Apparently, the Philadelphia Eagles want to continue to win games. Not all the fans are likely on board with that strategy, considering that Philadelphia is out of playoff contention and can move up the draft board with a few more December losses, but the Eagles are suddenly making a respectable effort to save, or regain, something called dignity.
They'll continue that quest Thursday night on national television against a very balanced Cincinnati Bengals team badly needing a win as they fight for a playoff spot.
Here's our preview of the game from the Eagles' perspective, along with a prediction...
What Philly Must Do to Win, Offensive Edition: Start by protecting Nick Foles against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Foles played well despite being sacked six times in Tampa last week, but it helped that he was facing the worst pass defense in the NFL. The Bengals are much better in coverage than the Buccaneers.
What Philly Must Do to Win, Defensive Edition: Obviously the corners can't get beat deep often, if at all, but the Eagles also have to watch out for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Cincinnati has a sneaky-good ground game and Philly's been known to miss some tackles up front.
How Philly Can Lose: By letting Foles become flustered and not giving him enough support in the running game and by letting Andy Dalton hit home runs. Oh, and as usual, by losing the turnover battle. That's a battle this team has won only once all season.
Five most important non-quarterbacks: Evan Mathis, Dallas Reynolds, Dennis Kelly, King Dunlap, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
The offensive line, clearly, is the key to success and/or failure in this game for Philadelphia, in my not-so-humble opinion. Mathis and Reynolds will have to come up big against Geno Atkins inside, while Kelly and Dunlap will have to deal with Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap outside. The Bengals lead the NFL with 42 sacks, and the majority of them have come up front.
DRC makes the list because he'll be charged with slowing down A.J. Green, but it should be noted that he'll need some help from Brandon Graham, Trent Cole and the rest of the pass rush.
Injury Analysis, Eagles Edition
Out: Brent Celek (concussion), Kurt Coleman (chest), LeSean McCoy (concussion), Mike Patterson (illness), Michael Vick (concussion, illness)
Questionable: Chris Polk (toe)
Probable: Nate Allen (shoulder), Nnamdi Asomugha (neck, quadricep), Stanley Havili (ankle), Mychal Kendricks (shoulder), Jeremy Maclin (groin), Evan Mathis (ankle), Dallas Reynolds (ankle)
Coleman's had a terrible season anyway, Celek can easily be replaced by Clay Harbor and they're used to life without McCoy, Patterson and Vick. Everyone else should play, although it should be noted that Mathis and Reynolds aren't 100 percent for a matchup with the All-Pro-worthy Geno Atkins. That line is a mess.
Injury Analysis, Bengals Edition
Out: Dre Kirkpatrick (head, illness)
Doubtful: Mike Nugent (right calf), Cedric Peerman (ankle)
Questionable: Michael Johnson (toe)
Probable: Clint Boling (illness), Vontaze Burfict (shoulder), Carlos Dunlap (calf), Rey Maualuga (shoulder, knee), Dan Skuta (back)
Cincinnati is nice and healthy. Johnson's in a walking boot, which means there's a decent chance he doesn't suit up, but that's not a game-changing injury. He's had a fine season with 8.5 sacks, but Robert Geathers can step in and get the job done in Mike Zimmer's system.
B/R NFC East Blog Prediction: I like the way Foles is playing, and the Eagles are battling, but I don't think this is a good matchup for Foles and the rest of that depleted offense. The Bengals need this one badly, and they should get after the quarterback often in a close road victory.
Bengals 24, Eagles 17
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