One team is playing for everything; the other is playing for next season
We can say this for the Thursday night NFL games: The best certainly was not saved for last. It's been a pretty disappointing slate of games throughout the season, and our final edition -- Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles -- certainly doesn't appear to be an exception.
We know the Eagles' season is done. They're firmly in the evaluation stage (though Andy Reid is all but certain to be gone) of Nick Foles, trying to figure out if he's the answer for 2013 and beyond. LeSean McCoy isn't playing, so once again look for Bryce Brown to be the main option out of the backfield. Philly broke its eight-game losing streak with a last-second win over Tampa Bay last week, so it will be interesting to see if the Eagles have a letdown tonight.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, is firmly in the playoff mix. At 7-6, the Bengals are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the final playoff spot in the AFC, and the teams play each other next week. If the Bengals lose to the Eagles and the Steelers beat the Cowboys, Cincy would need to win its final two games and have Pittsburgh lose its final two games to jump the Steelers. In other words, this game has tremendous significance to the Bengals. If they lose tonight, they do not control their own destiny.
According to ESPN PickCenter, the public loves the Bengals in this game, at a 64.2 percent rate. There's no question who needs the game more; the question is whether that will lead to an inspired performance.
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