Philadelphia Eagles Week 3 Preview: Cincinnati Bengals

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Week 3 of the NFL season is here and the Philadelphia Eagles are still looking for their first win. There hasn’t been a whole lot that has gone right for this team through the first couple of weeks.

The Eagles have been decimated by injuries. The quarterback has been incredibly frustrating and inconsistent. Head Coach Doug Pederson’s play calling has resulted in a number of head-scratching moments. The defense has been very susceptible to the run and incapable of getting stops in big moments.

Enter the Cincinnati Bengals. The worst team in the NFL in 2019. Could this be the exact matchup the Eagles need to begin to right the ship? Well, let’s take a look.

Time, Location, Etc.

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The Philadelphia Eagles will play host to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at 1:00 PM. It should be a beautiful day for football, as it is supposed to be sunny with a high of 84 degrees. Unfortunately, Eagles fans won’t be able to take advantage of the beautiful weather, as the game will be played in an empty Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia has ruled that there will be no in-person fans for the rest of 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. This is a big blow to the Eagles, as “The Linc” is often considered one of the toughest places to play for opposing teams. The lack of fans in the stadium was definitely felt in Week 2 when the L.A. Rams ran all over the Eagles defense, racking up 37 points.

Tale of the Tape

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Miles Sanders fumbles in 1st Quarter in Week 2 game against L.A. Rams
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Philadelphia Eagles (0-2):

The Eagles come into Week 3 looking for some sure-footing as a team. The first couple of games have gone completely awry.

In Week 1, they were beaten by the Washington Football Team, 27-17, after starting the game with a 17-0 lead. Then in Week 2 against the L.A. Rams, they were behind from the start, as they quickly went down, 21-3. They worked their way back into the game, making it 21-16 at halftime. But, they had a disappointing second half once again and ended up losing, 37-19.

The Eagles offense has had a number of key injuries to start the season. In Week 1, they were without RB Miles Sanders, an emerging star. They were also missing Pro Bowl RT Lane Johnson. LG Isaac Seumalo went down with a knee injury in Week 2 and he will be out for at least the next month. Rookie WR Jalen Reagor is also going to be out for the next few weeks due to a foot injury. You can read more about that here.

Beyond their litany of injuries, the Eagles have simply not played well on either side of the ball.

Quarterback Carson Wentz has been frustrating as he has tried to force passes that aren’t there and has also missed some easy passes. Through two games, he has two touchdown passes with four interceptions and a lost fumble. Those kind of statistics are not going to win you many football games.

The Eagles have not been much better on the defensive side of the ball. In Week 2, they allowed 191 rushing yards to the L.A. Rams. Quarterback Jared Goff also passed for three touchdowns and was 20-for-27 with 267 passing yards.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2):

The Bengals also come into Week 3 looking for their first win. They lost in Week 1 to the L.A. Chargers, 16-13. In Week 2, they lost to the Cleveland Browns, 35-30. While they have the same record as the Eagles, I think Bengals fans probably feel better about their start than Eagles fans do about theirs. Expectations are everything.

In 2019, the Bengals were the worst team in football and their prize for such ineptitude was quarterback Joe Burrow. His talent is undeniable, but he has had an up-and-down first couple of games. He has been poised late in the half and at in big moments of the first two games. At the same time, he also has missed on a lot of throws. A.J. Green, for instance, has been targeted 22 times, but he only has eight catches through two games.

On the other side of the ball, the biggest reason the Bengals are 0-2 can be attributed to their defense. It is a unit which has a lot of holes and is still a couple years away from being fully rebuilt. Last week, Browns QB Baker Mayfield had a huge day against them, along with the Browns running backs.

The Bengals are still a team in the middle of a rebuild, but there is enough talent on the offense to be able to steal a few wins this season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how these two teams match up.

