Saturday’s NFL Matchups: Eagles, Bengals Will Come Out on Top
New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The main story of this game is whether or not last Sunday’s game was a fluke or not. The Jets played outstanding against the Bengals, who were resting their starters, and won 37-0 as Giants Stadium was closed for good. While the Bengals did not show much, the huge victory could be seen as a momentum shifter.
The Jets sport, in my opinion, the league’s best defense with one of the best defenders in Darrelle Revis, meaning the Bengals surprise season could be in doubt. Carson Palmer remembers his last playoff experience, but for all the wrong reasons.
Early in a 2005 matchup against the Steelers, Palmer suffered a knee injury that doctors said was potentially career-ending. Back in the playoffs, a rejuvenated Bengals team looks to win their first playoff game since 1991.
If they want to win, running back Cedric Benson will have to step up and continue to carry the load. The Jets allowed just 154 yards per game through the air, and teams threw for just eight touchdowns against them all season. Teams did not fare much better on the ground, as the Jets ranked eighth in that department.
With Revis expected to blanket Chad Ochocinco all game, Benson will have to soften up the defense and make New York put eight men in the box. If they can do this, they will have success.
Another reason the Bengals might have success is the fact that they go up against a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez. At times this season Sanchez struggled mightily, but overall he has been a solid game manager for the league’s best ground game.
Cincinnati is no slouch on the defensive end, ranking seventh against the rush and fourth overall. With snow expected to be on the ground in Cincinnati, both teams will need to establish the run early. If Sanchez is able to limit mistakes and Revis leads the defense like he has all year, an upset could be in store.
Palmer needs to shake off his late-season woes and step up in a huge game for the Bengals. I believe a veteran Bengals team will come out and manage the ball better, leading to a close win in a defensive battle. Bengals 17, Jets 14
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
In a rematch from last Sunday’s Week 17 blowout, the Eagles look for revenge and head coach Andy Reid looks to improve to 8-0 in opening playoff games. On the other end, Wade Phillips attempts to win his first playoff game (0-4) and the Cowboys try to win their first playoff game since 1996. Something’s got to give in this NFC East battle, so let’s check out each team’s keys to victory on Saturday.
The Cowboys defeated the Eagles twice in the regular season, and history shows that teams who do that usually win the third time in the playoffs (11-for-17). In those two victories, a common theme has been the quiet games of speedster Desean Jackson. The Eagles’ wide receiver has been held to two catches for 29 yards and three catches for 47 yards in the two meetings, and the Eagles have been held to a combined 16 points in the two games.
Dallas ranks 20th in pass defense but has given up just 19 touchdowns through the air, ranking in the top ten. Jackson’s ability to get free deep could be the key in this game for the Eagles’ offense, while shutting down the run will be equally important against the Cowboys.
Dallas ranks seventh in the league in rushing offense, headed by Marion Barber III and Felix Jones (not to mention Rashard Choice), all with a red-hot Tony Romo passing the ball. The struggling Roy Williams has been bailed out by the emergence of Miles Austin, who has become Romo’s No. 1 wideout.
Romo passed for 300 yards in both contests against the Eagles but the Cowboys also rushed for 191 yards and a 5.6 average in Dallas Stadium this season, so if the Eagles expect to win it will come in the form of a shootout. That might be possible as the Eagles have put up 30 or more points in seven different games this season.
The Eagles have scored just 70 points total in their five losses, an average of 14 points, while averaging over 32 points in their wins. The answer is simple: if the Eagles score, they win. I expect them to do that today as they win a true shootout in the South, 35-31 over the Cowboys.
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