Bengals vs. Eagles: 5 Matchups That Will Decide Thursday Night Clash
Week 15's Thursday night matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals may not feature two teams headed for the postseason, but the outcome in Philadelphia will still have ripple effects for the 2012 playoff picture.
At 4-9, the Eagles are mathematically eliminated from the NFC playoffs. But at 7-6, the Bengals need a road win to continue their climb in the AFC. Despite being tied in record with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati is currently on the outside looking in because of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
In the following slides, we'll break down the matchups that will decide whether the Eagles continue their late-season momentum, or if Cincinnati takes another step toward the postseason.
Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Green, the NFL's leader in receiving touchdowns with 10, hasn't caught a score in three weeks. Sunday against the Cowboys might also have been his poorest performance of the season, as he caught three passes for just 44 yards and dropped both a potential touchdown and late first down.
Facing Asomugha could be just the remedy that he needs to snap out of the funk.
According to Pro Football Focus, Asomugha has allowed 594 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 117.1 in coverage this season. Overall, he's graded out as one of the NFL's worst cornerbacks.
Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson went over 100 yards with a score against the Asomugha and the Eagles on Sunday. Green could be expected to do the same on Thursday night.
Bengals DT Geno Atkins vs. Eagles RG Jake Scott
Atkins remains the best defensive player in football that no one knows about. The Bengals' left defensive tackle has 10.5 sacks and is consistently one of the most disruptive inside players in the game.
The Eagles will likely call on right guard Jake Scott to slow down Atkins on Thursday. That could be a big problem for Philadelphia.
Signed off the street less than a month ago, Scott has become a starter on the offensive line due to a bevy of injuries. The results have been mixed. Against the Buccaneers, Scott allowed two sacks, one quarterback hit and five hurries. Overall, 14 quarterback disruptions have been assigned to Scott over his 272 total snaps.
Scott will need help with Atkins, but the Eagles can't baby him on Thursday night. If Atkins is winning all of the one-on-one opportunities, Philadelphia could be in trouble.
Bengals CB Leon Hall vs. Eagles WR Jason Avant
The Bengals will trot out a combination of Hall and Terence Newman against Avant and fellow Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin. But considering quarterback Nick Foles will get another start for Philadelphia, Avant may be the receiver for Cincinnati to focus on.
In two starts since returning from a hamstring injury, Avant has 11 catches for 212 yards. Foles and Avant clearly have a connection, potentially from running together on the second-team offense.
Either Hall or Newman will get Avant's coverage assignment on Thursday night. If it's Hall, the Bengals will want a bounce-back performance from him. The sixth-year pro allowed three catches against the Cowboys, including a late touchdown to Dez Bryant.
Bengals RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis vs. Eagles Defensive Front Seven
Believe it or not, Green-Ellis has been one of the NFL's more productive running backs over the last month. Since Nov. 11, Green-Ellis has three 100-yard rushing games and two touchdowns.
If history holds, the Bengals should be able to run the football again on Thursday night.
Philadelphia hasn't kept an opposing running game under 100 yards since Week 4, a stretch of nine games. Buccaneers running back Doug Martin rushed for 128 yards and a score against the Eagles in Week 14.
The Eagles need to be more competitive against the run on Thursday night. Cincinnati is 3-0 when Green-Ellis goes for over 100 yards this season.
Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth vs. Eagles DE Trent Cole
The pivot point of any defense comes from the ability to pressure the blind side of the quarterback.
Cole will be pegged with that task for the Eagles on Thursday night, but he'll have a tough matchup against Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
One of the game's best at protecting the blind side, Whitworth has allowed just one sack over the last seven games.
Cole came into 2012 as one of the most productive pass-rushers, but he has just 0.5 sacks since Week 3 and has had a disappointing season.
If Cole can't come up with some pressures against Whitworth on Thursday, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will have the opportunity to eat the back end of the Eagles' secondary alive. Philadelphia needs pressure in bunches.