The Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) face off against the Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) tonight trying to do something they haven’t done all year. The Bengals need to stop the bleeding before it starts. Having lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Marvin Lewis’ side snapped a four game-winning streak. Streaks have been a constant for the Bengals this year.
Not since they lost their first game of the season have the AFC North side not followed results at least twice. Three wins followed that opening night loss against the Baltimore Ravens, before an unwelcome four game losing streak enveloped the team.
That brought the team to a Week 10 matchup against the New York Giants, when the latest winning streak began. Instead of sliding further away from the playoffs with another losing streak, the Bengals need to show resiliency against the Eagles tonight and notch a vital win to keep their playoff hopes on track.
Fortunately, the Eagles are not an intimidating opposition, especially with a rookie at quarterback. Nick Foles has started well for a rookie, but the team’s record is still 1-3 with him as a starter and he has been mostly a conservative player opposed to a game-changer.
The Eagles were hoping to get LeSean McCoy back for this game, but he has been ruled out, which should mean their offense will revolve around young Bryce Brown. Brown, also a rookie, had two huge games before being shut down by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. In his two big games, Brown showed plenty of game-breaking ability, scoring four touchdowns, but has also been very inconsistent holding onto the football, with four fumbles on the season.
Typically, Andy Reid prefers to pass the ball to set up the run, but in this game that would be a recipe for disaster against the Bengals. Foles is a rookie enduring his first short week of preparation at this level, while the Bengals’ pass defense is incredible at times. Putting the ball in Brown’s hands instead of Foles’ early on will at the very least slow down the defense’s fierce pass rush, but Reid has always shown a reluctance to commit to the run so it’s very unclear what will occur.
It’s also unclear how the Bengals will approach this game on offense, but for different reasons. Jay Gruden called a curious game against the Cowboys at the weekend, going away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis despite him running well. Attacking the Eagles’ secondary is much more appealing than attacking the Cowboys, but the Bengals need AJ Green to rebound from his poor display at the weekend.
Green could have a huge day no matter who of the Eagles’ cornerbacks trails him, while the explosive Marvin Jones and Andrew Hawkins will prove to be tough matchups for the Eagles’ safeties or backup cornerbacks.
Andy Dalton should be able to consistently put the ball in the endzone, something he couldn’t do this past Sunday. The Eagles’ best hope at stopping the Bengals’ offense is with their pass rush. Jason Babin may have been released, but Brandon Graham is finally living up to his first round draft stock and Trent Cole remains a very talented, if underperforming, player on the other side of Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle. The Bengals’ offensive line is playing better than any other however, so the likelihood of them consistently disrupting Dalton’s pocket is low.
Away games haven’t been kind to teams on Thursday night this year, but the Bengals are the clear favorites to win this game.