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Monday Night Football Preview: Will the Giants Extend Their Streak?

Fresh off a win over division rival Philadelphia, the Giants look to make it four straight against the Bengals on Monday Night Football.

Winners of three straight, the New York Giants play host to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

The Giants (who are 5-3) are seeking to keep pace with the division-leading Dallas Cowboys (8-1), while the 3-4-1 Bengals remain in contention in the AFC North, which is led by the 5-4 Baltimore Ravens.

Last week, the Giants scored a big win over the division rival Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 28-23, improving their record to 3-1 when playing at home. Meanwhile, the Bengals are coming off their bye week, and the last time we saw them, they were playing to a 27-27 tie against the Washington Redskins in London.

This game pits two teams who are just about even, according to our nERD metric, which measures how good a team actually is based upon their expected point differential against a league average team. The Giants (-0.30) check in at 16th on our rankings while the Bengals (-0.46) rank 17th.

As kickoff draws closer, here are four storylines to watch on Monday Night Football.

A Battle of Star Receivers

This game features two of the league's best wide receivers in Odell Beckham and A.J. Green.

Prior to the start of Week 10, Green led the league in receptions (59) and receiving yards per game (112). If we look at our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures how many points a player adds to his team's expected total, Green's Reception NEP (71.19) ranked third among the 67 wideouts with at least 25 receptions.

For Green, the Giants' passing defense appears to be a neutral matchup, as they rank 14th, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.

On the other side, Beckham seems to generate as much press for his sideline antics as he does for his play on the field. Beckham has 44 receptions on the year for 677 yards and 5 touchdowns. His 48.84 Reception NEP ranked 21st out of the 67 wideouts with at least 25 receptions entering the week.

Beckham should be able to find some success against a Bengals pass defense that ranks 20th, according to our metrics.

The Tyler Eifert Impact

Last season, Tyler Eifert emerged as an elite red zone weapon, scoring 13 touchdowns on just 52 catches. Eifert's 0.98 Reception NEP per target was the best among the 28 tight ends with at least 50 targets on the year. For context, Rob Gronkowski had a 0.88 Reception NEP per target last year, second best among tight ends with at least 50 targets.

After missing the first six weeks of the season recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the Pro Bowl and then a subsequent back injury, Eifert returned in Week 7 in a limited role. He caught only one pass in his debut, but back to playing full-time in Week 8, Eifert saw a career-high 12 targets, converting those into 9 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.

Early on this year, the Bengals had been looking for a complement to Green through a combination of Tyler Boyd, Brandon LaFell, C.J. Uzomah, and Tyler Kroft. With Eifert appearing back to full health, look for him to be heavily involved moving forward.

While the Giants passing defense has been slightly above league average this year, the past two tight ends to face the G-Men have posted solid numbers. Last week, Zach Ertz had 8 catches for 97 yards, and in the game prior, Lance Kendricks had 7 receptions for 55 yards.

Can Eli Manning Keep Up the Momentum?

Through the Giants' first seven games, Eli Manning had only thrown eight touchdowns to six interceptions. But coming out of the Giants' Week 8 bye, Manning lit up the Eagles secondary for four scores.

It was a sluggish first half of the season for Manning. According to NEP, Manning ranks 21st of the 32 quarterbacks to throw at least 100 passes on the season. His 0.10 Passing NEP per drop back on the season is just slightly worse than his 0.15 performance in 2015.

Manning has only been sacked 12 times on the year -- the 2nd-fewest in the league -- and although starting left guard Justin Pugh is out, the Giants' offensive line should be able to keep Manning upright against a Bengals defense that has only generated 16 sacks, 24th-most in the league.

Two of the past three quarterbacks to face the Bengals have posted lofty numbers. Kirk Cousins threw for 458 yards and 2 touchdowns in the London game, while Tom Brady threw for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns against this Bengals secondary in Week 6.

Will the Giants Get Anything From the Running Game?

On the season, the Giants' running game ranks 23rd in the league, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.

Rashad Jennings has been woefully ineffective, averaging only 2.6 yards per carry on 64 attempts this year. Jennings has scored only once, but did miss three games midway through the season with a thumb injury.

With Shane Vereen on injured reserve with a triceps injury, Jennings and rookie Paul Perkins are now handling the backfield duties for the Giants. Perkins has shown flashes at times, but he is averaging 3.4 yards per carry on just 21 touches.

Last week against Philadelphia, Perkins set season-highs in both snaps played (22) and carries (11). And according to our efficiency metrics, Perkins has been a better back than Jennings, albeit on limited touches.

Player Carries Rushing NEP Rushing NEP/P Success Rate
Paul Perkins 21 -2.20 -0.10 38.10%
Rashad Jennings 64 -9.92 -0.16 35.94%

Perkins has been more effective in each of these measures -- with Success Rate measuring how often a player's carry results in positive NEP.

Throughout the season, the Giants have been a two-man backfield, whether it's been a combination of Jennings, Vereen, Perkins, Orleans Darkwa, and even Bobby Rainey.

Look for Jennings and Perkins to continue splitting the work Monday night, although maybe this is the week Jennings takes a backseat to Perkins.

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