The Eagles' unblemished home record was finally besmirched on Monday night, thanks to a 27-13 loss to Green Bay. After a shortened week of work, the Eagles hit the road and head to Cincinnati, looking to win a road game for the first time since September 19.
Things haven't gone the Bengals way this season. After starting the year with a 23-22 win over the New York Jets, Cincy lost four of its next six. After their Week 9 bye, the Bengals proceeded to go winless in the month of November. Stud wide receiver A.J. Green injured his hamstring against Buffalo two weeks ago, and it's all but certain he won't suit up this weekend against the Eagles. Things are looking bleak for the Bengals, whose 3-7-1 record puts them in third place in the AFC North.
The Eagles need to take advantage of the Bengals' current skid to get back on track.
Realistically, the playoffs may be all but out of reach for the Eagles, but there's still every reason for them to fight. In 2013, the 3-5 Eagles turned things around to win the NFC East title. If the Eagles could theoretically run the table and finish 10-6, the playoffs would certainly be in focus, but the Eagles can't think that far ahead. It's a one-game-at-a-time mentality, and it starts with taking care of business on the road in Cincinnati.
The Eagles are looking to improve on both sides of the ball. On offense, the key will be finding a better run/pass balance while eliminating the penalties that have plagued them all season long, almost always seeming to pop up on big plays. Defensively, getting Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton out of a rhythm will be paramount. Dalton has the seventh-most passing yards in the NFL (3,043), but he's been sacked 32 times (second in the NFL) and has thrown just 12 touchdown passes. The Bengals' offense has taken a big step backwards after losing receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency, but when Dalton has been most comfortable is when he's able to drop back and get the ball out quickly on his first read. That quick-strike passing game from Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers was a thorn in the Eagles' side on Monday night, so we'll see if they can adjust this time out.
The Eagles are 2-0 against the AFC North this season. Can they stay undefeated against the conference? Here's the preview ...
- Alex Smith
Last Time They Met
Bengals 34, Eagles 13
*December 13, 2012 – Lincoln Financial Field *
Four years ago, the Eagles had a rough outing when they faced the Bengals on a Thursday night in Philadelphia. After allowing Cincinnati to score the opening 10 points of the game, the Eagles fought back and pulled ahead, 13-10, before halftime. But, that would be the Birds' first and only lead of the matchup as they allowed the Bengals to tack on 24 additional points while being held scoreless in the second half.
The major turning point came with 31 seconds to play in the third quarter. Down 17-13, then-rookie quarterback Nick Foles fumbled the football on a second-and-2 attempt. Defensive end Wallace Gilberry grabbed the loose ball and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to put the Bengals up 24-13. From there, quarterback Andy Dalton and Cincinnati's offense added another two scores as the Eagles fell, 34-13.
- Julie Bacanskas
When The Eagles Have The Ball**
Sure, the Bengals are 3-7-1 this season and have not won a game since October 23, but in the three games since the Week 9 bye the defense has allowed 21, 16 and 19 points, respectively.
Overall, this is a unit with notable names at all three levels. Up front, Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap leads the Bengals with 6.5 sacks on the year. He'll be matched up against tackle Allen Barbre, who starts once again on the edge for the injured Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Another Pro Bowl and All-Pro talent on the interior, Geno Atkins, is regarded as one of the best in the league at his position. He's posted 4.5 sacks this season. The problem for the Bengals as a whole is that there is not a lot of pass-rush production outside of those two. Cincinnati ranks 24th in the league with a total of 21 sacks.
Weakside linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed the first three games of the year due to suspension, but still leads the team with 76 tackles. He tied a season-high total in tackles with 13 last week against Baltimore. If Burfict keeps pace, he will finish as Cincinnati's leader in tackles for the third time in his career. A new addition to the Bengals in 2016 is strongside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who is second on the team in tackles and tied for second in tackles for loss. He is one interception shy of joining the exclusive 40-20 club. Only four players in NFL history have amassed at least 40 sacks and 20 interceptions. Former Eagle Seth Joyner is one of the four. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga returned to action last week after missing two games with a fibula injury. Valuable reserve Vincent Rey can play all three linebacker positions.
Starting outside cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones have combined for four interceptions on the year. Josh Shaw has started eight games as the slot corner and will have his hands full this week with wide receiver Jordan Matthews. The Bengals lost safety Reggie Nelson, who was tied for the league lead in interceptions in 2015, in free agency, but retained hard-hitting strong safety George Iloka.
