The Philadelphia Eagles will come to Cincinnati this weekend facing the same dire circumstance the Bengals find themselves in, where they need to win out and get some help if they want to make the playoffs.
The Eagles dropped a 27-13 decision at home to Green Bay on Monday to fall to 5-6. They’re five games behind Dallas in the NFC East with five to go, and while they are just 1.5 games behind Washington for the final wildcard spot, there are four other teams they need to climb over to get there.
Behind rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, Philadelphia opened the season with three consecutive wins, including a 34-3 trouncing of Pittsburgh. The other two wins, however, were against Cleveland and Chicago, who are a combined 2-21.
The Eagles have had a rougher go of things of late, dropping four of their last five and six of eight to lose control of their own destiny.
After not throwing an interception in his first three games and just one in his first five, Wentz has thrown five in the last four games while tossing only two touchdown passes as the Eagles have dipped to a ranking of 20th in total offense and 27th in passing offense.
Wentz’s top receiver is Jordan Matthews, who has 57 catches for a 686 yards and three touchdowns. Third-down back Darren Sproles (39 receptions, 352 yards) and tight end Zach Ertz (38, 373) are the top other top targets.
Wentz will be the third rookie quarterback the Bengals have faced this year (lost to Dallas’ Dak Prescott, beat Cleveland’s Cody Kessler), while Doug Pederson will be the third rookie head coach to oppose them (beat Miami’s Adam Gase, lost to the New York Giants’ Ben McAdoo).
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The Eagles defense, which ranks eighth in yards allowed and tied for fifth in points allowed, has helped keep the team in games.
They are led by a couple of players with local ties in linebacker Jordan Hicks, a Lakota West High School graduate, and defensive end Connor Barwin, a University of Cincinnati product.
Hicks is second on the team with 61 tackles, while Barwin’s four sacks are tied for second behind defensive end Brandon Graham’s five.
Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was an assistant coach for the Eagles in 1998 … Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther played and coached at Ursinus College … Bengals quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor was an assistant coach for the Eagles in 2013 and is from Scranton, Pa. … Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban was an assistant coach for the Eagles from 2004-10, was the director of football administration/operations at the University of Pennsylvania from 1999-2003; Urban is from Mechanicsburg, Pa. … Eagles TE Brent Celek is from Cincinnati (La Salle High School) and played at the University of Cincinnati … Eagles C Jason Kelce and DL Connor Barwin also played at the University of Cincinnati … Eagles LB Jordan Hicks is from Cincinnati (Lakota West High School) … Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins played at Ohio State … Eagles G Brandon Brooks played at Miami University. … Bengals WR Tyler Kroft is from Downingtown, Pa.
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AFC North outlook
Baltimore (6-5) vs. Miami (7-4) Sunday afternoon: If the regular season ended today, Miami would play at Baltimore in the wild-card round, so this one certainly will have the feel of a playoff preview. The Dolphins have won six in a row, but have the Ravens have prevailed in five of the last six in this series, including a playoff win in 2008.
Cleveland (0-12) on bye. The Browns will have some extra rest before trying to record their first victory of the season Dec. 11 against the Bengals in Cleveland.
Pittsburgh (6-5) vs. New York Giants (8-3) Sunday afternoon. Since 2013 the Steelers are 11-2 in December/January games, but the Giants will going for a sweep of the AFC North after beating each of the other three teams in the division during their current six-game winning streak.