Bengals, Birds go full throttle in Philly
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Cincinnati fans have held a grudge against Philadelphia since 2010 when Roy Halladay embarrassed the Reds by throwing the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history.

Tonight, they might finally be able to get their revenge.

It won't come on the baseball diamond, however. Instead, the Queen City and the City of Brotherly Love will battle it out on the football field as the 4-9 Eagles play host to the 7-6 Bengals in this season's second-to-last edition of Thursday Night Football.

It's not Patriots/Texans but there's still some intrigue here. The last time these teams went head-to-head (not including a 22-9 Bengals win during the 2010 preseason), something very unusual happened ... the game ended in a tie.

That came back on November 16, 2008 when Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb famously forgot the league's overtime rules, believing that there would be another period of football after the score remained 13-13 at the end of overtime.

Anyway, this game features a number of appealing fantasy options including Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

I'm a proud owner of Green-Ellis in one of my leagues and I'm hoping he can put together another solid outing tonight against Philadelphia's 17th-ranked run defense. Green-Ellis has emerged from a midseason slump with four productive weeks in a row including three consecutive 100-yard outings between Weeks 11 and 13.

Over that four game period, the Law Firm has averaged 109.3 yards per game on almost 5.4 yards per carry. With 35 more yards, Green-Ellis will eclipse his previous career-high of 1,008 rushing yards in a season, a total he collected in 2010 as a member of the New England Patriots.

Green-Ellis isn't the only Bengals player fantasy owners need to keep an eye on this week. Cincinnati's second-year quarterback Andy Dalton has avoided a sophomore slump by throwing for 25 touchdowns and 3,186 yards in 13 games this season. His 90.3 QB rating ranks 12th in the NFL and his 63.4 completion percentage is a noticeable improvement over last season's 58.1 percent success rate.

Dalton's favorite target this season has been A.J. Green, a tall, athletic second-year wideout out of Georgia. Green's 10 receiving touchdowns is tied for the league-lead and his 1,151 yards ranks fourth in the AFC behind only Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.

Green has shown a tendency to struggle against top corners (as evidenced by his one reception for eight yards against Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor in Week 7) and he'll face another tough one when he lines up against Nnamdi Asomugha this week. Green has the hot hand though, with five games of 85 or more receiving yards in his past six outings. He's gotten fantasy owners this far, so why abandon him now?

Tight end Jermaine Gresham also looks like he could be worth a start this week. He's not a yardage monster (just one game this season of 70 yards or more) but Gresham's superior size (6-foor-5, 260-pounds) always make him a threat to score. He's found paydirt in three out of his last five games and it wouldn't surprise me if he scored again Thursday night.

Now, we turn to the Eagles. Quarterback Nick Foles has adjusted nicely with three strong games in a row following a dismal effort against Washington in Week 11 (21-for-46 for 204 yards and two interceptions). Cincinnati's secondary isn't nearly as generous as the one Foles faced last week in Tampa Bay when he went off for a career-high 381 yards, but there's still potential for a big week here.

With DeSean Jackson (broken ribs) and Brent Celek (concussion) both out for tonight's game, wide receivers Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin should both be viable fantasy options this week. Avant is coming off a 133-yard game against the Buccaneers in Week 14 on a season-high 12 targets. Maclin also cracked the 100-yard barrier last week in Tampa Bay while rewarding his fantasy owners with a 1-yard touchdown on the game's final play.

If I had to choose one of the two, I'd take Maclin because I think he'll have the most chances to contribute. He was targeted a team-high 13 times on Sunday and so far this season, he's been targeted 10 or more times on four occasions. Avant has only accomplished that feat once.

The wild card here is obviously running back Bryce Brown. The rookie out of Kansas State looked like a young Adrian Peterson with the way he ran during his first two starts (173.5 ypg, four TDs on 8.1 yards per carry) before turning in a disastrous outing Sunday versus the Bucs (12 carries, six rushing yards). Ball security has been a problem for Brown as well (three lost fumbles in his last three games).

Maybe I'm in the minority but I'm giving Brown a pass for last week's stinker, especially considering it was against the league's best run defense (ironically, Tampa Bay is worst in the league against the pass). I think this week's version of Brown will be much more like the one we saw in his first two starts, especially if the Eagles can get out to an early lead.

Projecting kicker statistics is always difficult but Philadelphia's Alex Henery seems like a safe play this week. He's 23-for-26 on the season and I have a feeling he'll want to redeem himself after a shaky game on Sunday (missed attempts from 58 and 31 yards). Mike Nugent has been solid for the Bengals (82.6 percent success) but Cincinnati hasn't given him as many opportunities (just 23 attempts).

It probably won't end in a tie this time but if it does, at least we all know the rules. Right, Donovan?




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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