Champs Battle Bungles

The New York Giants looked determined to avoid last year's horrible two-game start in their first two contests of 2008.

Now they'll try to stay focused - and unbeaten - with the Cincinnati Bengals coming to town.

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A week after dominating woeful St. Louis, the Giants (2-0) try to keep rolling against another struggling opponent Sunday when they take on the Bengals (0-2) at the Meadowlands.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Giants –13.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Giants –13.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

New York's ability to overcome an ugly 0-2 start in 2007 made its run to a Super Bowl title all the more memorable, but the Giants seemed determined to avoid putting themselves in a similar situation this year. New York handled Washington 16-7 in the opener, then put together an impressive all-around effort in blowing out St. Louis 41-13 last week.

The Giants defense looked outstanding again, sacking Marc Bulger six times and limiting St. Louis to 201 total yards. Justin Tuck led the way with two sacks and a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown, while Fred Robbins added two sacks for New York.

"Hopefully, this is the start of big things to come," Tuck said. "Six (sacks) today, but we had the opportunity to have more. You know, you're never satisfied."

The offense also looked better than it did in Week 1, when the unit followed an effective first half with a scoreless second one. Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes against the Rams and the Giants got a combined 203 yards rushing from Brandon Jacobs (93), Derrick Ward (58) and Ahmad Bradshaw (52).

The Giants, seeking their first 3-0 start since 2000, appear determined to quiet critics who claim that last season's championship was simply a case of a team getting hot at the right time.

"2-0 is a good spot to be. But we have a tough contest this week," Manning said. "So our focus is on getting ready for Cincinnati. We know we will have to play extremely well to win."

Coach Tom Coughlin's club had little trouble finding motivation against a weak St. Louis team, and the Giants will have to maintain that focus again when they face the Bengals. Cincinnati didn't look much better than the Rams did last week, falling 24-7 to a Tennessee team led by backup quarterback Kerry Collins.

The Bengals' Carson Palmer struggled amid windy conditions in Paul Brown Stadium, throwing for just 134 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, and star receiver Chad Ocho Cinco was limited to four catches for 37 yards.

Cincinnati's offense has scored one touchdown in two games.

"It's not pretty," offensive lineman Bobbie Williams said. "I still feel like the pressure is on us. Everything is on heightened alert. We're 0-2. We're not getting it done."

The Bengals could have a tough time against the formidable Giants ground attack. Cincinnati gave up 177 rushing yards to Tennessee and is 30th in the NFL with 203.0 allowed per game.

New York's biggest challenge may be getting to Palmer. While the Bengals have struggled offensively, they've allowed their quarterback to be sacked only three times - tied for the fewest in the league.

"Us three guys. Our two Pro Bowl receivers and myself have to pick it up," Palmer said of himself, Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Cincinnati leads the series with New York 5-2 and took the last meeting 23-22 on Dec. 26, 2004 at home. The Bengals won on Ocho Cinco's 4-yard touchdown catch from Jon Kitna with 44 seconds to play, dealing the Giants their eighth straight loss.

Manning, then a rookie, started and went 19-for-37 for 201 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

The Bengals lost their only two road games against the Giants in 1994 and '97.

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