Bengals need win on the road against Eagles to keep pace in AFC playoff chase
The Cincinnati Bengals need to bounce back from last week’s disappointing loss to stay in the thick of the race for a playoff spot in the AFC when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Bengals (7-6) gave up a nine-point lead at home to the Cowboys last week, a defeat that snapped their four-game winning streak and has them on the outside looking in at a wild-card berth right now. The Eagles (4-9) scored two touchdowns with less than four minutes remaining to overcome an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Buccaneers. The victory was the beleaguered team’s first since Sept. 30, snapping an eight-game slide.
When the Cincinnati Bengals have the ball:
Cincinnati’s offense ranks 15th in the NFL in yards in per game with 355.2 and 11th in scoring at 24.7 points per game. The Bengals are No. 14 in both rushing (117.5 ypg) and passing (237.8 ypg) offense, although the ground game has been more effective recently. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is averaging more than 109 yards per game over his last four, and all three of his 100-yard games have come during this span. Green-Ellis has only five rushing scores on the season, but his lack of scoring has been offset by the production of the passing game. Quarterback Andy Dalton has already eclipsed his touchdown pass total from last year’s rookie season, as his 25 scoring strikes place him in a tie for fifth in the league. On the receiving end of 10 of these has been A.J. Green, who is tied for the league lead in touchdown catches and among the top eight in both receptions (79) and yards (1,151). Dalton also has already thrown 14 interceptions, one more than he had in all of 2011, and the Bengals as a team have fumbled the ball away seven times.
Philadelphia’s defense has been respectable in terms of yards allowed, but has still given up a fair amount of points. The Eagles are 14th in total defense (348.6 ypg), but rank 25th in scoring at 26.2 points per game. They fall in the middle of the pack in both passing (229.3 ypg, 15th) and rushing (119.3 ypg, 17th) defense, but have yielded some pretty big totals over the last month. Prior to last week’s win over Tampa Bay, the Eagles had surrendered an average of 392 total yards of offense in its previous three games, all losses. Philadelphia has given up 25 touchdown passes, tied for second-most in the NFL, while only collecting 22 sacks and seven interceptions. The lack of consistent pressure on the quarterback and inability to create turnovers (10 total takeaways, tied for fewest in the league), have also contributed to the defense’s lack of success.
When the Philadelphia Eagles have the ball:
Similar to its defense, Philadelphia’s offense has gained a fair share of yards, but hasn’t been able to translate them into points. The Eagles are 11th in the league in total offense at 362.9 yards per game, but only 27th in scoring, producing fewer than 19 points per contest. Over their last nine games, a span in which the Eagles managed just one win, they scored more than 23 points in a game a grand total of one time. The Eagles are ninth in rushing offense (125.5 ypg), as rookie Bryce Brown has done a solid job replacing an injured LeSean McCoy (concussion). Brown piled up 347 yards rushing in his first two starts, but only managed six on 12 carries last week against Tampa Bay. He also has three fumbles since taking over lead back duties, as turnovers have been an issue for the Eagles’ offense all season long. The Eagles have turned the ball over a total of 29 times, including 17 fumbles, which ranks them second in the NFL in this category. Besides, McCoy, the Eagles are also missing quarterback Michael Vick (concussion) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (injured reserve) due to injury, and also will be without starting tight end Brent Celek (concussion) tonight. Rookie Nick Foles has been named the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, and he responded with his best game last week against the Buccaneers. Foles completed 32 passes for 381 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) in leading the Eagles’ fourth-quarter comeback. Foles hasn’t thrown an interception in his last three games, which is impressive considering he’s a rookie and the fact that the Eagles have allowed 41 sacks, the third-most in the league.
Cincinnati’s defense has been steady and consistent throughout the season and is one of the main reasons the Bengals are in playoff contention. The Bengals are sixth in total defense, giving up 328 yards per game, and 15th in scoring defense at 21.5 points per contest. They have been equally effective against both the run (105.5 ypg, 11th) and pass (222.5 ypg, 10th) and lead the league in sacks with 42. The unit has produced a total of 21 turnovers, including 10 interceptions.
Even though Cincinnati comes into this game on a losing streak, while Philadelphia won last week, there’s little question that the Bengals have been playing better football. Last week’s tough home loss to Dallas snapped the Bengals four-game winning streak. Even in defeat, however, the Bengals gave up just 20 points and over their last five games overall they have allowed just 12.2 points per contest. The Eagles on the other hand needed a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback against one of the league’s worst pass defenses to get their first win in more than two months. One week doesn’t completely reverse the direction these two teams appear to be headed. Even though Cincinnati is the road team and could be looking ahead to a crucial, potential playoff-deciding Week 16 showdown in Pittsburgh, I fully expect the Bengals to take care of business on the road and get back into the win column. For what it’s worth, the last time these two teams met nothing was decided, as they played to a 13-13 tie back on Nov. 16, 2008 in Cincinnati. I’m not expecting the same outcome tonight.
Bengals 27, Eagles 20