7-6 Cincinnati Bengals at 4-9 Philadelphia Eagles
8:20 ET on the NFL Network

Although tonight’s game does not have any direct bearing on the Patriots playoff seeding, it will likely have a major influence on which team gets in where in the AFC as a wildcard.

The Bengals were blown out in their opener, won three straight, lost four straight, won four straight, and then lost last week on a last second field goal at home versus Dallas. Aside from their streaky nature Cincinnati could be looking ahead past this game: next week they are at Baltimore, then wrap up the regular season versus Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia’s issues are well documented. Dream Team II won three of their first four games in very unconvincing fashion, turning the ball over twelve times in their first three games. Last week rookie quarterback Nick Foles got his first NFL win, passing for two touchdowns in the final 3:55 while racking up 381 yards through the air. That ended an eight-game losing streak, marking an end to having to hear how the Phillies had won more recently than they had.

While a Cincinnati loss would mean that Baltimore would clinch a playoff spot, the Bengals playoff chances come down to those final two games, period. If the Bengals lose Thursday but win their last two games they’ll be tied with Pittsburgh, but get in on the conference tiebreaker (7-5 vs 5-7). A loss by the Bengals would also help the Colts; Indy clinches a playoff spot with a win Sunday, but can also clinch if both the Bengals and Jets lose, regardless of what they do at Houston.

The key matchup is Eagles’ RB Bryce Brown against the Cincinnati run defense. Brown took full advantage of the injury to LeSean McCoy, rushing for 347 yards and four touchdowns against Carolina and Dallas. Last week however he came back to earth, gaining just six yards in twelve carries at Tampa Bay. He has been a non-factor in the passing game, with just 11 receptions for 39 yards this season. The Eagles need to be able to run the ball and not rely on their rookie quarterback.

That leads to the other matchup to watch, Nick Foles vs the Bengal pass defense. While Foles did have a huge game last week, the Tampa Bay pass defense is really bad: dead last in passing yards, 30th in yards per pass, 28th in completion percentage, and they have the 6th fewest sacks. Cincinnati’s pass defense gives up the 11th fewest yards per pass (6.8), so Foles is not going to have nearly as easy a time as he did last week. The Bengals pass defense does not create many turnovers (10), but they do lead the league with 42 sacks – not good news for that porous patchwork Philadelphia offensive line. It’s also doubtful that he gets as much help from his defense: the Bucs punted on each of their first eight possessions, and ten times overall.

 

Odds: Cincinnati opened up as a 3½ point favorite, and that has moved up to 4, 4½ or even 5 points depending on where you shop. Some of that may due to Brent Celek (concussion) joining McCoy, Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and a host of others on the sideline.
Total: over/under opened up at 47, and has dropped to 45 most places, though a few are as low as 44½.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Eagles 17
- final score: Bengals 34, Eagles 13
Bengals -4½ (one unit) …
Under 45 … X

 

 

This Day In Patriots History

 

December 13, 1942:
Bob Cappadona was born in Watertown; the Northeastern grad played in 27 games at RB for the Pats in 1966-67

 

December 13, 1967:
Scott Zolak was born in Pittsburgh; 4th round 1991 draft pick appeared in 54 games for the Patriots from 1992 to 1998

 

December 13, 1970:
Minnesota Vikings 35, Boston Patriots 14 at Harvard Stadium

Joe Kapp’s former teammates got the better of him, picking off three passes on a snow covered field to send the Pats to defeat. Bud Grant’s Purple People Eaters were in classic form, allowing just 182 total yards en route to an NFL season-best 12-2 record. Jim Nance and Carl Garrett rushed for touchdowns for the Patriots, while Minnesota’s John Henderson set career highs for receptions (8) and receiving yards (137). The Pats defense did recover four fumbles, but was able to force only two punts.

 

December 13, 1981:
Buffalo Bills 19, New England Patriots 10 at Schaefer Stadium

Tom Owen made his first appearance of the year as a New England Patriot, but didn’t fare much better than starter Matt Cavanaugh in this season to forget. The only highlight for the Pats was a 19-yard touchdown run by Vagas Ferguson. Joe Cribbs totaled 201 yards from scrimmage as Buffalo improved to 10-5 on the year.

 

December 13, 1987:
New England Patriots 42, New York Jets 20 at Sullivan Stadium

Steve Grogan threw four touchdown passes as the Pats jumped out to a 35-6 halftime lead to win easily in a laugher in Foxboro. The win, coupled with the Colts loss to the Bills left the Pats one game behind Indy, Buffalo and Miami for first place in the AFC East.

The Pats defense came through with three sacks (two by Garin Veris and one each by Brent Williams and Milford Hodge), two fumble recoveries, and an interception returned 38 yards by Ronnie Lippett; meanwhile the Jets self destructed, committing 14 penalties for 121 yards.

Grogan threw a 16-yard TD to Cedric Jones to start the scoring, and after a Jets field goal he ran one in from two yards out to give the Pats a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Grogan then connected with Irving Fryar for a 26-yard score, and after another Jets field goal he hit Stephen Starring with a 28-yard TD and Jones once again, this time from 7 yards out to give the Pats a 35-6 lead at the half. Reggie Dupard scored on a 7-yard run in the third quarter before the Jets finally got in the end zone in garbage time.

 

December 13, 1992:
Kansas City Chiefs 27, New England Patriots 20 at Arrowhead Stadium

The Pats nearly pulled off a major upset but came up just short, losing to the Chiefs.

