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Better Know the Enemy: Cincinnati Bengals

A look ahead at this week's Giants foe

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012  |  Updated 11:46 AM EDT
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Better Know the Enemy: Cincinnati Bengals

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Death, taxes and Marvin Lewis are the three certainties in life.

Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Giants' next opponent. This week, that opponent is the Cincinnati Bengals.

Thanks to his two Super Bowl titles, Tom Coughlin gets associated with pretty good company in the coaching fraternity. 

He may not be on the Bill Walsh level when it comes to ingenuity or the Don Shula level of generation-spanning success, but he's otherwise situated among the biggest names in the profession. There's talk of a bust in Canton when all is said and done, although it's probably premature to have such conversations until we know what Coughlin's entire record looks like as an NFL coach. 

There's been no such talk about Marvin Lewis, even though he's now in his 10th year as coach of the Bengals. Lewis has a 72-79-1 record as Bengals coach, he's never won a playoff game and he's the owner of a new contract extension that takes him through the 2014 season. 

Coughlin never enjoyed that kind of job security until after he won a second Super Bowl, something that probably says everything you need to know about why the Giants are the Giants and the Bengals are the Bengals. There are plenty of other ways, including the Bengals' refusal to employ a general manager or much in the way of scouting, but their happiness with the job that Lewis has done speaks volumes.

Making a fetish of mediocrity is the surest way to guarantee that your team continues to reside in that neighborhood and the Bengals do it like few other teams in football. There are some star players in Cincinnati, but the roster drops off tremendously after the first few names and that leaves them eternally vulnerable to the opposition. 

A better coach might be able to string those pieces together into a workable whole, but Lewis has consistently proven not to be that coach. Whatever very real complaints anyone might have about the Coughlin era, he's shown the ability to weave winners out of teams that are clearly flawed on two different occasions. 

Something worth keeping in mind while the Giants deal with this week's befuddlement over what's gone wrong with Eli Manning and the passing game. Here are a few more names and notes to keep in mind. 

Green Machine: When we mentioned the Bengals having some stars, wide receiver A.J. Green was at the top of the list. Green is the heir apparent to the Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald class and he will be a nightmare for whoever the Giants try to put in his way come Sunday. 

The Red Menace: Andy Dalton's red hair and purportedly weak arm became something of a joke leading up to last year's draft, but he quieted the laughter by taking the Bengals to a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. He's been better in most parts of the game this season with the glaring exception of interceptions, something that could be a sign that eschewing any kind of running game altogether was a mistake on Cincinnati's part. 

Get to Know Geno: The other big star on the Bengals this year is defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who probably qualifies as the best defensive player that most casual football fans wouldn't recognize with a copy of Geno Atkins for Dummies on their laps. He's got seven sacks in the first eight games and his pressure could make it hard for Manning to get back on track. 

Trouble on the Corners: Injuries have kept the Bengals from being at full strength at cornerback this season, but full strength might not even be enough to get their pass defense up to snuff. Terence Newman was easy pickings in Dallas, Leon Hall isn't 100 percent, Pacman Jones is Pacman Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick will be playing his second NFL game. If that's not enough to get Manning right, we're not sure what the answer will be. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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