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|By Dave Biddle|
The Cincinnati Bengals will look to go 2-for-2 against New York teams this season when they take on the Giants on Monday Night Football.
The Bengals (3-4-1) began the year with a 23-22 win at the Jets, and will return to the Big Apple to take on the Giants (5-3).
Interestingly, the line opened at -2 Giants, but is now listed as a pick-em game.
The Bengals are coming off a bye and there has been a lot of speculation that personnel changes could be made, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Where could those changes be made? Let’s take a look:
** Veteran defensive end Michael Johnson has been ineffective through the first half of the season, and third-year pro Will Clarke could see more action going forward.
** Veteran defensive tackle Domata Peko is also underperforming, and the Bengals might use fellow veteran Pat Sims more, or perhaps use second-year pro DeShawn Williams, who has been inactive for all eight games thus far.
** Noticing a trend? Veteran, long-time starters for the Bengals who are not playing well? That trend continues when looking at middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. Pro Football Focus ranked Maualuga No. 146 out of 148 NFL linebackers. The other starting linebackers are not much better – Karlos Dansby is at No. 101 and Vontaze Burfict checks in at No. 110 – but Maualuga continues to be the weak link. One thing the Bengals could do is move Burfict to the middle, bench Maualuga, and start rookie third-round pick Nick Vigil at outside ‘backer. Veteran Vinny Rey is also in the mix for more playing time.
** The final shake-up could be at cornerback. Don’t be surprised to see one former first-round pick supplant another. Fifth-year pro Dre Kirkpatrick has not performed well, and he might be benched in favor of third-year pro Darqueze Dennard. The latter was considered a good pick by the Bengals at No. 24 of the 2014 draft, but has barely played on defense through his first 2.5 years in the league. It’s time for Dennard to show what he can do.
** However, the Bengals’ issues are not all on the defensive side of the ball, not even close. The offensive line has been substandard for most of the season. Will the Bengals stick with second-year right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (their first-round pick in 2015)? I think so, but he needs to play much better. Veteran Eric Winston has been rotating with him at times, which isn’t a good sign for a player like Ogbuehi that the Bengals invested such a valuable pick in.
** On a positive note, tight end Tyler Eifert was playing very well before the bye and should be fully healthy now. Eifert missed the first six weeks of the season due to ankle and back injuries, then exploded for a big game in Cincinnati’s 27-27 tie against the Washington Redskins in London two weeks ago (9 catches, 102 yards, TD). Eifert might be exactly the boost this offense needed. And coming off a bye, the entire Cincinnati team should be fresh.
** Prediction: Bengals 24, Giants 21.