A duel between two of the NFL's elite wide receivers came down to the wire with the New York Giants pulling out a late 21-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Both A.J. Green and Odell Beckham saw 11 targets on the night, which led their respective teams.
Green dealt the first blow, hauling in a 13-yard touchdown that answered a Giants opening drive where Eli Manning completed all six of his passes to six different targets on the way to the end zone. Beckham wouldn't be outdone, catching seven passes before hauling in a red zone touchdown of his own. The 10-yard touchdown by Beckham came on a gorgeous move of deception where he baited Adam Jones into breaking on the route before coasting to the end zone.
Neither Green nor Beckham was able to deal the trump card of long play in this matchup. Green's average air yards per completion (7.4) was ranked 36th among qualifying receivers in Week 10. Beckham's 7.5 figure wasn't much higher, ranking 33rd on the week. Diving into the Next Gen Stats shows which receiver came away with the better outing, and to no surprise the devil is in the details.
With the addition of rookie Sterling Shepard as the team's core slot receiver and the reintegration of Victor Cruz, the Giants haven't moved Odell Beckham around the formation as much as they had in his first two season. Beckham has racked up half of his yardage when lined up at left wide, which is up from previous seasons. In this win over the Bengals, the Giants found success by utilizing Beckham in multiple spots. His production was nearly even in all four of the wide receiver positions:
Odell Beckham's production by alignment:
Left wide: two catches, 28 yards
Left slot: two catches, 27 yards
Right slot: two catches, 14 yards
Right wide: four catches, 28 yards
Beckham averaged 3.8 yards of separation on his targets Monday night, which ranked 11th among qualifying receivers in Week 10. A master of getting open and the craft of route-running, Beckham's 3.8 average separation tonight was almost a full yard above the NFL average of 2.7 yards for the season among receivers with 20 or more catches.
Coming into this game, Green was the true engine of the Bengals' passing offense. He owned a 43.6 percent share of the Bengals' intended air yards on the season, which trailed only Mike Evans and Terrelle Pryor among NFL pass-catchers. Nothing changed about the Bengals' plan to feature their All-Pro receiver, with 57.5 percent of Andy Dalton's intended air yards against the Giants going to Green. His percentage share of the Bengals' air yards was the fourth-highest among Week 10 pass catchers.
Green's proclivity for the big play is one of the primary themes of the Bengals' season. However, Dalton and Green couldn't connect deep Monday night despite hitting on a number of crossing patterns in the middle of the field:
A.J. Green did not record a catch on a pass that traveled 20 or more yards in the air on Monday night despite seeing three such targets. Coming into Week 10, Green's 11.6 air yards per reception ranked seventh among pass-catchers with 30 or more catches. His 7.4 average was a stark contrast from the trend of his season.
Perhaps the reason was Green's slower than usual night was Giants top corner Janoris Jenkins, who the team added in free agency. Jenkins covered Green on seven of his 11 targets and allowed just three catches for 23 yards. Green's 2.6 average yards of separation at target ranked 44th among qualifying receivers in Week 10, trailing Odell Beckham by over a full yard. Jenkins' coverage was a part of what made Green a tougher target than usual for Andy Dalton, and the Bengals passer failed to produce a counter-punch.
On a night where two of the game's premier wide receivers squared off on the same field, Next Gen Stats showed us one player came away a clear winner. On Monday night, Beckham emerged as the better wideout in Week 10, but this was just another example of the striking talent at the position in the NFL today.
Matt Harmon is a writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB or like on Facebook.