Bengals Going After The Birds

The Bengals finally got their first win of the season in their last game against Jacksonville. Now they go for No. 2 against a Philadelphia Eagles team that is battling for an playoff spot in the tough NFC East.

WHO: Cincinnati Bengals (1-8) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)

WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium

WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SERIES: 11th meeting; Bengals lead series, 7-3.

LAST MEETING: Bengals won, 38-10, at Lincoln Financial Field on 1/02/05.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Coming off a rough loss to the Giants, the Eagles need to start fast against a team with nothing to lose fresh off its bye week. Defensively, the Bengals want to limit big plays on first and second down because the Eagles' biggest weakness is their inability to convert short-yardage situations on the ground. But that will be difficult to set up because Cincinnati has just nine sacks on the season, and that lack of a pass rush should lead to a high completion percentage for QB Donovan McNabb. ... Bengals QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in all five of his starts this season, and will need to focus on getting rid of the ball quickly against the Eagles' blitz-heavy defense. He also needs a lot of support from RB Cedric Benson. The longer the passing situation, the more likely Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is to disguise pressure and coverages in an attempt to create turnovers.

KEY INJURIES: Bengals: QB Carson Palmer (inflamed right elbow) is out and considered week-to-week. Eagles: RG Shawn Andrews (back) is out; RB Brian Westbrook (ankle) remains less than 100 percent.

FAST FACTS: The Eagles are 1-10 in their past 11 games decided by six points or less. ... Bengals RB Chris Perry does not have a carry the past three games after starting the first six.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Bengals:

*DE Antwan Odom, whom the Bengals will pay $29.5 million over five years as an unrestricted free-agent signee, sustained a shoulder injury in practice Wednesday and will not play. His left arm was in a sling Thursday.

*RT Stacy Andrews (illness) did not practice Thursday. He is expected to play Sunday.

*SS Chinedum Ndukwe (foot) did not practice Thursday for the second day in a row.

*RB Cedric Benson (back) was added to the injury report Thursday but returned to practice on Friday.

*DT Pat Sims (knee), who did not practice Wednesday, was upgraded to limited participation Thursday. The rookie has played well since cracking the rotation a few weeks ago.

Eagles:

*CB Asante Samuel did not practice Thursday. He was listed on the injury report with a hip injury. The severity of the injury as far as whether he'll be able to play on Sunday is uncertain.

*CB Lito Sheppard played just one defensive snap in last week's loss to the Giants. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said it was because Sheppard, who had been nursing a groin injury, hadn't practiced much last week, and until Sunday morning, he didn't even know if he was going to be able to play. Johnson said Sheppard will play a lot this week against the Bengals.

*RB Brian Westbrook practiced Thursday. He is listed on the injury report with a knee, even though he said earlier in the week that it was his ankle that gave him the most problems Sunday against the Giants.

*WR DeSean Jackson is on the injury report with a groin injury, but practiced fully Thursday and is expected to play Sunday.

*QB Donovan McNabb was back at practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice for non-football reasons that weren't disclosed.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Bengals:

Chris Perry has gone from starter to phantom in the Bengals backfield. But he could reappear Sunday against the Eagles. Starter Cedric Benson was added to the injury report Thursday with a back injury and did not practice.

Perry's long, strange trip:

He had not played since November 2006, when he dislocated his ankle at Cleveland.

Fast forward: On Aug. 30, the Bengals terminated the contract of Rudi Johnson.

Perry had showed durability and toughness in the preseason to win the job from Johnson.

In six starts, Perry – the Bengals' first-round pick in 2004 – had 96 rushing attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The highlight of his season was Game 3 at the Giants, when he ran 20 times for 74 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown.

But since a fumble at Dallas – his third lost fumble of five this season – Perry lost his starting job to newcomer Cedric Benson. Benson peeled off the team's first 100-yard rushing performance of the season in Week 9 against Jacksonville.

Perry has not had a rushing attempt in the past three games. The only time he has touched the ball was on a 10-yard reception against Jacksonville.

"It's been time just to figure what to do," he said Thursday before practice. "I let the opportunity slip, so I have to deal with it."

He is in the fifth season of his six-year rookie contract.

"I don't know," Perry said when asked if the sixth year will void. "I think I have another year left (with the Bengals). It's all up to them. It's all up to the Bengals."

Benson has rushed 51 times for 205 yards in his three starts. Perry will be 27 on Dec. 27. Benson, who was drafted a year later than Perry in 2005 by Chicago, will be 26 on Dec. 28.

"It's how it is. It's life," Perry said. "I got no problem with Cedric."

Benson, who signed a one-year contract with the Bengals on Sept. 30, said earlier this week that he would be interested in re-signing with Cincinnati.

Eagles:

Four weeks ago, with Brian Westbrook out with fractured ribs, Correll Buckhalter stepped in and had 178 rushing and receiving yards in the Eagles' 40-26 win over the San Francisco 49ers. In the three games since then, though, Buckhalter has gotten just 11 touches.

"He should be playing more," admitted offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. "There's no question about that. The problem is, when you have Brian (Westbrook) available and he's not fatigued, that's a hard thing to substitute for him. We do it situationally. We do do that. But he should be playing more, and we're going to try and do that."

Buckhalter is averaging 4.1 yards per carry this season. He has 56 rushing attempts, but the bulk of them – 34 – have come in the two games that Westbrook has missed because of ankle and rib injuries. Ten more came in one of the games Westbrook got hurt.

The Eagles have struggled to run the ball consistently this season. Eighth in the league in rushing a year ago, they are 22nd this season. They have been abysmal in short-yardage situations, converting just seven of 15 third-and-1 opportunities. Their short-yardage problems have been major factors in three of their four losses.

"We're accustomed to running the ball well, especially situationally," Mornhinweg said. "We're accustomed to having a pretty good yards-per-carry (average). We're not doing that right now. If there was one reason for it, those are easy to correct. However, there are several things that we need to get better at there to have a good running game."

PREDICTION: Eagles, 26-19

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