When the Eagles have the ball

The Eagles have not scored more than 24 points since Week 3, and they face a defense that allows 22.3 points per game. The Bengals have kept opponents to 21 points or fewer in the last three weeks, but they lost all those games with a struggling offense. The Eagles need to find more balance on offense. There could be opportunities against a Bengals rush defense that allows 120.5 rushing yards per game - fifth- worst in the NFL - and 4.4 yards per carry. Ryan Mathews will not play for the second consecutive week because of a knee injury, which means rookie Wendell Smallwood will likely be the leading ballcarrier. Smallwood averaged 4.4 yards in the last three games and could be in line for the best game of his young career. He'll run behind an offensive line that will play with Allen Barbre at right tackle in place of Halapoulivaati Vaitai for the second consecutive week and with Stefen Wisniewski at left guard. The Bengals' top tackler is linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who leads the team even though he missed the season's first three games.

The passing game could depend on the health of wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who is questionable with an ankle injury. Carson Wentz struggled Monday after Matthews left the lineup. Nelson Agholor could return from his exile regardless of whether Matthews plays, and the Eagles need to hope his time off was what he needed to help the wide receiving corps. Dorial Green-Beckham is coming off his best game of the season, but Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner were nonfactors. If Matthews doesn't play, look for more multiple-tight-end sets and a bigger role for Trey Burton. Tight end Zach Ertz has come on in recent weeks after a slow October. He can help Wentz, who had two passing touchdowns and five interceptions in the last five games.

The Bengals allow 246 passing yards per game, with Dre Kirkpatrick and "Pacman" Jones as their top cornerbacks. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a force in the middle, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap leads the Bengals with 61/2 sacks.

When the Bengals have the ball

The Bengals host the Eagles without two of their best players. Wide receiver A.J. Green is out with a hamstring injury and running back Giovani Bernard is on injured reserve with a knee injury. That weakens a Bengals offense that is 10th in the NFL with 368.4 yards per game, but 27th with 19.4 points per game. The Bengals did not top 20 points in the last three games. Quarterback Andy Dalton's quarterback rating of 89.7 is down from last year, when he was one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. He's still on pace to top 4,000 yards, but the touchdowns are down from previous seasons. Part of the reason might have been the absence of tight end Tyler Eifert earlier in the season. Eifert is back and found the end zone last week.

Without Green, Dalton's top receivers are veteran Brandon LaFell and rookie Tyler Boyd. With Green injured last week, Boyd was thrown nine passes and caught five. Eifert was targeted the most and will be a focal point of the passing game.

The Eagles will continue to rotate their cornerbacks, so Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, and Jalen Mills will also receive time. Dalton has been sacked 32 times this season, and the Eagles need to find a way to get to the quarterback with a defense that has just six sacks in five games. Connor Barwin has a tough matchup with left tackle Andrew Whitworth, but look for Brandon Graham to test right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.

The Bengals rely on Jeremy Hill to carry the running game. Hill averages 4.4 yards per carry, although he did not top 4 yards per carry in his last four games. The Baltimore Ravens stuffed him for 21 yards on 12 carries last week. The Eagles allowed more than 100 rushing yards only once in three of the previous four games.

Kicking has been a sore spot for Cincinnati. Veteran kicker Mike Nugent has missed five field goals and four extra points. The missed field goals include one from inside 30 yards and another from inside 40.

Big number: 3

That's the combined amount of wins the Eagles and Bengals had in October and November, making this a matchup of two of the NFL's coldest teams entering December. The Eagles started 3-0 and have lost six of eight since the Sept. 25 victory over Pittsburgh. The Bengals entered the season as Super Bowl contenders, went 2-2 in September, and are 1-5-1 since the beginning of October. Their only victory came over the winless Cleveland Browns, and they tied Washington on Oct. 30.


Zach Berman:

Eagles 20, Bengals 17

Jeff McLane:

Bengals 24, Eagles 17


@ZBerm www.philly.com/eaglesblog