When the Cincinnati Bengals kickoff in Philadelphia tonight, they will only be thinking about one thing; moving a half game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The half game lead would put the pressure on Pittsburgh to win on the road in Dallas to stay alive in the Wild Card before facing Cincinnati the very next week.
The Eagles will also be thinking about their future. Even though they have been officially shut out of the playoff picture, the team would like to build on their first win since September and they will be watching their rookie quarterback closely to see if he is the man that can lead the team in years to come.
Before looking at the future of these teams, we must look at their past. The two have taken very different paths through the season that have led them to this Thursday night game tonight.
Philadelphia started the season 3-1, beating their opponents by two points or less. After their win in week four over the New York Giants, the team went down a dark path. They dropped eight games in a row and went win-less through the months of October and November.
The season, that many thought would save Andy Reid’s job, quickly went south and cemented the head coach to the hot seat with nowhere to turn. It also put the team’s starting quarterback on the hot seat. After going down with a concussion while playing the Cowboys in Week 10, the team started the man that they picked up in the 2012 NFL Draft. Even in the losses, when Michael Vick was cleared to return, the team decided it would take its chances on the rookie for the rest of the season.
Now the team is heading into week 15 at 4-9, being led by a rookie quarterback in Nick Foles. Foles got his first taste of victory last week, throwing for 381 yards and two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He showed his ability through the air and showed teams just how dangerous he can be if given time in the pocket.
Cincinnati had a very similar start to the season. Like the Eagles, the Bengals opened the season with a 3-1 record and then went on a slump through October. However, unlike Philadelphia, Cincinnati pulled themselves back together in week 10 against the New York Giants and went on a four game winning streak that brought them back in to playoff contention in the AFC.
The Bengals are coming into the game after suffering a loss last week that left the team with only regrets. They will be looking to pull it all together and unleash their frustration on the home team tonight.
Unlike the Eagles who are just beginning anew with a rookie quarterback, Cincinnati is a team that is coming to the end of their growing pains. Their young team has been playing with each other for two years and is not looking for the future of their franchise. They are sure of their year quarterback Andy Dalton and all of their offensive and defensive weapons.
Whichever team wins this showdown tonight, one thing will be certain, a future will be discovered. It could put a team in the playoffs or it could build the confidence the struggling franchise.