Head to Head

Carson Wentz vs. Bengals Pass Defense: This should be a pretty even match-up on Sunday. The Bengals defense has not been very good, but outside of a long TD pass to Odell Beckham, Jr. last week, they have not given up a ton of chunk-yardage in the passing game. On the other hand, Carson Wentz has not provided much in the passing attack for the Eagles. Granted, he is playing behind a makeshift offensive line, but he has left much to be desired in terms of decision-making and accuracy. Wentz needs to make quick decisions and be content to make the smart pass instead of always looking to make the big play. Neither the Bengals pass rush nor secondary are intimidating. But, until Wentz becomes more consistent, I cannot give him the edge in any match-up. Edge: Bengals

Miles Sanders vs. Bengals Run Defense: As little confidence as fans have in Wentz, the complete opposite should be true of RB Miles Sanders. He lost a fumble on the first drive of the game last week, but outside of that, he looked very good. He was sharp in the running game and played an active role in the passing game. This week, he goes up against a defense that surrendered over 200 yards on the ground last Thursday against the Browns. This is the match-up in which the Eagles will look to take advantage of most on Sunday. Edge: Eagles

Joe Burrow vs. Eagles Pass Defense: There is no denying Joe Burrow’s talent, but he is a rookie quarterback playing with no preseason behind a bad offensive line. Pair that with the Eagles’ strong pass rush and it could spell trouble for Burrow. It is not clear if the Eagles will have DT Fletcher Cox for the game on Sunday. He has not practiced yet this week. Something else to watch will be Eagles CB Darius Slay against WRs A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd. Both wide receivers are talented, but Slay is a true shut-down corner. Expect Burrow to look for one of them against the more favorable assignment of CB Avonte Maddox. The Eagles pass rush should be able to keep Burrow uncomfortable and Darius Slay will limit either Green or Boyd. Edge: Eagles

Joe Mixon vs. Eagles Run Defense: Similar to the match-up of Wentz against the Bengals pass defense, this is a match-up of areas of weakness from both sides. The prevalence of such match-ups shouldn’t be surprising to us when we consider that this is a game between two winless football teams. Mixon is a very talented running back, but he has struggled to start the season, due in part to the aforementioned sub-par Bengals offensive line. But, the Eagles are also coming off a match-up against the Rams where they gave up almost 200 yards rushing. The Eagles linebackers leave much to be desired, as the organization has seemingly made it a policy to not invest in that position group. From a simple talent standpoint, I slightly favor Joe Mixon in this match-up. Edge: Bengals

What Must Happen

  • Win the turnover battle. The Eagles simply cannot afford to lose the turnover battle for the third week in a row. Turnovers have been a huge issue for them through two games. This week, they must do better against a sub-par defense on one hand, and a rookie quarterback on the other.
  • Unleash Miles Sanders. This should be the game plan for Head Coach Doug Pedersen. It is simple. Your strength is the other team’s weakness. Exploit it and allow your best player on offense take over the game.
  • Pressure Joe Burrow early. No quarterback prefers to be under constant pressure, but this is especially true of rookie QBs. The Eagles need to get to Burrow early and make him uncomfortable and out of rhythm. The Eagles, under Jim Schwartz, don’t like to blitz a lot or use confusing schemes. As a result, they will need their front-four to provide the pass rush and simply be better than the Bengals offensive line.
  • Find TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert in the passing game. Goedert has been Carson Wentz’s favorite target through two games this season. Without WR Jalen Reagor, Wentz needs to be comfortable relying even more heavily on his tight ends.

Key Matchups

  • Joe Mixon vs. Eagles linebackers
  • Miles Sanders vs. Bengals front-seven
  • Joe Burrow vs. Jim Schwartz
  • Zach Ertz & Dallas Goedert vs. Bengals linebackers & safeties

Prediction

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Expect the Eagles to come out with the sense of urgency that many thought they would have last week. The early-season schedule remains brutal, as they play their next two games on the road against playoff-caliber teams. As a result, this is as close to a must-win as a team can have in September. On paper, the Eagles have more talent than the Bengals. That will also be the case on the field on Sunday. I am predicting RB Miles Sanders carries the Eagles to a 23-17 win, with Joe Burrow throwing a late interception to seal the game.

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