Tonight's game between the 7-6 Cincinnati Bengals and the 4-9 Philadelphia Eagles is one with many implications. One team (Bengals) has its eyes on the playoffs for a second consecutive season, while the other team (Eagles) is looking ahead at an uncertain offseason.
For the Bengals, a win tonight would firmly place them in the NFL playoff picture. Currently the Bengals are on the outside looking in for the sixth seed in the AFC. They are tied with their AFC North division rival Pittsburgh Steelers but they lost their only head-to-head meeting earlier this season.
A Bengals win tonight would put pressure on the Steelers to win their matchup this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Next week the Bengals travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in what could be for the last playoff spot.
The Bengals are fighting for their playoff hopes, but the Eagles will be fighting for their jobs.
Eagles head coach Andy Reid sits on the hot seat as his team has overachieved. Before the season, several pundits had the Eagles winning the NFC East. Injuries and ineffectiveness got Eagles QB Michael Vick early. RB LeSean McCoy has missed time and WR DeSean Jackson is on injured reserve. The Eagles struggled when they were healthy but no one expected their struggles would force the team to rebuild in midseason.
Before the game starts, here are five things to watch for:
Can the Bengals continue to win on the road?
The Bengals have a better record on the road at 4-2 than they do at home at 3-4. QB Andy Dalton will attempt to lead the Bengals to a victory that would guarantee a plus-500 record on the road. The Eagles are 2-4 at Lincoln Financial Field but they are 2-1 against non-conference foes.
Will Eagles QB Nick Foles continue to develop?
Foles has shown that he is capable of becoming a bonafide NFL quarterback. Foles has a passer rating of 80.1. He has thrown for 1,174 yards with four touchdowns versus three interceptions. Foles faces a defense that is 10th against the pass. The Bengals yield only 222 yards per game.
Andy Reid’s continuation on the hot seat.
With a loss tonight, Reid’s Eagles’ team will have their first 10-loss season since 2005. Will another loss become the nail in the coffin for Reid’s coaching career with the Eagles.
Can the Bengals bounce back from a crushing loss to the Cowboys?
The Bengals blew a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter in the 20-19 loss to the Cowboys. Losses like that will have a team doubt its ability to close out games. A win in Philadelphia after a short turnaround would go a long way into figuring out if the Bengals are playoff-ready.
The Andy Dalton – A.J. Green connection.
The Dalton to Green combination is one of the NFL’s best QB-WR duos. The second-year players have eliminated any doubts about a sophomore slump. Dalton’s 25 touchdowns are more than the 20 he threw for last season. Green has caught 10 touchdowns, tying with the New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski for the most in the NFL.
Despite what the outcome impact could be, tonight’s game looks like it will be an exciting one.