Philadelphia has been the NFL’s most disappointing team by far. The Eagles are mired in the basement of the NFC East cellar, watching their division cohorts fight it out while their long-time head coach is a lame duck.
Andy Reid’s three biggest stars – quarterback Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy and WR DeShaun Jackson, the team leaders in passing, rushing and receiving – won’t be in uniform when his team hosts Cincinnati on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
As of Wednesday afternoon, most books were listing the Bengals as four-point favorites with a total of 45 ½. Gamblers can take the Eagles on the money line for a plus-180 return (risk $100 to win $180).
Cincinnati (7-6 straight up, 6-6-1 against the spread) saw its four-game winning streak both SU and ATS halted in last week’s 20-19 home loss to Dallas as a 3 ½-point ‘chalk.’ After settling for four Josh Brown field goals, including three from inside of 33 yards, Marvin Lewis’s squad let a 19-10 advantage get away in the final stanza.
Tony Romo connected with Dez Bryant on a 27-yard scoring strike with 6:44 remaining to cut the deficit to 19-17. Then with four ticks left, Dan Bailey buried a 40-yard field goal to lift the Cowboys into the win column.
Andy Dalton completed 20-of-33 passes for 206 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 89 yards on just 12 carries.
For the season, Dalton is connecting on 63.4 percent of his throws and has a 90.3 QB rating. The TCU product has thrown for 3,186 yards with a 25/14 touchdown-interception ratio.
Dalton’s favorite target is second-year WR A.J. Green, who is looking to bounce back from a poor performance against Dallas. The University of Georgia product has 79 receptions for 1,151 yards and 10 TDs.
Green-Ellis has rushed for a team-high 974 yards and five TDs with 4.1 yards-per-carry average.
Philadelphia (4-9 SU, 3-9-1 ATS) ended its eight-game losing streak by winning a 23-21 decision at Tampa Bay last week as an eight point underdog. Rookie QB Nick Foles found Jeremy Maclin in the end zone for a one-yard TD pass on the final play of the game. The Eagles hooked up money-line backers with a plus-320 payout (paid $320 on $100 wagers).
Foles played his best game to date, completing 32-of-51 passes for 381 yards and two TDs without an interception. Foles also rushed for 27 yards and one TD on just three carries.
Maclin finished with nine catches for 104 yards against the Bucs, while Jason Avant had seven receptions for 133 yards.
Since taking over for Vick, Foles has started four games and thrown for 1,174 yards with a 4/3 TD-INT ratio.
Philadelphia has lost four in a row at home since beating both the Ravens and Giants back in September. Even worse, the Eagles are an atrocious 0-5-1 ATS at home. Since 2004, they have limped to an abysmal 3-9 spread record in 12 games as home underdogs.
Cincinnati has thrived on the road this year, compiling a 4-2 record both SU and ATS. During Lewis’s 10-year tenure, the Bengals are 14-11-1 as road favorites.
This is a crucial game for Cincy, which is tied with the Steelers for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. To close the regular season, the Bengals will play at Pittsburgh next week before hosting Baltimore in their regular-season finale.
The ‘under’ has cashed in five straight games for the Bengals and eight of their last 10. Cincy has watched the ‘under’ go 8-5 overall, 3-3 in its six road assignments.
The ‘under’ is 7-6 overall for the Eagles, but the ‘over’ has hit at a lucrative 5-1 clip in their six home games.
Dating back to 1988, the Bengals have covered the number in six consecutive head-to-head meetings against the Eagles. In the last encounter in 2008, these clubs battled to a 13-13 tie with Cincinnati taking the cash as a 9 ½-point road underdog. This was the infamous game in which Donovan McNabb told the media at the post-game presser that he didn’t know there were ties in the NFL.
The NFL Network will provide television coverage at 8:25 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Cincinnati could be without a pair of key defensive players at Philadelphia. Rookie CB Dre Kirkpatrick is ‘questionable’ after sustaining a concussion two weeks ago, and starting DE Michael Johnson is also a question mark due to a foot injury.
--In addition to Vick, Jackson and McCoy, the Eagles will also be without veteran TE Brent Celek (concussion) and DT Mike Patterson (pneumonia).
--In addition to the Eagles, there are five more home underdogs on the Week 15 card: Bears (+3 vs. Green Bay), Ravens (+2.5 vs. Denver), Bills (+5 vs. Seahawks), Cowboys (+1.5 vs. Pittsburgh) and Cardinals (+6 vs. Detroit).
--The Giants have won four in a row over Atlanta, including a 24-2 beatdown in last season’s playoffs. The Falcons can exact a small measure of revenge against the G-Men when they collide Sunday at the Ga. Dome. Mike Smith’s team is a 1 ½-point favorite.
--Even with last week’s outright loss to Philadelphia, Tampa Bay maintains the NFL’s best spread record (9-3-1 ATS).
--Despite suffering a torn ACL last December, Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson has rushed for an NFL-best 1,600 rushing yards. The league’s second-leading rusher is Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who is 334 yards behind Peterson.