The Cincinnati Bengals have very little margin for error over their final three games.
At 7-6, the Bengals are currently on the outside, looking in, of the playoff race. They share the same record as the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Steelers Week 7 victory over the Bengals gives them the tiebreaker for the final wild card spot.
The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t fighting for a spot in the postseason. They have the worst record in the NFC at 4-9, and are looking to play the role of spoiler as the 2012 season comes to a close.
The two teams will open up the Week 15 schedule in the last Thursday Night Football games of the year. Kick-off is set for 8:20 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. You can watch a free live stream at nfl.com/tnf. The Web site will provide live “look-ins” throughout the contest.
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With their playoff hopes long gone, the Eagles top priority over the last three games will be finding out if Nick Foles is their quarterback of the future. The rookie will get his fifth straight start on Thursday night, even though Michael Vick has been medically cleared to play.
Foles had his best outing in the Eagles last game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL win.
The quarterback’s teammates were impressed by what they saw during the win.
"He has the potential to be a special quarterback in this league," said Jeremy Maclin, who caught a nine passes against Tampa Bay. "And he's growing up right in front of our eyes."
The rookie signal caller may face his toughest test of his young career in the Bengals defense. Cincinnati gave up 20 points on Sunday in their loss to the Dallas Cowboys. In the four games prior, they didn’t give up more than 13 in each contest. They won those games by an average of 18 points.
Offensively, the Bengals also turned things around in the winning streak. Through the first half of 2012, it looked like Andy Dalton would be the victim of a sophomore slump. Since then, he’s thrown for 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
A big part of Dalton’s success has been the play of A.J. Green. The wide receiver leads the Bengals with 1,151 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The Eagles will have a tough time slowing him down, though they’ve been average against the pass this year.
Betting Line: Cincinnati-5, 45
Prediction: Sunday was the Eagles first win since Sept. 30 against the New York Giants. They have struggled both offensively and defensively, and are likely headed for a top pick in the NFL Draft. The Bengals need this game a lot more than the Eagles do. With a quarterback that already has playoff experience, Cincinnati should be able to take care of Philadelphia and their rookie quarterback.
Predicted Score: Cincinnati 27, Philadelphia 13