As a commenter said, Kate Smith gives us goosebumps every time. A great win for the Flyers and an impressive 9th inning ralley for the Phils makes a happy Philly sports fan. Mike Richards' penalty shot and Pat Burrell's homer were just what good old Kate Smith ordered.
You think Eagles fans have it bad? After five straight trips to the playoffs, Bengals fans were expecting their team to be good. Really good. Instead, they're 3-7-1 and on the verge of their first losing season since 2011.
And in all honesty, the Eagles should probably clinch it for them. With the Bengals' best player out with an injury, there's nothing particularly scary about this team. The offense is running out of weapons, and the defense, while good, has its weaknesses.
This is the Eagles' chance to get back to .500 and make one final desperation push. Can they take advantage?
Quarterback: Andy Dalton
After a breakout 2015 campaign in which he finished second in the NFL with a 106.2 passer rating, it seems Dalton is back to his usual self. The sixth-year veteran's 63.5 completion percentage and 7.4 yards per attempt are better than what he's posted in years past, but down significantly from last season, while sacks are up. About the only thing that's carried over for Dalton from his career year is he seemingly learned to take care of the football, as he's thrown only six interceptions in 11 games. Dalton is a game manager with upside in a perfect situation. The 2016 Bengals are not that situation.
Strength: Nothing in particular
Now that All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green is out with an injury, as is versatile running back Giovani Bernard, the Bengals offense isn't exactly loaded with weapons. Prior to Green and Bernard going out, the duo combined for somewhere around 60 percent of the team's production. They still have Tyler Eifert, a Pro Bowl tight end who presents matchup issues, and running back Jeremy Hill, who is like a sledgehammer with legs. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL as well, although the rest of the unit is just okay. Without Green, there's nothing very impressive about what this group can do.
Weakness: Red-zone offense
This might seem oddly specific, but moving the football hasn't been a problem for the Bengals. Cincinnati's offense ranks 10th in the league in terms of yards per game, yet at 27th is near the bottom when it comes to scoring. Even when Green was healthy and despite having big bodies like Eifert and Hill, for some reason the Bengals have really struggled to put points on the board. Part of the problem is Dalton, who's only thrown 12 touchdown passes, but his 2.9 touchdown percentage is by far the worst of his career, so it's not easy to explain why. This team simply doesn't score a ton, which is probably why they only have three wins.
Strength: Pass defense
Cincinnati has playmakers at every level of the defense, which can make them a difficult team to pass against. It starts up front, where Geno Atkins is pushing up the middle and underrated Carlos Dunlap is coming off the edge top create a hostile environment for quarterbacks. Dunlap had 13.5 sacks a season ago, and when he doesn't get to the passer, he often bats passes down at the line, as he's done 10 times this season. The Bengals boast a fine trio of cornerbacks as well, with Dre Kirkpatrick's three interceptions, veteran Adam "Pacman" Jones and 2014 first-round draft pick Darqueze Dennard. The unit ranks 10th in passing yards per game and has 11 interceptions, so while not impenetrable, they are tough.
Weakness: Run defense
Although it may be difficult to throw against the Bengals, opponents have had little trouble finding room to run. It seems odd with guys like Atkins and Dunlap up front, not to mention quality veteran linebackers like Karlos Dansby and Vincent Rey, but the fact is they aren't getting the job done. Cincinnati ranks 28th against the run overall and 26th in terms of yards per carry, allowing an average of 4.4 per attempt. It's pretty clear what the strategy should be against this defense, particularly for an offense with mediocre talent at wide receiver. Run the ball, then run the ball some more.
X-factor: Vontaze Burfict
There may not be a bigger wild card in the NFL then Burfict. The fifth-year veteran isn't an X-factor in the conventional sense that he'll rack up a bunch of sacks or create a ton of turnovers. A 2013 Pro Bowler, Burfict does lead the team in tackles, so he'll be in on a lot of plays. The bigger concern though is really whether he might go head hunting or dive at a player's legs and potentially hurt someone. Not to say he's not a talented player, but you could argue that threat makes him a bigger game-changer than any conventional charting numbers will measure.
Mike Nugent has seen better days. Cincinnati's kicker has missed five field goals, including all three tries from 50 or more yards, plus a whopping four extra points this season, which makes you wonder a little bit what the team is still clinging to. The Bengals' return game isn't especially dangerous either. Alex Erickson handles the bulk of the work, and does have strong averages on both kicks and punts, although he has yet to take one to the house this season.
Marvin Lewis (14th season, 115-108-3)
Somehow, despite not winning a playoff game in seven tries over 14 seasons, Lewis is still the head coach of the Bengals. Probably not for much longer though. He's in his third straight year of lame-duck status, and one more defeat would guarantee the club its first losing season since 2011. Then again, Lewis has survived down seasons before, including a pair of four-win campaigns separated by only a year. He's a good coach, but as Eagles fans well know, sometimes after 14 years it's simply time to move on. The Bengals are weird, so who knows what they will decide, but at this point, Lewis has been given more than enough second chances and opportunities.
For whatever reason, Doug Pederson refused to commit to it on Friday morning, but it certainly seems like Nelson Agholor is going to be active this Sunday.
When asked about Agholor, Pederson cited Jordan Matthews’ ankle injury -- Matthews is questionable heading into the game – as a reason he’s “keeping [Agholor] in the mix.”
Does “in the mix” mean active?
“Yeah, there’s a good chance,” Pederson said. “I have to find out how Jordan does today and see really. Just getting on Nelson, his mind has been great, his attitude has been really good, he’s been working really hard. So right now, nothing says not keeping him up, keeping him out. Everything is leaning toward keeping him active.”
Agholor was a healthy scratch against the Packers on Monday Night Football after a dreadful performance against Seattle, after which he admitted he was in his own head. All last week, Pederson said it was a possibility he’d keep Agholor down and then he did. Agholor watched from the sideline as the Eagles lost 27-13.
When pressed on Friday about his failure to commit to playing Agholor, Pederson said he didn’t want to rush into anything, because something unexpected could come up.
“If I can wait until the last second, I’m going to wait until the last second and just see,” he said.
On the last question of Friday’s press conference, Pederson seemed to possibly tip his hand. He was asked if there are things he can do as a play-caller, if Agholor plays, to build his confidence, perhaps getting him the ball early in the game.
“Yeah, there’s always way to do that, obviously, play call, play design, specifically to get him going in the game, could help,” Pederson said. “Get him the ball early. It might just be a screen, just getting him the ball quick, let him get settled into the game. Those are all things I consider, especially putting the openers together, the first 15 (plays), let’s say, focusing on certain guys, wanting to get them touches early. And he’s definitely one of those guys.”
The Eagles have elected to keep just four receivers active on game days all season, while some other teams keep five up. Pederson said the reason for that is special teams. Instead of having a fifth receiver, the Eagles keep up core special teams players like reserve safety Terrence Brooks or reserve corner C.J. Smith.
With Matthews’ injury and with Agholor’s situation, Pederson might have to consider activating five for the first time this season on Sunday.
“That’s something, obviously, I have to consider,” Pederson said. “It really depends on today and how well Jordan comes out of today. And see where he’s at. Again, it’s a short week and getting back out there yesterday, (Thursday) was, I don’t want to say it hurt him, it was good to put him out there. The decision could come from how well he does or doesn’t come out of today.”