Eagles vs. Bengals Week 3 preview: What to watch for

Miles Sanders
Expect a heavy does of Miles Sanders on Sunday against the Bengals.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This is the Philadelphia Eagles’ best opportunity to get a win on the board this year after an abysmal start to their 2020 season.

At 0-2, the Birds face a Cincinnati Bengals team tabbed by many to finish near the very bottom of the NFL standings this season. While they’ve lived up to that expectation, there has been flashes of promise — mainly from rookie and 2020 No. 1 overall pick, Joe Burrow.

The young Bengals quarterback is coming off by far the best game of his young (two-game) career, ripping apart the Cleveland Browns for 316 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 2 loss.

It’s hardly the kind of head of steam the Eagles want to see heading into their Week 3 matchup (1 p.m. ET, CBS), as their defense is coming off a shellacking at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams, who posted 39 points and 449 total yards in Week 2.

While their rush didn’t do much to get to Jared Goff (267 yards, 3 TD’s), the Eagles’ run defense was worse, allowing 191 yards on the ground.

Luckily for the Eagles, Joe Mixon has yet to get going this season. The Bengals’ back is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry over his first two games. However, Burrow remains a threat to scramble out of the pocket, accruing 65 yards and a touchdown with his legs.

What could cause problems for a leaky Eagles defense, though, is the Bengals’ up-tempo offense that often goes into its no-huddle mode. Burrow and Co. have found a majority of their success through such a strategy as they’ve been able to spread out opposing defenses.

Should the Eagles relent any sort of momentum to that Bengals offense, it could be a difficult Sunday.

While plenty of eyes around the country will be on Burrow, there will be plenty of concerned eyes on Carson Wentz — the Eagles’ quarterback who has failed to get going in 2020.

In fact, it’s been a disastrous start for the Philadelphia signal-caller, who has completed just 58.8% of his passes for 512 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

His interception rate is up, he’s turned the ball over five times in just two games, and that completion percentage is on pace for a career-low. Hardly the kind of start the Eagles needed from their fifth-year franchise arm.

“I’ve gotta protect the football,” Wentz obviously pointed out. “Plain and simple. I’ve gotta own that.”

While his struggles have become the new curious case of football, head coach Doug Pederson is sifting through the rubble.

“He’s just missing,” Pederson said. “I guess you could point to a lot of different things — missing OTAs, not having all of the necessary reps during training camps, missing preseason games … The timing of things that we do in the passing game and just missing these throws.”

Wentz isn’t necessarily going to have a reprieve against the Bengals pass defense, which ranks seventh-best in yards allowed through two games this season. They’re also just one of 10 teams that have allowed two or fewer passing touchdowns.

It will put a little more stress on an Eagles run game that showed promise with the return of Miles Sanders last week, especially because Cincinnati’s run defense is third-worst in the league.

Sanders posted 95 yards on 20 carries in his season debut against the Rams, so expect a heavy dose of him over the weekend.

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