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Eagles-Bengals Preview: A Game to Test Your Fandom
In what might be the worst game on the NFL schedule this weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1) on Sunday to determine, well, nothing. The Bengals are already out of the playoffs and the Eagles would have to run the table to even have a chance.
How bad are these teams? The Bengals haven't won a game since October 23rd and the Eagles have lost six of their last eight games. So what is there to watch in this dog with fleas of a matchup? Let's take a look.
Eagles Offense Versus Bengals Defense
Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz wasn't bad last week against Green Bay, but he threw another awful interception. After a strong start to the season, Wentz has 4 TDs and 7 INTS, for a 72.9 passer rating in the last seven games. The Eagles offense is ranked 20th overall (336.0 yards per game) and 27th in passing (221.1 ypg). The Bengals defense is not good, ranking 23rd overall (366.5 ypg), but they are a respectable 13th against the pass (246.0 ypg). Don't expect a big game from Wentz.
Much has been made of how bad the Eagles receivers are and now Jordan Matthews is dealing with an ankle injury. He'll play on Sunday, but will certainly be less than 100%. He may not be able to take advantage of Bengals slot CB Josh Shaw. That is bad news for the Eagles. Dorial Green-Beckham has 11 catches for 136 yards in the last two games, but he had zero catches in the two games before that. Cincinnati CBs Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam "Pacman" Jones won't have any trouble shutting down the Eagles outside WRs. TE Zach Ertz continues to disappoint after signing a big contract.
Ryan Mathews is still out with a knee injury and Darren Sproles will be playing with a broken rib. That will mean more carries for rookie RB Wendell Smallwood, who is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The Eagles are the 8th ranked rushing offense (114.9 ypg), but they aren't running the ball as much as they were earlier in the year when they were winning games. Maybe they'll stay committed to the run against the Bengals, who are ranked 28th against the run (120.5 ypg). The Bengals do have good LBs, led by OLB Vontaze Burfict, who leads the team in tackles even though he missed the first three games of the season. And MLB Rey Maualuga returned from a leg injury last week.
The Eagles offensive line has not been good, but they've only had center Jason Kelce and LT Jason Peters start every game at the same position for all 11 games. LG Allen Barbre will play RT again due to suspension and injury and will have to face DE Carlos Dunlap, who has 6.5 sacks on the year. The interior of the line will be tested by Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins. They will fail that test.
Bengals Offense Versus Eagles Defense
Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton has thrown for 3,043 yards this season (7th in the NFL) to lead the Bengals offense to a No. 10 ranking overall (368.4 ypg) and No. 10 in passing (259.5 ypg). The problem is that they are only 27th in scoring (19.4 points per game). That is good news for an Eagles defense that is ranked 15th in points allowed (23.1). They are 8th overall defensively (339.4) and 11th against the pass (236.5 ypg), but have played much worse on the road this season. The Eagles have allowed 26 or more points in five of their six road games this season.
Dalton will be without his best weapon, WR A.J. Green again this week. Green had 66 catches for 964 yards and 4 TDs before suffering a hamstring injury two weeks ago. Their next best WR is Brandon LaFell, who has 35 catches for 457 yards, but only 7 for 70 yards in the two games since Green's injury. You would think even the Eagles CBs could cover these Bengals receivers, but CBs Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills just aren't very good. Expect safety Malcolm Jenkins to cover TE Tyler Eifert, who is Cincinnati's best receiving option without Green.
The ONLY reason the Eagles have a chance to beat the Bengals
Cincinnati is also missing RB Giovani Bernard who suffered a torn ACL two weeks ago. Bernard was both a rushing and receiving threat out of the backfield. That leaves only Jeremy Hill at RB and he is nothing special. He gained only 21 yards on 12 carries last week against Baltimore. The Bengals are ranked 14th in rushing (108.8 ypg) and the Eagles are 17th against the run (102.8 ypg). Expect the Bengals to try to run the ball on the Eagles against that stupid Wide-9 defensive front. Also watch out for Dalton, who has run the ball 37 times and rushed for 15 first downs.
The Bengals do not have a good offensive line. Fortunately for them, the Eagles only have six sacks in their last five games. Maybe they'll actually get one or two since Dalton has been sacked 32 times, 2nd most in the NFL. The Eagles best matchup is DE Brandon Graham going up against the rotation the Bengals use at RT, with rookie Cedric Ogbuehi and Eric Winston. Neither player is any good. I would say DT Fletcher Cox will have a big game, but his biggest contributions in the last moth have been for the opponents, as he continually gets flagged for hitting the QB late.
What would be better to watch than the Eagles-Bengals game
The Eagles still have the best special teams units in the NFL, but the Bengals are very good as well. The Eagles are 1st in kickoff return average (31.2) and 2nd in kickoff coverage (17.9). But the Bengals have kick returner Alex Erickson, who is 2nd in kick return average (30.1) and has returns of 64 and 85 yards this season. The Eagle shave a huge advantage at kicker, as Caleb Sturgis has made 25 of 29 FGs (2nd most in NFL), while Bengals kicker Mike Nugent has missed 3 of his last 5 FGs and has even missed 4 of his last 8 extra points.
The coaching matchup is not a good one. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has proven that he is simply not a good coach. He makes questionable calls week after week and his team plays undisciplined football, with too many penalties. Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis has had a great coaching career, but as a head coach, he can't seem to win in the playoffs. Now with the Bengals struggling mightily this season, he might just get fired after the season.
This is a matchup of two terrible football teams. Neither one is making the playoffs, so winning this game might not even be a good thing. The Eagles are 1-5 on the road this season, but they are actually 2-0 against the AFC North this season. Does that mean anything? Probably not.
Neither team is going to generate much offense, yet neither team has a great defense. The Eagles would be better off running the ball, but their idiot coach hasn't run the ball enough since their 3-0 start to the season. The Bengals offense has been gutted by injuries to their best WR and RB and their QB is turning the ball over too much. Honestly, the only fans who will watch this game live in Cincinnati and Philadelphia and I bet even some of those fans will be looking elsewhere for something resembling good football.
Eagles 23 - Bengals 17