3TFO: Bengals @ Eagles, Week 15
The last time Philadelphia and Cincinnati met was the last time an NFL game ended in a tie prior to this season. When the NFL made the Bengals and Eagles the matchup for the final Thursday game of the year, I’m guessing they expected Philadelphia to be the team fighting for a playoff spot. Despite this game only having playoff ramifications for Cincinnati, it should still be very interesting — the Eagles still have a number of players who have played well, but wherever there is a good Eagle, there will be a solid Bengal ready to put up a fight.
This week it’s a battle of strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness, but here we will focus on the strengths going head-to-head.
Evan Mathis vs. Geno Atkins
While most of the Eagles’ offensive line went down with an injury, one player has remained since Day 1. That is left guard Evan Mathis who is by far our highest ranked guard in 2012. In the pass game, this former Bengal has yet to allow a sack, and has a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 97.7; third-best for left guards in the league. Where he really stands out is in the run game, where he has a Run Block Rating of +1.6 or higher in nine of 13 games. On top of that, he is also the top-rated guard in screen blocking.
The Bengals like to move their defensive tackles around a lot. That means the NFL’s top tackle, Geno Atkins (who lines up at the right defensive tackle spot on 51.8% of plays), will get to face off with the league’s top guard often. Over the last five weeks Atkins has been dominant in pass rushing, with a sack in each of those games and an average of eight pressures per game. In the run game he leads all defensive tackles in run stops with 24, and has the second-highest Run Stop Percentage at 11.3%. If you ever want to spend a game focusing on an elite battle on the inside of the line, this is the time to do it.
Jason Avant vs. Leon Hall
The Eagles have become rather thin at receiver, with DeSean Jackson out for the year, and Jeremy Maclin now questionable for this game. Their best receiving option is Jason Avant who is coming off of back to back great games. Over that time, he has been targeted 14 times, and has 11 catches for 212 yards. The play of Avant was helpful in landing Nick Foles in our Team of the Week for Week 14.
The problem is Foles has yet to face a secondary like the Bengals, where the top seven defensive backs in terms of snaps have positive coverage ratings. Avant lines up in the slot on 86.7% of his snaps, which is the second-highest rate in the league. Over the last several games in the Bengals nickel defense, Adam Jones has come on the field to take Leon Hall’s place, while Hall moves over to line up in the slot. As a slot cornerback, Hall has allowed just 0.74 Yards per Coverage Snap which is the fourth-lowest in the league and over the last five games, he has allowed three catches or fewer in each game. If Hall can shut down Foles’ favorite target, then the Eagles won’t get very far in the pass game.
Bengals Offensive Line vs. Eagles Defensive Line
While a lot has gone wrong for the Eagles’ defense this year, they still have one of the better pass rushes in the league; as a team, their Pass Rushing Productivity of 26.9 ranks seventh. Defensive end Brandon Graham has been their most productive pass rusher with four sacks, six hits and 22 hurries on just 150 pass rushes. Philadelphia also has five defensive who have logged positive pass rush ratings on the year.
They go up against a Bengals team with an offensive line that is carrying a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 87.9 (which ranks behind only Denver), led by tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. Over the last three games Whitworth has allowed just a single hurry and the greatly improved Smith has yet to allow more than four pressures in a game. At guard they have a young combination of second-year player Clint Boling and rookie Kevin Zeitler, both of whom rank in the Top 6 in terms of PBE for guards. Andy Dalton has a quarterback rating of 98.3 when he is not under pressure, and 54.2 when he is, which doesn’t include his 32 times sacked.
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