Eagles vs. Bengals: Three Numbers That Matter

The Eagles' pass rush might be able to get back on track this week.

Brandon Graham. (Jeff Fusco)

Brandon Graham. (Jeff Fusco)

Here’s a look at three numbers that matter as the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

1,637 – The combined yards from scrimmage A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard have this season.

Green and Bernard likely won’t play this week due to injury. Green, a superstar talent, is Cincinnati’s leading receiver. Bernard, meanwhile, ranks second on the team in rushing and fourth in receiving. The two players have combined for seven touchdowns this season.

The absence of Green and Bernard has been felt since they both went down in Week 11. Cincinnati only mustered 12 points against the Bills before scoring a mere 14 points against the Ravens last week.

A lack of offensive weapons is more bad news for Andy Dalton. The 29-year-old passer is already dealing with a poor offensive line. Cincinnati has allowed the fourth most sacks in the NFL this season.

This could be a week where the Eagles’ pass rush gets back on track after struggling to post good pressure numbers recently. Jim Schwartz’s defense recorded 20 sacks in the first six games but only has six in the last five.

Dalton isn’t as mobile as the quarterbacks the Eagles have faced in recent weeks (Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers). Philadelphia could be primed to take advantage of a matchup in the trenches that should work in their favor. The Eagles’ defensive line needs to come up big after failing to do so over the past few games.

4.4 – The Bengals rank tied for 25th in opponent yards per rush attempt.

The best way for the Eagles to attack Cincinnati’s defense is with their ground game. The Bengals have struggled to defend the run well.

Running the ball makes too much sense for the Eagles not to do. It’s really their best offensive option given the fact their receivers can’t be relied upon. Doug Pederson arguably got away from the run too early in the Packers game. Wendell Smallwood has shown he can be an effective player in limited opportunities this season. The Eagles can’t be afraid to give him more work and try to win the game by pounding the rock. Philadelphia’s ball-control offense helped them win games early in the season and more recently it aided them in a victory over the Falcons.

In addition, passing on the Bengals might not be as easy. Cincinnati’s defense ranks tied for fourth in interceptions this season with 11. Carson Wentz has thrown seven picks to only four touchdowns in recent weeks. The Eagles don’t need to limit his shots completely but relying on the run seems like the better option.

14.0% – The Eagles’ playoff odds as determined by Football Outsiders.

Another week, another ‘must-win’ game for the Eagles. Philadelphia’s playoff hopes are already on life support after losing to the Packers. The Eagles virtually need to win out (and get a little help along the way) in order to qualify for the post-season. Here’s a look at the current NFC playoff picture.

1 – Dallas Cowboys 10-1
2 – Seattle Seahawks 7-3-1
3 – Detroit Lions 7-4
4 – Atlanta Falcons 7-4
5 – New York Giants 8-3
6 – Washington Redskins 6-4-1

7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-5
8 – Minnesota Vikings 6-5
9 – New Orleans Saints 5-6
10 – Green Bay Packers 5-6
11 – Philadelphia Eagles 5-6
12 – Arizona Cardinals 4-6-1

The good news for the Eagles is that some of the teams ahead of them have some tough games this week. There’s opportunity for the Birds to move up in the standings. Here’s a quick peek.

Giants: at the Steelers
Washington: at the Cardinals
Buccaneers: at the Chargers
Vikings: home versus the Cowboys
Saints: home versus the Lions
Packers: home versus the Texans

Of course, the Eagles need to do their part. And despite their recent struggles, there’s reason to believe Philadelphia can this week.

The Bengals aren’t a very good team. Take a look at their three wins this season. They beat the lowly Jets by one point, they beat the Dolphins when Miami was struggling, and they got a free win by playing the Browns. Cincinnati would have lost the game they tied if not for Washington missing a chip-shot field goal at the end.

One can argue the Eagles aren’t very good either considering they’re 2-6 in their last eight games. But Philadelphia still ranks third in DVOA and seventh in point differential. They’re not a total mess.

A win Sunday means the Eagles can keep their slim playoff hopes alive for another week.