EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Eli Manning and the New York Giants can talk about lack of execution, poor decisions and bad plays all they want to explain their offensive woes the past two weeks.
What's missing is obvious. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has been out of the mix since returning to the lineup four games ago and his chances of getting back in this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals don't look good with his left knee acting up again.
With Nicks and Victor Cruz on the outside, Manning usually has two targets opponents have to be worried about.
A 1,000-yard receiver each of the past two seasons, Nicks has rarely been 100 percent this season. He broke his right foot in the offseason and then hurt his knee in Week 2 in a game in which he earned NFC offensive player of the week honors.
After being sidelined vs. Carolina, Philadelphia and Cleveland, Nicks returned. But his statistics the past four games are just 13 catches for 152 yards and no touchdowns.
Opponents have caught on. Cruz is seeing more and more double teams. Nicks is getting more single coverages. Defenses also are putting an extra body in the box to aid against the Giants' running game.
The results have been startling. Manning has completed 25 passes in the past two games and has been held under 200 yards two straight, including just 125 against the Steelers. Prior to that, he had surpassed 200 yards in 24 straight games.
But Manning has hope. He thought Nicks ran well last week, in fact, and showed good speed.
He's doing what he can, Manning said. Hopefully, we can continue the course and get him more and more healthy. I definitely think he is better than a few weeks ago.
1 p.m. Sunday FOX