Technically the Eagles are still very much alive in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Their Week 12 loss to the Packers was a major setback, and the 5-6 squad is up against the wall — but stranger things have happened.
In order to win an NFC wild-card spot, Philadelphia will need to win out and get to 10-6 (along with a boatload of help). With a road trip to Cincinnati Sunday (at 1 p.m. on Fox) the Eagles can build some confidence against the only sub .500 team left on their schedule.
Here’s a look at three things the team will need to do to prevail against the Bengals:
1. Stop the penalties
Take away some of the Eagles biggest, most devastating penalties on the defensive side of the ball and statistically the Birds are among the best — if not the best — defenses in football. The team would also have a much better win-loss record.
In their 24-13 loss last week, a few key mistakes by Fletcher Cox cost the Eagles their best chance to win. This needs to stop.
“It’s a competitive game,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “You’re going to get a defensive hold or a pass interference if you’re playing tight coverage. You’re going to get some hits on the quarterback that are sort of unavoidable, but there’s plenty that have been avoidable, and when we’ve committed those, it’s put our team at risk and we haven’t won games as a result. They are hard lessons to learn, but for us to get to where we want to get to as a defense and as a team, we have to put that behind us.”
2. Score more points
The Eagles haven’t scored more than 24 points since Week 3. Not surprisingly, they’ve gone 2-6 in that span. Injuries have hit the offense hard, as have drops, penalties and questionable coaching decisions. The Bengals (3-7-1) defense is toward the lower middle of the pack in terms of its points allowed and yards allowed. This week, Carson Wentz will need to show up.
“Obviously, as an offense, our job is to put points on the board, and that just comes from executing one play at a time,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “We have to score more points. I mean, there’s no question. As coaches, it’s our job to put our players in the best position to make plays and to be able to sustain drives; to be good in the red zone; be good on third down. Obviously [it’s also the] players’ job, but really we’re all in it together as an offense. We just have to find ways to be better.”
3. Get to the quarterback
Remember when the Eagles’ defensive line was one of the most feared in the NFL? Well, it’s mustered just six sacks over the last five games.
Cox, one of the league’s newly minted, highestpaid superstars, has more personal fouls than sacks in that span — and a prolific start to the season by Brandon Graham has slowed to a proverbial crawl.
The Bengals have allowed 32 sacks, fourth most in the league and their lackluster offensive line will allow the Eagles to get to Andy Dalton — if they can get their act together.
“We haven’t had sacks the last couple weeks,” Schwartz said. “We need sacks to be able to help our team. That puts them in third down-and-longs; it gets off the field on third-and-long; it forces turnovers. We haven’t forced turnovers the last couple weeks.”