Sports

Thursday Night Football Breakdown: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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The Philadelphia Eagles have had a rough season. At the beginning of the year they were canonized by the football world. Then, after starting 3-1, they dropped their next eight. Coming off their first win in nine weeks, the Eagles now have the opportunity to spoil the NFC East like Grandma does her grandchildren every Christmas.

The New York Giants can still end up 8-8. For that matter, so could the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.

The 4-9 Eagles could, feasibly, end up 7-9. But in order to do that they’ve got to get past a tough Bengals team that is still in the hunt for an AFC Wild Card spot.

Philly’s two star players, both sidelined with concussions, were back at practice this week. They’ll both be standing on the sidelines, slack-jawed, wondering how two rookies are doing their jobs so much better than they did.

RB LeSean McCoy and QB Mike Vick both went out last month within a week of each other. Rookies Nick Foles (QB) and Bryce Brown (RB) filled those positions nicely in their absence. While they dropped two games at the onset of their hopeful reign, Brown -- in two losses -- had 341 yards rushing to his name, and Foles -- in 4-1/2 games -- is boasting a 61% completion rate for 1,174 yards.

Foles has developed nicely in his short stint as starting QB. Early in his tenure he was timid, backed way out of the pocket, and didn’t pick up many yards in his completions. In his start against Carolina, he was 22/30, but he only threw for 119 yards. He got a little better against Dallas, throwing for 251 yards and a QB rating of 96.6. His 98.6 against Tampa Bay (his first NFL win) saw him throwing for 381 yards.

Cincy is in it for the playoffs, though. If not for the travel, I would think they could wrap this one up. The Eagles edge the Bengals out in ypg, 363-355. They’re virtually even in passing yards, and the rushing stands at 125 ypg to the Bengals’ 117.

Enter Bryce Brown.

The Bengals are particularly stingy with ground yards, allowing an average 105 ypg. But they haven’t faced the Eagles firecracker who can hop out of a situation before it even becomes one. The Bengals boast the Number six defense in the league, and that’s largely due to the middle linebacker tandem of Vontaze Burfict and Rey Mauluga. They can clog up any hole and make a running back look for a variety of other options. That’s what Brown does so well.

Against my better instincts, I think if Foles and Brown can wear down the Cincinnati defense, the Eagles should please the Twelfth Man at tonight’s game.

Or it’s gonna be a quiet night in the City of Brotherly Love.

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