John: There are three weeks left in the NFL season and this is the last Thursday night game of the season as the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles.
I think Thursday night games have been poor for the most part this year. However, that doesn't mean the NFL should abandon them next season. The most likely scenario will see them shopping the games to the NBC Sports Network, who will overpay for them because they need viewers and the NFL will make even more money on TV contracts.
What the NFL should do is schedule teams for Thursday games after they have a bye week. That way they have over a week of rest before they play these games. It wouldn't be hard to do that. From week three to eleven you give teams their bye week and you can always find a way to give two teams the same bye while also putting them on Thursday night football. In week two and weeks 12 to 15 you wouldn't have the luxury of the bye week, so those teams would just have to suck it up. Not only would the "bye game into Thursday game" help the players get their proper rest, but it would improve the quality of the games as well.
As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to break down tonight's game.
Standings after Week 14 (Straight Up)
John 140-67-1 .676 (Last week 13-3)
Bret 135-72-1 .652 (9-7)
Mike 134-73-1 .647 (8-8)
I was on fire. Nailed a lot of the close games that came down to the wire. Fluky I guess. I'll take it.
Cincinnati (7-6) at Philadelphia (4-9) 8:20 PM
Bret: What an appropriate game to end the completely forgettable slate of Thursday night games we got this year. I understand the NFL wanting to create something here they can sell to TNT for a few billion bucks, but they're going to have to dedicate some better games to it, or it's going be no better than Thursday night MACaction in the NCAA.
As boring as this game is, I want to take the space to talk about how much an NFL season can turn on a single play or a single drive. Last week, Cincinnati was up by 2 scores with just over 6 minutes left. Advanced NFL stats had Cincinnati as high as an 89% win probability at that point - but through dropped passes and a bad sack, Cincinnati couldn't put the game away.
Had they done so - especially with the Pittsburgh loss - Cincy would have had a real shot at the playoffs, a legit shot at the #5 seed, and maybe even the chance to be playing Baltimore for the division in week 17. (Still possible by the way.) Then, they'd be playing Baltimore as a 4 seed in round one, and they'd have a real shot at making the divisional round. Everyone would talk about how the Bengals are a well balanced team with young stars on both sides of the ball and a bright future.
Instead, they blew a couple a few plays, and now they'll need to run the table or get some help from Dallas this week and Cleveland in week 17 to make it. They're likely to finish 8-8 or 7-9 and our winter narrative will be "Can Dalton/Marvin Lewis get them over the hump?" and "Same ole Bengals."
All this off one bad series. The NFL is a ruthless business.
No place for a B squad like the Eagles have become. Don't let that game in Tampa fool you - that Tampa defense is still a work in progress and will have days like that. Cincinnati is much better against the pass - Philly will have to rely on Brown to put up points this week, and I think he'll have another good game, but not as good as Green and Dalton will have against a checked out Philly secondary. Cincinnati 24 Philadelphia 21
Mike: How about that powerhouse NFC East last week? Dallas knocking off the Bengals, Philly stunning the Bucs, Washington beating Baltimore and the Giants taking it to the Saints. Cincy really screwed itself losing last week. They would have been up a game on Pittsburgh for a playoff spot with games still left against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Now they basically have to win both of those games to make it in.
I still have no idea how the Bengals lost last week. They went up 19-10 with 7 minutes left in the third quarter. The rest of the game their offensive playcalling looked like this: Pass, pass, pass, run, pass, run, run, pass, run, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass. And they were up that whole time! Their last possession was the worst, 6 minutes left in the game, 5 straight pass plays. I'm not saying you have to just try and milk the clock, but no runs? And not only that, no targets to AJ Green.
And really, that's kind of Cincinnati in a nutshell, isn't it? You just don't know what to expect from them. Philly was in a similar game last week, where you look at the game and wonder how on earth they managed to win. Down 21-10 with 7 minutes left in the game to inexplicably throwing for the game winning touchdown as time expires. Considering how both teams kind of defied logic and expectations this week, I expect this week to be a game that Cincinnati comes out and wins.
Philly is still a bad team with a very young, very inexperienced quarterback, who only manages to pull amazingly close wins out to make their record look even remotely salvageable. Cincy's secondary isn't that great, but it's better than what Tampa throws out there, so I'm not expecting another 380 yard day from Nick Foles. I think we're in store for a low-scoring game that Philly keeps interesting, but Cincinnati's coming out with a purpose knowing they have to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Cincinnati 17 Philadelphia 12
John: Pop quiz: What team leads the NFL in sacks this year? You might think it's a team like the 49ers, Texans or Broncos. Nope. It's the Cincinnati Bengals with 42 sacks (Broncos and Rams are tied for second with 39.) That tells me that their pass rush is going to be difficult for the Eagles to deal with considering all of the injuries the Eagles have on their offensive line. I know the Bengals offense gets a lot of attention because of star WR AJ Green, who is a special talent, but it's their defense that has been the best part of their team this year.
I don't have a lot of faith in the Eagles. I think they won last week largely because the Bucs pass defense is so bad that they were able to find holes in that secondary. Against the Bengals I don't see them having that kind of success. I think Eagles rookie QB Nick Foles has a big arm and his poise in the pocket is pretty good for somebody so young, but against a great pass rush and above average secondary he's going to have difficulties.
I also think the Bengals offense will have a really good day. You can run on the Eagles and with Benjarvus Green-Ellis playing very well in the last few weeks I think the Bengals will use that running game to set up the pass. As we've seen all the year, the Eagles overpaid secondary is not playing very well. I'd expect the Bengals to have a lot of success against them on their way to a much needed victory. Bengals 27-20
Thanks for reading. We'll be back on Friday for the rest of this week's games.
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