Football Outsiders takes up the burning question of whether the New York Giants are in for another second-half slide. In particular they examine the chances of the Cincinnati Bengals handing them a second loss in a row to the AFC North this Sunday. It's an Insider piece (which allows me to point out one of my favorite ironies, that the Outsiders are Insider), but here's a little sampling of why Aaron Schatz thinks the Bengals could give the Giants more trouble this week than you might think:
Finding A.J. Green may be easier against the Giants. New York ranks just 19th in DVOA against No. 1 receivers. Corey Webster hasn't played as well as he has in years past, and the Giants have given up some big games to other tall, speedy receivers of Green's ilk, such as Vincent Jackson (128 yards) and Dez Bryant (195 yards in two games).
The Giants also have problems against little slot receivers, which could mean a nice game for Andrew Hawkins. New York is 27th in DVOA against "other receivers" (i.e., No. 3s and No. 4s). The Giants have the best defense in the league against running backs in the passing game, but that won't matter much against a Bengals team that uses running backs in the passing game less than almost any other team.
The Giants have started 6-2 or better in seven of their nine seasons with Tom Coughlin as coach and Eli Manning as quarterback. But only twice in the first eight did they post a winning record over the second half of the regular season. Last year, they were 3-5 in the second half but won their last two and then won three playoff games and the Super Bowl. Given that no one else in the division is currently better than 3-5, the Giants have a bit of a cushion and likely could survive a second-half slump and still reach the playoffs. But if they don't want everybody to keep talking about it, they'd do well to win Sunday in Cincinnati.