Just because the Philadelphia Eagles are 4-9, are eliminated from the 2012 post season and are in last place in the NFC East, doesn't mean that they'll roll over and allow the Bengals to walk into the end zone over and over on their way to a Thursday Night Football victory. Every team in the NFL, regardless of their record, is tough, especially at home, and the Eagles have their own set of skills that they'll be using to their advantage when it comes to defending their home turf on Thursday.
On the other side, they also have weaknesses that the Bengals should attempt to exploit in order to make things a little easier Thursday night.
Here are some examples of their strengths:
Depth at skill positions:
LeSean McCoy was one of the premier backs in the league last year, and even though he hasn't put up the same numbers this year, partially due to injury (he has been out for the last three weeks), but he has still racked up 750 yards and averaged over four yards per carry. When he went out, most figured that the Eagles, who were already in trouble, were going to be in much worse shape.
In steps Bryce Brown. The no-named running back ran for 347 yards in the first two games and four touchdowns. He also put the ball on the ground three times in those two games, but he showed the entire league that he has what it takes to be a team's premier back. Even if McCoy comes back for the Thursday night game against the Bengals, Brown will likely take a good chunk of his carries away. It isn't just at running back either, the Eagles have an extremely talented group of athletic receivers as well.
Nothing To Lose:
The Eagles are in the position to play spoiler for a lot of teams. The Bengals got lucky when they dropped their last game against the Cowboys because the Steelers and Ravens also lost, keeping the Bengals on the same pace to make it into the playoffs. They didn't lose any ground. They will likely not get that lucky again. The Steelers and the Ravens both know what's at stake and they're playing for the same thing the Bengals are. If the Bengals lose again, it will more than likely doom them. That creates a lot of pressure for a team.
The Eagles don't have that kind of pressure. They know their season will be over when the clock runs out in the fourth quarter of their Week 17 game, but that doesn't mean they're going to give up. There are a lot of players on that team that are playing for new contracts next year or for pride. That can make them dangerous.
And here are a couple examples of their weaknesses:
Protecting the quarterback:
The fact that the Eagles offensive line has given up the third most sacks in the NFL at 41 is the reason that Michael Vick was injured and it's one of the reasons why Nick Foles has become the starter. The Eagles have done a poor job at stopping opposing teams from being all over the quarterback and this week shouldn't be any easier for them as the Bengals have the most sacks in the league with 42. Defensive linemen like Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap should be able to take advantage of the holes in the Eagles pass blocking to cause Foles to at least rush passes that could be easily picked off by the secondary.
A team's ability to protect the quarterback is huge and the Eagles' inability to keep the quarterback on his feet is directly related to their losing record.
Giveaways VS Takeaways:
When it comes to winning in the NFL, one of the keys is to not turn the ball over and to generate as many turnovers on defense as you can. When a team has quite a few more takeaways than giveaways, they are generally winning more games than they're losing. The same is true for the opposite.
The Bengals have broken even with 21 giveaways and 21 takeaways at this point in the season, but the Eagles are the second worst team in the league, ahead of only the Chiefs when it comes to turnover differential. They have 19 more giveaways than takeaways (-19) heading into their Thursday night game against the Bengals. Not only are they primed to turn the ball over, but they're more likely to be unable to force the Bengals to give them the ball back.