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On Thursday night the NFL schedule makers get to play their last cruel joke on Philadelphia this season when the Eagles play host to Cincinnati in the league’s final midweek game of the season.
The Eagles already have played a league record-tying four games against teams coming off a bye in 2012. The Eagles also already have played arch-enemy Dallas twice on short rest off a Monday night game. Philly went 0-6 both overall and against the spread in those outings.
Now comes the final flaming hoop in the Eagles’ path: For only the sixteenth time in the past 14 years, the league is asking a team to play four games in an 18-day window. Thursday marks Day 18 for Philadelphia, which began this stretch with a Monday Night Football home loss to Carolina on Nov. 26.
Considering the Duluth Eskimos once had four road dates in an eight-day span in 1926, this doesn’t sound all that difficult. However, the results speak differently. The previous 15 teams that had this condensed four-game slate went 3-11-1 ATS on Day 18. Breaking it down further, home teams were 1-4 ATS.
Ditto for underdogs of 4+ points. You’d have thought folks at Eagles headquarters would have had a burr in their saddle over all of this. Guess not.
Anyway, on to a closer look at Thursday’s game:
PRO FOOTBALL – THURSDAY, DEC. 13
Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-9)
Time: 5:20 p.m.
Line: Bengals -4 (45½)
Facts: Thursday road teams are 7-8 SU, 8-7 ATS this season, with away favorites going 4-2, 3-3 ATS. • The Eagles won at Tampa Bay 23-21 last week on a last-play TD pass from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin that kept their playoff hopes alive for 3 more hours. • Philadelphia won despite having only 29 rushing yards on 16 carries. In 48 previous games in which a team had fewer than 40 ground yards, they went a cumulative 1-47. • Cincinnati, meanwhile, held Dallas to 49 yards on 24 carries last week in a 20-19 Cowboys win. • The Bengals, who have a league-high 42 sacks, go against an Eagles line that yielded 6 to a Bucs team that totaled 18 in their previous 12 games. • Cincinnati controls its playoff destiny, but probably would get only the sixth seed barring a nose dive by Baltimore or Indianapolis (both 9-4). • The last time these teams met, in 2008, the game ended 13-13 and is remembered for how Eagles QB Donovan McNabb famously revealed he didn’t know overtimes could result in a tie.
Analysis: Last week’s Eagles victory is not an indication they have turned any corners. Sure, Foles is being heralded as a fast-improving passer, but let’s see how he does when he’s not facing one of the worst pass defenses in league history. On Cincinnati’s side, it’s unlikely its receivers will drop eight passes again as the Bengals did vs. Dallas. Also, star WR A.J. Green should find yawning gaps in the Philly secondary and the Bengals could do well in the punt return game with Adam Jones, who’s third best in the league at 14.3 yards a return. He’ll face a punter, Mat McBriar, who yields a league-worst 15.0 yards a return. Hurry on this, for the line has climbed steadily from an opening 3-point spread.
Forecast: Bengals 31, Eagles 13
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].