 0-2 record, a moribund offense and a lethargic defense.
But there is talent on the team, in some cases talent of superstar quality, and the Giants remember all too well that they were 0-2 last season and suddenly turned it all around to become defending Super Bowl champions.
"Hey, they have plenty of guys who can beat you," said running back Brandon Jacobs. "The best thing we can do is just play our game, try not to make any mistakes and try not to get any penalties. If we do that, we've got a reasonably good chance of winning every game we play."
The Giants' defense has allowed the sparse total of 10 points per game in their two victories (57-20), and any team surrendering 10 points a game is more than likely to emerge with a victory.
Former head coach Bill Parcells, who you might recognize as the driving force behind the Miami Dolphins these days, used to say this: "If my offense gets me two touchdowns and two field goals, I'm going to win most of my games. It all starts with defense and a strong running offense."
The Giants have the defense and they have the running game. They also have a pretty sound passing game.
But if they sound somewhat reluctant, the reason might be attributed to those dreaded "trap games" that sometimes affect strong teams when they come up against a weaker opponent. The concept goes this way: "It's a trap, they aren't that bad and if we don't pay attention we're going to lose it."
So the Bengals, with a Pro Bowl quarterback in Carson Palmer, a Pro Bowl wide receiver in Chad Ocho Cinco/Johnson and another dangerous slot receiver in T.J. Houshmandzadeh, can challenge the Giants' defense. But whether the Bengals' defense can stop the Giants' offense is another matter, and it will probably be on that fulcrum that the game turns in the Giants' favor.
PREDICTION: Giants, 34-20
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