The Eagles (0-2) and the Bengals (0-2) are set to meet at 1 p.m. at the Linc Sunday afternoon. Both teams desperately need a win to avoid an 0-3 start, but it’s pretty clear that this is a must-win for Philly, while the Bengals are playing with house money.
The Eagles are expected to compete for a division title and make some noise in the NFC playoffs this season; starting off with three straight losses would essentially end those hopes. Cincinnati holds a 9-3-1 all-time record over the Eagles, giving the Birds some of their worst memories in recent seasons (the ‘Donovan McNab didn’t know the overtime rules’ game, and one of Doug Pederson’s worst losses of his career in 2016, 32-14).
As we look forward to Sunday’s contest, let’s break down some of the key matchups between these two teams.
QB Matchup: Carson Wentz vs. Joe Burrow
Wentz has played terribly so far this season, that’s no secret at this point. Just two touchdown passes, four interceptions, a 58.8 completion percentage with a QBR of just 23.2. The numbers speak for themselves.
Burrow hasn’t been able to win a game in the NFL yet, but he’s been exactly what the Bengals thought they were getting with the first overall pick. He’s thrown three touchdowns to just one interception, completed 61.9% of his passes and has a QBR of 51 through two weeks. The team around him isn’t very good, but Burrow has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback in this league. That much is evident.
But at the end of the day, he’s still a rookie entering just his third game as a pro. He still has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long and he still tries to make plays outside of the pocket when there’s nothing there.
The Bengals offensive line is horrendous, which forces Burrow to improvise more often than not on passing plays. They’re also not very good in their run blocking, as they average just 3.38 yards per carry on the ground. There’s absolutely no reason the Eagles defensive line can’t dominate this matchup and make Burrow look like the rookie he is.
As for Wentz, he’ll be facing a pretty solid pass defense with the Bengals. They’re allowing just 213 passing yards per game, but it’s important to note they faced two average to below average quarterbacks in their first two weeks, Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. Obviously Wentz has played worse than these guys so far this season, but this feels like a game where Wentz can finally settle in and have a bounce back performance.
Like I said earlier, if Wentz doesn’t get it done this week, all the hope for this season will get thrown out the window.
Miles Sanders should have a huge game
While the Bengals have done pretty well against the pass so far this season, they’ve been abysmal against the run. They’re allowing 185 yards per game on the ground, third worst in the NFL. Expect Doug Pederson to lean on his run game early and often. Miles Sanders should be able to run all over this defense.
The Eagles offense is at its best when they effectively run the ball. It allows Doug to open up his playbook, and it benefits Wentz as well. Giving Wentz favorable downs and distances, while running play action pass plays should lead to a solid performance for Wentz and this offense.
If Sanders doesn’t go over 150 yards from scrimmage in this one, it’ll be a disappointment. Boston Scott and Corey Clement could even get in on the action in this one, especially in the screen game. Should be a big day for this Eagles rushing attack on Sunday.
If the Eagles d-line can’t dominate this Bengals o-line, they’re just not a good unit
The Eagles defensive line, the highest paid group of defensive lineman in the league, has severely underperformed through two weeks this year. They’ve only tallied four sacks and 12 QB hits so far, and they got gashed on the ground in week 2 against the Rams, allowing 191 rushing yards with an average of 4.9 yards per carry.
Zac Taylor, a Sean McVay protégé, runs a similar zone run scheme with his Bengals offense. Joe Mixon is a solid back, but their offensive line has had trouble all season. They have 190 yards on the ground so far this season, and Mixon has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry.
Fletcher Cox and the gang should bottle up this rushing attack all day, and they should be able to get consistent pressure on Burrow. This entire defense relies on the defensive line to wreak havoc, it’s why the team has so much money invested in the group. They need to start playing up to their salaries, and it needs to start this week.
There are no excuses in this matchup. They just need to dominate.
Will J.J. Arcega-Whiteside step up in Jalen Reagor’s absence?
Probably not. Let’s just be honest about it.
With Reagor out for the next few weeks, Doug stated they’ll have to rely on JJAW to make plays. We’ve all watched this guy play, he’s not a good wideout, and I don’t expect that to miraculously change with more opportunities.
Alshon Jeffery should be back in the starting lineup in the next week or two, so thankfully we won’t have to suffer through JJAW on the outside for very long. But hey, if the Stanford grad steps up and actually makes some plays this week, I’ll be a happy camper. I just don’t see it happening.
The Eagles cannot lose this game. They just can’t, there’s no other way to put it.
If they fall to 0-3, this season is a wrap. They face three probable playoff teams in the following three weeks, 49ers, Steelers and Ravens, and then they face back-to-back divisional opponents in the Giants and Cowboys. If they drop this game against the Bengals, we could be looking at a 0-5 or 0-6 start.
This team is too talented to start that bad. Yes they have some holes, but they’re still good enough to win the division and reach the playoffs. All they need is a win to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
I’m going with the Eagles in this one, 27-20.
Predictions from the Full Scale writers:
Mike Bednarek: 34-31, Eagles
Connor Longen: 30-27, Bengals
Ryan Haynes: 31-21, Eagles
Anthony DiRenzo: 24-21, Bengals
Tyler Grace: 27-24, Eagles