Rookie starter Scott Zolak was knocked out of the game and replaced by Jeff Carlson, making his first appearance with the Patriots. Carlson threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Turner, but also had a critical interception. NT Tim Goad recovered a Christian Okoye fumble and ran it in 19 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage to start the scoring for the Patriots; that was the only touchdown of his 9-year NFL career.

 

December 13, 1997:
Pittsburgh Steelers 24, New England Patriots 21 in OT

A lazy Drew Bledsoe pass late in the game turned the outcome around, as Pittsburgh took advantage to tie the game and then win in overtime – though in his defense it didn’t help any that his two biggest playmakers, Curtis Martin and Terry Glenn, were both sidelined with injuries.

After a scoreless first quarter the Pats got on the scoreboard when Ty Law intercepted a Kordell Stewart pass and ran it back to the Pittsburgh 27-yard line, setting up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Bledsoe to Ben Coates. On the next possession Willie Clay picked off Stewart again, which led to a one-yard touchdown run by Sam Gash. Pittsburgh finally scored after a long drive on their next possession, making the score 14-7 Pats at the half.

The Steelers cut the lead to one on a third quarter field goal, and another early in the fourth quarter. After the ensuing kickoff the Patriots had a 1st-and-10 from the 49 when Bledsoe threw a pass intended for Troy Brown. Dave Meggett, who was running the wrong route, stepped in front of Brown, caught the ball and ran it in for a score to give the Patriots a 21-13 lead with 10:31 left to play.

On the next drive the Steelers stalled in no-man’s land and were faced with a 4th-and-6 from the 36. Rather than attempt a 53-yard field goal Bill Cowher elected to go for it and the pass was complete, but Jimmy Hitchcock tackled Courtney Hawkins a yard short of the first down to give the Pats the ball with 6:45 to go.

The Patriots got one first down and forced the Steelers to use all of their timeouts, needing just one more first down to ice the game. On 3rd-and-7 from the 50 with 2:10 to play Bledsoe lofted a screen pass to Meggett that just had too much hang time, and it was intercepted, lateraled, and run back for an apparent touchdown. The play drew a flag though for a forward lateral, but Pittsburgh still had the ball on the Pats 18. Stewart converted a 4th-and-7 at the 15 on a pass to Yancey Thigpen to the 4-yard line, and then on 3rd down Stewart hit Mark Breuner for a TD with 38 seconds left. Down 21-19 Pittsburgh had to go for two, and Stewart connected with Thigpen again to force overtime. The Steelers won the coin toss, converted a 3rd-and-15, and ended up kicking the game winning field goal while the Pats offense never got on the field in overtime.

 

December 13, 1998:
St. Louis Rams 32, New England Patriots 18 at the Trans World Dome

Robert Edwards ran for a career-high 196 yards but the Rams upset the Pats, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. Drew Bledsoe missed two series while having a new splint placed on his finger and was inaccurate when he returned, going 11-for-35 for 176 yards. The Pats were without Ben Coates, who missed the game due to the death of his mother, and Terry Glenn, who fractured his ankle in the first half.

Bledsoe did complete a 16-yard touchdown pass to Coates’ replacement, Lovett Purnell, in the first half, and ended the game with 1,877 career completions. That made him the all-time team leader in completions, as he passed Steve Grogan, who had 1,879. The Rams brought plenty of pressure on Bledsoe, sacking him five times – including two on back-to-back plays by future Patriot Roman Phifer.

Edwards rushed for 166 yards on 14 carries in the first half, which included runs of 53, 47, and 36 yards. However he was stopped three times from the one yard line in the third quarter, and Pete Carroll decided to take the field goal rather than go for it again. Adam Vinatieri connected on his fourth field goal of the day to give the Pats an 18-17 lead, but they would not score again over the final 22:49 of play. On defense Henry Thomas finished with three sacks, and Steve Israel had an interception.

 

December 13, 2009:
New England Patriots 20, Carolina Panthers 10 at Gillette Stadium

Wes Welker had ten receptions for 105 yards to lead the Pats over Carolina. Welker became only the fourth player in NFL history to have at least three consecutive 100-catch seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Herman Moore in that elite group.

The Pats started slowly, turning the ball over twice on fumbles and another time on an interception before pulling away for the victory. There was a lot of chatter about the Patriots in the week leading up to the game: Tom Brady said the some of the players did not seem to fight as hard as they should in the previous week’s loss to Miami; Brady’s wife Giselle Bundchen gave birth to a son; then the next day Brady made it to a team meeting on time during a snow storm but four other players (Adalius Thomas, Randy Moss, Derrick Burgess and Gary Guyton) did not – and were sent home because they arrived late. The Patriots ran the ball for 185 yards, led by Laurence Maroney (22 carries for 94 yards) and Kevin Faulk (10 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown).

 

 

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December 13, 1925:
Dick Van Dyke (Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty bang Bang) was born in Missouri

December 13, 1929:
Christopher Plummer (The Return of the Pink Panther, The Man Who Would Be King, Beginners) was born in Toronto

December 13, 1948:
Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan) was born

December 13, 1948:
Ted Nugent was born

December 13, 1957:
Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, Sopranos) was born in Brooklyn

December 13, 1967:
Jamie Foxx (Any Given Sunday, Ali, Collateral, Ray) was born in Terrell, Texas

December 13, 1975:
Tom Delonge (Blink 182) was born in Poway, California

December 13, 1981:
Amy Lee (Evanescence) was born in Riverside, California

December 13, 1989:
Taylor Swift was born in Reading, Pennsylvania

December 13, 2000:
Al Gore concedes the presidential election

 

 

 

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