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Bengals need to earn their stripes in Philly

Must not flop in race for AFC wild-card slot

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The Philadelphia Eagles haven't completely given up on the season. They damaged Tampa Bay's playoff chances last weekend and get an opportunity tonight to do the same to the Cincinnati Bengals.

It's a critical game for the Bengals (No. 16 in the AP Pro32). At 7-6, they are in the midst of the AFC wild-card race, tied with the Steelers and a game in front of the Jets for the final spot. After blowing a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter against Dallas, at home no less, they can't afford to flop in Philly, where the Bengals are a three-point favourite.

Had the Eagles (No. 27, AP Pro32) not rallied to win at Tampa on the final play last Sunday, this wouldn't seem much of a hurdle. To the credit of coach Andy Reid and the young players he's using in this lost season, the Eagles still are trying.

"I think the big thing is, it's a great thing for the team sticking together," rookie quarterback Nick Foles said. "We can build off of this."

Perhaps. But at 4-9 and with an eight-game slide just concluded, Philadelphia isn't going anywhere this season. Cincinnati could be, and with games remaining at Pittsburgh and home for Baltimore, a loss to the lowly if reinspired Eagles is unthinkable.

"We let a huge opportunity get away based upon what happened with a couple of other clubs," coach Marvin Lewis said. "And that's the shame of it."

Falling to Philadelphia would be even more of a shame.

BENGALS, 19-13

No. 3 San Francisco (plus 3) at No. 1 New England

If Patriots do to Niners what they did to Texans, there might be no stopping them.

BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 24-17

No. 6 (tie) New York Giants (plus 1) at No. 5 Atlanta

Falcons look like first-place team chasing those behind them.

UPSET SPECIAL: GIANTS, 26-20

No. 10 Indianapolis (plus 81/2) at No. 4 Houston

Texans look like first-place team chasing those behind them, too.

TEXANS, 23-21

No. 13 Pittsburgh (plus 1) at No. 14 Dallas

Picking road underdogs is dangerous business. But Dallas isn't imposing at home.

STEELERS, 23-17

No. 6 (tie) Green Bay (minus 3) at No. 12 Chicago

Packers wrap up NFC North, keep archrivals skidding.

PACKERS, 27-17

No. 2 Denver (minus 21/2) at No. 8 (tie) Baltimore

Ravens need to straighten themselves out. This is not the best game to do so.

BRONCOS, 28-27

No. 8 (tie) Seattle (minus 3) vs. No. 26 Buffalo at Toronto

Win here and Seahawks can make playoff plans.

SEAHAWKS, 24-20

No. 15 Minnesota (plus 3) at No. 17 St. Louis

Jeff Fisher should be in Coach of the Year conversation.

RAMS, 21-20

No. 18 Tampa Bay (plus 31/2) at No. 19 New Orleans

Bucs will kick themselves for loss to Eagles when season concludes.

BUCCANEERS, 30-27

No. 32 Jacksonville (plus 7) at No. 23 Miami

Jaguars have No. 1 overall draft pick in their sights.

DOLPHINS, 17-9

No. 25 Carolina (plus 3) at No. 21 San Diego

Both teams pulled off upsets a week ago. Chargers avoid one.

CHARGERS, 30-28

No. 24 Detroit (minus 61/2) at No. 29 Arizona

Cardinals will show up this time. They just won't win.

LIONS, 24-13

No. 30 (tie) Kansas City (plus 3) at No. 30 (tie) Oakland

AP Pro 32 rankings say it all about these teams.

CHIEFS, 19-17

No. 20 New York Jets (plus 1) at No. 28 Tennessee, Monday night

Now Jets fans are talking playoffs? Fuhgeddaboudit!

TITANS, 14-13

No. 11 Washington (OFF) at No. 22 Cleveland

With or without RG3, Redskins have come too far to stumble here.

REDSKINS, 17-13

2012 RECORD

Against spread: 8-7 (86-106-7). Straight up: 9-7 (127-77-1)

Best Bet: 6-6-2 against spread, 10-4 straight up.

Upset special: 10-4 against spread, 8-6 straight up.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2012 D6

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