No one in the NFL wants their season boiling down to playing the role of spoiler. Unfortunately for the Eagles, that's exactly where they stand. At 4-9 and with three games to go, the Eagles will finish the season by facing three teams fighting for their playoff lives. The NFL is all about finding a competitive advantage, and players like wide receiver Jeremy Maclin understand that missing the playoffs doesn't render these final games are meaningless.
"More important than (playing the spoiler is to) play for yourself," Maclin said Tuesday. "Play for this organization. Those are the things we're going to try to do right now and we have another good opportunity to do that Thursday."
Maclin and his teammates will get that opportunity before long. The Eagles will be welcoming the Bengals to town Thursday night for their turn on NFL Network's primetime stage. At 7-6, the Bengals are still in the thick of the AFC Wild Card chase. Earlier in the week, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said his team needed to win all three of its remaining games, which means the Eagles need to be ready for a fight.
"They have a pretty good defense. We understand that they also are going to come in very hungry," Maclin said. "But we also see opportunities to go out there and use certain situations to our advantage. We're looking forward to it. It's going to be a good test for us; a good challenge for us."
Part of that challenge will be preparing for the game in only three days. Maclin acknowledged that a short week will benefit the home team, but as always, it's the work that goes in behind the scenes that will ultimately make the biggest difference.
"It's going to be a challenge, obviously," he said. "(Players are) not really getting any days off for your body to regroup. But it is what it is, so we have to double the preparation and try and get as much rest as possible. But at the same time, understand you have a game to play on Thursday."
The Eagles showed last week that they were capable of getting the job done in pressure-filled situations. Quarterback Nick Foles brought the Eagles back for a dramatic last-second win against the Buccaneers, capped off by Maclin's terrific 1-yard touchdown as time expired. That win snapped the Eagles' eight-game losing streak and helped the team recapture that elusive winning feeling.
"We didn't win in over two months. Guys are happy," Maclin said. "If you see the end of that game, the reaction of everybody; the coaches, the players, the fans who were there, it was a pretty cool thing."
While the Eagles won't be punching their ticket to the postseason this winter, the next three games are critically important for the team's young players. Foles' progression has been a welcome sight for many fans. Maclin wants to see his team keep that up, spoiler or not, as the season draws to a close.
"One thing we have to do is continue to play hard through the remainder of this season," Maclin said. "We're going to go out there and approach each game like it's our last and go out there and play hard for these guys to get some more games under their belts. For Nick to keep growing and progress as a quarterback, these last three games are going to be key. I hope that we can get this thing going in the right direction."
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