Most of us thought this would one of the more significant games on the later-season schedule, but as it turns out, the Eagles have tanked and are out of playoff contention. However, the Bengals still a lot on the line with a 7-6 record in the AFC wild card hunt and with the Eagles snapping their incredibly long losing skid last week, this game might end up being as competitive and meaningful as we anticipated.
Eagles fans who are already looking toward next year actually may have a lot to look forward to. The new-look squad with rookie Nick Foles have been much more exciting to watch and much improved offensively. Foles orchestrated his first career comeback victory a week ago against Tampa Bay 23-21 by leading a much looser team that is playing with nothing to lose because, well…they already have.
“It’s a great feeling for the team,” quarterback Foles said said via ESPN.com. “I think the big thing is, it’s a great thing for the team sticking together. We can build off of this.”
Foles threw for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the final four minutes. He also rushed for a TD earlier in the contest. Although Michael Vick is healthy enough to play, coach Andy Reid has said Foles will start the last three remaining games, so that he can see where the direction of the team may go for next year.
As Eagles fans try to find some positives to focus on for next season, Bengals fans are thinking about the playoffs this year. The Bengals enter tonight’s game tied with the Steelers for the second and final wild card spot in the AFC and have a good chance to jump into the sole possession of the position as Pittsburgh visits a surging Dallas Cowboys team this weekend.
The Bengals are coming off a loss to that very Cowboys squad 20-19 in a game in which they failed to execute late and keep the Boys out of field goal range. However, Cincinnati’s defense shouldn’t be too much of a concern going forward, as they still haven’t allowed more than 20 points in their last five outings, four of which resulted in wins.
And the Bengals offense should have plenty of success against the Eagles. Cincinnati is amazingly balanced, ranking 14th in the league in both passing and rushing yards per game and will be going against a Philly defense that is allowing more than 26 points per game. That number is partly due to the difficult short-fields they have been faced with though, as the unit is ranked in the top 20 in defending both the run and the pass.
With Foles under center, you would think turnovers would continue to be an issue for the Eagles, but so far that hasn’t been the case and playing at home should help the rookie feel even more comfortable. However, considering he was up against one of the league’s worst pass defenses a week ago, I don’t think he’ll be able to execute as well late this week.
With that said, I do expect this to be a close game, like many of the Eagles games have been this year, but I do like the Bengals to pull out the victory. The Bengals are among the league leaders in sacks and their pass rush should be enough to disrupt Foles enough to prevent a second straight comeback. Take Cincy to win, but Philly to cover +5 points tonight.