Cincinnati Bengals (7-6 SU, 5-7-1 ATS) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9 SU, 3-9-1 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Thursday, December 13th, 2012, 8:20 p.m. EST
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
TV: NFL Network/DirecTV 212
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cin -3/PHI +3
Over/Under Total: 46
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The Cincinnati Bengals are letting an AFC playoff spot slip right through their fingers, but if they want to stay in position for a chance at the second season they’ll need to find a way to win on the road this week when they travel to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the season finale of Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network.
The Bengals were sitting in a good position for an AFC wild card spot and on the verge of a tough victory over the emotional Dallas Cowboys at home last Sunday, only to watch Tony Romo and the Cowboys put together a 13-play, 50-yard drive in the final minutes to set up a game-winning 40-yard field goal by Dan Bailey as time expired and hand the Bengals a 20-19 loss. The loss dropped Cincinnati into a tie for the final AFC spot, and with three weeks to play and games remaining against AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Bengals face almost a must-win situation in Philly this week in order to stay ahead of the chase pack.
Philadelphia finished on the opposite end of the last-second win or lose spectrum last week in Tampa, beating the Buccaneers, 23-21, when rookie QB Nick Foles hit Jeremy Maclin with a 1-yard score as time expired. The win snapped the Eagles eight-game losing streak and took some of the heat off of head coach Andy Reid for a week, at least until Thursday when the Bengals come calling with their backs starting to approach the wall.
With the Bengals likely to be playing with a sense of urgency, and Philly already in full-blown rebuilding mode, oddsmakers set the opening point spread for the TNF finale with Cincinnati as 3-point favorites on the road at the Linc. With the public already fading the Eagles no matter who or where they play, some sportsbooks have adjusted the number up to Cincy minus -3.5, but that’s about as far as it’s gone after the first few days of being up on the board.
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The over/under total opened at 46 and it has held firm at a majority of sportsbooks both on the Web and in and around Las Vegas, but there are a few books starting to drop the game down the hook to 45.5 as the early money has been coming in on the under.
The Eagles have gone young on offense for a few weeks now, with Foles and fellow rookie Bryce Brown taking over the quarterback and running back roles for the rest of the year while Reid and Eagles management try and find new homes for Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. Foles had his best game yet last week in Tampa, throwing for a rookie record 381 yards and two scores, but Brown was held in check for the first time since his ascension to the starting role.
Issues and injuries along the Eagles offensive line have seemed to taper off lately, but now Philly might have to play without TE Brent Celek (concussion) against a Bengals defense that is ranked 7th overall (328 ypg) and leads the NFL with 42 sacks. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but on paper it doesn’t look like a matchup Foles and Reid can expect to win consistently, especially if he calls upwards to 50 passes
Cincinnati’s offense under second-year QB Andy Dalton is pretty much middle of the pack, ranked 15th overall (355 ypg) and 11th in scoring with an average of 24.7 points per game. The Bengals have had a surge in the run game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had a three-game 100-yard plus streak snapped last week, but you have to imagine the Bengals will like their chances with young stud A.J. Green going up against an Eagles secondary that has looked lost and been gutted in recent weeks and is also missing starting safety Kurt Coleman.
The last time these two played back in 2008 was the now famous game that ended with a 13-13 tie, when former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb told reporters afterwards he didn’t know games could end in ties. Historically the AFC-NFC series between the Bengals and Eagles is dead even on the field (3-3-1 SU), but Philly is 3-2 SU in the games played in Philadelphia.
More importantly, the Bengals have OWNED the series at the betting window, going a perfect 6-0 ATS in the series going all the way back to the 1988 game (no line on the 1994 meeting? hence only 6-0 ATS). The last time these two met in Philly (in 2005) the Bengals won 38-10 and covered as (ironically) 3.5-point favorites at the Linc.
Cincy is 4-1 ATS on the road the last five trips, but Philly does seem to play well on Thursdays, going 4-1 ATS in their last five mid-week games. The Eagles are however just 7-19-1 in their last 27 home games, so bet the Eagles as home dogs if you dare.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Eagles appear to be back on track after pulling off a huge road win at TB. Nick Foles will continue to mature and the Eagles will win this game straight up which will appear to be an upset to many, and a payday for sharp handicappers.
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