On Sunday, the Bengals and Eagles will engage in battle at PBS. Both teams are not eliminated from the postseason yet. Bragging rights are on the line.
Week 13 hasn’t shaped up quite like the Bengals and Eagles envisioned. Coming into the season, Cincinnati was ready to tackle the AFC North and repeat as division champs. Unfortunately, the hangover from last year’s Wild Card game at Paul Brown Stadium is still lingering. The outlook from most analysts was no worse than 10-6. Going into Sunday’s game with Philly, they’re floundering along at 3-7-1.
For the Eagles, the year has taken a turn for the worse as well. After a 3-0 start, the Eagles are 5-6. Having dropped six of their last eight games, Philadelphia has to keep pace in the wild NFC East. The Cowboys are running away with the division. If the Eagles are hoping to capture a Wild Card berth, the road to postseason adventure starts against the Bengals.
Though the Bengals are still mathematically alive in the race for playoff contention, the season most likely ended in Week 12. With a three-game losing streak in tow, Cincinnati has to figure a way to keep focus and stay alive.
Andy Dalton has admittedly never had to deal with the pressure of being in damage control. Since becoming the Bengals signal-caller, he’s seen mostly winning seasons.
“It’s different. I’ve never really been in this situation in my life or with any sport that I’ve ever played.” Dalton explained, per Fox Sports. “I’ve been just trying to figure out how to change it.”
A Tale Of Three Leaders
Against the Baltimore Ravens, Dalton’s passes seemed high and off target many times. With the loss of superstar receiver A.J Green, the overthrows could be a lack of compensation. The Bengals have great receivers but they all can’t climb the ladder like Green. If that isn’t the problem, then Dalton’s shoulder injury could be worse than diagnosed. Most of his problems with mechanics were reportedly addressed with quarterback guru Tom House.
Carson Wentz started the season on fire. The No. 2 pick of the 2016 draft was proving he deserved the accolades. In the Eagles’ first five games he tossed seven TDs and a mere two INTs. Since then, the rookie has floated back to earth. The numbers have essentially reversed. In the last six games, Wentz has been picked off seven times and has four TDs.
If the trend continues, both defenses could have success. That would put the Bengals at a huge disadvantage. The woeful Bengals offense is averaging 19.4 points a game. Eagles defenders are surrendering that same amount per game. Philadelphia’s stout D could give Dalton and the O-line fits.
In the Bengals’ defense (pun intended), Vontaze Burfict has found his mojo again. Having him back to top gear could get a stagnant unit pumped up and ready to perform at home. The Bengals defenders feed off the playmaking and direction of Burfict.
The Bottom Line
While the Eagles were soaring, Philly first-year coach Doug Pederson was preaching playoffs. But, with the Eagles soaring a little lower, his approach has been about building for the future.
“That’s the direction that we’re heading in. So that’s why when I say those comments like that, that’s what I see. I see us three, four years down the road. I see us seven, eight years down the road having consistency that way and winning more of these games than not.”
Marvin Lewis is at a crossroad also. The pressure is on to win out. But, realistically, with the remaining schedule, and battle to keep players motivated…things look bleak. Either way, a win could go far for the morale of both teams.