- Chris McPherson
When The Bengals Have The Ball
It's no secret Cincinnati's offense has struggled this season, especially in the most important statistical category in football – points scored. The team currently ranks 27th in the league with 19.4 points per game on average. In its last three games, all losses, the Bengals failed to score more than 20 points. That lack of offensive production is clearly one of the reasons the team has been disappointing in 2016 with its 3-7-1 record.
In terms of yardage, the Bengals are picking up 368.4 yards a game, good for 10th in the league, and their passing game is also 10th in the NFL (276.6 yards per game). However, without wide receiver A.J. Green, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Bills and is not expected to play this week, quarterback Andy Dalton's options are limited. Prior to his injury, Green had 66 catches for 964 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Even with missing the better part of the last two weeks, Green is still the No. 4 receiver in the league in terms of receiving yards, showing just how much of a loss this is for Cincinnati. The Bengals' No. 2 receiver, Brandon LaFell, has 457 yards on 35 catches.
Cincinnati's rushing attack is ranked 14th with 108.8 yards on the ground each week. Jeremy Hill, the team's lead running back, has picked up 644 yards on 147 carries for six touchdowns. On the same day the Bengals lost Green, running back Gio Bernard suffered a torn ACL. Bernard had 337 yards rushing and 336 yards receiving in 2016. Dalton has also been part of the run game, rushing for 153 yards and finding the end zone three times.
In addition to his run threat, Dalton has thrown for 3,043 yards this season (No. 7 in the NFL) and has an 89.7 passer rating on the year. However, the quarterback has taken 32 sacks, tied for second most in the NFL this season. The Eagles' defense will need to capitalize on that this weekend, especially after it was unable to record a sack last Monday night against Aaron Rodgers. In 2016, Philadelphia has registered 26 sacks.
Headed on the road, the Eagles will need their defense to rise to the challenge. Coming off back-to-back losses and two less-than-stellar performances, a struggling Bengals offense could be exactly what this team needs. While the Eagles' scoring defense is tied for fifth best in the league, allowing 19.4 points per game, it has not been nearly as dominant away from Lincoln Financial Field. The group has allowed 26 or more points in five of its six road games thus far, a trend that needs to change if the Eagles want to walk away with a win on Sunday.
- Julie Bacanskas
The Eagles are preparing to travel to Cincinnati this weekend to face the Bengals on Sunday. Check out some of the Bengals' star players.
1. DE Brandon Graham vs. RT Cedric Ogbuehi - The Bengals are using a rotation at right tackle with 2015 first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi and veteran Eric Winston. According to Pro Football Focus, Ogbuehi allowed two sacks and three hurries in last week's loss to Baltimore. The Eagles were unable to sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Monday night. Brandon Graham is the team leader in sacks (5), tackles for loss (9), quarterback hurries (24) and forced fumbles (2). Graham could set the tone for the Eagles' defense on Sunday.
2. S Malcolm Jenkins vs. TE Tyler Eifert - With no A.J. Green at wide receiver, Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert is the go-to weapon for the Bengals. Eifert missed the first six games of the season with back and ankle injuries. Since his return, Eifert has 21 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns in five games. He was targeted 11 times last week against Baltimore.
3. RB Darren Sproles vs. LB Vontaze Burfict - Outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been targeted 37 times in pass coverage this season. He's allowed 29 receptions and two of them went for touchdowns. In the last two full games he's played in, Sproles caught 13 passes for 105 yards. He was on the field for just 10 offensive snaps against Seattle before leaving with a rib injury.
4. WR Dorial Green-Beckham vs. CB Adam Jones - Following the Atlanta game, Dorial Green-Beckham voiced his frustration with his role in the offense. In the last two games, Green-Beckham has 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. He's also played over 80 percent of the snaps on offense, and on Thursday offensive coordinator Frank Reich said that Green-Beckham should have a bigger role moving forward.
- Chris McPherson
Trends To Watch
19.4: The Bengals have struggled to put points on the board this season, averaging just 19.4 points per game. They rank 27th out of 32 teams in that category.
140.6: Defensively, the Bengals have struggled to slow down the run this season, allowing 140.6 rushing yards per game, fourth most in the league. Meanwhile, the Eagles rank eighth in NFL with 114.9 rushing yards per game.
13.0: In the Bengals' last two games, they have averaged just 13.0 points per game (losses to Buffalo and Baltimore). Green was injured in the Buffalo game, and missed the Ravens contest.
- Alex Smith