Bengals can't afford letdown against Eagles
PHILADELPHIA — A midweek trip to Philadelphia should keep the Cincinnati Bengals from focusing on another Pennsylvania team for a few more days.
The Bengals (7-6) find themselves in a unique position where they're tied with the Steelers for the last playoff spot in the AFC, but a loss to the Eagles (4-9) on Thursday night wouldn't ruin their chances.
“This decides if we go to the playoffs or not,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “We still have to take it one at a time. We've got to get a win this Thursday, and then we'll focus on the last two.”
Well, the next one is far more crucial. The Bengals visit the Steelers on Dec. 23 and finish at home against AFC North-leading Baltimore. Win or lose against the Eagles, the Bengals have to beat the Steelers to get in the playoffs unless the Steelers lose both of their other games — at Dallas this week and vs. Cleveland in Week 17.
“We want to finish these last three games 3-0 and see what happens after that,” cornerback Leon Hall said. “You get to losing games obviously this late in the season, you kind of take destiny out of your own hands.”
Three wins — or only two if they're against the Steelers and Baltimore — guarantee the Bengals their second straight playoff berth for the first time since 1981-82. They lost to Houston, 31-10, in a wild-card game last January.
Coming off a last-second loss at home to Dallas, the Bengals had no time to dwell on a disappointing defeat in a short week.
Coaches went right to game-planning for the Eagles immediately after that game, and players were back at practice Monday.
“It's a quick turnaround, and that's probably a good thing for us,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “We need to improve fundamentally on the things we're doing. Some of those little things, the details of our work, ended up putting us in the position to lose the football game.”
The last time the Bengals played the Eagles it ended in a tie Nov. 16, 2008. Afterward, Donovan McNabb said he thought games couldn't end in ties and teams had to play to sudden death.
McNabb took plenty of grief for that mental blunder, but the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback ended up leading the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game that season. They won a pair of road playoff games before losing at Arizona.
The Eagles haven't won a playoff game since and are headed for just their third losing season in Andy Reid's 14 years as coach.
It doesn't make them a pushover for the Bengals.
“To see the way they played last week shows they're not giving up,” Dalton said.